A small rant about Gibson pickups from a Gibson fan

modavis99

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I am a huge Gibson fan of Gibson guitars. Over the years, I have acquired three Les Pauls (R0, R9, 68 RI) and two 335s ('63 and '64). I have played lots of other brands, but I really like the feel, tone, look and history of the Les Paul and 335.

Here is my main complaint: I don't like Gibson pickups. I don't understand why Gibson cannot make a pickup that sounds as good as pickups made by smaller winders. The custombuckers and the '57 reissues sound kind of scooped and somewhat harsh to me. The MHS were better to my ears but they squealed at high volume. The burstbuckers and 498 sound harsh to me.

Throbak, WCR, Wizz, OX4, Wolfetone, etc. all seem to make great pickups. What is the barrier preventing Gibson from making better pickups? It should be embarrassing to Gibson that they cannot make a pickup as good as the pickups they made in the 50s and 60s. Why don't they hire a consultant to help them get close?

By the way, Gibson knows this. There is a recent interview with Mat Koehler in guitar.com (link here) where he says the following,

"Vintage PAFs are a lot darker and more midrange heavy than people think and if you loaded your guitar with a set of 1959 PAFs, most people probably wouldn’t prefer them. Gibson was sourcing Alnico IV in the late 1950s from a telephone company for humbuckers specifically, but we don’t know that much about the makeup of the magnets they got. For playing at home most people would prefer the sound of an alnico III pickup and not alnico IV."

“We should have owned the pickup market for Gibson-style pickups and we don’t. That’s an opportunity that we have been aware of all the time, but the time hasn’t been right. What I can say is that we are going to tell stories that have never been told, with never before seen blueprints and archives, and we will be making extremely historically accurate PAFs in the future.”
 

goldtop0

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That's why they make 'em the way they make 'em so that Throbak etc will prosper and likewise with Historic Makeovers and LPs etc.
One man's meat is another man's poison...........and so it goes, this stuff is always subjective.
 

rfrizz

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[snip]

"Vintage PAFs are a lot darker and more midrange heavy than people think and if you loaded your guitar with a set of 1959 PAFs, most people probably wouldn’t prefer them. Gibson was sourcing Alnico IV in the late 1950s from a telephone company for humbuckers specifically, but we don’t know that much about the makeup of the magnets they got. For playing at home most people would prefer the sound of an alnico III pickup and not alnico IV."

[snip]
Can they not obtain one and analyze it? I know magnets age, but do they age in a way which precludes this?
 

Shelkonnery

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I see where you’re coming from, but after market pickups have been a thing for almost 50 years now and it never seemed to decrease guitar sales. So why even bother?

I think we would be surprised with both how many of the albums we love were recorded with stock Gibson pickups and also how many weren’t.

People seem to really like the new Custombuckers and 61Ts, but people will blindly believe whatever gibberish comes out Agnesi/Gueikian’s mouths, so I’d be skeptical.
 

Torshalla

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I actually really love the Cusom Buckers I had in my Skinnerburst, 58 first std, Perry 59… they all were sounding differently too so there is a bunch of variation in custombuckers (purpusefully)
 

cybermgk

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I don't like Gibson pickups. I don't understand why Gibson cannot make a pickup that sounds as good as pickups made by smaller winders. The custombuckers and the '57 reissues sound kind of scooped and somewhat harsh to me. The MHS were better to my ears but they squealed at high volume. The burstbuckers and 498 sound harsh to me.
And you said Matt said:

""Vintage PAFs are a lot darker and more midrange heavy than people think and if you loaded your guitar with a set of 1959 PAFs, most people probably wouldn’t prefer them. Gibson was sourcing Alnico IV in the late 1950s from a telephone company for humbuckers specifically, but we don’t know that much about the makeup of the magnets they got. For playing at home most people would prefer the sound of an alnico III pickup and not alnico IV." "

Kind of answers your question.

Seems to me, Gibson makes their pickups to meet amajority of players likes. That just doesn't coincide with what YOU personally prefer. It isn't that they don't make good pickups. Any objective analysis wouls agree they are good pickups. They just aren't what YOU like.
 

rfrizz

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my suggestion to them - just pay Jon Gundry or Jim Wagner to make their pickups. Or at least hire them as consultants. To me, it doesn’t matter what materials they use, they just have to get the tone right
Yep. This is the only thing which matters!

But if they duplicate the materials and production techniques, aren't they going to get the same tone?
 

truckermde

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I'm just gonna go out on a limb here, and say I actually like several Gibson pickups.

I LOVE their P90s.

The 490/498 set rocks! Cleans up pretty well, too, with a turn of the vol knob.

57 Classic/+ set sound great thru my rigs.

I can even dig the 500s and Dirty Fingers, too.

I will admit that I have my midrange cranked, so I grasp the fact that Gibsons tend to be more scooped than I prefer, but I believe they're responding to customer preference.

Sounds like they're about to respond to customer preference again, and go more PAFish...
 

modavis99

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I'm just gonna go out on a limb here, and say I actually like several Gibson pickups.

I LOVE their P90s.

The 490/498 set rocks! Cleans up pretty well, too, with a turn of the vol knob.

57 Classic/+ set sound great thru my rigs.

I can even dig the 500s and Dirty Fingers, too.

I will admit that I have my midrange cranked, so I grasp the fact that Gibsons tend to be more scooped than I prefer, but I believe they're responding to customer preference.

Sounds like they're about to respond to customer preference again, and go more PAFish...
I agree I like the Gibson P90s a lot. I should have mentioned that.
 

modavis99

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Yep. This is the only thing which matters!

But if they duplicate the materials and production techniques, aren't they going to get the same tone?
I’d think so. But if the tone is wrong for whatever reason you’d want someone that has experience recreating the tone of a PAF to step in and fix things.
 

Tim Plains

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Same reason maybe why replica Les Pauls are better than Gibson - comparing small shop / boutique to mass produced is no comparison.

Didn't Gibson hire Tom Holmes to develop a pickup and that's what lead to 57 Classics?

Mass production has different requirements than low. If Gibson makes 10,000 Rs per year, then 20,000 pickups need to be ready to go out the door and they have to be cost effective for the company, whereas small winders make fewer and many are only wound when the order comes in, so you could say they have more time and can spend more time on your set.

I would wager that if Gibson went to independent winders like Throbak or OX4 and ordered a years worth of pickups: a) the winder wouldn't be able to handle it, and b) they would be crap.
 

rfrizz

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I see where you’re coming from, but after market pickups have been a thing for almost 50 years now and it never seemed to decrease guitar sales. So why even bother?
I’d think so. But if the tone is wrong for whatever reason you’d want someone that has experience recreating the tone of a PAF to step in and fix things.
This makes sense, but I don't know how much Gibson budgets for R&D. As Shelkonnery says, Gibson may not see this as cost effective, at least for stock pups.
 

rfrizz

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I would wager that if Gibson went to independent winders like Throbak or OX4 and ordered a years worth of pickups: a) the winder wouldn't be able to handle it, and b) they would be crap.
I concur with you on a), but I'm not sure about b). Assuming the independent could handle the order, I don't think they would want to risk tarnishing their brand.
 

framos

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IMO, what happens is that boutique winders are attemping to do their absolute best, and charge accordingly.

Gibson, as any other mass production company, is not aimed at building the absolute best guitar they can. They are balancing the cost/profit/sales etc... in order to define their product line.

Also keep in mind that a big company like Gibson needs to put way more on top of each dollar spent on producing a pickup than a garage boutique winder, in order to profit. This alone would make the cost almost prohibitive.

As an example, just think how long it took for real PIOs to find their way in ... let alone boutique-level pickups.
 

el84ster

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I think Gibson missed the boat decades ago and now it’s too late with so many great winders out there. The best Gibson could hope for would be to match Throbak etc. Bit all those options will still be out there. It’s too late for them to be head and shoulders above the rest any more, so why bother especially if most buyers seem to be fine with buying Gibson and upgrading or not.
 

Brek

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I think they are doing what they can within the demands of the customer base, for example if true pafs are dark sounding, thats not the sound we expect to hear, as the guitar sound we know will have been eq'd to sit in the mix.

So my take on it is, thats the sound they have built into their paf's. of course people who have been lucky enough to play or hear a '59 plugged into an amp will know that there is a marked difference in the sound of those pafs, hence the boutique market.
 


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