Let’s get to know pickup magnets better. We’ll start with Alnico, magnets an alloy made of iron, aluminium (Al), nickel (Ni) and cobalt (Co), as well as a little bit of copper (Cu). The three most common used Alnico variants are Alnico II, Alnico III and Alnico V, although Alnico VIII is growing in popularity, blending the power of a ceramic magnet with the fatness and detail of an Alnico. Here are the basic types:
Alnico II is commonly found in original PAF humbucking pickups, with a moderate coil wind, but it’s also a great hard rock humbucker when combined with hotter coils. The tone is relatively soft, clear and sweet with a rounding-off of the treble frequencies, but if you use a hotter coil wind it brings out a little bit of hairiness and great note separation in complex chords. We recommend Alnico II for our Old School humbucking model, and it’s ideal for the neck version of the De La Creme. You’ll also find it in the PVH (Perry’s Vintage Humbucker) model.
Alnico V is the most common magnet when we think of rock pickups. The sound is usually hotter, edgier and ruder than Alnico II and III, and you’ll find that an Alnico V pickup will give you a great ‘wall of sound’ vibe where the individual notes of a chord blend together into a big slab of rock. They’re also a little warmer in the midrange which can make for great lead guitar tones. This is the perfect magnet for the De La Creme bridge model.
Alnico VIII is a big deal at Ormsby, powering many of our most popular pickups. It’s one of the least common magnet types elsewhere, but for us it offers the perfect blend of grit and precision; it sounds great in pickups like the Hot Rock and Nunchucker, situations where you really want some chunk and aggression like a ceramic pickup but also a little bit more warmth on lead tones like an Alnico V.
Ceramic magnets usually sound more ‘modern,’ with a tighter low end, more ‘cut’ and higher output compared to Alnico magnets. They’re great for metal and shred, and they contribute a huge amount to the aggression of the Master Blaster and Katana models.
Deceptively, Alnico III is weaker than Alnico II. It actually has no cobalt and the lowest magnetic pull. That makes it a great choice for neck pickups because it allows the string to ring out more cleanly. Its sound is a little more ‘confident’ compared to Alnico II, although both have a certain ‘softness.’ Many players like to balance an Alnico III neck pickup against an Alnico II in the bridge. Ormsby doesn’t currently offer Alnico III magnets as standard but you never know what we can do in the Custom Shop.