Custom Buckers & Stainless Steel Slugs = Artifacts And Gritty Tone

Discussion in 'Pickups' started by Dougie, Oct 1, 2017.

  1. Dougie

    Dougie Senior Member

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    I recently bought one of the Historic Makeovers R8 guitars and man I could NOT be more tickled with the guitar! It is LIVE all over, rings for days, is very loud and well balanced acoustically, you strap it on and walk into a room playing it unplugged, and it FILLS the room! Wonderful guitar!

    This said, it is so live and bright, it tells on pickups and hardware in an instant. You hear every little nuance of the wood, the tune-o-matic, the pickups, it's crazy how good of a job Kim LaFleur and crew do on these..

    Not long after it arrived here, I began noticing a harshness in the high end, and also some grungy muddy tones in the wound strings played down in the 2nd-4th fret area. I had already planned on swapping in some more vintage tapered pots so I did this, and no change to the artifacts I was hearing. As soon as I rolled off the volume or the tone knob, the harsh trebly artifacts went away. OR they were better hidden from my ears..

    I used some 50s nickel PAF covers that I had, and also swapped out the pole screws for 50s P90 screws which impart a nice edgy tone of their own, and I was still hearing this harshness. I swapped the A3 magnets out of the Custom Buckers and used some A2 in the neck and A4 in the bridge. Still hearing these annoying artifacts especially in the high end of the bridge pickup.

    The last thing left to try was removing the slug coil from the baseplate and very carefully tapping out the stock 416 grade Stainless Steel slugs, and replacing them with some carbon steel slugs that came from Bill at Electric City. GUESS WHAT? The artifacts disappeared completely! The high end smoothed out, the low strings gained back a bunch of clarity, and the "bug" I had been chasing has been caught! This wasn't something they did at HM in the makeover, this was the stock Custom Bucker pickup that came on this guitar from the Gibson Custom Shop in 2014.

    Has anyone else noticed a harshness with a Custom Bucker pickup or is this a case of maybe some have some impurities in the tone because of the stainless used and others don't? Maybe the artifacts are there but other Les Pauls are not as bright and resonant as this HM guitar and you wouldn't necessarily notice something as subtle as this harsh edgy tone in the high end?
     
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  2. BBD

    BBD Senior Member

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    Yes. I replaced the CBs in a 2014 R9 because the bridge was unpleasantly harsh (and the neck was a bit muddy). Very interested to read what you wrote about the SS slugs. Always worth knowing stuff like that. Thanks for posting.
     
  3. Dougie

    Dougie Senior Member

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    A couple of years ago I copied the coil offset and the turns per layer of the Custom Bucker when I made some clones, and had really good success with them. It's a pretty cool design Gibson has going, clear bottom end, open, airy blooming top end, if you clone a Custom Bucker and wind it with PE wire on butyrate bobbins and use conventional steel slugs, poles, and pole shoe. You get a killer sounding pickup, with none of the artifacts I described in my post about a stock Custom Bucker. I'm convinced 416 stainless has no business in a guitar pickup.
     
  4. BBD

    BBD Senior Member

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    Trust Gibson to find a way of buggering it up.

    >I'm convinced 416 stainless has no business in a guitar pickup.

    Doesn't look like it.
     
  5. alnico59

    alnico59 Premium Member

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    It was easier for me to sell my CB's for $325 and replace with a $300 set of vintage spec PAF's w/A5. Bad tones quickly disappeared. I agree, CB bridge was harsh, neck muddy. Although middle was surprisingly spanky and nice.
     
  6. BBD

    BBD Senior Member

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    To be honest, my CBs are sitting in the box the OX4s came in. I've held off selling them in case I ever decide to sell the R9. The OX4s are so good I think I'd take them out and put the CBs back again. Having spent my whole life playing hot or hottish pickups, the underwound A4 OX4s were a total revelation. I wish I'd realised how damn good (vintage PAF damn good) that combo sounds a good few years ago.
     
  7. hamerfan

    hamerfan Senior Member

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    Hi Dougie, when did Gibson begin to use stainless steel slugs. Are they used in Burstbucker Pros, too?
     
  8. DarrellV

    DarrellV Almost 1 Year old this month! Premium Member

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  9. Antigua

    Antigua Senior Member

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    I read something about 416 here that seems both plausible and in line with what you're observing http://music-electronics-forum.com/t42402/ "stainless gives you a slightly higher resonant freq and a higher Q on your peak because of the higher resistivity and slightly-lower permeability" Lower permeability results in lower output to, so if, for example, so if one coil has a high permeable steel screw core, and the other a low permeability slug core, the screw coil with the higher permeability will generate more voltage, making the humbucker brighter overall, becoming more similar to a single coil. If you like the sound of a humbucker where both coils contribute about the same voltage, you'd want to match the metals used in the cores as close as possible.
     
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