You’ve been building guitars and compo-
nents for decades now, but when did Kinman
Pickups first take shape?
I made custom pickups for customers since
1965, however, in 1995 I began a new era. In
1971, I developed an obsession about canceling noise. Hum-canceling Strat and Tele pickups
called stacks or vertical humbuckers sounded
like shit, so I figured if I could make the first
good sounding ones, I’d have something
unique! So using scientific methods I set about
discovering the problem with these things, and
that’s what led to my first invention.
What was that first breakthrough?
the dreaded hum. However, he recently
requested a set to get his classic, twangy sixties sound, so I have a new pickup in development now. It will sit nicely alongside Fralins
and Lollars, but with zero hum.
My Tele pickups feature some unique technology, as well. The noise-sensing bobbin is
100 percent steel, made from 152 individual
parts. A lot of players have said it’s the best
Tele tone they’ve ever experienced. The fatter
Broadcasters are raunchier than the ‘60s Custom
set, which have more classic Tele sound, but
never thin and brittle. Both neck pickups have a
special cover that looks original but is magnetically and electrically invisible, so the sound has
more definition than with original covers.
strength of Alnico IIs, so my pickups have
greater clarity and more sustain.
The third reason is to get increased dynamic
range for maximum expression. Another
is my improved magnet staggers for perfectly balanced string outputs. One is
specially designed for compound-radius
fretboards. Players will also like my range of
NoSoldering harnesses, which provides the
best operating environment for the pickups
while eliminating soldering. Some models
also have additional switching for extra
sounds; the K9 has nine honest and useful
sounds, two of them being series connections for high-output P-90ish flavors.
During my research I discovered some interesting flaws with stacks, one being a huge
amount of magnetic coupling between the
two coils. It caused almost as much signal
cancellation as hum cancellation. Of course
this also cancels important tone frequencies
and output—that’s what’s wrong with (crude)
stacks. So, my goal was to prevent magnetic
coupling between the two coils and thereby
prevent tone cancellation.
My first invention was a magnetic shield, and
that did wonders, but it wasn’t the whole solution. I then completed developing my differential coil technology, where the two coils take
on different roles—the top coil is focused on
capturing the tone from the strings, while the
bottom one is a specialized noise-sensing coil.
I put the two inventions together, and that’s
the basic secret of my pickups… sounds easy
enough now but it took almost 20 years to discover this elegant solution.
Why should somebody consider your pickups
over another boutique manufacturer?
How would you define your pickup building
philosophy in general?
Take us through a few of the single-coil
models you offer.
The Traditional Mk-II—the most “Stratty” set—
sounds pretty close to a fifties Strat that has
a few years on the clock, where the pickups
have aged a little bit. They lack the “ice pick”
of new pickups; they’re sweeter, and what I call
a slightly aged sound. I have a new-sounding
pickup in development now. My Blues set has
a gracefully aged sound. It’s like a pickup from
the early sixties that has even more years on
the clock—they still have those nicer Fender
characteristics, but are more rounded.
My Woodstock sets are quite different. They
capture the expressive dynamics of Jimi
Hendrix playing “Little Wing,” where his
dynamic, fluid sound rolls effortlessly off the
fretboard. The Woodstock sets make it easy
to sound more like Jimi than Jimi himself
did. [laughs] My Hank Marvin set allowed
Hank to create his modern sound without
I was delighted when people began comparing my products to Fralins and Lollars in
terms of sound quality, but I wasn’t so happy
when they expected the price to be comparable too, as there are some big differences
between hum cancelling and non-noiseless
pickups. Mine have to cost a bit more, even if
the tone quality is comparable.
There are many valid reasons for preferring
Kinman over any brand. The first is to avoid
60-cycle hum and get more tone. My pickups
are taller, have more parts, and the open architecture makes them sound much better than
compacted noiseless designs.
The second reason is to get more sustain
and less fret buzz, courtesy of my special
magnets, which you won’t find in any other
brand. Regular Alnico V magnets sound
nice, but pull excessively on the strings,
thereby shortening sustain and causing the
strings to crash onto the frets, creating that
buzziness. Mine are Alnico V with the lower
During my early manufacturing engineer
days, I was privileged to serve my apprenticeship with a very high class automotive
component manufacturing group. We were
trained to do things to perfection. Our
instructors laid down the law that “Near
enough is not good enough,” and that
became an extra lobe on my brain—my perfection lobe. It’s a damn nuisance, because
I can’t indulge in mediocrity. That and my
obsession with destroying hum and devising
solutions for known problems are the underlying philosophies behind all of my products.
To maximize sonic performance, I make my
products a better way. Compare a regular
pickup to a Kinman, and you’ll see a lot of
differences, but multiply the differences you
can see by three for the differences you can’t
see. For example, I don’t use molded plastic
bobbins because they’re not rigid. It’s all
done to a much higher standard, using the
best materials and the best methods of construction and manufacturing.