When you get into the world of guitar pickups you realize the wide variety available: humbuckers, single-coils, mini buckers, single-coil-sized humbuckers, among others.
Although humbuckers and single-coils are the most famous, they are not the only nor even the best option.
Moreover, you will find as many differences as similarities among all of them so you need to be careful when choosing which one you are going to get.
Many players wonder if there is a way to have humbucker’s tone with a different kind of pickup and it will, but not by using any pickup.
Therefore, which kind of pickup will sound like humbuckers? Are single-coil-sized humbuckers useful to do this?
Well, although they are humbuckers, the outcome won’t be as expected but let me explain that to you.
Single-coil-sized humbuckers, also called stacked buckers, are a sort of humbucker designed to emulate real single coils tone. They provide the hum-canceling feature plus have a common single-coil size but they don’t sound like real humbuckers.
Although this might sound confusing you don’t have to worry, through this article I will try to evacuate every doubt that may come up about this overwhelming topic.
In the end, you will know everything related to this issue.
How do single-coil-sized humbuckers work?
Single-coil-sized humbuckers are like a combination between humbuckers and single coils, they consist of a set of two bobbins, each is wound around a magnet of opposite polarity and stacked on top of each other comprised to fit the size of a regular single coil pickup.
They not only look like common single coils to the sight but they also provide a single-coilish tone.
What is more, they present the most relevant humbucker’s feature, the ability to cancel unwanted noises, interferences hum, and buzz.
Furthermore, due to this characteristic, they are commonly marketed and known as “noiseless single coils”.
Do single-coil-sized humbuckers have the same output as full-sized ones?
Although single-coil-sized humbuckers are defined as high-output pickups, they provide a lower output compared to full-sized humbuckers.
As we mentioned before, stacked humbuckers present the noise-canceling feature so they eliminate hum plus add a little more voltage to the output.
However, a typical bucker has a much more broad magnetic field through which the string’s vibrations pass compared to single-coil-sized pickups.
This difference found in the magnetic field makes them detect non-identical harmonic fields which results in a higher output.
What is more, single-coil-sized humbuckers are designed to work as regular single-coil pickups, preserving their tone but also reducing the hum or noise.
That is also a reason why they don’t provide as much output as regular-sized buckers, bear in mind that stacked humbuckers, in many cases, attempt to replicate the features and functions of single coils.
Do single-coil-sized humbuckers have the same tone as full-sized humbuckers?
As discussed previously, single-coil-sized humbuckers are intended to keep the same sound and tone found in common single coils.
Therefore, although they are a type of humbucker, they won’t be able to produce the same tone as full-sized humbuckers.
That may simply be because they do not pick up as much of the string’s length when vibrating, as a result, they don’t sample enough of the strings in the same way a typical single coil would do.
In addition, as they are smaller in size they use a thinner wire to pack as many turns as possible plus the coils have a different shape.
Both of the previous features truly affect the tone and, in order to compensate for everything, they usually present more powerful magnets, even stronger than their full-size counterparts.
Having explained the previous characteristics, you can really picture why stacked buckers won’t sound exactly the same as regular humbuckers, it is not a surprise that they don’t sound like the full-size ones.
Do single-coil-sized humbuckers hum and buzz?
The principal reason to use them instead of using single coils is their hum-canceling option, as they are humbuckers, they provide this mod.
Single-coil-sized buckers are intended to recreate single coil sound and tone but without the huge amount of interference that they pick up.
Remember that these noiseless single coils are like a mixture of both kinds of pickups, the sound of a single-coil plus the ability to eliminate the noise of a humbucker.
Will single-coil-sized humbuckers fit any single coil routing?
Single-coil-sized humbuckers are meant to replicate not only the tone of regular single coils but also their size.
Therefore, they are intended to fit any single coil routing.
What is more, as these buckers have the same dimensions as single coils, they will also fit humbuckers routing.
Humbuckers are bigger so stacked buckers could be installed into humbuckers routings as well.
Are single-coil-sized humbuckers coil splittable?
Although these pickups try to emulate single coils you don’t have to forget they are humbuckers.
As they are humbuckers you may think that they could be splittable, and that’s true but not every single-coil-sized humbucker could.
Most stacked humbuckers come with four-conductor lead wires, which make them easier to auto-splitting but some of them come with only two-conductor lead wires which will make them impossible to coil split by themselves. If you intend to do it even with the latter, you will have to modify your pickups.
However, coil-split stacked buckers do not work very well.
Although it is possible to do that mod, these pickups aren’t typically good to split, they are intended to work as single coils when connected to a humbucker so, when splitting them you will lose not only output power but also the hum-canceling option.
Can single-coil-sized humbuckers sound like single coils when split?
Stacked buckers are designed to imitate a single coil tone but they are not likely to sound equal to real single coils when they are split.
Actually, once you cut the coil you will have a quite dissimilar tone, the output provided will be lower and the sound will be bland.
Bear in mind that this sort of humbucker is designed to eliminate the high amount of noise presented in single coils, if you split them you won’t control the interference anymore.
Although some players claim that single coil-sized buckers are not good for splitting and there’s no point in doing this mod, some others state that they work amazingly well when combined with other pickup positions.
When building your technique and style any alternative tone on your guitar is welcomed.
Furthermore, although stacked humbuckers might sound weak alone, you can take advantage of their particular tone.
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.