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Post new topic Alumitone pickup - how does it work?
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Author Topic:  Alumitone pickup - how does it work?
Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 18 Oct 2019 2:25 pm    
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I have these in both my guitars (Williams and Excel) and they sound fantastic. But I expect a pickup to have pole pieces and a big fat coil, and these seem to contain practically nothing.

Would some kind soul enlighten me? I have a reasonable technical education but I'm puzzled Confused
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Georg Sørtun


From:
Mandal, VA, Norway & Weeki Wachee, FL, USA
Post  Posted 18 Oct 2019 3:32 pm    
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lace_Sensor#Lace_Alumitone

In short: a vibrating string near the magnet creates a low-voltage alternating current in the PU's coil-shaped "body" – high current but very low voltage is created in these single-turn very low impedance coils.
This alternating current is "stepped" (transformed) up via coils placed inside/under the PU body, to provide the levels of voltage needed to amplify it further in standard sound-chains.
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Douglas Schuch


From:
Valencia, Philippines
Post  Posted 18 Oct 2019 3:40 pm    
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I don't know the answer, Ian, but here's some info that might help a smarter person understand them. From Lace's current site:

Quote:
the Alumitone utilizes a technology completely different from any other pickup on the market. The Alumitone functions as a closed loop primary transformer, yielding a broadband, HDTv for your ears response.


And here is some info from the wayback machine, from an earlier version of the Lace website:

Quote:
This radical departure from pickup design is aluminum based, rather than copper. Result: less resistance, higher output coupled to a "current driven design" as opposed to conventional voltage based pickups.

The aluminum water jet cut exoskeleton is then matted to a micro winding using 90% less fine copper wire, a low impedance/high impedance pickup is then created.


https://web.archive.org/web/20110713180909/http://www.lacemusic.com/electric_pickups/alumitone/alumitone_specs.php

And, last, an answer from Yahoo Questions:

Quote:
From what I can tell (looking at the Lacemusic.com site), it is a current transformer that is not 100% coupled as a normal current transformer would be. Current transformers are typically 1 turn of heavy gauge wire (that you want to sense the current passing through) coupled to 1000 turns of small-gauge wire. Perhaps you have seen an "Amp Clamp" on a multi-meter. That's the same principle.

A very large magnet (2 of them) compared with the small cylinder magnets of standard pickups, induces larger eddy currents in the strings, which induces a larger current in the loop of aluminum. That's one turn which is picked up by the multi-turn smaller coil underneath. 1 turn of aluminum is almost a dead short, so the voltage induced on the 1 turn is extremely low. If there are 1000 turns on the secondary coil, the voltage is multipled by a factor of 1000, while the current is divided by a factor of 1000. There are losses involved to the numbers aren't that exact. And for this setup it looks like the coupling is not anywhere near 100%.

Since they can wind fewer turns on the secondary than a standard pickup, the impedance is lower which is advantageous in many other ways (possible better frequency response, more voltage to the amp input).


[Removed an invalid link.]

So this gives me a basic understanding. I'm no electro-geek - so others may grasp it better, but basically, the aluminum shell of the pickup is the main component that strings "excite", which is bonded to a thin copper winding, which acts as a transformer with the shell. And since this method apparently has some internal efficiencies over the standard methods, they can be lower resistance, which allows for far less degradation of the signal (about 5000 on my ohm meter). Does that sound about right in layman's terms?

The steel guitar models are humbuckers - you can look at Lace's website and see very narrow single-coil versions of the Alumitone.
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Bobby Nelson


From:
North Carolina, USA
Post  Posted 19 Oct 2019 4:07 pm    
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It's all voodoo to me (coils, no coils, mid coil taps, wires, x-rays from space etc). But it is my pup of choice in my Legend - nothing sounds better, although the XP-10 Telonics comes close, and to be fair, I haven't noodled with the adjustable pole pieces on that one - the
Alumitone just sounds too good already.
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Douglas Schuch


From:
Valencia, Philippines
Post  Posted 19 Oct 2019 4:21 pm    
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Bobby - I agree - I ordered a Telonics XP as I wanted the adjustments to get the strings all sounding equally volume-wise - I got it this week and quickly gave it a try, but I just prefer the tone of the Alumitone. I've not made a definite decision yet, but suspect I will stick with them.
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Lee Baucum


From:
McAllen, Texas (Extreme South) The Final Frontier
Post  Posted 19 Oct 2019 6:07 pm    
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I had one in a pre-RP Mullen U-12 many years ago.
It was great.
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Darvin Willhoite


From:
Roxton, Tx. USA
Post  Posted 19 Oct 2019 6:33 pm    
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I have a set of interchangeables for my newer MSA's and like them a lot. I use them almost exclusively on E9th and have for a long time.
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Mike Perlowin


From:
Los Angeles CA
Post  Posted 19 Oct 2019 10:16 pm    
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I have one in one of my millenniums. I think it sounds great.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 20 Oct 2019 11:28 am    
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Thanks to those who posted links. I'm impressed by the "hi-fi" quality of these pickups and I'm a little closer to understanding how it's achieved.
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Georg Sørtun


From:
Mandal, VA, Norway & Weeki Wachee, FL, USA
Post  Posted 20 Oct 2019 1:09 pm    
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Ian Rae wrote:
I'm impressed by the "hi-fi" quality of these pickups and I'm a little closer to understanding how it's achieved.
Ian, the following is maybe more info than you want/need, but if you want it more "HiFi" than an Alumitone, amplify the strings directly by connecting a super-sensitive low-noise pre-pre-amp to both end of the strings – bridge and keyhead. Still need a magnet under the strings, and a bar that doesn't electrically short the strings that in effect replace the PU-coils.
More than a "little bit complicated" to set up for a standard PSG, but 6-string guitars work well with such setups as our fingers don't conduct electricity well enough to short the small current induced in the vibrating strings.
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Mike Perlowin


From:
Los Angeles CA
Post  Posted 20 Oct 2019 2:24 pm    
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One of the best features of MSA steels is the modular pickup system, which allows you to instantly change pickups and compare their sounds.

I tried out a lot of different pickups including am E- 66, a Tru-tone, a Tone Aligner, a Telonics, even an active EMG. Granted. preference is subjective, but I feel the alumitone beats them all, hands down.

I believe it was John Fabian at Carter who first became aware of these pickups and introduced them to out community.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 20 Oct 2019 3:35 pm    
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Georg, as you suggest, I may well not get round to trying that method! But it's interesting to know.
Mike, that MSA feature is useful. I think there must be a lot of players out there who favour a pickup with "character" that gives a certain sound; but I like the idea of a device that has no character and just leaves me alone with the guitar.
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Bobby Nelson


From:
North Carolina, USA
Post  Posted 21 Oct 2019 1:38 pm    
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Quote:
I think there must be a lot of players out there who favour a pickup with "character" that gives a certain sound; but I like the idea of a device that has no character and just leaves me alone with the guitar


Ian, I wouldn't say the Alumitone changes the character at all. what it does , to me, is just give me crystal clear highs, nice round mids, and clear and pronounced bottoms - it's just right all the way around. Others seem to loose clarity in certain ranges to me - usually in the the high ranges.
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Mike Perlowin


From:
Los Angeles CA
Post  Posted 21 Oct 2019 2:02 pm    
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Slightly off topic: I think every steel guitar builder should license the MSA modular pickup system and incorporate it into their guitars.

Some players would want to have a variety of different pickups and use them on different songs. Others, like me, would use the feature to compare the sounds of different pickups and choose the one they prefer. In my case, the alumitone.
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Andy DePaule


From:
Saigon, Viet Nam & Springfield, Oregon
Post  Posted 13 May 2022 6:33 pm     For use on lap steels?
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Anybody have any idea how these would sound on a lap steel?
Would I be able to get that old time tone or would they be too bright? Question
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Promat #11 2007, D-10 Blond & Mahogany with Gold Tuners.
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Jim Sliff


From:
Lawndale California, USA
Post  Posted 16 May 2022 11:46 am     Re: For use on lap steels?
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Andy DePaule wrote:
Anybody have any idea how these would sound on a lap steel?
Would I be able to get that old time tone or would they be too bright? Question


I've used 6-string and wide 5-string bass models in several Fender 8-string pedal steels (the 6 string models work great because the magnets on top are not the critical "coverage area" items - even the small chrome extension for the coil picks up signal, and all of it is at the same volume level. They both sounded clear with more mids, more sustain and less top end "bite" than a typical Fender.

On a lap steel I suggest the "P-90" voiced model if they're still making it. It sounded like my Rick model 59 on a Fender 400.
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Matthew Walton


From:
Fort Worth, Texas
Post  Posted 19 May 2022 9:44 am    
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My dad's MSA SuperSlide has an Alumitone on it. I haven't done a side-by-side comparison with my SuperSlide with the normal pickup (if there is one), but when I play it I'm not put off by it. I know Reece put one on his, and I remember him saying it didn't make much of a difference soundwise.

That said, I think they look extremely cool!
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