Why is it Important to Know My Pickup’s Resistance?

Why is it Important to Know My Pickup’s Resistance?

A very useful measure of your guitar’s output is called direct current (DC) resistance. For the most general comparisons it can be handy, but it’s often not taken beyond because of the many variables that can affect it. It basically shows you how much electron flow is being resisted throughout your pickup. So, how and exactly why is it important to know how much gauge yours has?

Before you settle on a purchase, you would normally want to compare specs and details. Most people like to weigh numbers and values between units, often to the point of misapplication or misinterpretation. This can eventually lead to disappointment when they’re left unsatisfied after much tone-tweaking.

No one would want to go through all that, and you certainly don’t have to. Here’s what you truly need to know about your guitar’s resistance.

All About Resistance

For starters, the value of DCR is often misunderstood. The misconception may come from being unaware of DCR’s rough measurement value. It’s the easiest form manufacturers can do on all guitar types, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s your axe’s pure source of tone and frequency quality.

If you’re out canvassing for your next guitar, you will see figures of resistance – these are intended to display how much power the pickup has or could have. To an extent it can be misleading, especially when you’ve only really learned how to measure using DCR. The intent is well-meaning, however, since it should pose as a guide to help you picture out the guitar’s whole technical build.

At its core, any guitar’s DCR measurement only plainly tells of the coil’s size – how big and how much wound wire there is around it. For a humbucker, it’s usually how big the two coils are combined.

Another problem that comes with using the DCR measurement is the tendency of various wires to show different readings for the same length. Higher readings come from thinner wires, so you could be fooled into thinking the pickup is hotter. Again, we recall how many factors can affect these readings.

The Variables

  • Temperature, for the most part, can vary your pickup’s reading.
  • If it’s been sitting in a sunlit place, the DCR will read higher; if you’ve just taken it out of a cooler room, the reading will be lower. Once it’s installed in your setup, it will also read lower.
  • Copper wire variation can affect resistance.
  • Copper wires are rigorously manufactured to fit specs, but there can still be variation between coils even among the ones from the same manufacturer. Even within the same specs, the tiniest bit of variance can still affect DCR.

Most customers ring shops to ask if there’s anything wrong with their guitar. This is because most don’t know about the variables. If the reading has been done in the same room temperature of the shop, readings will differ only slightly.

What to Keep in Mind

Many guitar shop websites will publish DCR values as a guide. However, these are only midpoints taken from testing on an averaged size lot. Each guitar within that group will naturally give off different readings. DCR only tells you so little, if not nothing, about your guitar’s potential sound.

On your next canvass, try not to focus on DCR comparisons alone. There are still many differences between one pickup and another – don’t forget construction, design, and the materials used. If you take all that into account, DCR should not mean that much at all.


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