Pickup Height - A "different" take? HELP!


New member
This is something new for me. It probably isn't for the pros or experienced ones but please, share your thoughts or even give the low-down on this issue.

A H-H config with 2 similiar pups (PAF Pros, output 300mA)
Setup is for optimal bridge performance, I want it as close to the strings as possible.

School of Thought 1 (SoT1)
Many of us (myself included) have always thought when you set up your pup height, you want to balance your pup's volume. So neck and bridge humbuckers should be balanced in volume right? That would leave the bridge closer to the strings than the neck... the neck pup would be actually rather far from the strings.

Thats a school of thought a lot of us have been going thru.

School of Thought 2 (SoT2)
Just recently, I noticed, from some articles and from a tech, that instead of balancing the pups' output volume, the pups are balanced INDIVIDUALLY. So for example, the bridge humbucker is placed say, as close as possible for best harmonic pickup and articulation, without mudding up. Same setup for the neck pup. In the case of the dual PAF Pro config, we will have a louder neck pup.

I was stumped. So whats good?! I sat back and thought for a moment, this is what I came up with, please advise, anyone.

Pros/Cons of SoT1
The neck pup will be lower output (when playing with distortion, drop in gain when switching to neck pup is evident), further from strings means less effect "sensing" of harmonics (yes, neck pups can scream, listen to Vai) and less articulation/dynamics. But you do get a more woody/natural/vintage tone.

Pros/Cons of SoT2
Both pups will be a optimal output, sensing harmonics well, and articulate. Player will notice no drop in gain when playing with distortion. However, on clean (or minial gain) the neck pup will be louder than the bridge.

In this case, I can see how when using similiar pups like in the above Case, SoT1 might actually make more sense.

However, there are matched pups. We know them...

Satch uses a Paf Joe (272mA) with the new Mo'Joe (320mA)
Vai uses Evo neck (294mA) with Evo bridge (404mA) or the Breed set (325mA and 356mA)
There's the popular Air Norton (270mA) and Tonezone (375mA) combination.

I think those would allow for optimal (close as possible) setup of BOTH neck and bridge pups while the different in output makes up for the volume.

What do you guys think?
use just 1 pickup. :lol:

i'm using only strats now and SoT2 doesn't work for me... like I say, pickups are interdependent (the magnetic field).

I tend to go lower on the pickup height though so that's absolutely no discernable string pull even when the guitar is flat on the ground. then i turn the amp louder. :twisted:

lastly, to answer your question - matched sets rule. no headache in pickup adjustment.
i think it depends on your individual playing situation/needs. since you don't have a band or play live (correct me if im wrong), balancing both pickups volume-wise shouldnt really be an issue so adjust both your pickups for optimal tone.
Solution to volume difference: Volume knob

As for me, my bridge is intentionally louder than my neck, as I'm using it for soloing and to cut through.
I personally adjust for best tone... I mean volume isn't even an issue on clean as you've got your vol knob... also I adjust my heighs lower to try counter string pull...
I dun really bother with balancing the pickup heights unless it affects me.

Generally with distortion or heavier overdrive, it compresses everything overall. I am not a fun of high output pickups so really, as long as eah pickup is sounding great on its own and the volume differences arent extreme i am happy.
I always try scenario 2 first, i.e adjusting for articulation and then compromise a little by doing the volume balance. Got to do this at a decent amp volume as well. Choosing the pickups wisely will prevent volume imbalance. If you watch many professionals or top players perform, they use the volume knob alot to get subtle variations in their tone.

As for the Dimarzio output specs, its not totally reliable as final output is dependant on how hard you play. The harder you play, the more output.
well its strictly personal i guess. I would go for both, that is sounding good to my ears as well as balancing in output. I guess for that i would never use the same pickup for bridge n neck. never worked for me actually. sorry i think my post is quite redundant :lol:
Well. the reason I brought this up is because, SoT2 is something I have never thought of. I have always preferred to balance the volume of the pups and never thought abt SoT2.

And as a result, I always helped ppl "balance" their pups according to SoT1.

Now that I found out abt SoT2, it added a whole new dimension, new reason to getting matched pup sets.

I understand the differences that will arise from picking dynamics and what not, but its just... something new for some of us I guess.
1 thing.

I understand output ratings given by any brand, eg Dimarzio, are not accurate.

I have installed a Dimarzio PAF Joe in neck (~270mA) with a Breed neck in bridge (~325mA). As it turns out this is similiar to the matched set Satch would use (PAF Joe & Mo'Joe)

However, using SoT1, the PAF Joe is much lower than the Breed neck. The volumes are balanced, that means, if I did SoT2, the PAF Joe will be louder than the Breed neck.

Question is, if this is a matched set, then why is the PAF Joe still so low?

I understand the neck pup will have more output as the strings vibrato harder/louder there, but the different output compensates for that. no?