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Hand- vs Machine wound pickups

Heartbreaker guitar pickup winding

In order to wind a guitar pickup, a machine needs to spin the bobbin while copper wire is being wound onto it. The difference between a hand- and machine wound pickup is in the way the copper wire is being supplied to the machine and onto the bobbin. A person can hold the wire in-between his hands and firmly guide it onto the bobbin or this process can be automated. There are many discussions and opinions on this topic about which method provides the best tone and results. Here at Heartbreaker we investigated this subject and concluded that both methods are equally valid, they just provide a different result. What result you prefer is up to you.

Our strat sets are machine wound pickups, but you can always contact us to craft handwound pickups for you as we have done so in the past. In this article we would like to outline the differences between hand- and machine wound pickups, so you can decide which one suits you the most. Here are the differences:

Hand wound

  • Copper wire is spread more irregularly (scattered) onto the bobbin, resulting in less electrical capacitance which results in a slightly more open sound (more high frequency’s).

  • The pressure being applied onto the copper wire while it is being wound onto the bobbin is done by hand. Making the tightness of the coil around the bobbin more irregular. This can result in a more open or darker sound depending on how much force the person winding the pickup used.

  • Every pickup is more unique as exact results can’t be repeated as easily due to the human factor in the process.

  • Hand wound pickups are more expensive than machine wound pickups since a person has to stay at the machine during the winding process and accidents can happen more often.

Machine wound

  • Standard, Copper wire is spread regularly onto the bobbin, resulting in more electrical capacitance which results in a warmer but more pronounced tone (unless a pickup is overwound with too many windings).

  • The pressure being applied onto the copper wire while it is being wound onto the bobbin is done by the machine. Making the tightness of the coil around the bobbin regular and predictable.

  • Results can be almost perfectly repeatable, so every pickup within the same product category are almost identical to each other.

  • Machine wound pickups are less expensive than hand wound pickups as the machine is clever enough to wind a pickup unattended and cause almost no accidents.

  • Since standard machine wound pickups are inherently a bit warmer and more pronounced sounding than hand wound pickups, they are very well suited for guitar tones with overdrive and distortion.

So if you prefer a more open sounding pickup, love the idea of something crafted by hand (as we do ;) ) and have a few more nickels to spend then hand wound pickups are for you. But if you play mostly with overdrive and prefer consistency then machine wound pickups are the better choice for you.

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