AlNiCo Magnets in Depth

Following last year’s All About Pickup Magnets, here’s another excellent article on guitar pickup magnets, courtesy of Pete Biltoft at Vintage Vibe Guitars.   Thanks Pete for the permission to post this here!

In this article, Pete consolidates his own expert research on pickups, along with a bunch of information from the Wikipedia magnet entries and Magnet Kingdom, to give us an overview of magnets in general, as well an in-depth look at AlNiCo magnets for guitar pickups.


June 2011


A recent question from a customer made me think that it was time to go back and review the properties of AlNiCo magnets as used in guitar and bass pickups.

Historical documents suggest ancient Greeks living in the prefecture of Magnesia in Thessaly (modern Manisa, Turkey), first discovered and observed the properties of naturally occurring magnetic materials.

The earliest known surviving descriptions of magnets and their properties are from Greece, India, and China around 2500 years ago. The properties of lodestones and their affinity for iron were written of by Pliny the Elder in his encyclopedia, Naturalis Historia.

Naturally occurring lodestone attracting paperclips

Figure 1. Naturally occurring lodestone attracting paperclips.

First a few magnet basics:

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CoAxe Pickups: Interview with Vox R&D

CoAxe pickup on SSC33TBCoAxe Pickup Internals

As you can hear in my recent video review of the Vox SSC33, the Vox CoAxe pickups sound amazing.  They’re dynamic, noiseless in all modes, and most importantly offer up a wide range of incredible sounds.

With the two blades sandwiching the pole pieces, you can see right away that these aren’t your typical humbucker, single-coil or P90…

Curious for more details on these mysterious creations, I got in touch with the man behind the magic- the inventor of the CoAxe pickup: Eric Kirkland, Chief Designer at Vox Guitar Development (G-Rok), in Novato, California.    Read on…

Why the name CoAxe?

Eric: The name “CoAxe”, of course, refers to the orientation of the coils.  Stacked humbuckers (the so-called “stacked single coil” pickups) are also coaxial, but our pickups are co-planar as well.  Maybe “Concentric” would have been a more descriptive name, but it just didn’t sound cool enough.

CoAxe Bobbin AssemblyTell us about those blades, poles and coils!

Eric: The arrangement of the coils is significant, as is the position of the blades between the coils.  The inner sensing coil, with its load of six poles, works like any single coil.  Since the load of the outer noise canceling coil consists of both the six poles and the two blades, less wire is required to produce a noise signal equivalent to the noise in the inner coil.  Less wire means less impedance, so the Clean and Crunch modes can be both noise-free and sparkly.  (Exposed to typical ambient EMI, our pickups have less noise than a covered Gibson PAF type humbucker – and more output.)


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All About Pickup Magnets

This is an excellent article on guitar pickup magnets, how they work, magnet types and pickup construction, courtesy of Pete Biltoft at Vintage Vibe Guitars.   Thanks Pete for the permission to post this here!

In addition to explaining the history and use of the various magnet types, this article also describes the differences in pickup construction between P-90’s, Fender-style single coils, blade pickups, and humbuckers.



In this “Tech Tips” newsletter I hope to provide you with some interesting and perhaps helpful information about the types of permanent magnets used in pickups for guitar, bass and other amplified stringed instruments.

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