ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Guitar Pickups: Alnico Magnets vs. Ceramic Magnets

Updated on March 4, 2016

Alnico Magnets vs. Ceramic Magnets

Does magnet type in a guitar pickup really matter?

----- It only doesn't matter if tone isn't an issue.

We say that in jest but as the saying goes there is much truth in jest! Each component serves a purpose and like anything in life, we use certain things to achieve certain results and at the end of the day, much comes down to personal preference and each one's unique ear for tone which is different in everyone.

So when it comes to magnets, each serves a purpose and, of course, each comes from a different source which impacts cost, availability, and characteristics. Because many of today's magnets are manufactured and not, necessarily, purely natural, the result comes at a cost.

We will take a look at:

  • Tonal & Other Characteristics of Alnico Magnets
  • Tonal & Other Characteristics of Ceramic Magnets
  • Why Alnico over Ceramic

Single Coil Guitar Pickup

'50s style pickup with Alnico V beveled magnets.
'50s style pickup with Alnico V beveled magnets.

Alnico Magnets vs. Ceramic Magnets Characteristics

Tonal Temperature
Very Warm
Tonal Power
Manufacturing Ease
Material Availabiity
Readily Available

Tonal Characteristics of Alnico Magnets

Alnico Magnets

  • Power

    Alnico pickups have diminished power when compared to Ceramic magnets. This diminished power allows for more dynamic depth or tonal spectrum in a pickup.
  • Dynamic Depth

    Because of the compromised power of Alnico pickups, the reduced power seems to allow for increased dynamic depth allowing for a greater tonal spectrum. It "appears" that the lower initial impact of the wall of sound, allows for the capture of greater highs and a tighter response with the low end. This is merely based on experience and opinion.
  • Warmth

    The chemical composition of Alnico magnets is Aluminum, Nickel and Cobalt. The process required to cast these elements together yields a flavoring different than Ceramic or Iron pickups. Much like the ingredients of mom's perfect spaghetti sauce, unique elements yield specific results. There is a certain character of warmth to Alnico pickups that is lacking in Ceramic pickups which can only be described in terms of depth and warmth or sterility and as anemic. This is not good or bad just a matter of character and, perhaps, opinion and ear.
  • Cost

    The chemical process required to cast three elements together is not only more expensive due to 3 elements, but the fact that three elements are needed, in itself, increases the cost. It is known that the "sinistering" process achieves greater mechanical functionality but increases the manufacturing cost. This results, on occasion, of Alnico pickups being priced higher than the average ceramic pickup.

Tonal Characteristics of Ceramic Magnets

Ceramic Magnets

  • Power

    By far, without question, Ceramic magnets are more powerful. For this reason they are often sought out for application where tonal power is required rather than tonal dynamics. If you need power, a Ceramic magnet is usually a good first response.
  • Sustain

    The general equation is that more power equals diminished sustain. This is true no matter the magnet. So if you want true natural sustain, you may want to compromise on overall magnet power. However, with today's amps, the lack of sustain can usually be remanufactured through electronics and power.
  • Warmth

    In most cases, if power is the primary characteristic in choosing a pickup, then often the other factors or characteristics of that magnet become secondary or a non issue. Likewise, in the case of Ceramic magnets, it "appears" that Ceramic magnets often lose warmth or overall tonal spectrum. They have often been called sterile or anemic in this area of description. However, that being said, most who choose ceramic magnets are not after tonal warmth but power.
  • Warmth

    The chemical process required to sinister ceramic or ferrite magnets is far more efficient in both process and cost than its counterpart, Alnico. For this reason, in reducing costs. You will find pickups being made of Ceramic magnets. It gives the player the "feel" and "appearance" of having a powerful guitar especially in practice settings.

Magnets in different form for different functions

Magnets offer so much ability to do so much.
Magnets offer so much ability to do so much.

Why Alnico over Ceramic

Bottom Line: You get what you pay for.

Ceramic magnets are cheaper to make and very generic in function. This yields a very powerful, stale magnet, which is very versatile in function, but not flavorful in application.

The higher cost of Alnico magnets has caused many pickup manufacturers to dup and deceive buyers into believing the tone is better. It may be more powerful, which is useful --- rarely, but never yields quality and tasteful tone.

If you listen to a guitar for warmth, tonal spectrum, dynamics, sustain and ability to recapture playing technique and nuances, most musicians who plays for this style choose Alnico magnets. In addition, there is a strong chance the musician who inspired you used Alnico magnets (in conjunction with tube amps). Mass production does not equal high fidelity. In final, if you want the warmest and purest, non-colorized tone, this requires purity. Purity is more expensive than the norm. Ceramic is ordinary and cheap, Alnico requires more effort to produce and is more expensive.

Remember, you get what you pay for. Manufacturers try to increase profits by using Ceramic magnets, don't give in to the bottom line. Choose Alnico, in fact, demand it.

Alnico vs. Ceramic Pickups

Which type of pickup do you have currently?

See results


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)