Long review of my custom wound Zhangbucker pickups
I hadn't even heard of Zhangbucker pickups until I was in the market for a 59 reissue. I friend of mine, whom I respect his opinion on tone works at a local music store. He told my that he was going to be selling a few guitars for a friend of his, and they were both equipped with Zhang pickups, and that they awesome pickups. He did not have the guitars yet, and in the mean time I need a set of pickups for my R7, so I decided to research Zhangbuckers.
The first thing that intrigued me was that although he had different models, he didn't rely on the typical "choose your pickup from a menu" philosophy. When I emailed Dave, immediately he wanted to know what type of music I was playing, the guitars I was using, amp etc.. He also wanted to know what pickups I was currently using and what I like and disliked about them. We even talked about pot values and cover options, etc. and how it would impact the tone I was going for.
I wanted the bridge to be at least BB2 output level but a little hotter and fat, with sustain and a little bit of attitude that will be used mainly for rock, hard rock (not modern), and not too bright
For the neck tone I wanted something warm but with some chime, but retains clarity end definition. When using neck I am usually in middle and/or neck position for clean stuff, but will occasionally use the neck lead playing moderate to high gain.
Dave recommended the Brownbucker/Woodbucker Pure Hand wound set. The bridge at 9.2k and the neck at 7.5k, both with roughcast Alnico 2's. I went 2 conductor and RS aged covers.
So, I placed an order. a few weeks later my friend at the music store got in those guitars with the Zhangs he was talking about. One was an R7 with a Pagey set, and the other R9 had a Woodbucker/Hot Brownbucker set. Both of these guitars were smoking and sounded great plugged into any amp in the store. I was so excited and couldn't wait to get the set that I ordered. About 2 weeks later, I was ready to buy an R9. There were about 12 or so used ones locally to choose from. After countless hours and countless days, I couldn’t get over the tone of the R9 Yamano with the Zhangbuckers. I fell in love with the guitar immediately.
Fast Forward, I got the pickups that I originally ordered installed about 2 weeks ago, and all I can say is that Dave nailed it!! He produced exactly what we talked about. I owned and have owned alot of high-end gear and have dealt with my fair share of great gear, but unfortunately I have owned alot of gear that hasn’t lived up to the hype. I can tell you for certain, that these pickups are the real deal! I usually plug straight in to either a Bogner XTC Classic, or a Bogner 20th anniversary Shiva. I also have a handful of modded Marshalls. The bridge pickup sounds fat and clear and retains a noticeable 3 dimensional characteristic even at some pretty high gain levels. The pickup also sounds great with the volume rolled down and doesn't lose alot of highs like many pickups. It was exactly what I was looking for.
Now, on the neck. I usually don’t use the neck alot. Typically just when playing clean passages between higher gain riffs. I have to say there is something really special about the woodbucker in the neck. If you recall, I had a woodbucker in the 59 reissue that I bought. The pickup is leaps and bounds better that than all neck pickups I have tried. It is balanced, warm, chimey and also sound great for all types of music. It doesn't have a hint of muddiness or dominance in a particular frequency. The best I can describe it, is that it "sounds" like the "feels". I tried really hard to get the burstbucker in my Murphy to sound like the woodbucker, but I could not. I thought perhaps pickup height or pole adjustments, but the woodbucker rules supreme.
2008 50th Anniversary 1958 Reissue "Washed Cherry" Burst Murphy Aged 12 of 200
2008 1959 Les Paul Reissue Yamano "Ice Tea" Burst
2008 Suhr Standard
1987 Zion Radicaster
1999 Tom Anderson Cobra "Honey Burst"
USACG Strat Roasted Alder body, roasted maple neckw/rosewood board
2009 Bogner 20th Anniversary Shiva w/matching 2x12
1980 John Suhr Modded Marshall (SE+ pre, Whomp, FX Loop)
2015 Bogner Helios
2016 Friedman Runt
Bogner 4x12, Bogner OS 2x12, 77 Marshall 4x12, Soldano 4x12,