PAF Reality check!

Discussion in 'Pickups' started by SD Pickups, Jun 20, 2011.

  1. SD Pickups

    SD Pickups Senior Member

    Messages:
    260
    Likes Received:
    108
    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2010
    Every now and then I'll get someone who'll send me a sound clip of someone's hand wound "PAF" repros. They never sound right and I try to explain that PAF's aren't warm fuzzy things they think they are, and they especially were never hand wound. So I ran into some great YouTube videos that really points out very well the true nature of real PAF humbuckers.

    First of all here is a video of Gary Moore playing Peter Green's guitar. Nice tones, pretty warm dontcha think? Still sounds like PAF's.......Now note this is from a commercial video done for sale to the public, so you got studio engineers doing tons of tweaking to what we're hearing from Gary' guitar. So you'd think Peter Green's pickup sure were nice and warm darkish pickups right? Wrong, you're hearing a studio fabricated tone.

    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgcRzKHlPhk]YouTube - ‪Gary Moore - Driftin'‬‏[/ame]

    So, well wait a minute, now, here's Larry Corsa playing the same guitar at a show, no studio engineers, just raw video cam, say those pickups sound kinda bright? Listen at the very end for the bridge and neck pickup:

    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQXw9Ir5Iwc]YouTube - ‪Playing the REAL Peter Green Les Paul‬‏[/ame]

    Hmmmm, so what are we really hearing, whats up with these PAF pickups anyway? Here's Gary showing what real PAF's are all about, not to mention playing like a true guitar God that he was, this is THE SAME GUITAR:

    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBkZG7H2BLg]YouTube - ‪GARY MOORE [ THE MESSIAH WILL COME AGAIN ] LIVE.‬‏[/ame]

    Wow, those things are really bright and metallic, whats up with THAT? Its what PAF's REALLY ARE :shock: That is Peter Green's guitar BTW, same pickups, less studio gimmickry. I love this video, its just the real deal and what the PAF's I own sound like, metally and biting at their best! Notice the neck is nice and bright as well....

    Another great video, crappy phone camera, 1959 Les Paul, room volume no cranked distortionitis:

    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4JosVMPFEg]YouTube - ‪1959 Les Paul Standard - ORIGINAL‬‏[/ame]

    I have a friend in the UK who owns at least three 59 Les Pauls, they all pretty much sound the same as that one. This to me is the beauty of real PAF's, they are bright and open sounding, can be piercing but never shrill, its a great place to start your tone chain, there is plenty of room to make them sound warm if you want or not, with a dark warm pickup you can't go back and add all this chime and edge, you can't put back something that was never there :naughty:

    Hope this will show readers why I love these pickups and why I go to extremes to copy them accurately, enjoy!
     
    jcsk8, cryhavoc, highspeed and 30 others like this.
  2. taypeng

    taypeng Senior Member

    Messages:
    515
    Likes Received:
    101
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2007
    someone just posted this link to a 1958 LP with real PAFs that do not sound at all like the videos you posted.

    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83STrRD8JZ4&feature=player_embedded]YouTube - ‪'58 Gibson Les Paul Burst‬‏[/ame]
    and this is video is properly recorded with mics

    not trying to put you down but i dont think video cam mics and 80s footage are good representations of the actual "live" tone. also if you take into account the type of amp used...

    just my 2cts.
     
  3. SD Pickups

    SD Pickups Senior Member

    Messages:
    260
    Likes Received:
    108
    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2010
    GREAT VIDEO- thanks for posting that. Totally proves my point, those aren't warm pickups, listen to the piercing treble those have, the QUACK- I LOVE that! Yes amps have a definite influence, what you hear on albums etc. can really give a hugely false impression of what its like to play real PAF's in person, the Gary Moore Driftin video above isn't what you would hear if you were there, that was my point, that its not a real sound picture, its a manipulated distortion of reality. If you picked up that guitar and played it you'd hear what Corsa was getting.

    How you position mics alone can make bright pickups sound alot warmer than they are. There is no "correct" method to mic an amp, you mic it to sound like the tones in your head. I just got a whole book on studio techniques and there are many many ways to mic a speaker/amp and they all dramatically give you different tones that have little to do with the actual way the pickups sound if you just picked up the guitar and plugged it in at home listening with your ears. I think there is alot of misperception by most players who haven't played real PAF's as to what they sound like in person, thats why I started the thread ;-)
     
  4. Drew224

    Drew224 "Obvious BS Artist" V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    16,575
    Likes Received:
    7,766
    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2009
    From listening to new recordings of bursts, old recordings of bursts, and clips of new PAF repros... In the hands of a player who's competent, it comes VERY close. You posted some vids of Gary Moore... A lot of his sound is in his technique. It's not just the Les Paul there.
    Now granted I haven't compared the old and the new in person, I'm just going off my ears here, with only digital audio as reference, but I'm going to stand by my position.
     
    jcsk8 likes this.
  5. taypeng

    taypeng Senior Member

    Messages:
    515
    Likes Received:
    101
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2007
    you're welcome...imo the pickups do sound warm but retain the 'bite' and clarity..the cleans are amazing, almost strat-like and it goes from clean to distorted with a turn of the vol knob. i think that is why PAFs are so desirable...edit: i forgot to mention... unreal sustain and harmonics as well

    the thing about amps affecting the tone, it could work both ways. we think PAFs sound trebly but could it actually be, that the treble turned up on the amp? :lol: im just speaking from pure speculation and ignorance so dont shoot me if im wrong
     
    gibsonguitar1988 likes this.
  6. gibsonguitar1988

    gibsonguitar1988 Senior Member

    Messages:
    11,652
    Likes Received:
    9,447
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2008
    Very interesting. I myself do not like the piercing treble. It's the opposite of what I look for in a pickup. IMO a PAF (and we all have different opinions on what we hear) is not too dark but definitely nowhere near as bright as that Larry Corsa video. It's a thick sound but one that has a good amount of bite to it as mentioned by the above poster. It's a fat, full sound. I myself look for darker pickups with some meat/chunk to them but that have that stinging bite when I dig in on the high strings. I like a thick, somewhat chunky sound on the low strings as I play a lot of barre chord/power chord rhythm stuff as well as lead.

    The number one thing I look for in a vintage style humbucker is BALANCE. Not too dark/clotty and not too bright/piercing. A balanced pickup is what I'm after. I want a pickup that won't be full on bright all the time or dark/muddy all the time. I want one that responds to what I do. If I'm hitting some barre chords I want it fat, full, and chunky. If I'm playing some lead, I want a biting tone that is not too harsh but enough to cut through the mix and be heard with some "sting" to it on the bridge pickup. That's for the bridge pickup. The neck pickup should be creamy, warm, and very liquid-y but not muddy. Perfect for rolling back and getting that Cream woman tone but also able to get a clearer liquid Santana-esque lead tone with the tone up. Just my .02c though.
     
  7. SD Pickups

    SD Pickups Senior Member

    Messages:
    260
    Likes Received:
    108
    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2010
    The Larry Corsa video ARE real PAF's, a pair of the most famous PAF's in the world, and sorry but they ARE that bright ;-) Peter Green and Gary Moore did incredible recordings on that guitar, YouTube is full of them; don't forget that Corsa is playing alot in the middle position which is out of phase in case you didn't know, thats why I said pay attention to the last few seconds where you can hear the bridge and neck pickup and how bright they are. Out of phase middle position is always very bright and nasal sounding, Peter Green did cool things with it but I find it annoying after a short while '-)

    I personally don't make "vintage style humbuckers," I am making reproduction PAF pickups, every detail of the design and metallurgy you find in real PAF's is what I am duplicating, 9 years of reverse engineering. "Vintage style humbuckers" are fine but you don't get real PAF qualities in them that are accurate, due to hand winding suppression of the resonant peak, and use of offshore designed parts etc. etc.. I guess thats the distinction I am trying to show here by posting real PAF videos and pointing out what those characteristics are, that may not be obvious to average players. My focus is making reissue Les Pauls sound truly like they did if they were real vintage guitars. But yes, PAF's can deliver piercing screaming bridge solos, several of my generation customers attended original Led Zeppelin concerts and told me Page's tones were often very piercing. You get a hint of this in Peter Green videos on YouTube but those videos have massive amounts of treble missing or EQ'd out, in one video you can even hear just before the band launches into high volume playing that the treble suddenly disappears, maybe from some kind of auto levels or compression but its obvious the EQ was controlled to omit loud treble audio.

    So, a few things to point out---yes PAF's have a kind of warmth to them for sure, they're not just balls out trebly, no way. They are this magical mix of chimey, metallic, almost single coil tones, with a real vocal sounding warmth, but no mud, no shrillness, notes don't get lost in eachother, you can hear all the notes in chords and bridge and neck are loaded with edgy harmonics. You clearly hear the pick hitting the strings on every note, this is classic PAF. The other big thing you hear in two of these videos is the amazingly chirpy middle position tone, you never hear anything like that out of hand wound style coils, you just can't get that unless you machine wind. Even with as much as I know about PAF's and vintage materials technologies I can't nail 100% that kind of super chirpy middle tone in both these videos. The reason is steel making was different back then and some of it has to do with a weird characteristic of vintage plain enamel magnet wire. Neither can be 100% reproduced. Still I can get a lots of chirp, the less hot pickups will give you more of that, good example is when Page's bridge PAF died and he replaced it with a low wound TTop. TTops are much brighter so it boosted his middle chirp alot. His bridge was one of the more dark PAF's I've heard, the TTop he used to advantage.

    Here's another video of vintage Custom LP, lots of chime in these pickups, amazing crystalline chirpy middle tones, some real magic sounds:
    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFAo-tFDRb4]YouTube - ‪1959 Gibson Les Paul Custom "Black Beauty" # 9 0468‬‏[/ame]
     
  8. gibsonguitar1988

    gibsonguitar1988 Senior Member

    Messages:
    11,652
    Likes Received:
    9,447
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2008
    I meant PAF reproduction, but to me a vintage humbucker IS a PAF, LOL. Also, I realize those are PAFs in the PG/GM guitar but I'm just saying my favorite tones to come out of a PAF were nowhere near that bright. I'm not a fan of the out of phase stuff either but that's just me. I could give you a list of things to listen to that are played on PAFs that have the dark tone I'm talking about. And yes, they are studio tracks (other than a couple random live videos). But that is the tone I want. I want my pickups to sound like those recordings. Regardless of how it's mic'ed, that's what I want them to sound like. Those tones are ingrained in my brain. Those are the tones that I go for. Call the pickups whatever you like (if PAF isn't accurate enough since it's a "studio recording") but that's what I'm after. I can assure you the PAF clones I have were not made overseas. :laugh2: They were made by a guy no longer winding anymore. Great pups. They sound like the PAF's in an old friend of mine's 1960 Les Paul Custom that he once kindly let me play for awhile.

    I just prefer the darker, somewhat hotter than normal '59 PAFs I've heard. YMMV.
     
    BrazenPicker likes this.
  9. SD Pickups

    SD Pickups Senior Member

    Messages:
    260
    Likes Received:
    108
    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2010
    Don't worry I'm not irritated just trying to point things out. :naughty: Well a vintage humbucker is also a TTop, an early Patent, and a Filtertron (they were the first humbuckers, not Gibsons). They all sound way different.

    The majority of 59 Les Pauls were very bright, the 3 a friend owns are all that way, though one is a tad warmer. Majority of them were in the 7K range. The hot wound were rare and still they had plenty of bite even at 9K. They happened in '59 and also '60.

    Studio recordings just aren't real. Dan Spitz told me he spent alot of time with Eddie Kramer who told him tons of stories; Dan told me anything you hear on an album is total fabrication, its not what you would hear had you been standing in the room at the time. If you put the mic right straight into the voice coil you get a really bright tone, put it off way to the side and you get a real dark warm tone, the pickups are neither. Did you know Stairway to Heaven was recorded direct, and it was a Rickenbacker guitar? Andy Johns just let that out in the new Guitar Player Magazine, he recorded it! Magic and mirrors is what recording is.

    What I'v found from my work is that if you get the technical dettails of the pickup right you can get any of those tones, but you have to have the basic pickup design done totally accurately; which means I make most of my own parts 'cause you can't buy them anywhere.

    No, pickups weren't wound overseas but the parts probably were made there, the parts determine the tonal design of the pickup, there's no way to make it sound different than its design, it will always sound like the offshore pickup design it is, and everyone uses this stuff. Many like those tones, I used to MAKE those things and found it very limiting and boring after 2 years of it. You'd be amazed how whacked the parts everyone buys are compared to whats in PAF's. But it really boils down to do you want a real PAF REPLICA that sounds like the real deal, I mean one that has been truly researched, lab analyzed, dissected, inspected, suspected, not corrected, not rejected, nor infected ? ;-> Most don't. If you like these videos and know that all the classic recordings you love came from guitars exactly like these, then give me a shout. I'm going to be doing my last PAF ultimate set and will have a video pretty soon, ironing out the last details now, this will be my most expensive set, probably 8 hours or more to build one set, will have all the best PAF characteristics very highly tuned, nice clear neck with some good throatiness but not overdone, clear vowelly bridge with classic chirp and bite. My best most accurate covers. They'll be like all the best of all my 7 sets rolled into one final explosion. Priced for doctors and lawyers :cool:Stay tuned, pickers....
     
  10. gibsonguitar1988

    gibsonguitar1988 Senior Member

    Messages:
    11,652
    Likes Received:
    9,447
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2008
    No problem. :) :wave:
     
  11. polifemo

    polifemo Senior Member

    Messages:
    426
    Likes Received:
    93
    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2010
  12. SD Pickups

    SD Pickups Senior Member

    Messages:
    260
    Likes Received:
    108
    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2010
    He said it was some kind of Marshall amp, you could message him and find out.
     
  13. SD Pickups

    SD Pickups Senior Member

    Messages:
    260
    Likes Received:
    108
    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2010
    Here's an example of how to make a great guitar sound.....ugh....yuk......

    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnlmEuWmNzI]YouTube - ‪Doug plays a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard‬‏[/ame]
     
  14. MrRhoads

    MrRhoads Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,641
    Likes Received:
    239
    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2008
    Gary does always sound like Gary but there's a difference to the sound wether he's playing with some of his EMG equipped guitar or passive Gibon Les Pauls.
    I think this video will show you that there's a difference and besides when Gary and BB get going, just wow:shock: perfect unison:applause:
    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUaevnP1LLg]YouTube - ‪BB King with Gary Moore RIP - The Thrill Is Gone - Hi Quality‬‏[/ame]
     
  15. Matt_J

    Matt_J Member

    Messages:
    66
    Likes Received:
    10
    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010


    I used to be involved in talking about all this. All i have to say, after Dave wound me a pair of pickups my words ran out...I no longer care to describe the sound, i just play. It's MY sound now and i love it, through any amp at every level.

    The magic is in the way chords blend, the choking of the whole soundspectrum on the single notes if you really dig in when playing live, the way it grows fuller when you're playing very softl. i could go on and on, but i'll go back to playing now :) It's a feel thing.
     
    JLH and Quill like this.
  16. MrRhoads

    MrRhoads Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,641
    Likes Received:
    239
    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2008
    That's fantastic when you hear yourself.
    I have yet to try Daves pickups but otherwise i've only found 1 winder (haven't tried all winders) who winds such pickups that let you hear yourself rather than coloring the sound
     
  17. gtr-tek

    gtr-tek Fumble Fingers Premium Member

    Messages:
    2,573
    Likes Received:
    838
    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2010
    Great evidence posted by all here. I have a set of the VL59JP and they are all over this sound. Chirp, quack, bite and bark all describe what you can get out of these. Warm and glassy tones can be had as well by adjusting the tone controls on the guitar. Like Dave said, you can't put back what ain't there to start with. A muddy pup will always be just that. You can eq and tweak your rig all day but the clarity won't be there. The notes will blur together and the tone will be squishy at best. Been there, done that.

    I've also been a recording engineer and I know for a fact that professional recordings frequently do have so much sonic conditioning that the true character of a guitar can be, and usually is heavily modified. Back in the tape days we had to compress signals to keep from clipping or saturating the tape, which sounded VERY ugly when saturated! Retaining dynamics was very difficult and tone had to be shaped to attain a good mix so instruments had their own space and could be distinguished from one another. Digital recording is more forgiving in some ways but the mics and recording chain still color things. You gotta be in the room with the guitar and amp to truly know how it sounds. I can hear cues in the vids of what the pups sound like unless the amp is distorting or has a ton of effects on it (or both). The ONLY way to evaluate pups for yourself is to plug into a good amp directly without effects. Once you know what you have, then you can shape your sound accordingly.

    Dave, your work and workmanship are outstanding! Thanks for posting this and everything! :applause:
     
  18. Quill

    Quill Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,548
    Likes Received:
    3,035
    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Interesting - very similar to my experience. I have found that the pickups I've tried - actually, all parts and pieces - when I am able to describe them, it is when they are not quite right. As the sound and feel gets closer to what I want, to what I imagine it could be, then it gets harder.

    And I once made a good living describing things. I'm not sure, but I don't think I lack the facility. I wonder sometimes if it has to do with coming close to something perfect.

    I am quite certain that if we could say, perfectly, in words, what music is, we would not need music; the words alone would satisfy us.

    At any rate - I have a set of Dave's pickups, too - and I find them just too hard to describe, I don't want to do it, and maybe I can't do it.

    I haven't seen anyone else describe them with any degree of reliability, either - not even Dave! :laugh2: They are quite beyond all that.
     
  19. Quill

    Quill Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,548
    Likes Received:
    3,035
    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Here's a pretty cool video - great player, bit different approach, casual recording done in a shop - with a bit of punch and crunch dialed in, and with a different kind of articulation - the sound is still there!

    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miqWZ2bzEfY&feature=related]YouTube - ‪1959 Gibson Les Paul (Amazing!) / Fretted Americana / Soren Andersen / Vintage&RareTV‬‏[/ame]
     
  20. Jakeislove

    Jakeislove Senior Member

    Messages:
    13,401
    Likes Received:
    9,738
    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2010
    Dave,

    I appreciate your expertise, wisdom and insights but is seems like you trying to talk common sense and science-y stuff about a highly emotional subject. :)

    IMO, most people are trying to buy back a moment of their musical life with gear purchases and no amount of logic will discourage them or stop the replica train from rolling.

    I believe/hope you get my odd sense of humor and know this isn't an attempt to read like a dick.

    Jake
     

Share This Page