About Magnetic Pickups

Magnetic pickups have been on the market for half a century. A magnetic pickup works when the guitar's vibrating steel strings disturb the magnetic field of the pickup. These disturbances are interpreted into the guitar sound and can be amplified. Magnetic pickups are available as single- and dual-coil models. Single coil pickups sound brighter and livelier — a nice tone for acoustic guitars, however, they tend to be noisy and produce a hum that makes it unusable in most situations where clean, quality sound is desired. Dual-coil models include a second coil that cancels this hum — that’s why they’re called humbuckers. Humbuckers tend to create more of an "electric" guitar tone.

The Double Helix has two coils, so it is hum-canceling. However, the Double Helix is unique because the second coil isn’t just there to remove the noise, it actually allows you to dial in different coil combinations, resulting in different tone and phase settings. It’s the first soundhole pickup that has both a built-in tone switch and the phase switch.

The GLOSS setting produces a bright and lively tone like a single-coil pickup, with the added bonus of being hum-canceling. The STEAM setting has a much more substantial and louder tone that is usually associated with hum-cancelling soundhole pickups. The phase switch allows you to connect the Double Helix to any existing pickup in your guitar and ensures it resonates in the same phase. Without the phase switch, the chance of being out of phase with the other pickup is 50/50. The resulting combined tone will be much weaker if the phase would not match.

One current trend for magnetic pickups is to build smaller pickups using high-performance magnets to kick out as much volume as possible. Of course, we want the pickup to be small, but we think it’s more important to balance the components within the pickup. The size of the coils and the strength of magnets need to work in concert to get the best tone. Some current magnetic soundhole pickups also use a built-in preamp or an endpin jack preamp to process the sound and therefore require a battery inside the guitar. The Double Helix is totally passive and does not require a battery.

There are some magnetic soundhole pickups that claim to be “body sensitive” which means they are purposely made "microphonic". While a microphonic pickup does pick up a portion of the material it is mounted to, the more important question is, is this microphonic sound desirable? In our opinion, if you want a body sensitive pickup, use a pickup that’s designed for this application and is placed so that it perfectly picks up the body sounds you actually want. A soundhole pickup is not well-suited for this purpose, and we recommend using a combination system like the Double Helix and Pure Pickup, to really get the best of both worlds.

Building a magnetic pickup is a science in itself and there are many factors that come into play: how the coils are wound, how carefully they are wound, the exact strength of the magnets, and the amount of care taken during assembly. Achieving the most consistent and effective results requires careful measurement of the components to ensure that only matching sets go into one pickup and that all numbers are within our tight specifications. We supply a certificate with these numbers for each individual Double Helix pickup.

Double Helix Pickup

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