HighOrder Pickups - Do It For The Tone!

Welcome to HighOrder Pickups - home of superior-quality, handcrafted guitar pickups! Each pickup I build is assembled with utmost care, as if for my own personal use. Every HighOrder pickup is built by hand-guiding magnet wire onto standard pickup bobbins, which means the traverse of the wire is controlled by hand and not by machine. Final assembly/fit/finish are also completed by hand. While they can sound as good as hand guided pickups, computer-controlled and/or machine wound pickups often leave something to be desired in terms of the tonal complexity and the harmonic richness that most players desire. Many feel that the extremely uniform coil shape and distance between turns and layers of wire laid up by machines often results in a certain “sterility” and lack of character. While efforts are made to mimic hand guiding with machines, there is just something special about the tone of a hand crafted pickup - a "personality" imparted by the craftsman. The generally random layering and variations in tension throughout hand wound coils negates many of the unpleasant effects that crop up with machine winding, providing a tonal complexity that is more pleasing to the ear and rarely harsh or "brittle." The pickups sweeten even more as they settle in over time. To tailor the tone further, each HighOrder pickup comes with a "calibrated" magnet. In other words, each magnet is first fully charged and then set to a specific field strength based on the pickup model or custom design request. As always though, tone is in the ear of the beholder. What I promise is to do my best and build a pickup that rivals any other in build quality. My goal is to bring the tone from your head to your ears so you can end that chase and focus on making music!

HighOrder Pickups in Action!

Take a drive over the Kevin Schafer's site and listen to some great music and chops. Kevin has a high energy style that combines a diverse array of influences to create his own unique brand of instrumental funk/rock. But don't take my word for it. Listen to Kevin rock the house with a HighOrder 8.3k AlNiCo 2 humbucker on "Sugar City!"

Kevin Schafer - "Sugar City"

Be sure to get Kevin's CD here!! Here's the cover art for Kevin's newly released CD "Invasion From Planet K". On it you'll hear "Sugar City" and a ton of other great tunes. I have my copy, and I can tell you that "Invasion From Planet K" is a must for anyone that loves no-holds-barred, high-energy funk/rock guitar. You won't find anything like this from the corporate machine. Head over to Kevin's site and snap up a copy for yourself. You won't be disappointed!

Click here for Kevin's Site

Kevin's Logo Picture

Check out this clip from the man himself, Terry Kilgore of Reddi Killowatt and the DLR Band using an 8.3k AlNiCo 2 HighOrder humbucker!

Terry Kilgore - "Taste"

While you're at it, if you're looking for the best quality vintage/NOS tubes for your amps drop Terry (a.k.a. TubeTramp and Sgt. Overdrive) a line at:

Terry's CD cover

More awesome clips sent in by some HighOrder customers with great chops!

Tropical Jazz

Here's a really nice jazz track featuring Sasha Brusin on guitar. It features an 8.3k AlNiCo 2 bridge and 7.4k-ish partially degaussed AlNiCo 5 neck wind custom built solid-body guitars. Sasha nails it here accomanying jazz pianist Rob Ryndak on a track from his upcoming CD. Worth a listen for sure!

Chasing Dreams

Tee Top Tones!

This is a clip of Roe Fremstedal's band "20 Bones". The pickups were design to favor a late 60s T-Top in the bridge position and a 70s T-Top at the neck - both with nickel covers. Roe is playing an SG through a JTM-45 with a treble booster for some extra mojo! Really sweet, "edgy", classic tone. Great stuff!

20 Bones Clip

Be sure to check out the Band's website at:

20 Bones Web

Les Paul Classic Tone

This clip features Tim Cox with his 1991 sixties reissue Les Paul Classic. The pickups in this guitar are 8.5k and 7.8k AlNiCo 3 HighOrder humbuckers. Great stuff!

Tim Cox Les Paul Clip

Here is Dom Polito of "Classic Albums Live" demonstrating a pair of HighOrder pickups loaded in a Les Paul Classic. The pickups are 8.2k and 7.7k partially degaussed AlNiCo 5 HighOrder humbuckers; plexi, echo, etc. Runs a good range of tones.

CAL Les Paul Clip

Sweet Redwood Tone

Mr. Srini P. provided these clips. They feature a HighOrder 8.4k AlNiCo 2 bridge pickup and 7.5k partially degaussed AlNiCo 5 and AlNiCo 3 neck pickups, mainly in a Redwood Strat! Really sweet, jazzy tone.

Redwood Strat Samba

Gries 5 Amp DI to Cubase

Smokin' Kramer Tones!

Here's a few from Rick W. out of Illinois. The pickup is an 8.9k asymmetric wind with an AlNiCo 6 magnet. The guitar is a multi-ply bodied Kramer with a maple neck, rosewood board, and Floyd trem. Cabinet is an old Marshall TV with European built greenbacks. This first clip features some very nice soloing over a backing track. Nice, melodic/singing tones here!

Rick W Clip 1

Here's a dry clip with the same Kramer guitar through the "Gear1" on the Lead channel of a Splawn Quick Rod. No effects here. All dry tones working volume and gain adjustments along the way.

Rick W Clip 2

This last clip is the same Kramer guitar through a Carvin X100b. Got some verb and delay added which really suits the Top Gun solo well! Pretty cool!

Rick W Clip 3

See What You Can Hear!

Here's a couple of links to YouTube videos of the Swedish band "November", caught live during a 2007 reunion gig. HighOrder 8.3k and 7.8k, AlNiCo 2 asymmetric winds in a beautiful custom built guitar. Not only is Richard Rolf a phenomenal guitarist, but he's also a luthier who clearly excels at his craft.

RR/November 1

RR/November 2

Check out Mr. Glenn D. Brown working some "Woman Tone" with his HighOrder 7.8k/A5 Neck pickup. Glenn uses a Stellartone ToneStyler tone pot in this guitar "Santana Style" to get that creamy tone through a Lab Series L5 2x12 combo amp.

Glenn Brown Clip

Here's Just A Few Of The Pickup Models Available - Custom Built to Order

Black, white, or zebra (black/ivory or black/white) humbucker built to your desired specifications. Build materials include "vintage-style" nickel frame, nickel plated or black adjustable pole pieces, nickel plated "bullseye" slugs or black slugs, single-conductor braided shield hookup (4-wire on request), and injection molded plastic bobbins with ribbon tape finish. Wire choices are 42 and/or 43 gauge SPN, unless otherwise requested and available. Magnet choices include AlNiCo 2, 3, 4, 5, or 8 and C5 ceramic.

Black, white, or zebra (black/ivory or black/white) dual-adjustable humbucker built to your desired specifications. Build materials include "vintage-style" nickel frame, nickel plated or black pole pieces, single-conductor braided shield hookup (4-wire on request), and injection molded plastic bobbins with ribbon tape finish. Wire choices are 42 and/or 43 gauge SPN, unless otherwise requested and available. Magnet choices include AlNiCo 2, 3, 4, 5, or 8 and C5 ceramic.

Nickel covered Black, white, or zebra (black/ivory or black/white) humbucker built to your desired specifications. Build materials include "vintage-style" nickel frame, nickel plated or black adjustable pole pieces, nickel plated "bullseye" slugs or black slugs, single-conductor braided shield hookup (4-wire on request), and injection molded plastic bobbins with a nickel cover (50mm only). Wire choices are 42 and/or 43 gauge SPN, unless otherwise requested and available. Magnet choices include AlNiCo 2, 3, 4, 5, or 8 and C5 ceramic.

Pickup Recommendations:

One of the really fun things about pickups is the dramatic effect that different magnets can have on their tone. Changing from one grade to another can often take a "ho-hum" bucker to "main-player" status. Different winding formulas are key, but just as important to getting the tone you're after is magnet selection. For the most "vintage" tone, I recommend AlNiCo 2 or 5 in winds from about 7.5k to 8.9k. As the DC resistance goes up (a good relative measure of output) over 10k or so, AlNiCo can have trouble holding together and ceramic will help keep things together. It does add some "grain" to the tone though, so keep that in mind. AlNiCo 8 is interesting in that it's at once powerful, bright, and smooth but will be a bit too powerful for the vintage purist in low output winds. Due to the added cost, I don't always have AlNiCo 8 in stock. Here are some additional thoughts to help you make a decision on what will be best for you.

  • 7.3k - 8.0k AlNiCo 2/3/4/5 - Good range for neck pickups. Lower output equals cleaner and brighter tone so players leaning toward really clean tones should "think low". Provides good "chime" in the bridge position. AlNiCo 2 provides the warmest tone, and AlNiCo 4 provides a nice crisp top and tight semi-big bottom that's good for jazz runs. AlNiCo 3 is in between A2 and A4 in terms of tone - bright like A4 but not as punchy - sizzling like A2 but not as warm. Properly treated, AlNiCo 5 can be sweet and balanced across the board in the neck position.
  • 7.3k - 7.5k AlNiCo 5 Even Wind - Classic '70s "T-Top" tone. The lower output doesn't drive your rig as hard as typical "PAF" winds but these can work well for vintage rock tones with a cleaner character.
  • 7.7k - 7.8k AlNiCo 5 Asymmetric Wind - Late '60s "Patent Sticker T-Top" tone. Nice open character that stays open with volume rollback and has good chime. Goes from sweet cleans to the edge of "brown". A versatile wind that covers a ton of ground with a good boost/EQ pedal. Not technically my "PAF-type" wind, but if you've ever played an original patent sticker you know these were just as good.
  • 8.1k - 8.9k Even Wind - Nice and smooth. More of a balanced "stereo" character than an asymmetric wind. With AlNiCo 2, provides a warm vintage tone with a hint of natural compression. Good response to pick attack, pinch harmonics, etc. With AlNiCo 5, sweet vintage tone and the rounder punch of A5 on the wound strings and brighter top end as compared to A2. Good response to pick attack, pinch harmonics, etc.
  • 8.1k - 8.9k Asymmetric Wind - Similar to the even wind, but with a bit more edge/cut on top, a bit of low-mid emphasis, and good harmonic "swirl". Midrange emphasis generally increases with increasing resistance. Excellent "PAF" type tone. A good compromise between mids and top end is found in the 8.4-8.6k range. These are really nice/sweet with AlNiCo 2, but don't overlook a semi-degaussed A5 magnet for great vintage/classic rock tone. To add even more push/drive, consider A6 or A8.
  • 8.1k - 8.9k AlNiCo 3 Even Wind - Open/balanced tone with more highend feel and a tighter bottom than AlNiCo 2 though with a bit less power. Good response to pick attack, pinch harmonics, etc. Has a little more "air in the tone."
  • 8.1k - 8.9k AlNiCo 3 Asymmetric Wind - Similar to even wind, but with a bit more edge/cut on top, a bit of low-mid emphasis, and good harmonic "swirl". Not as warm as AlNiCo 2 but better for really dark guitars or when you like more highend feel and overall open character.
  • 9.4-9.7k "Maximus" Wind - Provides enough drive for a slightly more "gainy" sound, but retains a lot of the articulation and definition of a lower output pickup. Allows pairing with higher output at the neck. As with any HighOrder pickup, the actual DC resistance varies with the magnet wire lot on hand. Bigger builders have more control over this. I wind to turns though so the tone of the pickup remains intact while the dc resistance varies within a certain range. These are built with AlNiCo 5 only!
  • Brown Sound - I get many requests for that certain "brown" tone. A lot of folks have been satisfied with my 8.7k asymmtric wind with AlNiCo 2 for that purpose. That said, there are many avenues to achieving the tone and most of my PAF types will get you there. Don't overlook AlNiCo 5 as a possibility nor a lower output wind. The man had tons of stuff going on (Echo, EQ/boost, re-amping, etc.) and with a proper setup an 8k-ish PAF type can do amazing things.
  • Page Tone - Probably the most common request, the generally accepted combination here is Jimmy's "#1" LP with the replaced bridge pickup. The pair for this would be my Late '60s Patent Sticker T-Top for the bridge and an 8.1-8.2k PAF type for the neck. Experts tell me AlNiCo 3 for the neck, but semi-degaussed A5 will probably work too.
  • Replacement Fingers - Sorry, but I can't help you here. Each of us has to make do with what we have ;-)

  • Additional Information:

    HighOrder pickups are available in customary color combinations and at a price that won't leave you wondering what kind of gold the wire must be made of. Nickel covers are optional, and add $10 to the cost per pickup. I prefer to wind with 42 or 43 gauge with Single Poly Nylon (SPN) insulated wire, as I believe the tonal difference between this and Plain Enamel (PE) is inaudible. However, with increased interest, other builds can be ordered for custom winding. Humbuckers can be wound up to about 10k DC resistance using 42 gauge wire. After that, the bobbins become overloaded and 43 gauge must be used. I wind by formula to a specific number of turns. Using this method provides tonal consistency and repeatability, and the resulting DC resistance from pickup to pickup is generally within +/- 50 to 100 ohms. When you consider the dramatic effect that temperature has on the resistance of any pickup wound with copper wire, these differences are negligible. My current building focus is on humbuckers. I strive for quick turnaround on every order, and good contact throughout the process; however, I work alone and must adjust my turnaround time constantly based on order volume and life events. This is NOT HighOrder's house of microwave quick pickups. All pickups are potted in 80/20 paraffin/beeswax, unless otherwise requested.

    Regarding the price. I started winding my own pickups because I wanted to experiment with different tones but didn't want to pay the going rate for "custom" pickups in the process. I figured I could wind a decent pickup, learn something in the process, and then outfit my many guitars with quality pickups for a fraction of what it might cost otherwise. I designed and built my own winder, and take great pride in what I am able to create with it. My current prices allow me just about break, and provide a quality product at the same time. As the word gets out, I'm sure there will come a time when a price increase will be necessary; however, I plan to always keep prices as low as possible to serve those who are just like me - either unable or unwilling to pay the high prices required for certain pickups. I will add though, that if you feel compelled to pay me four of five times what I'm asking I'll gladly accept the extra cash!

    INFO SHEET: Get yourself a copy of my info sheet by clicking the link below. It repeats a bit of the history from this page, but also shows how to install your pickup and discusses some of the key elements of getting the tone you want out of your guitar.

    HO Pickup Info Sheet

    Current pricing (turnaround time is currently about 3 to 4 weeks):

    US Postal Money Order or Bank Cashiers Check Prices

    $75 per pickup + $7.00shipping = $82.00

    PayPal Prices

    $75 per pickup + $7.00 shipping = $82.00

    Nickel Covers (bare or nickel plated)

    Add $10 per pickup

    NOTE 1: Since I ship by Priority Mail, I will combine shipping for pickup pairs. Current shipping charge is $7.00 for a single or a pair. Shipping for three to four pickups is $16. International shipping generally runs between around $20, maybe a bit higher depending on where to.

    NOTE 2: I don't stock pre-made pickups at this time, and probably never will as long as I'm the single person building pickups and taking care of the paperwork. I begin winding once payment is in and on a first-in/first-out (FIFO) basis.

    NOTE 3: I keep a small stock of vintage parts, including PAF style butyrate bobbins and threaded baseplates with 49.2mm spacing, as well as 42 gauge Plain Enamel (PE) wire. Build price for a pickup using these parts is $100 per pickup. The cost for using PE versus Single Poly Nylon (SPN) wire on any pickup is an additional $10.

    NOTE 4: Turnaround time is generally around 3 to 4 weeks right now. A little longer or shorter based on the workload, taking care of family matters, and the odd hurricane or two.

    *** Nickel covers, etc. *** I carry 50mm nickel covers and can provide 53mm covers as custom order; they will add $10 per pickup to the cost. Normally, I don't stock gold screws and covers since the availability screws with a good finish is always a challenge. Ask about them, and we'll assess at the time of purchase. I normally stock AlNiCo 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8 magnets, as well as C5 and C8 ceramic and "short" AlNiCo 5. Don't pass up a chance on using the stronger grades in winds at or over 10k. It's not as harsh as you might think, but provides big bottom and a nice edge. Ask about custom butyrate builds, if you want to come as close as possible to original PAF specifications.

    Here's what folks are saying about HighOrder pickups:

    "Hey Jeff, Finally got around to installing my 8.7k Asymmetric Wind Alnico2 pickup in my hard ash strat. It is one of the best sounding pickups I have ever played. My EVH 78' never sounded this good. The lows are tight, the mids are sweet and the highs cut thru without being thin or harsh. It has an overall aggressive feel to it which gives it character and actually sounds hotter than my old EVH 9k pickup. I am actually inspired to play again....Thanks Jeff!! "

    - Marc Llanes

    "Just got my HighOrder "Love Bucker" ( my name not his ... lol). Absolutely spectacular sounding pickup in my Strat. Clarity, warmth, richness, you name it, it has "IT." It is exactly what I want a bridge pickup to sound like. The quality is absolutely top notch. I am in love with this tone!! This is the best sounding pickup I have ever plugged into. GET ONE!! NOW!!!"

    - Kevin Schafer

    "Do yourself a favor and get one of these pickups. I rate Jeff's pickups right up there with all the big boys - however expensive and however touted for multi purpose! They are top of the mark, with all the traits of an original paf but hot enough to make the notes glide along. For years I've often wondered if someone could take the power of a Duncan ceramic or old first run super distortion DiMarzios and harness what was good about their characteristics but have that old 59 Gibson sweetness and distinct clarity. Jeff has done this and I don't even want to think about the time and effort it took him to figure this equation out. It stands out above anything of alnico in memory - most left no impression. Few people offer anything close with alnico 8,3 or 9,7 that ever warranted talking about. These pickups jump right at you."

    - Terry Kilgore

    Finally had a chance to briefly try out the pickup. Initial reaction ... WOW!!! Its really good! Full open, and the output is just right, on the edge of too much while still retaining clarity. I love it so far! Its in a walnut strat with a floydrose and it sounds full! Sustain and harmonics are great on this guitar now. It's the best pickup ive had in this guitar! Thanks again!

    - Grant Willer

    Hi Jeff,
    I have had a few days to play these A5 9.7's & compare them to identicle guitars with my previous favorite Super Distortions. The HO's have clearer highs, much less brittle than the Super D's, the Mids/Lows are much more complex as well. All the Seymours I tried w/ AlNiCo magnets had too much midrange, very dull highs. The HO's are nice & bright. These pickups are very good looking, very professionally made. Seymours & DiMarzio's look sloppy in comparison. Needless to say I'm floored by these pickups & will order another pair soon. Thanks Again.

    - Kevin Paradise

    Hey Jeff,
    first of all a big THANK YOU!! your pick up rocks!!!!!! really, really is by far the best passive pickup I had ever tried, and I tried the following:
    - DiMarzio Evolution bridge: powerful and controlled, but with not so great freq reponse and a bit overall cold;
    - Duncan Pearly Gates: a good rock-blues pickup but too dry and lacking a bit of character;
    - Duncan AlnicoII pro: better than the P.Gates, but too scooped and same prob about character;
    - Voodoo 59: by far, best of the above mentioned; clearer and with character; ballsy but not overwhelming, a bit looser on low freq
    - your "Maximus": it retains some of the best characteristics of the Voodoo, but with deeper and tighter bass, more pleasing mids, more gain and, more than anything else, it gives a feeling of pleasent smoothness at the ears and under the fingers that has no equal until now ... for a way cheap price, moreover!!!!!
    Great congratulations for a great products. Oh, more than excellent customer service too!!!

    Thanks again man!

    - Domenico Piccolantonio
    Brussels, Belgium

    Hey Jeff,
    The 8.9k A2 that I ordered is the single most responsive and articulate pickup that I have ever owned. It does exactly what I want it to do, when I want to do it. Playing mostly Van Halen/80s rock it does this perfectly, but when breaking out the classic tunes from clean Zep to some wild Hendrix, the pickup performs flawlessly. I can't thank you enough.

    - John Singleton

    Finally installed my Alnico 2s in my old Ibanez LP. I must admit that your pickups live up to the praises they've gotten. I've never heard better humbuckers, and your recommendations gave me a perfectly balanced pair. The bridge pickup is bright and tough with amazing harmonics, and the neck pickup sounds big and fat without being muddy. The middle position sounds huge. Switching the pickups to single coils, I get great, chimey tones - something I'm not used to getting with other humbuckers. I also wired the pair for phase reversing, giving me many, many tones - and every sound I switch to is not only useable, but beautiful. Thanks again for your outstanding work. One of my favorite guitars has gone from hanging on a hook (due to its uninspiring tone) to something I really enjoy playing again. HighOrder Pickups just blow me away!

    - Craig Carpenter

    To discuss pickup options and ordering, send e-mail to:

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    This page is always under construction. Please check back often for the most current information.

    Strength and Honor

    Updated 14 February 2016
    High Order Guitar Pickups - high order guitar pickups