Compound Radius Necks - Problems with (Staggered) Poles?


Active member
I was interested in the Kinman Woodstock+ pickups to fit my future Warmoth Strat, when I found the following:

How I match my pickup poles to different fretboard radiuses

Basics: The distance between a string and magnet determines how loud the string will be. Obviously to get excellent balance of string outputs the magnets should all be the same distance from the strings. But fretboards are usually radiused (cambered) and since the strings follow that radius we have magnets of different lengths arranged in an arc (objectively to match the arc of the strings). However, in practice some strings generate more output than others. For example the non-wound G string of modern sets is extremely loud, the B string also is loud. That's why we have staggered magnets of all different lengths. In Kinman's 'improved stagger' the magnets are arranged with different lengths to compensate for the strings that are louder then others, so that all strings sound they all have the same loudness.

Problem: The Traditional stagger of old Stratocasters was designed for a wound G string that was predominately used in the 50's and 60's. In the late 60's the Blues influenced music and guitar players began wanted to stretch notes upwards by bending the strings. They soon discovered that an non-wound G string could be stretched (bent) far easier than a wound one. But a non-wound G string has higher output and increased in volume to the point where it dominated all the other strings. Pickup manufacturers never caught up to the modern style of playing and retained the old out of date stagger, many still to this day.

One magnet stagger can't possibly match all the different fretboard radii options available on modern guitars. Compound radius (and flatter fretboards in general) solve the problem of choking on string bends but create another problem, string output imbalance. When traditional staggered pickups are used with excessively flat fretboards or Warmoth compound radius the output level of the middle strings (D & G) are accentuated and the outside ones (E & E) are de-emphased.

Solution: Magnet staggers are set at time of manufacture and can not be changed, so to solve this dilemma I offer two radius options, one is the 7" to 14" radius range with a low G pole magnet stagger to suit most single coil pickup guitars (such as Fender, Musicman, G&L etc, see Table below).

The other has non-staggered poles and suits flatter fretboards ranging from 14" to 20" such as Warmoth compound necks and various other brands of guitars with excessively flat fretboards (see Table below).

I discourage players from using Warmoths 10-16 compound radius because of the above problem. USA Custom Guitars make a sensible compound radius 7-1/4" to 9-1/2" that works great with staggered poles.

Does anybody know if this is really a problem, or is it insignificant?
I've run into the same doubt!

Lot of player just don't ear the difference, even with staggered instead of the suggested flat I think there's no problem..
Funny how the person with the "fix" is the only one bitching about the problem.

CB I couldn't agree more, that is how guys try to pry open a niche in a market. They create a phantom situation for which they have the answer.

And of coure it works,

I have been winding pups for a while now, I can tell you it's not rocket science. some of the best pickups are simply wire wrapped arround magnets a certain number of turns or to a specific ohm reading, magnetic strength plays a part, diameter or guage of wire is a factor, so is potting. If anyone here wanted to make a good pickup that you would be thrilled to showoff, you could easily do it, it might take several tries, or you might nail it the first time. I will share what I know with anyone here so feel free to E-mail me

I am not saying at all that Kinmans, lollars or whoever aren't good pickups, they are. But you can make them as good for about $10.00 each
Alfang said:
CB I couldn't agree more, that is how guys try to pry open a niche in a market. They create a phantom situation for which they have the answer.

And of coure it works,

Agreed, just look at Al Gore!
is that a joke about global warming?

ya know back in the 50's they were woried about global cooling, crops would die, people would starve everyone would be poor. back then science had estimated that the average temp on earth had cooled about the degree or so they now claim it has risen.

but enough politics and useless facts.

7-1/4 to 9-1/2 compound? who would want that? i mean if you want the comfort of a vintage radius get a vintage radius. i'd assume thats r-1/2 at te end of the board. maybe near 8" in the 5th position 8-1/2 near the 12th fret. seems a bit useless as it is still not better for bending that a 9-1/2 strait radius. i just don't get it.
I'd rather have a Warmoth neck than a Kinman pickup, at least you're getting value for your bucks.... Alluding to Alfgang's comments, I can understand perfectly well why someone would charge $300 for some wire wrapped around some magnets. I just don't understand why anyone would pay it....  :icon_tongue: It's possibly surprising how very few of the top professionals in the world use "hand-made", "custom" pickups, possibly not - they know what makes for great tone, that's a big reason why they're the top professionals.
They're not dicking around hoping for the magic secret, they're working on their playing.... :party07:
Thanks guys!  :)

I emailed Kinman for more information, and this is what I got:

The problem with an excessively flat fretboard is it requires non-staggered
magnets, and then there is no way to compensate for the excessive output
from the non-wound G string and the lower output of the D string. The result
is an excessively loud G and a softer D, there is little difference between
the other strings but they are different to the G and D.  Guitar players
wanting a good string balance are advised to avoid Warmoths Compound Radius.

Having said that, Kinman's non-stagger has some in-obvious and secret
technology that goes some way towards achieving an acceptable balance that
is somewhat better than regular non-staggered magnets in other brands.

For more information please study my updated Radius page.

Finally, are you aware of the (more sensible) compound radius offered by USA
Custom Guitars?  It has all the advantages of Warmoths compound radius but
none of the disadvantages because you can use my staggered magnets which are
the BEST for string output balance.  There is a link to USA Custom Guitars
on my Perfect Guitar page >Fretboard Radius.

Well, that "USA Custom Guitars" compound radius doesn't sound good to me either. But on the other hand, why would Kinman say the Warmoth Compound Radius is not a good choice? Because there are no other pickup brands that offer something "compatible" with the Compound Radius. And those Jackson guitars have a 16" straight radius, never heard of problems whith those necks?

I think/hope Kinman is a big tone freak, or he's looking to scientific to these things. I think it's worth the try...  ;)

One other thing (not that I'm considering it, I'm just interested), does the "custom straight radius" of the Warmoth necks come with extra charges?
Everybody here has different taste, just do not think everything is so simple. Pickups have wires, they are not just wires. I don't care how much Kinman pickups cost, like I don't care how much Andersons, Suhrs etc costs. If I could afford them I would buy their guitars. I can afford Kinman pickups, I like their sound and I have them in my Warmoth strat. I have not found any other pickup (single, stack, humbucking) to be silent and still have the traditional Fender tone. Kinman pickups is a small operation, still Chris has put a lot of effort into his site with useful information and he replies personally in the emails.

I don't think what he says about Warmoth compound radius is personal,  just his opinion. Without trying a compound radius, I agree with him, seems logical to me. I admit I'm curious also about USACG products but as long as they do not offer other than the traditional woods it's not for me. I'm not a shredder and I don't need a flat radius. First neck was 10.5 straight, second neck is 11 straight radius. I would never go below 10 or above 12. I find these necks very comfortable, not for vintage purists not for shredders. In the end it's what suits you and that's why part companies exist, to make your dream guitar come  true.
Just my 2 cents

Like some gear related information I find on the internet, the claim that compound radius necks offered by Warmoth are NON-SENSIBLE when used with non stagger'd pickups seems to be pure marketing claim.  Just the other day I decided to order a body and neck from Warmoth to build my first complete total custom.  I spoke to a local guitar tech who use to deal deal with Warmoth exclusively for custom work (he now uses USACG as Warmoth is strictly Online).  He indicated that Warmoth is still a good choice and that USACG supplies great products as well.  He stated that USACG was started by former employees who got fed up with working at Warmoth (pay, benefits, etc).  This might explain some of the extra "dig" directed at Warmoth.

Lets just set the radius question aside for a moment, wouldn't the following factors have an impact on string balance as well?

Pickup height adjustment
Pickup leveling (One side higher than the other)
Saddle height (is it not possible that certain player prefer the saddle height adjusted to best suit "action" rather than radius)
Bridge height (if floyd or wilkinson)
String guage
String material

The claim may have some minor valid points regarding matching neck radius to pickup pole height - but I believe everything else would need to fall inline as well (bridge and saddle adjustment to equally match)

MORE IMPORTANTLY - can the average person really tell (hear) the difference, and if so couldn't you make adjustment to one of the other factors I mentioned to compensate?

good luck


Haven't used Kinmans, but have Warmoth Pro 10/16 compound radius necks on several builds with "staggered" pole piece single coils from Fender and other mfgrs. and 0 issues to date....
ballenced out put isn't all that important. hell hendrix and some other lefties played with a right hand stagger. did his tone suffer?
gibson guitars never had compensated pole peice heights. and we all know how crappy they sound, right?
i mean you can adjust them but to date i've never seen one guitar player touch the pole screws to fix his tone.
alfang is totaly right in his post, create a proble and tell people you fixed it. thats all it is. but why knock one brand neck and endorse another, is usa custom paying kinman for the endsorsements?
dbw said:
Didn't Hendrix string his guitars righty?

No he didn't.

Being a lefty I've been forced to use upside down re-strung guitars from time to time. I honestly can't recall the stagger of the pickups being an issue. As for Kinmans, all I can say is that I've heard his stuff is great quality but IMHO his pricing is a bit rich for me. Even  over here in Australia he costs way more than I can buy SD or RGs from the states. :dontknow:
This is all a tempest in a teapot as many have already mentioned. W compound radius sounds great with vintage stagger pickups. The G string isn't too loud at all (that's the nontechnical way of making the point, right?). Just a small company trying to invent a niche in a crowded marketplace. I think my next pups will be 'Alf-buckers'!
tfarny said:
This is all a tempest in a teapot as many have already mentioned. W compound radius sounds great with vintage stagger pickups. The G string isn't too loud at all (that's the nontechnical way of making the point, right?). Just a small company trying to invent a niche in a crowded marketplace. I think my next pups will be 'Alf-buckers'!

:blob7: +1 that
I agree Kinman is technically correct about this balance, but practically no one will notice any difference. And that's important, right? Otherwise all the guitarist should sit when playing (and "rocking" on stage), because that's the best and effective position...  :icon_biggrin:

But on the other hand, Kinman does not say he has the solution for the compound radius. It sounds to me like he's scaring away the Warmoth-users a little....
Consider that Buddy Holly and Jimi Hendrix both used basically the same tone-generating device. Hardcore Fender-sniffers may quibble about the differences in neck dimensions and types of capacitors between the 1957 and 1967 models, which semi-skilled laborer ran the pickup winding machine that day,  etc. -ETC.- but still.... When I think about the tonal differences between "Peggy Sue" and "Purple Haze", the staggering of the magnets is not what first comes to mind.