Deciding between A5 vs A3 and what that means for your tone is a common question when ordering pickups. Resident expert, Stew McKinsey, simplifies the choice.
AlNiCo, an alloy made from aluminum, nickel and cobalt in addition to iron, copper and sometimes titanium, is probably the most prevalent magnet used in the manufacture of pickups. Its availability and cost have been a determining factor in pickup design for as long as it’s been used in the industry. We have found the best balance of tone, texture and presence with AlNiCo V (A5), but we have also offered different grades of the metal in the past and AlNiCo III (A3) is currently an option in our P-pickups as well as most of our single coil models and several designs based on single coils. For the sake of simplicity, here are a couple of ways to think of the differences between these two materials.
A5 is the material that most people associate with the sound of magnetic pickups. Comparatively, A3 has a mellower sound without the same edge. It is also warmer. Where A5 produces a tight, focused bottom end, A3 has a looser, more expansive low end that fills a mix without choking things.
The other major characteristic of A3 is that it has a much more pronounced growl when you dig in and play more aggressively.
So really what you get with AlNiCo III is a subtly muted top end (not as bright) and a more vintage feel. This will get you loads of character but not necessarily the same cut as AlNiCo V.
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