Metal Covers on Humbuckers..Affect tone or Not?


Junior Member
Your opinion...,
I'm going to order a pair of Seymour Duncan Alnico 2 Pro humbuckers and would like your input.  I like the look of the classic metal covered humbucker, but does it alter the tone vs. one w/ the(plastic) other. 

Thanks, Shane :guitaristgif:
My guess is No, otherwise they wouldn't put them on,

Also the flux lines from the magnet are not slowed or dampened by the metal cover, and probably enhances the flux path.

since the string passing through the lines of magnetic flux, influence those flux lines, which in short induces a current flow through the pickup windings, and gives you your sound.

Just cuz I understand it doesn't mean I can explain i welll sorry
Gibson themselves, in the late 70's, or maybe early 80's, published a series of charts that showed pickup covers attenuating the high frequency response on their pickups of the day.  However, it was some pretty high frequency for guitar - in the 7500Hz to 8000Hz range, which is right at the end of most speakers useful response.  So... to make the story short, you'd need some extended high frequency drivers to hear significant the difference.  The argument has gone back and forth and back since some yokel decided to remove the covers from the a PAF design.... do it for looks, the differences are too slight to mention.  Changing to a fresh set of strings has way way more impact than taking off covers.
Awesome Guys!  Thanks.  I'm now going to say Good-bye to my 200 bucks.  Catch ya later!

I always though it was purely for looks... I prefer uncovered buckers.
I thought that the covers were supposed to help against feedback and picking up unwanted noise (radio signals etc). All my guitars have had uncovered buckers though so I can't really say I've missed the covers.
Can't speak from experience.  But this is posted at the Dimarzio web site on their PAF Classic Pickup page...

"Pickup covers are back! They protect pickups from damage and provide extra shielding against noise. There is one drawback: since all metal covers cause a loss of presence, some of the attack is gone."
Hey man, I think that's pretty true that metal covers dim down the tone a little. I'm going to have to deal with that since my next Warmoth is going to be a Les Paul and I plan on using Rio Grande's Crunchbox and Punchbox hbs in nickel covers. (going with the nickel covers for looks) However, from what I hear there are a few things you can do to make up for what metal covers do. If you change your volume potentiometers up to higher values (500K instead of 250K) you can get a little more output from your pickups 'cause you'd be losing less signal. I also hear that using a lower value capacitor can brighten your sound up, but I'm not too sure if that actually works though. Haven't tried that...........yet.

And if those 2 options don't work you could always try different kinds of strings. I switched from regular D'addario 9s to D'addario's Prosteels and noticed a huge difference. But let me just say I'm speaking only from my experience. Anyway,  :rock-on:
I don't know if it is true for humbuckers, but it seems that there has to be some high-end roll off on metal-covered single coils such as Tele neck pickups.  Is this because the Tele pickup's construction is all that different than that of a Strat pickup, or is it simply because of the cover?  I understand there are pickup manufacturers that make coverless Tele neck pickups - any experiences with these?

One other question I have and I don't want to bother making another thread about:

On humbuckers, does the placement of the actual pickup matter a whole lot, in terms of which coil the adjustable pole pieces are on?  For example, the neck pickup of my SG was installed with the pole pieces on the bottom coil, farther from the neck, and the magnets closer to the neck.  I'm guessing this is negligable but then again, when you play at different spots on the string, going further from the bridge toward the neck, there are many different tonal "hotspots", so maybe this little minor detail could influence that in some way?  Thoughts?
yes it does make a difference, i purchased dimarzio pickups and seymore duncans

asked at the same time, i called dimarzio and asked they told me the same thing sd told me

yes it makes a difference, but there are guitars and pickusp designed for metal gibson style sounding pickups, but for the evo or x2n i was told the same thing, even plastic covers make a the most part....some guitarists in the day would remove the covers off the gibsons and the tone would open up

its called characteristic slag tone

it happens when anything is in front of the pickup

altho some pickups have a higher mid range and bottom end response, they may be mroe suitable for covers

but in the form of high gain p/u like the evo, duncan distortion or the x2n, its said to completely change the tone making a high gain smooth pickups sound sqeemish

i took dimarzios advice on this one, even they did not recomend covers on most pickups, but it is trully asthetic, but does deffer to the organic function of the pickup

The metal cover may well alter the sound by just being there, but...

Have you considered this...

The distance between the string and the pickup makes a huge difference to the sound.
When setting the distance (by measurement), it is common to measure from the top of the pickup to the underside of the strings.
If there is no cover, then this is from the top of the bobbins.
If there is a cover, then this is from the top of the cover, which itself is some (variable) distance from the bobbins.
Also, with a cover, the 6 adjustable polepieces tend to be raised to at least the height of the top of the cover.
The 6 non-adjustable ones will be a lot further from the strings.

I can't help thinking that all this has a lot to do with the covered/ exposed debate  :dontknow:
I never noticed any difference at all in the couple of instances I've used the same PU with and without covers (older SDs and DiMarzios). As CB pointed out further up the thread, the frequencies that might be attenuated - around 7Khz +, are beyond the frequency response range of speakers typical of most all guitar amps; Celestion Classic 30s, my weapons of speaker choice top out at 5Khz and that's VERY typical.
since all metal covers cause a loss of presence, some of the attack is gone.

"Presence" is a term used by manufacturers to denote high frequencies, above 6Khz or so. I can't even hear them, but when they're too loud for too long they make goo come out of my ears. My hearing tests out in the normal range for a 50-year-old, but I've spent an awful lot of nights standing next to a drummer... goddam cymbals.... I have some fairly sophisticated tone-shaping toys, and by boosting the upper mids and lower highs (2 - 3.5Khz) I can find all the bite I need without getting into the eardrum killers. I should probably track down some metal covers for all my pickups now, sounds like a great idea!

What?  :toothy10:

What?!? :blob7:
i stayed away from this one for a while because there is some contradicting info out there, even from the same sorce.

this is a good sorce of info on pickups. basically a pickup gets its charecter from electrical resonence. yes a circuit can resonate in a similar way as any mechanical system. there is a spike in the responce of any pickup out there and many things afect that spike. the frequency is determined by capacitence and inductence and posibly impedence too. the height of the peak though is aparently somewhat afected by a metalic cover. other factors are your strings magnets and the big one, your volume pot. there is no information however on how much the cover lowers the height of the peak. the cover does not technically atenuate treble it just reduces the treble boost. you can get the same effect by changing the pot values. so the cover/no cover decision is really astetic. you can easily make up for the diference elsewhere in the circuit.
on a second look i found there is a chart of diferent popular pup's on that site, a couple with and without the cover. seems the cover doesn't afect gibson or fender stock pup's much but removing a tele neck cover more than doubles the peak. and a richenbacker has a similar effect. so to be clear as mud, the real answer to life, the universe, and everything....  "it depends"  or was it 42?  :-\  :icon_scratch: :laughing7: