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Formvar vs Enamel pick-ups

Discussion in 'Pre-CBS Strats (before 1966)' started by sikoniko, Oct 14, 2017.

Formvar vs Enamel pick-ups

  1. Formvar

    5 vote(s)
  2. Enamel

    6 vote(s)
  1. sikoniko

    sikoniko Strat-O-Master

    I don't have any experience with Enamel pickups, but I understand that most of the guitars Hendrix played were Enamel and that is the best way to get his tone. All of my strats are formvar, but I have been thinking about getting a set of enamel for one of my strats to change it up. I know some people have strong opinions one way or the other.

    What is your experience and preference?
  2. stratman323

    stratman323 Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

    Apr 21, 2010
    London, UK
    I'm not sure it's possible to generalise in that way. It's what is done with the wire that matters far more than what the wire is. Here's a table I started last year & never finished.

    Stratocaster Pickup Specifications & Identification v4.jpg

    My favourite Strat pickups are those from the earliest AVRIs - the pickups they used up until 1998, & they used enamel. Not sure why they used enamel as formvar would be more appropriate for the years 1957 & 1962, but that's what they chose. Nice rich, warm sounding pickups. However, my least favourite Strat pickups are Texas Specials, & they also use enamel. I prefer the later (formvar) AVRI pickups to Texas Specials. And I prefer the Duncan SSL-1s (formvar) to Texas Specials too.

    Now those are just my preferences & many here will disagree with my conclusions. But it does suggest (to me) that the wire used is not really a good way of selecting a pickup you like. I'm not sure what the factors are that make pickups sound different, but I fear that you are barking up the wrong tree with this theory.
  3. Mipstoo

    Mipstoo Senior Stratmaster

    Mar 18, 2013
    Rockingham Palace
    I prefer Enamel and I mostly have Formvar... o_O
    It feels too strange to me to change some pre-cbs pickups with later enamel ones.
    I replaced all Polysol with Enamel.
    I think the wire does affect tone, but windings, scattering, microphonics, potted or lacquered do much more to the sound
  4. Mr. Lumbergh

    Mr. Lumbergh needs you to go ahead and come in on Sunday, too. Strat-Talk Supporter

    Jan 10, 2014
    Initech, Inc.
    The coating of the coil wire is slightly different in thickness, and over the course of wrapping a mile of it around a bobbin will have some influence on the density of the coil. Electrically, this is the only real difference. This will change the parasitic loss to capacitance and eddy currents, but the effect is small. I'd say that tightness of the wind and hand vs. machine wind would much more impact than the wire insulation.
    IOW, don't worry about it!
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2017
    Yves, muso.greg, Nate D and 5 others like this.
  5. Adam Wolfaardt

    Adam Wolfaardt Strat-Talker

    Jan 2, 2017
    Fender switched from hand winding to machine wound at about the same time as the wire change. '64 as far as I know. I suspect that most of the difference we hear is due to the winding patern
    fezz parka and abnormaltoy like this.
  6. fezz parka

    fezz parka Strat-Talk Supporter

    Apr 21, 2011
    Thickness of the insulation is about the only real difference. Thicker the insulation, the fatter the coil.
    henderman, ripgtr and Adam Wolfaardt like this.
  7. ripgtr

    ripgtr Most Honored Senior Member

    Feb 16, 2012
    Which can mean the wires are slightly further from each other, which could possibly affect self inductance and eddy currents and capacitance. Or not.

    Formvar in the 50/60s was thicker than the later enamal. The Formvar today is different chemically than the formvar of the 50s. Just like the nitro today is different than it used to be.

    It may be something to be interested in, but it is down the list. WAY down the list. :)
    fezz parka likes this.
  8. fezz parka

    fezz parka Strat-Talk Supporter

    Apr 21, 2011
    It's right there with deciding which shoes give you better tone. ;)
  9. Ebidis

    Ebidis Providing the world with flat bends since 1985 Strat-Talk Supporter

    Nov 14, 2013
    I think practicing Hendrix' playing style will do more to get you close to his sound than any pickup will.
  10. fezz parka

    fezz parka Strat-Talk Supporter

    Apr 21, 2011
    Two of these are PE, one is Formvar. All have the same turns/DCR. Which is which?

  11. ripgtr

    ripgtr Most Honored Senior Member

    Feb 16, 2012
    Cowboy boots or two tone Spectators.
    Pretty easy choice.
    Ok, Beatle boots are pretty cool, too.
  12. Ebidis

    Ebidis Providing the world with flat bends since 1985 Strat-Talk Supporter

    Nov 14, 2013
    Crocs. But only when worn with tube socks.
  13. montemerrick

    montemerrick spiritual birthday, April 1 Strat-Talk Supporter

    These worked pretty good last night. Nothing like Alaskan sneakers at the logger bar! Or was it my amp? IMG_5552.JPG
    fezz parka and henderman like this.
  14. bchaffin72

    bchaffin72 Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Oct 4, 2008
    I prefer sandals. Really opens up my tone. Makes me sound so nice and airy.:D

    As to the original question, here's one perspective on the subject:

    Last edited: Oct 14, 2017
  15. henderman

    henderman Most Honored Senior Member

    Dec 4, 2013
    Dress flip flops in Florida for the win, extra points if paired with a dress T-Shirt.

    Not to take a way from the expertise of the knowledgeable and the experienced, cuz I can hardly spell electricity, but I usually lay down the "variable card" and it explains almost everything about a guitar except to those that skipped that 1 day in 6th grade science class.

    But a person can be tricked into perceiving things easily or magic and governments would not exist anymore.
  16. Bazz Jass

    Bazz Jass Chairman of the Fingerboard Strat-Talk Supporter

    Nov 19, 2014
    Up a lazy river
    Blue Suede Shoes work best for getting that great Scotty Moore tone :thumb:
  17. fezz parka

    fezz parka Strat-Talk Supporter

    Apr 21, 2011
    Naw. Carl Perkins tone. :D
    montemerrick and Bazz Jass like this.
  18. vlxerdon

    vlxerdon Strat-O-Master

    Jan 31, 2013
    Coastal Georgia
    Got some rather unusual tones one day when I stepped on to a just shampooed carpet barefoot while playing my guitar. Not doing that again.
    fezz parka likes this.
  19. Tone Guru

    Tone Guru Senior Stratmaster

    Dec 13, 2011
    Music City TN
    It seems that the dark maroon enamel wire pickups are shown with higher treble response in Fender packaging and sales graphics.
    I've tried some Fender grey bottoms and yet to find anything too bright or icepick.

    Unless there's some significant difference in other factors it probably makes as much difference as having an "AY" or Custom Shop sticker on it.

    If the graphic is to be believed the enamel Texas Spec neck pickup should be the brightest, but one I have has a problem with a magnet.
  20. ripgtr

    ripgtr Most Honored Senior Member

    Feb 16, 2012
    Yea show up at my gig, I'd ask -
    Do you know how to play "Far, Far away" and "Long, Long ago"?
    Maybe I can use you for back up. So, backup. No, backup more ...