Playing around with pickup and pole heights

Discussion in 'Electromatic Gretsch Forum' started by dswo, Jun 4, 2021.

  1. dswo

    dswo Electromatic

    Apr 8, 2017
    East Carolina
    Background: I'm coming back to my 5420T after 18 months of a Telecaster. The Gretsch sounded dark: darker even than I thought a hollowbody should sound. (Not that I've played enough different guitars to really know.) I thought about getting TV Jones pickups, and maybe I still will, but I'm trying hard right now -- for spiritual reasons -- to explore what I have instead of pile up more. I have read so many good things on this forum about Black Top Filter'Trons that I thought, "There must be something I can do to make these sound better."

    Last night after a movie I screwed all of the poles down to the level of the black plastic (and wiped away the wax that came out when I did). Then I cranked both pickups up as high as they could go. When I measured from string bottom to black plastic, they ended up being a little closer to the strings than the TV Jones recommendations. (Earlier in the week I had adjusted the pickup heights to TV Jones specs, but measuring from the top of chrome covers, which are higher than the black plastic. Result: the actual pickups were probably farther away from the strings than TVJ suggests.)

    With the pickups jacked up to maximum height, I'm getting more volume (no surprise) and more articulation (coming from Fender single coils, this is a surprise). I'm also hearing, I think, some compression now from the amp. (The clean channel on this amp is hard to overdrive into distortion, but it can get warm and round: that's what I'm hearing now.)

    Any thoughts on adjusting the poles? I know I can use them to adjust individual string volume, per the diagrams on TV Jones' website. But what is the difference between raising the pickup and raising a pole? And why are there two poles per string on each pickup?
  2. sgarnett

    sgarnett Synchromatic

    Apr 14, 2020
    I can’t say WHY there are two poles per string, but raising one pole can brighten the tone by narrowing the magnetic field at the string (though maybe less so with the pickup itself very close).
    dswo likes this.
  3. wabash slim

    wabash slim I Bleed Orange

    Feb 10, 2010
    lafayette in
    Basically, it's two separate single coil pickups in one case. That's what makes them humbuckers.
    The screws are there to adjust things, so have at it. You'll find your sweet spot eventually.
    dswo likes this.
  4. G5422T

    G5422T Country Gent

    May 24, 2012
    Years back I asked TV about a "starting point" for pole height adjustment on TV Classics that were adjusted by the previous owner.

    I needed to start from scratch as the poles were set all over the place, and didn't sound "right."

    Here's what I received.

    E A D G B E
    0 .5 1 .5 0 .25

    E A D G B E
    0 .75 1.5 .75 .25 0

    Gently screw down all poles like you did. The number under the string is number of turns "up."

    Made a difference, and this is a great place to start.

    Best of luck
  5. sgarnett

    sgarnett Synchromatic

    Apr 14, 2020
    Yes. PAF style humbuckers have slugs instead of screws in one coil. I don’t know why Seth Lover used slugs and screws and Ray Butts used two screws originally, but they do change both the inductance and the shape of the field.
    MrWookiee and wabash slim like this.
  6. FiveAces

    FiveAces Gretschie

    Mar 1, 2009
    San Diego, CA
    I recall going through this (and I'm sure there are plenty of us out there!) and I found these same settings as the good starting point.
    Bottom line, it's going to be a bit different for everyone since we all percieve sound a little different.

    Think of it this way.... Adjust the poles on the pickup as stated above. Basically, they are set like that to aproximate the neck radius.
    Then, the pickup height becomes the master overall adjustment so you should be able to get it close to optimum. Also, don't restrict yourself... the pickup can be slightly higher one side or the other (think of it like Strat single coils).
    Then, when you think you got it, your poles can be the fine tweaked for the individual strings. I tweaked my 3rd poles a bit to compensate for using a wound G 3rd string.
    You'll know when you get it!
    MrWookiee, dswo and G5422T like this.
  7. Henry

    Henry I Bleed Orange

    Apr 9, 2014
    Maybe too simple to be too accurate, but generally I adjust the height and tilt of the pickup for tone, then pole pieces to level the volume.
    sgarnett likes this.
  8. cowmoo

    cowmoo Country Gent

    Aug 19, 2011
    North Wales
    I had to do something too to my T’armonds in my Falcon.
    At the recommended heights I was getting some serious wolf tones and strange harmonics and had to drop the low E slug right down into the case.
    So i’ve removed the shims and set everything low and flat to the case top and it seems to have helped. I’ll need to tweak the poles in time.
    I’m going to do the same with the classics in the Phoenix, as set at TV’s suggested height i get really hard ice picky tones from the bridge.
    (I only realised this after recording an entire album of tracks and being unhappy with the resulting tones during mixing..d’oh!)
    MrWookiee and G5422T like this.
  9. G5422T

    G5422T Country Gent

    May 24, 2012
    My Phoenix is why I got this tip from TV.

    I traded for it, and the poles had been adjusted. After a set up with my string gage and brand, it just didn't sound that good.

    Adjusted all poles per TV's advice and got the bodies set to spec.

    It sounds SO good now, just hard to believe. I left them at the starting points on mine, and the balance across the strings is just smooth.

    Best with yours.

    20210203_121544.jpg 20210203_121534.jpg
  10. S.R.Cash

    S.R.Cash Gretschie

    Aug 29, 2019
    Ontario, Canada
    When I still had my FT's in, I had one row of pole pieces out and the other row a tad higher than I should have. It helped in clarity, but eventually I just went the Hilotron route.
    G5422T and dswo like this.
  11. kbcarroll

    kbcarroll Electromatic

    Nov 4, 2010
    Nashville, TN
    My neck pickup sounds so perfectly "filtertron" no matter what I do with it. High, low, pole pieces up or down. It's amazing.

    But my neck pickup has NO high end and just sounds like mid-range mush no matter what I do with it.

    TV Jones Powertrons, for what it's worth.
  12. G5422T

    G5422T Country Gent

    May 24, 2012
    I'll admit that I love the tone of a HiLo neck pup. I've been wanting to put one in one of my hollow bodies.

    I miss that sound.

    Something about it is just right.
    s360guitarist and S.R.Cash like this.
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