A magnetic sensor is disclosed that is disposed between top and bottom magnetic shield layers, the sensor comprising: a nonferromagnetic layer disposed beneath the top shield layer; a magnetically soft layer disposed beneath the nonferromagnetic layer, the magnetically soft layer having a magnetization that rotates in response to an applied magnetic field; a ferromagnetic pinned layer disposed beneath the magnetically soft layer; an antiferromagnetic layer disposed beneath the ferromagnetic layer; and an aluminum-nitride seed layer disposed between the antiferromagnetic layer and the bottom shield layer. The aluminum-nitride seed layer decreases sense current shunting, increases pinning strength, increases magnetoresistance and/or increases yield.

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