Guitar Pickups – How Pickup Wire Effects Your Tone

Guitar Pickups 


How Pickup Wire Effects Your Tone

There are three main components that effect the sound of a guitar pickup. The magnets, the wire type and the amount of turns on a coil. In this article we cut down to the chase and explain the essentials that are relevant for you as a player. Today, we’re going to talk about wire types, the differences between them and how they can effect your pickups’ tone.



The thickness of the wire is usually measured in AWG, which stands for American Wire Gauge. As a rule of thumb: the higher the AWG-number, the thinner the wire is. In guitar pickups, 42 AWG is the one that’s most commonly used. But wire-types measuring from 41 to 44 AWG are all being used in the construction of guitar pickups. 


The insulation is basically a coating that is wrapped around the copper wire, so the wire doesn’t short itself out. Variations in insulation materials have a huge effect on a pickup’s sound. If you want to maintain more high-end detail, you can use a wire with a heavier insulation to achieve this goal. There are many different types of insulation, the most popular ones among pickup manufactures are: Plain Enamel (PE), Formvar (F), Polyurethane (P) and Polyurethane Nylon (PN). 

For our own Apollo Pickups, we mainly use Plain Enamel and Formvar insulation, for the simple reason that they just sound best to our ears. So how do these two types of insulation differ you might think? We always describe Plain Enamel insulation as the ‘mellow sounding one’, compared to Formvar insulation. But the latter has the character of being able to cut through the mix a little better.

42 AWG Plain Enamel Wire


Number Of Winds

The number of winds play a huge part in the final sound of a pickup. The more windings you put on a coil, the higher the output will be. This will also translate in a higher K-reading (Ohm) when you read the pickup on a Multimeter. 

So how does this effect the sound? As a rule of thumb we can say that more winds will give yo a warmer sound with less top-end frequencies. Because of that, underwound pickups will also give you a sound that is a bit brighter then regular wound and overwound pickups.



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