Kinman Impersonator 54 Pickups Review

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Creating a guitar pickup with the sound of a traditional single‑coil pickup but without the associated problems of noise may have taken a long time, but Chris Kinman has finally cracked it. His original noise‑cancelling pickups were launched about 12 years ago, and at that time represented the culmination of 16 years’ research and development. Kinman’s patented differential winding technology (which Chris tells me has been ‘borrowed without permission’ by one or two other manufacturers) got much closer to the sound of a traditional single‑coil pickup.

They still lacked the high‑frequency detail of a brand new, non‑noiseless Strat pickup, but many guitar players liked the slightly aged sound, and on some instruments that just happen to have a very bright tone, they can save the guitar from sounding too thin. Kinman’s Traditional Mk III design produced a slightly less aged sound than previous models, but still didn’t deliver the zingy high end of a brand-new single‑coil pickup.

Being obsessed with guitar tone to the extent that only a player and guitar builder can be, Chris went back to basics and looked for a new approach after he was asked by guitarist Hank Marvin to design a pickup that faithfully replicated his ’60s Shadows sound. Chris aimed to recreate the sound of a Fender CS54 Strat pickup, but without any of the ageing effects of the Mk III. Unfortunately, this kind of development work can often take years, so he wasn’t able to meet the deadline for the Shadows tour, but with untold hours of burning the midnight oil, Chris got the results he wanted — in the form of the Impersonator 54 — in just 18 months, which is remarkable.

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Kinman started out without the steel shield around the upper coil (so this aspect of the pickup is true, old‑school single‑coil design), though the six rod magnets are Kinman’s unique proprietary, low‑strength, Alnico‑5 that reduce string pull by some 40 percent. More magic comes with the hum‑sensing coil that’s mounted below the main coil, because the challenge here is to pick up the same amount of hum as in the pickup’s main coil, while using far fewer turns of wire.

That way, the hum‑cancelling coil doesn’t affect the tonality of the pickup by raising its capacitance or inductance. In the earlier Kinman designs, the hum‑sensing coil was wound on a plastic bobbin with 10 steel‑core pins, but this wasn’t nearly efficient enough for the design that Chris envisioned, so he was forced to rethink the design of the hum sensor. He tried a novel approach to achieving greater efficiency, using a laminated, 100 percent steel, H‑core bobbin for the hum‑sensing coil.

His H‑core is laminated from 150 individual H‑shaped steel plates bonded together with two steel-end caps to form a bobbin, and it thus employs a greater mass of steel than in his previous plastic‑bobbin designs. This in turn enabled him to achieve the required degree of hum cancellation with fewer turns of wire. Including the laminations, the Impersonator 54 has 160 individual parts, compared with just 27 for the Traditional Mk III, yet it costs only slightly more.

Being obsessed with guitar tone to the extent that only a player and guitar builder can be, Chris went back to basics and looked for a new approach after he was asked by guitarist Hank Marvin to design a pickup that faithfully replicated his ’60s Shadows sound. Chris aimed to recreate the sound of a Fender CS54 Strat pickup, but without any of the ageing effects of the Mk III.

Unfortunately, this kind of development work can often take years, so he wasn’t able to meet the deadline for the Shadows tour, but with untold hours of burning the midnight oil, Chris got the results he wanted — in the form of the Impersonator 54 — in just 18 months, which is remarkable.

Kinman started out without the steel shield around the upper coil (so this aspect of the pickup is true, old‑school single‑coil design), though the six rod magnets are Kinman’s unique proprietary, low‑strength, Alnico‑5 that reduce string pull by some 40 percent. More magic comes with the hum‑sensing coil that’s mounted below the main coil, because the challenge here is to pick up the same amount of hum as in the pickup’s main coil, while using far fewer turns of wire. That way, the hum‑cancelling coil doesn’t affect the tonality of the pickup by raising its capacitance or inductance.

In the earlier Kinman designs, the hum‑sensing coil was wound on a plastic bobbin with 10 steel‑core pins, but this wasn’t nearly efficient enough for the design that Chris envisioned, so he was forced to rethink the design of the hum sensor. He tried a novel approach to achieving greater efficiency, using a laminated, 100 percent steel, H‑core bobbin for the hum‑sensing coil.

His H‑core is laminated from 150 individual H‑shaped steel plates bonded together with two steel-end caps to form a bobbin, and it thus employs a greater mass of steel than in his previous plastic‑bobbin designs. This in turn enabled him to achieve the required degree of hum cancellation with fewer turns of wire. Including the laminations, the Impersonator 54 has 160 individual parts, compared with just 27 for the Traditional Mk III, yet it costs only slightly more.

Source www.soundonsound.com

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