Defining the height of your new Heartbreakers is something of personal taste, but there are some guidelines that will help you find your sweet spot. In general the closer a pickup is to a string, the louder the string will sound but there will also be more magnetic pull exerted on the string. Too much magnetic string pull makes the notes sounds “wobbly” like a bad vibrato effect, as the string cannot freely resonate. The weaker the magnets* are, the closer you can put them against the strings, so there isn’t a general rule for every pickup. In this article we’d like to show you our method how you can find the optimal height for your pickups.
After installing the pickups, screw them all up very high so they are just a couple of mm’s (2 a 3) removed from the strings. Plug your guitar into a clean sounding amp and search for the weakest sounding pickup with your pickup switch. Select this pickup and play the highest note on the lower E string and lower the pickup so you no longer hear the effect of magnetic string pull**. You can use a tuner to double check if the note is precise and clear. Play the highest note of the high E string and make sure this note has the same volume as the highest note of the lower E string..
After setting this pickup you adjust the height of the other pickup(s) so that there aren’t any big volume jumps when you switch between different pickups. As you did with the previous pickup, check the balance of the low- and high E-strings and adjust the tilt of the pickups if necessary.
Afterwards you can experiment and play around with the height of your pickups until you find a setting that feels musical to you. For example if you want less bass, then you lower the bass side of the pickup and so on. Happy testing! ;)
*Fully charged Alnico 5 magnets are much stronger than Alnico 2 and 3 magnets. Magnets can also lose strength over time, so old vintage pickups tend to have softer magnets than newer ones.
**If you keep hearing the “wobbly” sound no matter how low you set the first pickup, then the other two pickups may be set to high and are magnetically pulling on the strings :)