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Do you Actually Need a Trembucker? Humbucker vs Trembucker

Do you Actually Need a Trembucker? Humbucker vs Trembucker

Guitar pickups are more than just the number of coils—they come in many shapes, types, and sizes to accommodate different guitars and tone preferences. In this article, I’ll explore two of the most confusing types I see guitar players get wrong and answer the necessary questions: How are Trembuckers and Humbuckers different, and which one should you use for your guitar? 

Many myths go into the differences, but I will mainly focus on getting it tailored for your specific situation and guitar. After all, it’s the guitar that chooses the pickups, and you probably noticed that when the Humbucker didn’t fit the pickguard, wondering why.

Up front, I’ll say that mismatching a Trembucker for a Humbucker has no significant repercussions for your guitar, yet this article helps you make the best choice, not just a good one.

Trembucker vs Humbucker at a Glimpse

 

Humbucker 

Trembucker

Used ForVibrato bridge-style guitars, including Fender Tremolo, Floyd RoseGibson bridge-style guitars, including the set piece  tune-o-matic 
SizeRegular Humbucker size  Slightly Larger 
Pole SpacingFor regular humbucker size string spacing 49mm (1.930″)For wider string spacing, 52.6mm (2.070″)

From Humbuckers to Trembuckers

They say that before Humbuckers were invented, rock was not loud enough. That might be a myth, but surely enough, it was not distorted enough.

Originally, they were invented to cancel out the single-coil noise stage noise, thus getting the name ‘hum’ buckers. The logic was simple: cancel the noise of one coil by adding another wound in reverse. The result was quieter pickups and, as an unexpected bypass, a fuller sound than single coils.

Among the first to popularize it was Seth Lover from Gibson—the man behind the PAF tone of classic rock, blues, and everything ’60s. As with Humbuckers, mystery still looms over whether they’re PAF or not, which I’ve debunked in style in another article.

As all inventions go, around the same time or arguably earlier, Ray Butts from Gretsch invented the FilterTron along with some of the most iconic rock guitars.

Where do Trembuckers Come From?

Seymour duncan

Trembuckers are similar to humbuckers in the number of coils and tonal characteristics, yet what distinguishes them is the distance between the pole pieces and the bobbin size. This doesn’t indicate any difference in construction, like passive or active, which tells you much about the sound.

As you probably guessed, it comes from the word tremolo to indicate the type of bridge. You might not know we have Eddie Van Halen to thank again for the Trembucker. When he built his iconic Frankenstrat, which we’ve thoroughly reviewed in the past, he would fit a humbucker with a Strat-style body and turn the pickup to compensate for the smaller size until companies built pickups for him.

Trembuckers were invented for guitars with a Fender-style tremolo, or Floyd rose, due to the bridge’s wider string spacing compared to most set necks. Humbuckers and Trembuckers are different versions of the same pickup. The former is used on a Gibson-style bridge, while the latter is used on any bridge with wider string spacing. The name solely indicated a measure.

  • The Gibson string spacing is 49mm (1.930″) – any regular Humbucker will do.
  • A Floyd Rose will have a wider string spacing of 52.6mm (2.070″) – a Trembucker will fit best.

While this is true in most cases, you can still use Trembuckers with a standard bridge if the string spacing is right. For example, when you hot rodd a guitar the way and replace the bridge with a pickup in mind or when the pickup doesn’t have exposed pole pieces 

Important Note

Seymour Duncan is the only company that calls these sizes of Humbuckers “Trembuckers”—other companies use different names, such as F-shaped, or use the size for reference. However, Trembuckers, as produced by Seymor Duncan, are the only ones of this size with bigger bobbins and overall larger, meaning that a Seymor Duncan Trembucker might not easily fit a pickguard/cavity made for a humbucker.

Let’s compare two Seyboard Duncans to see the difference.

Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB Model Bridge Humbucker Pickup
configuration trembucker

As you can see, there is no difference between the two apart from the seize – you can even choose the ‘Trembucker’ on the Configurations. 

Trembuckers vs. F-spaced Humbuckers

F-spaced pickups have a wider pole distance, but overall, they are the same size as a regular Humbucker. Trembuckers not only have a wider pole distance but are slightly larger in size. Also, Seymon Duncan is the only company that uses the name ‘Trembucker.’ As you guessed again, the ‘F’ stands for Fender or Floyd.

Here’s an example from DiMarzio

DiMarzio DP100 Super Distortion Humbucker Pickup 0- F-spaced
DiMarzio DP100 Super Distortion Humbucker Pickup

The F-scape indicates a different size in this case, but the pickup is still the same. 

Common Worries Guitarists Have

Do You Need a Trembucker For Bridge or Neck Pickup?

You only need a Trembucker for the bridge pickups, as the string distance above the neck is shorter than for any standard-sized humbuckers to suffice. So, if you are wondering whether to fit your modded Superstrat with one or two humbuckers, the bridge will be enough. 

What Happens If Your Mismatch Pickups?

Suppose you put a bridge Humbucker, not a Trembucke, on an affordable Ibanez JEMJR. Soundwise, while playing it, you won’t truly feel or hear anything wrong; you will only notice something is wrong visually if you look at the guitar from the front.

I have done this multiple times with my guitar and never truly noticed until I sent it to the luthier for setup or repair. I might sound odd, but I never noticed the poles were not aligned with the bridge until he had me compare them to the neck position.

In the best-case scenario, you won’t notice; in the worst-case scenario, you won’t be able to fit the Trembucker on the pickguard and will have to take it back to the shop or force it in.

Trembuckers Vs. Humbuckers Tone 

Many people have tried to prove a sound difference between Trembucker and Humbuckers. The answer is that they sound the same and only differ in specific scenarios, considering they are the same pickup, just different sizes.

The only scenario in which you could argue there’s a sound difference is on the high E and low E when you place a Humbucker instead of a Trembucker in a wide string spacing bridge, and those strings are not fully ‘covered’ by the small pickup. This, though, is still very much up to debate and mostly irrelevant, as the slightest change in pickup height will negate all other subtle differences.

Final Thought: Prioritise the Tone

What do you do if you got a good deal on one of the Humbuckers from this list, but it doesn’t exactly fit your guitar? Boldly stated, if it’s a matter of an excellent humbucker for your Fender that looks slightly off but sounds glorious or a good Trembucker that just doesn’t reach that level, I would always go the first. 

FAQ

Question: Do Single Coils Need to be ‘Trembucker’ Size?

Answer: Single children are all already sized like a Trembucker or F-shaped pickup.

Question: What Should you do if the Pickguard Pickup Slot is too Small?

Answer: First, check if you are using the wrong pickup size; Trembuckers are slightly blogger than humbuckers – next, consider changing the pickguard as it will make no difference in the playability and tone.

Question: What Happens if I put a Trembucker on the Neck Position?

Answer: You could, but you would have the same issues as placing a bridge pickup on the neck. While it could sound great depending on taste and the guitar, bridge pickups are generally too hot for the neck position.  

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