Simplicity -- I think my pickup rolling days are over

David Garner

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Long story distilled -- I have flipped pickups in my 93 Les Paul, costing myself a ton of money in the process, since I got it in 2014. The two that were truly outstanding were the Wolfetone Dr. Vintage set and the Custom Shop Pearly Gates set. I've used the stock 498t/490r set, the Dr. Vs, Antiquities, a JB/59 set (that one was really good), a 59/59 set, and they just weren't doing it for me. My other LP, a 2016 Trad, now has the Custom Shop Pearlies, and everything just paled by comparison.

I've been trying to avoid duplication of tones. I want the guitars to sound different. The JB/59 set has stuck for a while because they give me that. But I finally broke down and got another set of the Custom Shop Pearly Gates pickups, and a really cool thing happened.

The guitars sound different.

Not a lot different. But different enough that I can use them for varying purposes, and yet close enough that they can back each other up. The 93 weighs about a pound more and has significantly more balls than the 16. The 16 is sweeter, more harmonically complex. The bottom end on the 16 is a little less prominent and the mids are a little "sharper," more bite. The 93 is clearer, less "give" to the tone if that makes sense. And I have them set up nearly identical. I have the bridge tone on the 93 set a touch higher than on the 16. It's amazing.

I've always wondered why people outfit multiple guitars with the same pickups. I think I get it now.
 

AJK1

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Long story distilled -- I have flipped pickups in my 93 Les Paul, costing myself a ton of money in the process, since I got it in 2014. The two that were truly outstanding were the Wolfetone Dr. Vintage set and the Custom Shop Pearly Gates set. I've used the stock 498t/490r set, the Dr. Vs, Antiquities, a JB/59 set (that one was really good), a 59/59 set, and they just weren't doing it for me. My other LP, a 2016 Trad, now has the Custom Shop Pearlies, and everything just paled by comparison.

I've been trying to avoid duplication of tones. I want the guitars to sound different. The JB/59 set has stuck for a while because they give me that. But I finally broke down and got another set of the Custom Shop Pearly Gates pickups, and a really cool thing happened.

The guitars sound different.

Not a lot different. But different enough that I can use them for varying purposes, and yet close enough that they can back each other up. The 93 weighs about a pound more and has significantly more balls than the 16. The 16 is sweeter, more harmonically complex. The bottom end on the 16 is a little less prominent and the mids are a little "sharper," more bite. The 93 is clearer, less "give" to the tone if that makes sense. And I have them set up nearly identical. I have the bridge tone on the 93 set a touch higher than on the 16. It's amazing.

I've always wondered why people outfit multiple guitars with the same pickups. I think I get it now.
When you’re on a good thing, stick to it !
They are amazing pickups
 

jvin248

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.

Next time you have the two guitars next to each other opened on the bench ... measure and record the actual kohms of the pickups and pots, plus tone cap actual capacitance values. Then compare. Those can easily account for the slight differences or similarities. Write the numbers down for any future guitar builds.

Check pickup heights and screw pole heights. Write those numbers down too.

.
 

David Garner

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Next time you have the two guitars next to each other opened on the bench ... measure and record the actual kohms of the pickups and pots, plus tone cap actual capacitance values. Then compare. Those can easily account for the slight differences or similarities. Write the numbers down for any future guitar builds.

Check pickup heights and screw pole heights. Write those numbers down too.

.
I have the pickups set more to get a more consistent sound than consistent settings, so I honestly think that's baked into the pie here. Pole pieces are set roughly the same, though again a half turn here or there to equalize the tones.

One set is 8.5k bridge, 7.5k neck. The other is 8.52 bridge, 8.7-ish neck (that's the new one). I honestly think it's the wood and steel making the biggest difference. I'm sure I could get them closer, but I like where they are right now. Enough of a difference for me to notice, similar enough that most people won't. I haven't recorded with them yet but if I get a chance I might post them for comment.
 

Antigua

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Long story distilled -- I have flipped pickups in my 93 Les Paul, costing myself a ton of money in the process, since I got it in 2014. The two that were truly outstanding were the Wolfetone Dr. Vintage set and the Custom Shop Pearly Gates set. I've used the stock 498t/490r set, the Dr. Vs, Antiquities, a JB/59 set (that one was really good), a 59/59 set, and they just weren't doing it for me. My other LP, a 2016 Trad, now has the Custom Shop Pearlies, and everything just paled by comparison.

I've been trying to avoid duplication of tones. I want the guitars to sound different. The JB/59 set has stuck for a while because they give me that. But I finally broke down and got another set of the Custom Shop Pearly Gates pickups, and a really cool thing happened.

The guitars sound different.

Not a lot different. But different enough that I can use them for varying purposes, and yet close enough that they can back each other up. The 93 weighs about a pound more and has significantly more balls than the 16. The 16 is sweeter, more harmonically complex. The bottom end on the 16 is a little less prominent and the mids are a little "sharper," more bite. The 93 is clearer, less "give" to the tone if that makes sense. And I have them set up nearly identical. I have the bridge tone on the 93 set a touch higher than on the 16. It's amazing.

I've always wondered why people outfit multiple guitars with the same pickups. I think I get it now.
There seems to be a willingness to think that some things should cause a difference and that some things shouldn't. For example, I don't recall anyone ever saying "both guitars have the same sets of pickups, but I set them apart by keeping the pickups' height and tilt set differently", and yet I think everyone knows it makes a big difference, yet you see all the time "on this guitar I installed rough cast AlNiCo", or maybe another set from another company that has identical specs, which might well make less of a difference than the pickups' heights alone.

And of course, the guitars can sound fundamentally different, and there's a same thing going on there: people talk about maple caps versus veneers, or the finish, when it's actually the long, relatively thin guitar neck that is the least rigid part of the guitar, and causes the most dissipation of energy, making it more likely than not that the differing neck profile accounts for most of the difference from one Les Paul to the next, yet for some reason, it's one of the last things I see mentioned when people talk about factors affecting tone.
 

David Garner

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And of course, the guitars can sound fundamentally different, and there's a same thing going on there: people talk about maple caps versus veneers, or the finish, when it's actually the long, relatively thin guitar neck that is the least rigid part of the guitar, and causes the most dissipation of energy, making it more likely than not that the differing neck profile accounts for most of the difference from one Les Paul to the next, yet for some reason, it's one of the last things I see mentioned when people talk about factors affecting tone.
That could certainly be a factor here, though the neck profiles aren't all that different on these two guitars. The Trad is a hair wider, the Standard a hair thicker. I don't even notice the difference anymore. I'd wager the 1-pound difference in weight is accounting for a fair portion of the difference here, but I grant that's a hunch on my part. It just seems the heavier guitar has more punch to it, and the lighter guitar has more airiness to the tone.

I will say again, though, an audience would likely never know the difference, and it would almost certainly be hard to tell on a recording. I think when you put a microphone and post-production (either in a DAW or at the board) into the mix, all bets are off. You might hear a difference, but in a blind test I doubt you'd be able to determine which is which on any consistent basis.
 

Antigua

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That could certainly be a factor here, though the neck profiles aren't all that different on these two guitars. The Trad is a hair wider, the Standard a hair thicker. I don't even notice the difference anymore.
Slightly off topic, but I have a theory that I've never seen anyone talk about it, and it's that I think some necks might have the same profile, but still be more or less stiff than another neck. My evidence is that when I pick some guitars up by neck while the strings are still making sound, sometimes the pitch changes just from handling the guitar by the neck, while the body is unsupported, but other times the pitch is solid as a rock. That makes me think that even though the truss rod is keeping the neck straight in relation to the strings, some necks nevertheless flexes a lot easier than others. I have one cheap guitar from China, the neck is straight thanks to the truss rod, but nevertheless it's so delicate that just grabbing the neck with my hand changes the pitch of all the strings, and I can make it fret out just by torquing the neck with my fretting hand. My guess is that if neither neck had a truss rod at all, the neck that flexes more would also have a lot more bow for the same amount of string tension. Unfortunately, this is something that is difficult to quantify.
 
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ARandall

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^ Thats because you have a preserved 'living organism' called wood being used (although its in a state of infinitely slow decay in a guitar) with a wholly unique blank used every single time you make any instrument. And its a fairly well exposed topic that wood makes a difference for both tone and quality of structural support - if you look in the right place.
 

jcsk8

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Maybe people use the same pickup on different guitars because they are transparent. I love good transparent pickups, and even they are technically the same, on different guitars they will sound, ouf course different.
 

freefrog

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I've often done the game of musical chairs with guitar parts, pairing a neck with a different body, a trem with a different Strat or different pickups with a guitar until I liked what I was hearing.

I think that I've never got the same tone from a same set of PU's mounted in different guitars. Even with the same pots. Sometimes the difference was impressive.

BUT the "personality" of each pickup was still there in each guitar, to my humble ears...

For example, the set of boutique pickups that I've won here in a shootout still sounds like itself in one of my guitars. The tone that I had recognized in the blind test remains under my fingers and to my ears.


A game that I find more difficult but also more interesting than "musical chairs" is to tweak the specs of PU's until two guitars of different models with different pickups sound virtually identical. That's not easy: it typically requires dozens of attempts.
But in some cases it works really well: it's possible to obtain a really similar tone from a Flying V and a LP whose tones were initially totally different.


As a footnote and for the record, here is something well known for decades by seasoned luthiers and serious guitar techs when it comes to tonal variations in "same" instruments (albeit it's ALSO a variable parm susceptible to be enhanced by or drown in other variable specs):

 
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Dryz

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A lot of guys just like buying pickups. Like a woman buying shoes, not really for any purpose but to just get another pair. I settled on a pickup that works with my guitar and stopped there to focus on making music. That's the most enjoyable and worthwhile part of the whole process.
 


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