Magnets or ears aging?

dilver

Strat-Talker
Jan 22, 2009
177
nj
When I first bought a pair of Fender 57/62 pickups in 1997, I thought they were too thin and bright. These are the coated enamel purple wire pickups with non-beveled polepieces, that were later replaced with the 57 & 62 pickups with Formvar wire and heavily beveled polepieces. At the time, I was on an SRV kick (like lots of people) and wanted something that sounded ”bigger”, with more of a mid push. So I stuck them in my parts drawer and there they sat for years.

25 years later, I put these pickups in a new strat build and now, I think these pickups are really great. Do I attribute this to the natural aging of the magnets sitting in a steel cabinet with a bunch of other metal parts for 25 years, or my ears and tastes changing? I know there’s no way to tell, but I do wonder if others have had experiences where pickups sound better (or worse) with age.

Anyone else using and digging the older 57/62 pickups?

E26F2E29-9E5D-4AC7-9991-9D07FBE57E6A.jpeg 7FB30FED-473F-4F09-99A2-B5C89F737067.jpeg B9E07C67-E79F-4A85-BDF8-D8615018A629.jpeg
 

dirocyn

Most Honored Senior Member
Jan 20, 2018
6,571
Murfreesboro, TN
Can't rule out your hearing or your tastes changing, that happens to all of us.

The pickups probably haven't changed at all. But pickups are only part of the total sound: the pots, caps, strings, and pickup position (including distance to the string) also play a role. And so does the amp! Some pickups sound great with one amp setting, some sound great with another.

I'm guessing every single one of these tone factors is different, since the last time you tried these. Maybe radically different.

And that's before we even talk about what effect (if any) the wood has on the amplified sound. IMO the wood's effect on an electric guitar's voice is small compared to all the other variables.
 

Guitarchaeologist

Master Spuddler
Silver Member
Dec 17, 2016
7,699
Behind the 8 ball
The pickups probably haven't changed at all.
I am sure people will argue, but I have read in several places (The Weber website for one example that I can recall) that magnets lose a very small amount of pull/strength in the first year and then are stable for many many decades (100+ years IIRC), assuming there are no outside influences to change their pull/strength (e.g., very high heat, close contact with other magnets).

another...
"Retaining the magnetism forever isn't ever possible. But when you take care of the permanent magnets correctly, they can stay with their magnetism intact for around a hundred years."
 

Pandamasque

Senior Stratmaster
Sep 22, 2020
1,171
Kyiv, Ukraine
Aside from all the likely variables mentioned in posts above, I must add that I've heard many people say that vintage Strats generally don't tend to sound "harsh", even the bridge pickup with tone on full. Perhaps pickups do age too?
 

dirocyn

Most Honored Senior Member
Jan 20, 2018
6,571
Murfreesboro, TN
I am sure people will argue, but I have read in several places (The Weber website for one example that I can recall) that magnets lose a very small amount of pull/strength in the first year and then are stable for many many decades (100+ years IIRC), assuming there are no outside influences to change their pull/strength (e.g., very high heat, close contact with other magnets).

another...
"Retaining the magnetism forever isn't ever possible. But when you take care of the permanent magnets correctly, they can stay with their magnetism intact for around a hundred years."
Aside from all the likely variables mentioned in posts above, I must add that I've heard many people say that vintage Strats generally don't tend to sound "harsh", even the bridge pickup with tone on full. Perhaps pickups do age too?

I've looked at this before, and been unable to come up with a solid answer or even a rule of thumb as to how long magnets last. What I did find is:

Before Alnico, people used ferrous magnets that didn't last very long unless stored with a "keeper," a conductive strip that touches both ends of the magnet and helps preserve the magnetic field.

All magnets have a Curie temperature, if they get too hot they will lose their charge. For Alnico that's 575C--so don't weld, solder, or use a grinding tool on magnets.

Magnetic coercivity is a measurement of how well a material resists demagnetization. For Alnico that's kA/m 30-150. Which is just numbers to me, I'm still learning. But if they're exposed to a magnetic field that exceeds their coercivity, they can lose charge.

Neodymium magnets will lose somewhere between 5% strength per century and 1% per decade. I know that doesn't really apply to AlNiCo.

And I found this article by Chris Kinman, which mentions that magnets from 1964 have about the same gauss as new ones. https://kinman.com/twistedtale.php

I kind of get why I'm not finding much real scientific information on this topic. When you stick a gauss meter on a magnet, you know how strong it is today. That doesn't tell you how strong it was yesterday, or 10 years ago, or 100. It seems like testing would be pretty straightforward, but it would be a dull job and only useful over very long time scales.
 

Oldboy

Senior Stratmaster
May 17, 2009
1,547
Land Of 1000 Dances
Bill Lawrence said:

"Before the introduction of alnico magnets in 1935, permanent magnets were not quite that permanent. During a certain time, they lost a good amount of magnetism till they finally reached a stable condition. The process to accelerate this decay was called in the industry, "magnetic aging." In modern science, it is called "stabilizing." Since the �50's, we use Alnico 5 magnets which lose, under normal conditions, less then half a percent per 100 years."

http://www.billlawrence.com/Pages/Pickupology/magnets.htm
 

Antigua

Senior Stratmaster
Feb 28, 2014
4,439
in between
Same amp too? I had the same experience with Texas Specials, I thought a lot more highly of them when i tried them again 15 years later. I'm pretty sure it was my expectations that changed more than anything. I had actually put them back in the same guitar too.

The magnets won't become weaker with age unless they're stored in such a way that they're pressed together, pole face to pole face, which will partly demagnetize them instantly.
 

nickmsmith

Dr. Stratster
Jul 28, 2011
14,192
USA
Pickups sound different in every amp. And even if you’re using the exact same amp and settings, your tastes in what sounds good may have changed.
 

Miotch

Most Honored Senior Member
Jun 28, 2011
5,283
ok
I know that in addition to my hearing changing, my tastes have changed over the years. And amps. And pedals. And my ability on the guitar. But I'm glad you like them now !!!
 

hamerfan

Strat-Talker
May 11, 2020
443
Bavaria
Amp is a big factor. I remember a guy who had a vintage Fender amp, which sounded warm and full. At a certain point he had to let it recap. The tech took out all leaking, bleeding rotting caps out and the owner hated it. They tried to get other drifted values at certain points, but the amp never sounded like before. I heard he sold it in the end.
 

painter33

Strat-Talker
Dec 27, 2008
199
Delaware
I've looked at this before, and been unable to come up with a solid answer or even a rule of thumb as to how long magnets last. What I did find is:

Before Alnico, people used ferrous magnets that didn't last very long unless stored with a "keeper," a conductive strip that touches both ends of the magnet and helps preserve the magnetic field.

All magnets have a Curie temperature, if they get too hot they will lose their charge. For Alnico that's 575C--so don't weld, solder, or use a grinding tool on magnets.

Magnetic coercivity is a measurement of how well a material resists demagnetization. For Alnico that's kA/m 30-150. Which is just numbers to me, I'm still learning. But if they're exposed to a magnetic field that exceeds their coercivity, they can lose charge.

Neodymium magnets will lose somewhere between 5% strength per century and 1% per decade. I know that doesn't really apply to AlNiCo.

And I found this article by Chris Kinman, which mentions that magnets from 1964 have about the same gauss as new ones. https://kinman.com/twistedtale.php

I kind of get why I'm not finding much real scientific information on this topic. When you stick a gauss meter on a magnet, you know how strong it is today. That doesn't tell you how strong it was yesterday, or 10 years ago, or 100. It seems like testing would be pretty straightforward, but it would be a dull job and only useful over very long time scales.
Thanks - interesting.
 


Latest posts

Top