A small rant about Gibson pickups from a Gibson fan

namaqua

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I wonder if it could be that in the 50s most people that owned a Gibson LP or 335 were professional musicians and that's the tone they needed to be heard over a drummer or piano player. Bearing in mind there was no such thing as a PA system then. I would suspect that the ratio of Pro player owners to the well-off amateur owners is weighted in the favour of pro's back in those days.
It wasn't until those pro players of the 50s had been treading the boards for 10 years and becoming stars that everyone who could afford one wanted to emulate them. At which point the tone could have been geared towards the home player.

Food for thought or talking shite?
 

mudface

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Armstrong *did* make plug'n'play pickups back in the '70s. Didn't really generate any interest except as an oddity. There's a theory that the tone woods of the guitar need to compliment the pickup and vice versa. That if the resonant peak of the guitar doesn't compliment the pickups, there will be a problem, and if you get pickups that do, you personally might find you aren't happy with that tone. Or worst case, the guitar is firewood, and the finest PAFs made won't make it sound worth a damn.

As some other poster said, there's so much that goes into tone... And it changes with every venue. I'm not sure the plug'n'play thing will ever really work. Think of how much tweaking of your rig would be required every time you did...

The Armstrong electric was Plexiglass,....he kinda took the wood out of the equation....sort of,...the neck was wood.

Slip a new pup in anytime you wanted.

But they had to be Ampeg Armstrong pups... that's the catch there.

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Pageburst

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Bottom line you have a nice collection of LPs. Pickup tone ultimately is subjective. Also some pickups are just synergistic in certain guitars and less so in others.

I found magic with a pair of Rewinds in one of my Brazilians. When I tried a second pair of Rewinds in my other Brazilian it wasn’t quite as magical.

Same with my OX4s. Tried 3 pair in my TH R9 and one set was absolute magic.

The great thing about pickup mods is that they are relatively easy to install and reversible. If you have the cash and inclination there are a wide range of boutique pickups with different winds, dc resistance, etc. You may just find exactly what you are looking for. That said I wouldn’t rule out the latest Custombuckers as the ones I tried are phenomenal.

I currently own 5 - 2018 R9 Braz, 2018 68 Reissue, 2020 R0, 2016 Memphis ‘63 335, 2021 Murphy Lab 64 335. I’ve owned others and have sold them.

Here is my issue with the custombuckers. To my ears, There is an upper midrange / treble spike on the bridge pickup that I can’t dial out. This spike is more pronounced at higher volumes and with some gain - ie in a typical band setting.

In general I like my tone to have a little less treble spike and more low midrange. I guess this is what Mat from Gibson was talking about when he mentioned the emphasis on low mids. The WCR godwood bridge delivers exactly the tone I think I want to hear. A lot of players like that pickup. The Throbak SLE 101+ delivers this tone in my 335 too.

Maybe I haven’t played enough actual golden age guitars so perhaps Gibson has nailed that PAF tone with their custombuckers and that tone just isnt for me. In that case this thread wasted some time so I apologize for that. But my instinct (and I guess we disagree here, although you likely have more experience than I) is that what Gibson produces is not in the ballpark. I played an actual 60 at CME and to my ears the current historic Les Paul tone with custombuckers isn’t close. The Wolferone Marshallheads might be the closest I’ve heard firsthand in a Les Paul to that tone. I just happen to like a slightly hotter pickup, voiced the same way.
 

Spector303

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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 have to agree with you, especially about the 490 & 498 pups they sound great in my 2010 LP Custom but you'd have to listen to them with MY ears!
 

Deadletteroffice

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I'm not a fan of Custombuckers. I do think the 57s are good in the right guitar, and I do like Burstbuckers. I've owned maybe a dozen guitars with Custombuckers and never got along with them. I find them honky, flubby and frankly, just pretty weird. I just ordered a Made To Measure and I knew I'd prefer Burstbuckers but figured I'd be an idiot to not order the Custombuckers so I can at least sell them, assuming the guitar is a keeper. The last guitar I bought with them I was determined to figure out why I didn't like them. I spent several days adjusting the PU heights and then the pole heights and was finally able to get them to a place where I at least didn't hate them. But seriously, for Gibson's flagship PU, it should not take that much effort. The output per string was so off it was ridiculous.
 

TrackerDan

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I had a 1954 Gibson Les Paul Gold Top and the pickups were inferior to a modern P90. I am on my 3rd set of modern P90's . The only reason this is a third is because I was able to acquire an R8. So I sold my RI TV yellow special. I just bought a faded white special because of that and the P90's in it sound remarkably soulful, warm and sustaining as ever..
 

Wheelr

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That is WHOLE!! reason why people love them in the studio and on the stage. They cut through the mix/noise.
 

jrkhav

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Fair point...there's a lot that goes into it. Like others mentioned, one of the biggest factors is they try to produce pickups that are generic and have widespread appeal. "Generic" isn't in a bad sense of course; the stock pickups need to be able to hit a variety of different guitarists' tones at least capably, which the stock ones do pretty well. BBs, 57 classics, Custombuckers, P90s, they're all decent pickups. Plus, they have to do this all at a reasonable cost to them and have them all done in a set time frame.

When it comes to getting a more specific sound/output, for specificity we have all the botique builders. It takes longer to have them made, they obviously cost more, but you get that extra 10% or so from OX4, Wizz, Throbak, etc.
 

JMP

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The 57 Classics I’ve had in my 3 reissues sound better than any Norlin humbucker or aftermarket humbucker that I’ve owned.

I remember people on message boards calling them “ice-picky” and how terrible they were and that your guitar will sound like poop unless you put *something* different in there…

After putting the 57 Classic back in there- THAT was it.

Too many people in too much of a hurry to mod guitars- people planning to mod just for the sake of modding a new guitar….
I totally agree with your sentiments here.
 

AlbinB

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l have 57 classics in two of my Les Paul's ( Signature T, Korean Epiphone Standard ). I quite like them, adding them to the Epiphone was an effective upgrade. My other Les Paul's have Burstbucker 1 and 2 and 2 and 3 set ups. I think they sound great. I have not felt a desire to change. I am certain that some of the aftermarket products are excellent choices as well. I think it comes down to what works for you, the tone you are trying to achieve.
 

hartwell

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Gibson is hit or miss with some pickups for me but so are Fender PU's for that matter. I've swapped pickups around a lot and I do find that, to my ears, some pickups sound better in some guitars that others. For example, my Les Paul Custom+ came with 61's standard - they were okay but not great for my setup. I had a set of JP custom shop winds from SD in my SG that I swapped with the LP 61s and lo and behold they sound great in the LP - more full-bodied, they "grunt" more and they react great when I dig in. The big surprise was how much better the 61's sounded in the SG - they really opened up in this guitar. So I think its trial and error sometimes - its a tone I am looking for in my head, not whether the pickup is a PAF or a Gibson or Bare Knuckle, etc.

FWIW - My favourite set is a set I rolled myself six years ago using alnico III magnets - 3 pu set for my 62 SG/Les Paul Custom. Underwound with no potting. No good for high gain but sweet and clear with a nice OD.

Rock on, good people!
 

efstop

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I've only changed pickups a few times. Replaced the no name bucker in my Squier with a P-90, the P-90s in my Tribute for minis, and the goofy, half a humbucker slug coil in my Melody Maker for a lipstick tube. Everything else is good. I need a home for a genuine Fender CuNiFe WRHB. Maybe replace the P-90 in the Junior Tribute DC...?
 

rfrizz

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l have 57 classics in two of my Les Paul's ( Signature T, Korean Epiphone Standard ). I quite like them, adding them to the Epiphone was an effective upgrade. My other Les Paul's have Burstbucker 1 and 2 and 2 and 3 set ups. I think they sound great. I have not felt a desire to change. I am certain that some of the aftermarket products are excellent choices as well. I think it comes down to what works for you, the tone you are trying to achieve.

Yes, It always comes down to that. When I see people trying to objectively argue about a subjective subject, I am reminded of idiots who argue about their favorite football teams. Then put my palm on my forehead...
 

rfrizz

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I don't know about aging, but it is correct that a few pickup manufacturers, like Seymour Duncan take modern AlNiCo magnets and for certain models, re-magnetize them so that they test closer to the strength of the magnets of the late '50s.

This is probably part of what the article was discussing. It didn't get into any technical details. When I read the article, I wondered if any of the pup makers heated the magnets to approxomate the effects of 10-15 years of ageing.
 

Rumy

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Different courses for different horses, I suppoose. I like Gibson Burstbuckers and Burstbucker Pros. They can be bright but respond well to the tone controls and to the amp. Sure, some guys don't like to fuss and that's fine. In that case get a pickup that is dialed in to a preferred tone. I like the 498, also. It works well with a JCM 800. I read good things about the 57 classics but do not recall trying them. Of course, I dig Seymour Duncan and my standard has the Greenies. Glad to have choices. Also glad I got better at adjusting my guitar setup and the eq of my rig, which has saved me from buying something else. What a difference lowering the treble pickup side or dialing an eq pedal makes.
 

Rumy

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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.
Good insight. Scale certainly comes into play.
 

indravayu

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Truth! PAF is my preference, but think of the variety in music we have just from Fender single coils. Other than the acoustic and pedal steel parts, all of the guitar work on Led Zeppelin I used a Telecaster.

Almost all - Page said he used a Flying V for “You Shook Me.”
 

zdoggie

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well part of the problem is les himself took one of the winders from EP when they moved to nashville and somehow it wound up in thro baks hands thro bak had every piece of a 59 bucker analized mag metal slugs frame metal and everything else that goes in to reproducing a faithful 58 bucker I have a couple of their 101's and have not heard
anyother repro that can beat their tone Im like mo I think they make a suitable instrument ,and that where it stops
their pickups are in the shitter as far as I'm concerned yeah I think mat a douch too

zdog
 

ehb

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Is it the pickup selection on their own merit...or is it the marriage of that particular pickup set and that particular guitar...
If the marriage is less than stellar, is it the pickups or guitar? Or could it be both?

Are ten different identical model Lesters off the same line, built on the same day with same pickups and paint, gonna sound identical? Nawt.
 

crstine

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Hi Folks,

Thought I'd jump in the discussion and share my thoughts. Lot of interesting commentary for sure. I believe a lot of tone, feel, and taste is all subjective, don't you think? I'm an old guy playing forever (and glad to be still playing). I do like Les Paul guitars. I currently own a '59 conversion with real '59 PAFs, a 1983 pre-historic with Tim Shaw's, a 2008 R9 with WCR pickups, and recently purchased a 2000 PRS Singlecut McCarty guitar which I installed standard Lollar Imperial humbuckers in that one. And I rewired it with 1950's Les Paul wiring and 22uf paper in oil caps. Please don't flame me for that; I just like doing stuff like that. :) All the guitars I own have a different voice and I love the way they all sound! I would argue a lot of the tone comes out of one's fingers (heart and soul) foremost. I believe our amps and guitars are just an extension of what is coming out of our souls, don't you think? Over the years I have listened to recordings of me playing my guitars on different recordings and sometimes I can't tell which guitar I am playing (because I sound like me - doesn't matter which Les Paul I am playing)... One last thing to share about tone; I also own a 2011 D'Angelico Excel DC (double cut-away semi hollow body guitar). I removed the Kent Armstrong pickups and installed a set of Lollar Imperials in that guitar. You know, some would say the Gibson 335 (and/or guitars like that) are known as the "Les Paul killer"... What beautiful tone that guitar has for playing in the style I play in from the 1970's (Allman Bros, Cream, Rock Blues, Santana, etc).... The common joke among guitar players I have shared with over the years; we have been chasing after the perfect tone for decades right? It's been a fun experience for me. I like all my pickup's tone especially when I plug into my Mesa Boogie 5/25 Plus Express. :) Yes some pickups do sound better then others, but we have the choice to change them out to something that pleases our ears, that's the nice part I like...
 

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