A small rant about Gibson pickups from a Gibson fan

jaxondi

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A couple of years ago I enrolled in a pickup winding class at Roberto Venn School of Luthiery taught by the man himself, Jason Lollar. It was a great class. After I wound my humbucking pickup I took it to Jason and asked him "Hey, when do we add the mojo?" He grabbed the pickup out of my hand, held it up to his nose and pretended to blow his nose on the pickup. "There's your mojo right there" he said. I laughed and asked him "Okay, but why are boutique pickups better?" (Personally, I'm a huge fan of Jim Wagner's Darkburst and Fillmore pickups). Jason's answer was this: "Boutique winders buy better quality parts - better magnets, better bobbins, better wire and they take the time to wrap a better pickup. Major manufacturers are always trying to cut costs. An experienced boutique winder will always produce a better pickup". So that's Jason's take on it. I have to add however, I do like the stock pickups in my '88 custom LP and my SG Standard. Maybe the guitar would sound "better" if I replaced them, but the '88 sounds like the Mick Ronson sound and the SG sounds fine as it is. So it's all a matter of personal taste.
 

Bobbo9091

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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.”

Get an EQ
 

GAS'er

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I’ve tried many many pickups over the years and 57 classics are easily my favorite. Love en split too.
 

Lee Phillips

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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.”
I have a blue sunburst 335 13067727 and very honestly my pick-ups that are stock sound fabulous and every bit what a 335 should sound like. Perhaps your amp is the problem, or the guitar itself is not properly set up . It has a very full and rich sound with a lot of overtones. I use Gibson brite wire stings that I bought in bulk to change often and play through a Ceriatone Overdrive special and a cab of two Eminence 10" Red Coat speakers . If you are not familiar with the Ceriatone is the closest thing to a Dumble without paying $30,000.
 

USTTRM

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Just to ad to the subject my own thoughts, as 'blokes' we like to fiddle with stuff, even when we don't really know what we are trying to achieve. I have been so guilty of that with many hobbies.

I think that the thing I'm slowly starting to realise is that most of what we read via the internet on any given subject is mostly repeated hearsay and 'lore' repeated without reference.

its cool of one wants to try a boutique pickup to get a specific sound. As long as one understands the variability of wood and magnets. I have tried a few different types of pickups on my guitars, mostly cannot hear much difference either way. only time i have really noticed a change is with a Q pickup set (didn't like at all, very harsh sounding, which was odd as they were supposedly alnico 4) and a couple of T-tops which i liked the sound of.
I too have finally learned the lesson that you can mod your way out of a good guitar.
I have played my share of HBs and swapping used to be a given with my Gibson guitars but honestly I rarely found anything that soul shattering above the stock pups. I think the BB2&3 are excellent, YMMV.
 

Yamaha R1

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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.”

Yes, and that why I have Seymour Duncan 59s in the neck and bridge of my Les Paul!
 

martin H

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A couple of years ago I enrolled in a pickup winding class at Roberto Venn School of Luthiery taught by the man himself, Jason Lollar. It was a great class. After I wound my humbucking pickup I took it to Jason and asked him "Hey, when do we add the mojo?" He grabbed the pickup out of my hand, held it up to his nose and pretended to blow his nose on the pickup. "There's your mojo right there" he said. I laughed and asked him "Okay, but why are boutique pickups better?" (Personally, I'm a huge fan of Jim Wagner's Darkburst and Fillmore pickups). Jason's answer was this: "Boutique winders buy better quality parts - better magnets, better bobbins, better wire and they take the time to wrap a better pickup. Major manufacturers are always trying to cut costs. An experienced boutique winder will always produce a better pickup". So that's Jason's take on it. I have to add however, I do like the stock pickups in my '88 custom LP and my SG Standard. Maybe the guitar would sound "better" if I replaced them, but the '88 sounds like the Mick Ronson sound and the SG sounds fine as it is. So it's all a matter of personal taste.

The only bit of that i disagree with is the bit about "wrapping a better pickup." Assuming he is talking about the physical act of winding, this is a purely mechanical process. A CNC winder can competently reproduce the movements, tensions etc. of a human winding a pickup. To argue that the result could be substantially different if done by hand implies that no two hand-wound pick -ups sound alike because of random variations. this is the opposite of a good product to me.
 

Wise Guy

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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.”
It's all subjective really. Me personally I haven't found a better set than the 496R/500T for what I do.
 

Em7

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There is a lot of voodoo that is pawned off as fact in the guitar world. A magnet has no sound. A magnet's only purpose in a guitar pickup is to provide a magnetic field in which the strings can cut magnetic lines of force, which are then induced into the pickup's coil(s). The stronger the magnetic field, the greater the output from the pickup. What makes a pickup dark is the self-capacitance of the coil, and that is a function of insulation thickness and how the turns of wire are laid down on the bobbin. A pickup where the turns of wire are laid down in perfect rows is going to be darker than a scatter-wound pickup wound with the same wire because it has a greater self-capacitance.

A pickup is part of an RLC (resistance, inductance, capacitance) circuit. The level of the generated signal is set by a pickup's inductance and the strength and shape of its magnetic field. A pickup's frequency response is set by its inductance and self-capacitance. The place where a pickup's resistance factors into the equation is in its inductance to resistance ratio, which is known as its quality factor (q-factor). The larger the q-factor, the sharper the frequency response drops off around its resonant peak. The lower the q-factor, the more even the frequency response of a pickup circuit. That is why increasing the size of a volume pot makes a pickup sound brighter. Increasing size of the volume pot does not actually increase the amount higher frequencies produced by the pickup circuit. It just lowers the amplitude of the resonant peak (the frequency at which a pickup is loudest), which results in the resonant peak being less dominant in the output.
 
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ehb

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'Drag' the lines of flux....
 

ARandall

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^ Making the assumption that we are talking about a completed pickup, then the magnet will affect the sound.

People do try and say 'it doesn't have a sound' as an escape clause. I mean the thing is wire doesn't have a sound.....no single component will make a sound - without every other component being there. But thats hardly the point is it.
 

mudface

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^ Making the assumption that we are talking about a completed pickup, then the magnet will affect the sound.

People do try and say 'it doesn't have a sound' as an escape clause. I mean the thing is wire doesn't have a sound.....no single component will make a sound - without every other component being there. But thats hardly the point is it.

If you hung a magnet from a string and struck it with something like a drum stick it will make a sound..... that is simple physics too.... again that’s hardly the point too.....

Pay me no mind..... just being an ass.
:rofl:
 

KStopper65

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It is simple physics. Are you an engineer?
No, but I'm studying to be one.
I also know from experience magnet swapping affects your tone
 
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ARandall

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I'm sensing we have the return of one of our 'pickup specs/readings are everything' tragics.
 

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