If you are like me and are always interested in getting the best tone from your guitar, you often think about its components and how they affect the end result of the instrument. One of the most looked at components are pickups. There has been much debate over hand wound (actually hand-guided) vs machine wound pickups. A while back I did a Spotlight interview with Jason Lollar who is considered to be an authority on guitar pickups by many. I for one am a personal fan of Jason’s pickups and own several sets for my guitars. Below is an excerpt from that interview.
“Today’s dogma is that hand wound is always superior to machine wound- well I would bet most of the guys claiming that do not have a commercial winder to compare the difference- really! I have compared and I can’t say one is better than the other, they do have some differences but it has nothing to do with quality of sound. You can make a crappy hand wound pickup very easily”.
“I use a combination of hand guided winders and old commercial winding machines depending on what results I am after. My commercial machines are completely mechanical, meaning they have no computer and they are based on 19th century yarn spooling machines. They are old school and they are set up to have variations from layer to layer of winds due to the geometry of the wire guides and the vibration I build in. I make every part of the machine that holds the bobbin and guides the wire, so I have complete control over how I build inconstancy with consistency! It would be difficult to explain with words alone but you can set up an old machine like this to simulate someone winding randomly. The first machine I made back in the late 70’s was made to try to automatically traverse, I have never been afraid to experiment with this part of the procedure, back then no one was claiming hand winding was superior to an auto traverse machine like the general view is now, so I didn’t know any better, which freed me up to experiment with auto traversing and with various methods of tensioning the wire”.
So when it comes to the hand wound vs machine wound debate I think Jason has the right idea with his building methods. I personally don’t care how a pickup is manufactured or who is doing the labor be it a human, Keebler elf or a machine. I am after great tone and a pickup that “feels” good to me. Would it really matter if someone told you that the pickup was completely hand made and it turned out that the pickup was not? Would you be influenced by what someone said or just play the darn thing and decide for yourself? I believe that too much marketing can sort of make decisions for you before you actually try a product and possibly keep you from finding something that could really work for you.
Keep an open mind (and open ears) when choosing pickups. Don’t let the hand wound vs machine would dogma get in the way!
You can read the full Spotlight interview with Jason Lollar here. There is ALOT of useful information in this interview!!