What's the difference? Is the gain on ceramic bigger or not?

PS: I don't know what to say, but I only ask for those pickups difference in general.

  • For me i like alnico because they don't sound scratchy and they have nice warm sound. Nice and balanced. Not irritating to the ear like ceramic pickups. Thats just me.
    – Brian
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 8:35
  • Although I am not a technophobe, I am both an electrician & a musician. To my ears, certain alnico magnets impart a pleasant timbre to the sound of a humbucker. Aside from hum cancellation, this timbre is what every pickup manufacturer tries to tweak. Another way to look at it is like singing. While there are literally millions that can sing well, the standouts almost always have a distinctive voice. Although an alnico humbucker has a narrow resistance range, it can be tweaked to get the desired result. Alnico also imparts a beautiful timbre to single coils if you can control the 60 cycle hum.
    – user33582
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 23:35

4 Answers 4


This may not help a lot, but here is one person's opinion + facts about magnetic cores: sonicwrench forum

Q: What is the difference between Alnico and ceramic magnets?

A: Alnico magnets are made of an alloy of Aluminum, Nickel, and Cobalt. Ceramic magnets are made from ferrites (often iron oxides). Magnetically speaking, ceramic magnets produce a stronger field than Alnico. The result is a slightly hotter sounding pickup with more treble response. A lot of people automatically say that Alnico is superior to ceramic in pickups. Alnico tends to produce a very musical pickup in most setups. However, there are fantastic sounding ceramic pickups out there (such as the G&L “MFD” pickups), as well as our own humbuckers and P90′s. The reason ceramic has a bad rap is probably due to its use on low quality instruments, in low quality pickups. Ceramic magnets are often useful in high-output pickups to help retain high end that is lost due to overwinding, and help to create crunchy sounding pickups for hard rock, heavy blues, and metal styles.

So like a lot of components in musical instruments, which is "better" depends on what you want for sound output.


Ceramic magnets do produce a stronger field, but that alone doesn't actually change the sound, it just increases the total output (which, of course, will change the sound if you thereby drive an amp further into distortion).

What's more relevant is that Alnico is magnetically "softer" (It has a higher reversible permeability) than ceramics, i.e. it changes its field more when affected by the string's movement. This effect is not very strong, but it notably influences the pickup's electrodynamics: the inductance becomes bigger, as a result the resonance frequency is lowered. Also, Alnico is an electrical conductor; this will "drain away" some of the resonance.

All these effects together cause Alnico pickups to sound somewhat warmer, gentler than ceramic-magnet pickups; however other factors such as winding number are of cause also important – it's not really possible to say "that's an Alnico sound".


This is what I found in one study made by Oak Ridge National Laboratory under US Department of Energy:

  • Ferrites contain mixed domains, some in opposition to the magnetization, therefore a weaker magnet

  • Alnico has high remanence but low coercivity. The low coercivity means the material's magnetization can easily reverse direction without dissipating much energy (hysteresis losses).

This makes Alnico to be a better magnetic core than Ceramic (Ferrites).

  • 4
    Those are definitely some relevant properties, but please 1. if you have a concrete study at hand (which is great!) actually quote it properly for reference, and 2. for a claim like “Alnico is better”, specify what particular property you mean and why you think it's better. Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 17:22

I have four electric guitars. Two have ceramic pickups (G&L F100, 1982) and an Ibanez clone built in New Hampshire. I have a PRS SE (Korean) 22 fret model and a 2002 Squire Standard Telecaster that have alnico pickups. Only the Squire has a fixed bridge. I love alnico because of the sound. I can only describe it as sweeter. The G&L mentioned above is a fantastic guitar in regards to build quality and I do understand how it is good for major distortion but at the same time alnico works for me too. To put things into perspective, I am a distortion and sustain freak but not a modern metal person. It is very difficult to compare the two magnets (or individual replacement pickups in general) unless you are prepared to spend a great deal of time and money trying them out in the same guitar. What is really weird is I cannot tell the difference unless I am the one playing the guitar, for what it's worth.

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