Quote: “If there are any guitar players here? Does this jive with your understanding?”
Although there are low impedance exceptions, (Les Paul Recording Model comes to mind) quite overwhelmingly, guitar pickups are high impedance.
However, their actual output varies dependant upon the quality and size of their magnets the number of windings in the coils, the number of coils, and also the precise materials utilised throughout their fabrication.
Vintage instruments of identical models manufactured during an era dominated by human aggregation, can vary greatly in their actual output as the actual number of windings could be dependant on the production volume required and the operator time available.
Thus, one instrument could feature an amazingly high output, but another, have far less “poke”; regardless of whether the instrument model featured humbuckers or single coils. Such is the element of human operator variability, and one reason why, like human beings, musical instruments are very individual.
Today, although that universal axiom still holds true, because of improved standardisation and computer numerically controlled manufacturing processes, it tends to be the case that such operator variabilities are lessened to a great degree. That machine manufactured instruments are more consistent, the biggest problem today being the lack of creative ingenuity in design and increasing scarcity of high-quality raw materials with which to manufacture.
You will appreciate, that an expensive instrument fabricated from high-quality materials is likely to resonate and project greater clarity and volume of tone. Whereas a cheap instrument fabricated from cheap materials is likely to resonate and project poorly, sounding tinny and thin, possessing lamentable volume of tone.
In an instrument such as you describe but of high-quality, the single coils give a bright, bell like clarity of tone and a good output level ideal for the amplifiers they were designed to be utilised with. Again, in such an instrument, the sheer quality of the magnets and copper wire utilised in the coils, plus the amount of the windings, accrue to deliver the instruments desirable quality of output.
Yet in an instrument such as you describe but of low-quality, manufactured and sold at low cost, the converse is likely to be true. Single coils with lower output than humbuckers manufactured utilising poor quality magnets and raw materials in the coils, and rather less of them than would be ideal to make them as cost effective for the manufacturer as possible, are likely to deliver a tinny sound at less than desirable, low output, by comparison.
You mention P-90 pickups.
Although they are single coil’s they have good size magnets, plus rather more high-quality coils covering a wider area, than most standard single coil pickups.
Although a different product, the rear pickup of a Telecaster shares certain similarities in such qualities, plus a huge copper plate on its bottom. All this copper is expensive raw material but adds sonic quality and output level.
You are using instrument copies that cost 100 - 200 dollars whereas the genuine instruments they are copies of will cost 15 – 30 times that amount to purchase, and unsurprisingly, you have found something altogether lacking. Probably the amount of copper involved, has a lot to do with it.
What you could do quite easily, is to install a replacement pickup with a higher output to your single coil instrument.
There are a wide range of such pickups available, and Stratocaster type guitars are readily customisable. One reason those particular guitars are very popular.
Leo Fender was a radio repair man and designed his guitars and amplifiers so that they could be very easily repaired. This is why they are so readily customisable and this might be the best solution for your problem.
You can even purchase humbucking pickups that fit in the available space. These are stacked humbuckers coil on top of coil, and they give a close approximation of a single coil pickup but with a commensurately higher output and without the hum of single coils. As you need to check your wiring anyway, you could simply buy one pickup as see what improvement it gives.
This won’t address all the main problems commonly associated with cheap instruments, but may help improve the quality of sound and the low output level considerably for small money. The main problems remaining, being poor stability of insufficiently seasoned raw wood materials, lack of stability in tuning and dependability of vibrato/tailpiece in performance etc. et al.
https://www.seymourduncan.com/products/ … tric/strat
Quote: “do you use preamps to bring your lead guitar parts up before they go into the Fireface?”
Although I am sure this can be done very successfully given good-quality instruments featuring nominally sufficient output.
I always use an amplifier, or two, if utilising stereo effects and place a high-quality microphone/s in front of the amplifier’s speaker or speakers.
This is because electric guitars were by design, intended to be used with amplifiers. Their sound, intended to be heard through speakers. The amplifier is one half of the guitars actual sound. Together they form a perfect marriage.
Anyone who knows anything about guitars (or bass guitars) will tell you that the single biggest contributory factor to their actual sound, is the players fingers and sensitivity of touch.
And of course, they are plenty of alternative methods of recording guitars, some of them exceptionally good and even cloning devices that synthesise and emulate desirable amplifiers, specific tonalities in compact packages.
However, in the final analysis, my observation has been that there is a deeply profound, symbiotic relationship between a guitarist’s sensitivity of touch and the sound that is emitted directly from an amplifier. A kind of direct feedback that informs and shapes the varying qualities of their playing style in a manner that in my humble opinion, is wholly superior to those exceptionally good, alternative methods.