The now 5 essential Les Paul pickups

rich85

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Now that the Studio models don’t hurt my neck I am rebuilding my Les Paul collection with Les Paul’s that weigh around 8 pounds. Anyway it got me thinking about the essential Les Paul tones I love and the pickups associated:

1. Low/medium output PAF set with Alnico V
2. Medium/High output PAF set with Alnico II
3. T Tops.
4. Alnico V P90’s
5. Dimarzio Super Distortion

To me those are the 5 essential tones that cover so many different styles. Over the years and swapping between Gibson, Lollar and Seymour Duncan low output PAF’s I simply didn’t find the results worth it. I would have been better off with that money into a new guitar with totally different pickups. Just my personal point of view. They all sounded good just slightly different,”better” is totally subjective.

Like to hear other opinions!
 
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Bobby Mahogany

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You're gonna get flamed by the Holy Grail Crusaders!
;)

Your list is a list of "Classic's".
"The Ultimate Poor Man's Guide to tone" !

And I have recommended all of these pickups to countless people.
And I have witnessed countless people being happy with these pickups.

For myself, the SD 59's are the shit.
I have had them on different guitars and they brought out that guitar's tone
to a new level every time. They also let the guitar sing what it had to sing.
They don't color the tone to a point that any guitar would sound the same.

A few models I have heard them in:

Gibson Les Paul. (Mine)
Gibson SG. (Mine)
Epiphone Les Paul.
Epiphone Sheraton.
Epiphone WildCat.
Epiphone Dot.
Ibanez shredders.
Ibanez AS2000.
Ibanez AS80.
Ibanez Semi-Hollow.

I have nothing against people seeking the subtle difference in a high end boutique pickup
but it's possible to sound good for more "ordinary money".
Good point you made.
:thumb:
 

rich85

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You're gonna get flamed by the Holy Grail Crusaders!
;)


Haha I guess it’s up to each player. I have no doubt some players try those expensive sets and can’t stand the SD 59 pickups ever again. For me.....eh......I think we are pretty spoilt that SD 59, Slash, Burstbuckers etc are the starting point in many ways.
 

wildhawk1

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Credit to Hecubus for this pic he posted earlier. :slash:

1763b58ac45129647cb6563160703504--les-paul-guitars-gibson-les-paul.jpg


Stay tuned for next week's four essential polishing cloths.
 

Deftone

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A bunch of years back I picked up a 1970s Gibson guitar with the classic Dimarzio SD/PAF setup only reversed, it had the Dimarzio PAF at the bridge and the Dimarzio SD at the neck. Holy smokes the SD sounded good as a neck pickup. And I'm not actually that much of a neck pickup player, I tend towards hard gain from the bridge. But it was an eye opener for me, the first time in 30+ years of playing that I fell in love with a neck pickup. For solos it is incredible.

I might have to try that.
 

CerebralGasket

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P-90 at the neck for cleans.
Humbucker at the bridge for hi gain use.
 

jbash

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Your list is pretty much my list- A set of A2s, A5s, and the Super D/PAF combo. Never had that many great Les Pauls at any given time to do it, unortunately.

I can do without the P90s (heresy, I know). I'd rather have minis.

I've finally got one great Les Paul that is doing well with stock A2s. I just need the lotto win for the minis, A5s and Dimarzios.
 

rich85

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Your list is pretty much my list- A set of A2s, A5s, and the Super D/PAF combo. Never had that many great Les Pauls at any given time to do it, unortunately.

I can do without the P90s (heresy, I know). I'd rather have minis.

I've finally got one great Les Paul that is doing well with stock A2s. I just need the lotto win for the minis, A5s and Dimarzios.

Honestly the new Epiphone Studios or used Standard 50’s and 60’s models are worth a look. The new Studio has the A5 set stock so I’m more than happy. Have an 2005 Gibson Studio with the Seymour Slash Set and will leave the Epiphone Studio stock. The pickups are A5 magnet 7.6 and 8.3k from memory. The coil split on the neck pickup is actually amazing.
 

ElChoad

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My Heritage H-150 Standard came factory with SD 59s in it. I wasn't impressed. I got a set of unpotted Wolfetone Legends with A2 magnets and dropped those in it. The set was custom hand wound and only set me back $210. I paid more for my BKP Black Dogs I have in my LP Goldtop.
 

rich85

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My Heritage H-150 Standard came factory with SD 59s in it. I wasn't impressed. I got a set of unpotted Wolfetone Legends with A2 magnets and dropped those in it. The set was custom hand wound and only set me back $210. I paid more for my BKP Black Dogs I have in my LP Goldtop.

Well that’s an absolute bargain. I will look into Wolfetone now. Anything non bootcamp series from BKP seems to get expensive quick. You prefer the Wolfetone or BKP set?
 

ElChoad

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Well that’s an absolute bargain. I will look into Wolfetone now. Anything non bootcamp series from BKP seems to get expensive quick. You prefer the Wolfetone or BKP set?
They are two different animals. I enjoy both of them, but use them differently. The BKPs are similar to the SD Whole Lotta Humbuckers, a hotter wind with potting. They sound great through my Orange AD30. The Legends shine through my Supro Black Magick Reverb. It just depends what mood I'm in. Check Wolfe out. He will talk to you and steer you in the direction you want to go. Super cool guy.
 

cooljuk

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1. Low/medium output PAF set with Alnico V
2. Medium/High output PAF set with Alnico II
3. Alnico V P90’s
4. Dimarzio Super Distortion and neck PAF

You'd get a much wider range of sounds and cover more ground if you swapped your A5 P-90s for early 50s A3 P-90s.

If your goal is to cover the most broad range of sounds, or even just to cover the most prominent classic sounds, you'd also do better to swap your first listing of A5 PAFs for later A5 T-Tops.

For the last one, I guess it's a common mod but I'd say the mini humbuckers Gibson used for quite a long time in heavy production would be more common and widely used. Just depends what you are after, though.
 

rich85

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You'd get a much wider range of sounds and cover more ground if you swapped your A5 P-90s for early 50s A3 P-90s.

If your goal is to cover the most broad range of sounds, or even just to cover the most prominent classic sounds, you'd also do better to swap your first listing of A5 PAFs for later A5 T-Tops.

For the last one, I guess it's a common mod but I'd say the mini humbuckers Gibson used for quite a long time in heavy production would be more common and widely used. Just depends what you are after, though.

I am honestly searching everywhere for proper T Top replicas but I can’t find any that properly list the Poly wire and Balanced coils as specs. Wolfetone doesn’t ship to Australia at the moment either.

But I have never heard of using A3 magnets in P90’s. That sounds like a cheap mod that will get some awesome results! Cheers!
 

Brek

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I would tend to agree, I bought 3 sets of aftermarket PAFs, all claiming to be the 'grail' and to be honest i really cannot say if they are better or worse than the custom buckers the guitar came with.

I played the R0 today, and it sounded perfect, with the orginal custom buckers in it. I never felt that way before playing it.

I could feel the notes decay, through my fingers, and could manipulate it with vibrato, extending the decay into bloom, it was very tactile feeling, like i could feel how my touch affected the note played, and I surprised myself with the control I had over the sound the guitar made.

I have read about this interaction as a feature of the les paul, but never really got/understood it until today.

I understand that this may not have anything to do with what set of pickups are in the guitar. which makes me think the OP could be right, buying a guitar and then chasing something is like trying to guess the combination of a safe, so in conclusion either the guitar is a musical instrument or it is not. heady stuff lol.
 

cooljuk

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I am honestly searching everywhere for proper T Top replicas but I can’t find any that properly list the Poly wire and Balanced coils as specs. Wolfetone doesn’t ship to Australia at the moment either.

But I have never heard of using A3 magnets in P90’s. That sounds like a cheap mod that will get some awesome results! Cheers!

I can't imagine that I'm the only one making proper T-Top replicas?!

Surely others are, as well. Brandonwound did, but he's running Gibson's pickup shop now so I'm not sure if that's changed.

...and original patent number decal T-Tops are still attainable. Not as pricey or sought after as real PAFs.


Nearly every P-90 I've examined, going back even before P-90s to the Gibson pickups of similar design in the 1940s, all the way up through the end of the 1950s has A3s. Forget what modern pickup builders and Gibson are calling "vintage" that's what's in those old pickups. ...of course, the wire, steels, etc. were also different, and most modern A3s are awful and unlike originals, so you won't get that sound from putting modern A3s into 60s P-90s and certainly not modern P-90s. ....but a fine replica is a fine replica and some have spent the time and bucks to get all that stuff just absolutely bonkers crazy close.
 

cooljuk

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I would tend to agree, I bought 3 sets of aftermarket PAFs, all claiming to be the 'grail' and to be honest i really cannot say if they are better or worse than the custom buckers the guitar came with.

What pickups and what rig/amp/speakers?

Custombuckers are not terribly consistent. I had two calls back to back today...

(call 1)
"These Custombuckers are just too thin and bright and fall apart when I roll back"

(call 2, the moment I hung up)
"The Custombuckers in my Murphy are just so dark and muddy, the neck is unusable. Rolling back helps a little but still just mud."

Most tend on be in the first category, though. If your rig has a lot of it's own character, lots of gain, lots of compression, a sharp EQ, or speakers any other part that really dominates the sound and shapes anything through it to sound like the pedal/amp/speakers pickups that are thinner and lower output are going to sound distinctly different by being more responsive and dynamic through a rig like that. On the other hand, they are limited to just that. A more dynamic rig, with a wider frequency response that lets more overall detail come through will be far more forgiving with the guitar/pickups up front and you can put in something with more character and richness without loosing that clarity, control interaction, dynamic range, and touch responsiveness.

Not sure if that's your case now, but I do remember you going through a bunch of amps and pedals a while back. At one point, I think you had a wall of a half dozen or so speakers in different cabs, ya? Maybe not anymore? Maybe still useful to someone, in any case. :thumb:
 

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