Lace Alumitone Pickups

You might be wondering, “What do pickups have to do with ergonomic guitars?” In the case of the radically different Alumitone pickups, the answer is “Potentially quite a bit.”

Alumitone Humbucker

When planning guitar build #1, one of my goals was a reduction in the instrument’s weight. So I started with a thinner than standard guitar body blank (1.5″ instead of 1.75″) and minimized hardware where possible. However, it hadn’t initially occurred to me just how much pickups might contribute to the weight of an electric guitar. This is where the Alumitones show potential.

Conventional pickups are heavy by nature due to their use of copper wires and magnets to generate voltage as the string is picked. Humbuckers are even heavier because they use two coils in order to accomplish noise cancellation.

Contrast this with the noiseless Alumitones – a fundamentally different approach to pickup design in which an aluminum exoskeleton combines with 90% less wiring resulting in a much lighter pickup.

According to Jeff Lace, the difference is so significant that replacing two conventional humbuckers with his current driven Alumitone pickups results in a 1/2 lb less weight. And in the battle to protect your back, that’s no small improvement.

To learn more about the Alumitone pickup, here’s “Alumitone Design Secret Revealed”:

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20 Responses to “Lace Alumitone Pickups”

  1. These sound very interesting. I’d love to try them out. Perhaps I’ll get a pair for my Washburn Idol.

  2. @GLW – I’m thinking they have a place in a future guitar build. Besides the humbuckers, they’re also available as single coils and P90’s.

  3. Oh, yes, I already checked out the options. A nice pair of gold-plated humbuckers would do me.

  4. If I’m not mistaken, all 3 share the same technology. They say they’ve been “voiced” differently, but I’m not sure what that involves, compared to say, voicing traditional coils.

    The larger ones seems to have the single-coil sized Alumitone flanked by “filler” metal to give it the right size. So I really do wonder what the “voicing” involves. I contacted Lace once upon a time with that very question but they didn’t have an answer for me. Either way, I’m thinking of a pair of P-90 sized ones for one of my workhorse guitars. They’ll probably look a bit out of place compared to plain ol’ black plastic, but there ya have it…

  5. As an interesting alternative to P90s, actually, Seymour Duncan has recently come out with something called P-rails. Intriguing.

    Seymour Duncan P-Rail Pickups

    Something a cross between P90 and a single coil “strat” rail all in one pickup. With two of those, it’s easy to get lost in all options and variations you can have, full humbucker, only P90, only strat rail sound, out of phase, in phase, pararell and serial switching. They’re as large as a regular humbucker so their P90 size isn’t like a traditional P90 sized pickup. Whether they’re heavy or not, I don’t know. The combinations makes it good for an “all around” guitar to bring out at gigs. Maybe “strat quack” being the only sound missing from it.

    I think, for a Klein body this makes an interesting option, since you may very well get rid of any middle pickup, but gain the sound you get from a middle pickup, since it gets quite tight and crowded in there anyway, with a 24 fret neck.

    1. @Mats – Nice find on those P-Rail pickups. Providing greater tonal variety while using fewer pickups is certainly another good approach to reducing weight.

  6. I just ordered a set of the gold Lace Alumitone humbuckers to compare to the Bardens that were originally going to be in the guitar that Rick Canton is building for me. I asked him to try both in the guitar before it is completed and ship it with whatever he thinks is best. That should be an interesting comparison.

    I haven’t been able to find a good sound file that would help in getting a grip on the true sound of these pickups.

    -Al

    1. @Al – I’m looking forward to your input on these. I’ve also been digging around trying to find sound samples for the Alumitones but not much luck yet.

  7. Robert, – I’ve read many comments on the web about these pickups and the opinions are all over the place. I have a feeling they will be too sharp/brittle/thin for the wood choices (purpleheart/bubinga) we have made for the guitar, but we’ll never know until we try. The Bardens could be quite similar. My original thought was going to be Lollar Imperials (low output).
    -Al

  8. Robert, while doing research on pickups I also found these “Q-tuner” (http://www.q-tuner.com/)pickups and also ordered a matched set for Rick to check out when my guitar is ready:

    The best pickup is the one you don’t hear

    Q-Tuners are the leaders, being the first pickups to use neodymium magnets. Also known as “super-magnets”, their unique characteristics and high performance make them superior for sound reproduction applications.

    We’ve invested over 25 years perfecting our patented symmetrical electromagnetic circuit to make Q-Tuners the best pickups available.

    Our proprietary computer aided guidance system allows for perfect side-by-side alignment of the windings creating physically as well as electrically identical coils. These coils are then baked, permanently “thermofusing” the wires producing two solid self-carrying “air” coils. One neodymium bar magnet is placed in each aircoil before both are sealed in epoxy resin. This Q-Tuner “powerhouse” is insusceptible to feedback and 100% humbucking action is ensured.

    We top it off by feeding this pure signal out through two 999 silver coil lead-outs, the best electrical conductor available.

    1. I came across these a while ago but hadn’t come across feedback on them. Please let us know what you think of the Q-tuners.

  9. I’m intrigued as well. I am however, not into the high-output pickup sound – my tonal tastes are more along the lines of Eric Johnson, Scott Henderson, and Allan Holdsworth – so I’d be curious if these pickups are conducive to the sort of dynamics that is required for those sounds.

  10. I like Lace, but not he people. I was at the Summer NAMM show for a different manufacturer and saw some people in the Lace booth move some large generator into the booth next to them while I was waiting in line. I thought nothing of it until I saw two ladies complaining about a generator in their booth that was plugged into the Lace booth. Lace group refused to move it. Really uncool in my opinion. I had to leave on account of time constraints, so I don’t know what was resolved. What I saw makes me not want anything to do with Lace. Hopefully, Jeff Lace knows about this as it reflects badly on their company.

  11. Neodymium pickups sound like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-lv9ltZ2cw The sound quality of the recording is crappy but the clarity is still there.

  12. A while back I purchased an ash body SX P90 Strat from Rondo Music. The guitar itself was actually quite nice after performing some setup and a string change. But the stock P90’s weren’t as good as I had hoped and a little too noisy in the single pickup positions.

    I then bought a set of the Lace Alumitone P90 style pickups and installed them. I found the Alumitone pickups sound was a little thin. The frequency spectrum was nearly flat-lined, but it just didn’t project anything special from the guitar.

    With the solid ash body and hard maple fretboard I was expecting something more pronounced and fidelity-rich with the Alumitones. When not amplified this guitar has a bright full sound from the woods used, and the sustain is excellent for having a 6 screw whammy setup. I would think that the Alumitones should have picked up some of this great tone.

    I was able to get some extra pinch harmonics, but it didn’t provide enough drive for the front end of either the amp nor the effect pedals. These are fairly good for direct mixer feed in a studio setting when recording, but I didn’t like them through the pedals or amp. Those who direct record may be happy with these. For a clean low gain sound they are just fine, kind of like Dano lipstick tubes without the hum.

    I found that a decent graphics equalizer helps between the guitar and the pedal chain. An EQ box adds some gain and can adapt the sound somewhat to the chain. But really I just want that P90 sound back without all the hassle.

    I’m going to eventually swap these out for some better P90’s, as the guitar itself feels good to me and the original stock P90’s had better P90 tone then the Alumitones. Probably all I really needed was to put some grounded shielding paint in all the cavities and keep the original stock P90’s, so I’ll look in that direction as a first step back.

    Just a hunch… I would bet the Alumitones would perform better in other body woods, such as mahogany. The warmer woods may benefit using these. Ash and other bright woods should probably stick to the vintage pickup coil designs.

    I’m sure curious about those Q-Tuners. I’d love to try a set in my fretless SX Jazz Bass… But the price, ouch!

  13. I’ve been researching pickups myself. They all claim to be the best or have your interest in mind, so it’s hard to tell without actually trying them or being able to hear them on a guitar with similar wood as your own instrument. There is one website that discusses what a perfect pickup would be made like, and the closest I have found that may or may not be the better pick up is built in New Zealand? http://www.langcaster.com/guitars-bassguitars.html
    I have watched the Youtube videos, and was impressed by the methods of trying to prove them superior. The strat compare is probably the best example. The guitars they make are beautiful, but I would not own one, as they need to tidy up the tone problems I think. They sound really flat to me. I think they use way too much lacquer which kills the wood resonance. (My opinion)

    1. Thanks for joining the conversation, Joe.

      I would point out that this is not an apples to apples comparison. The Langcasters are active pickups while the Alumitones are a passive pickup design. Pros and cons to be sure for each because of their respective approaches.

  14. It’s funny that this thread has “picked up” again 😉 as this weekend Rick Canton should be trying out the three sets of pickups that I sent to him to evaluate for the current guitar (and the long awaited #1 custom mentioned in another article here) he is building for me. He has a set of Joe Barden humbuckers, Lace Alumitones, and the Q-Tuners. They will be evaluated in a chambered mahogany/flamed maple top Klein/Canton body with curly mahogany neck and rosewood fretboard. I hope he will post his findings for all and I am hoping tat the Q-Tuners end up in the guitar because they just look so good!

    -Al

  15. Hey Al,
    was this ever completed? What were the results?

    Cheers,
    Ola

    1. Hi Ola,

      Rick tried out the Lace and the Q-Tuner pickups in the Klein variation guitar. He thought that the Lace pickups were too thin and bright if I remember correctly. We went with the Q-Tuners over the Bardens as I have a real Klein with Bardens already. We are going to use the Bardens in the baritone that he’s building for me now (which will have your bridge pieces!). The Lace pickups sit on my shelf at the moment with no home in sight.

      I did just put a set of Jason Lollar Charlie Christian pickups in a Tele and am waiting to give that a try soon.

      Hope you are well,
      Al