Alnico and ceramic pickups

I’ve been doing a fair bit of reading regarding pickups and I’m still not clear what the differences are in sound between alnico and ceramic pickups?
Can one of our resident electronic gurus point me in the right direction please?


Cool :sunglasses:
Thanks @John_E


Goizzzzz after watching that and then a couple more videos that were associated with the same subject I’m realising what a can of worms the subject is.
Seems to be more of a personal choice thing rather than the pure technical thing :exploding_head:


The marketeers strike again.


I’ve had basses with both. I liked the sound of both.

It’s difficult for me to compare because the basses I have had with alnico pups had much better pickups than the bass I had with ceramic. Which wasn’t bad in any way, just not as good.

But they all sounded good.


In February when I started this Bass journey I purchased a Yamaha TRBX304 which has ceramic pickups and active electronics. I could not achieve a tone that I wanted from this setup. I found it too puchy for my liking. Problem was I loved everything else about this Bass.

Within a month, and many discussions, primarily with @howard, I purchased a Yamaha TRBX504 which has alnico pick ups, active electronics, an active/passive selection switch, and I believe a different active electronics circuit.

Not sure if it was the difference in pickups or not but I found that the combination of the alnico pickups and active/passive switch gave me the more mellow tone I could not achieve with the ceramics, which seemed to have a more punchier tone.

My 504 has always been set to the passive mode.

This is my dream Bass and has everything I wanted and produced a lot more tone variations, including the ones missing on the 304.


It goes without saying that it’s not just the type of magnet but how’s it made. I use it all alnico 2, alnico 5, ceramic, as well as optical.

Other things to consider is the size and shape of the magnet large pole magnet pickups like mm or Delano offer much faster attacks and different animal altogether.

Plugging the bass straight in the the amp without anything we “need” these days, I like the ceramic sound the most. It’s warm and modern easy to dial in your sweet spot.


Thanks @howard @Celticstar and @Al1885 .

I’ll investigate further and see what I’ve got in the basses I have to begin with which I never even thought of in the beginning :flushed:


The three main components that effect sounds and tone the most are pickups locations and combination, pickups, and strings in that order to me at least. It’s a given that preamps would do a ton of tone shaping but not everyone would install them on their basses. T

Each pickup company offers different flavor in their lineup some like Bartolini have their own unique sounds altogether. The fun is in the journey to discovery so have fun.


I was going to ask, can’t you just shape your tone in another way (preamp, eq, etc) to get match a different pickup tone?

I get not as cost effective (or fun perhaps).


I could not on my TRBX304 but everything went perfectly with the 504 with Alnico pickups and an active/passive switch and I believe different active circuitry .

When playing my Bass I never have any pedals in the line EXCEPT when fooling around with my Zoom B1X Four pedal, which at this stage is not very often because it takes up too much practice time. In a few more months, or more, I want to get into recording and posting on line but at this time am not willing to sacrifice practice time to get into that rabbit hole :slightly_smiling_face: :slightly_smiling_face: :slightly_smiling_face:

I should mention also that the 504 Alnico pickups also have quad pole pieces for each string and I am sure this also helps with tone shaping.


We’ll definitely as the matter of fact, I made an emg preamp box, it’s on loan to my friend. I stumbled on to a YouTube video of Rob Turner showing the pedal box, I had a few Emg preamp so I made a BQC with EXB box. Pretty cool. It’s a simple wiring with built in 9v.

Providence makes an excellent preamp box the dual bass station. There’s a cool feature with the mid frequency (it’s where you can dial in your distinctive tones) that can help you creat or match your personal tone. I love mine. I can compare 2 basses side by side without plugging and unplugging each time just switch.


I’m curious about how the alnico’s will sound on the bass I’m building. I should get them and my new pickguard tomorrow.


I’ve just ordered a cheapy alnico for the Ray4 from the USA just to have a look see :+1:


After owning many different types of pickups at this point, I have landed in an interesting place. Quality being equal:

Guitar: Definitely prefer AlNiCo. I am not a shrieking lead kind of guitar player.
Bass: Definitely prefer ceramic. It delivers a powerful mids-forward punch that really adds to the mix. AlNiCo is fine if a bass happens to have good ones (i.e. Yamaha’s stock pickups are excellent) but ceramic can be special.