So last week, I got a check in the mail from my grandparents for my birthday. Amongst some other things, I decided to start playing around with magnet swaps. I purchased and Alnico 8 magnet from Wymore Guitars (great service and fast shipping, thanks dude!) It arrived late last week and I just now got a chance to swap the magnet out. I initially intended to leave the picukp in the mounting ring so the height would remain unchanged, but that blocked access to the magnet, so I had to remove it from the ring. When putting the pickup back in the guitar, I managed to set the height exactly at the recommended 1/8" - 3/32" recommended in the FAQ. How's that for blind luck?
Wow. Loud. The A8 magnet makes the pickup louder than before. I suppose that is to be expected, since the stronger A8 magnet is supposed to make for hotter output. The JB8 has plenty of lows, and while big, they're not muddy or woofy like the JB was in comparison. They are big, but tight. The big low end doesn't seem to impede clarity, IMO.
As far as the mids go, there's a definate difference. The JB had all the crunch in the upper mids, the JB8 has it's mids spread across the whole range, so there's plenty of low mids and mid mids in addition to the high mids, so the spike is gone, and the JB8 sounds thicker by comparison. I kinda like it, but admittedly I'm still in the honeymoon stage at this point. I may change my mind. Also that upper-mid spike makes it easier for the JB to cut throug a band mix. The JB8's lack of that upper-mid spike may work against me when trying to fit into a mix. I dunno. I'll see how I sound with the rest of the band next practice.
As far as highs go, I definately noticed the rounded off, A2-like highs of the A8. I'm on the fence here. On one hand, that kinda makes the JB8 sound darker than the JB. But when it comes to sustained notes in solos, the rounded off highs definately makes for a sweeter sound. However, when playing palm-muted riffs, it feels like the rounded off highs cause me to loose some of the attack which keeps things tight-sounding. I also don't know how the rounded off highs will affect how I sit in the mix with the band. Again, we'll have hear how things go next practice. I can always (and probably should) tweak the EQ on my amp.
One thing I noticed while playing which was unexpected was when I switched to bridge humbucker split and parallel with the middle single, (guitar is HSH config), I got a completely different sound. The volume drops dramatically, and there are no lows at all. It was kind of like listening to the guitar through the telephone, or like the intro to Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here". I messed things up during the magnet swap and the JB8 is now out-of-phase didn't I? I was careful to orient the magnet so the poles were the same, but when I pulled the A5 bar out of the pickup, it grabbed the A8 bar, and I might have flipped it around when separating the two before installing the A8 bar. It's not all bad. I kinda like the thin, quiet sound, it's different. But when I think about things, I think I'd do better to get that sound from a pedal, and have a single coil sound available in that postion, not a OOP sound. I really don't want to have to take the pickup back out to flip the magnet around, as I've got the pickup height perfect. I fix the OOP sound by flipping the hot (black) and ground (green) wires, right? Though that will also change which coil I split to, correct?