The PAF Clone Can Of Worms

jrkhav

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So recently I've been looking to change out the pickups in my LP along with the rewiring I was considering too. The dream pickup/tone would be that vintage PAF style crunch, think like Rush's first couple albums or the Zeppelin II tone. DiMarzio Super Distortions came stock in my LP, and those are pleasantly warm, but they shoot into high gain and get too strong too quickly for the tone I was looking to get. So after a few days of looking around, I've got it narrowed to a list of a few I'm considering:

SD Antiquities
SD Seth Lovers
Lindy Fralin Pure PAFs
Bare Knuckle The Mules
Lollar Imperials

I know this is like ripping open a huge rabbit hole into the vast array of options and the subjectivity that goes with it, but I am curious to hear opinions, stories, whatever experiences you've had. Which are your favorites out of these? Any others I should also be considering?
 

Kody

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I have owned Seth Lovers, Antiquities, Wolftone Legends, OX4’s, custom buckers and currently Wizz Premium clone.

The verdict......they all sound extremely similar but with different flavors...It’s like a fine steak my man.... it’s all the same in the end but everyone has their way of “cooking” it so to speak.

I will say the Wizz are my favorite so far.
 

Roxy13

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What's more fun is to have several guitars so you can try as many as you want lol!

I don't have any of the ones in your list, OP, so I can't give you any personal insight on any of them. I do have several makers versions though including 3 different sets of ReWinds, 2 sets of Geppettos, OX4 Low Winds, VIP Lovers, Maxon Dry Zs as well as other Maxon pickups, Sheptone Tributes, BK Stormy Mondays and others as well.
 

neoclassical

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I have owned Seth Lovers, Antiquities, Wolftone Legends, OX4’s, custom buckers and currently Wizz Premium clone.

The verdict......they all sound extremely similar but with different flavors...It’s like a fine steak my man.... it’s all the same in the end but everyone has their way of “cooking” it so to speak.

I will say the Wizz are my favorite so far.
Nicely put.
 

dodona

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I played diverse Gibsons, SD's, Bill Lawrence's, Rockingers, Ibenezes, Epiphones, <whatever>, and I concluded to let the pups of Gibsons untouched, and when to be replaced, than SD's.
 

Dazza

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Unfortunately despite the valid range of experiences and opinions here - amongst countless similar threads, there's simply no substitute to putting pickups in your guitar. I've swapped the very same sets through a variety of Historic and USA Les Pauls with results for better and worse. While it's true each winder/type has a particular character it is only part of the equation between pickups, hardware and natural wood resonance/vibration that gives the end result. Add in your own fingers, gear and ears and it then becomes an individual point of view. One players warm and syrupy is anothers' dark and muddy for eg.

Gathering intel is good but not like hearing things for yourself.


Daz
 

BigJim

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Too many options out there, most expensive doesn't mean most accurate or best tone.

In my experience, knowing what you want and don't want helps, but even that can be tough to determine.

I'd reach out to a few winders and talk about what you want, what you are after. James at Rewind Electric (@cooljuk) or Wolfe at Wolfetone are great at matching PAFs to your needs. I am working with James at Rewind on matching a set of his Creme Brûlées to a finicky Les Paul replica, he has been very patient with me!!
 

jrkhav

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Too many options out there, most expensive doesn't mean most accurate or best tone.

In my experience, knowing what you want and don't want helps, but even that can be tough to determine.

I'd reach out to a few winders and talk about what you want, what you are after. James at Rewind Electric (@cooljuk) or Wolfe at Wolfetone are great at matching PAFs to your needs. I am working with James at Rewind on matching a set of his Creme Brûlées to a finicky Les Paul replica, he has been very patient with me!!
Fair point, I'm starting to see what a mess this is when trying to decide between the minutiae of all of these pickups, especially considering I'm just hearing them online and not actually in my own guitar, with my amps, effects, etc.

That said I hadn't thought to actually get in contact with someone who does custom things, that's a great idea. Price won't be an issue as long as we're not hitting actual PAF level prices :rofl:
 

cooljuk

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DiMarzio Super Distortions came stock in my LP, and those are pleasantly warm...
Generally, when folks say a sound is "warm" they mean it's got less treble and leans towards more bass or mids.
Warmer = darker or less treble
Brighter = thinner or more treble

If that's in agreement with your impression of the Super Distortions, I'd throw the brakes on your plans as you'll find any of the pickups you mentioned or any PAF style pickups outright dark and muddy, by comparison. Super Distortions are actually quite clear and bright, with a wide frequency response, and an extremely tight feel.

If you're finding Super Distortions to be warm, or to lack treble, in your rig you're going to want to look at some other things before swapping pickups. Make sure you've got 500k pots in your guitar and let us know what the rest of your rig consists of, if that's actually the case.

If it's just a matter of different terminology for describing sound (which can often be difficult) than nevermind my post. I just saw that "pleasantly warm" comment as a bit of a flag to check on before moving on to other even warmer pickups.
 

jcsk8

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It´s like the original pafs. All different sounding in different guitars. The real paf properties I seek are: no wax pot (better harmonics), mids chime (that beautiful hollow almost nasal 3d tone) sweet sparkling highs, almost harsh (but never harsh) and tight bottom end.

I love mine Wolfetone Dr. V´s. But I have old MIJ pickups, and tried Seth Lovers and all them are very good.
You have to tune your amp/pedals and guitar tone for what you want, but if the pickup have those fundamentals you´re be good.

Led II and first Rush albuns are low gain stuff. Gain can be achieved in amp, pedals or pickups. As an old schoo lover (and as they were made) pickups were mid gain and the gain came from amps. All of them matters in your tone.
 

Brek

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I have just stuck the alnico 5 beano wizz bridge pickup in my R0, man, that treble, very bright sounding, which is what I was shooting for, might change wiring to modern though, we’ll see, it has made the jtm1c even bloody louder. Can dial in black dog metallic lead riff very easy with it. Will be back out shortly though as have a 78’ T-top on the way. I have got a spectral capture of the old pickup, building a little database of frequency responses of various paf clones.
 

AcVox

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To the OP.
Just take your time, you'll thank yourself down the line. The option that's right for you will still be around when your ready to make a decision.
 

jrkhav

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Generally, when folks say a sound is "warm" they mean it's got less treble and leans towards more bass or mids.
Warmer = darker or less treble
Brighter = thinner or more treble

If that's in agreement with your impression of the Super Distortions, I'd throw the brakes on your plans as you'll find any of the pickups you mentioned or any PAF style pickups outright dark and muddy, by comparison. Super Distortions are actually quite clear and bright, with a wide frequency response, and an extremely tight feel.

If you're finding Super Distortions to be warm, or to lack treble, in your rig you're going to want to look at some other things before swapping pickups. Make sure you've got 500k pots in your guitar and let us know what the rest of your rig consists of, if that's actually the case.

If it's just a matter of different terminology for describing sound (which can often be difficult) than nevermind my post. I just saw that "pleasantly warm" comment as a bit of a flag to check on before moving on to other even warmer pickups.
Hmmmm. Great point here; I didn't think of this. I find the Super Distortions bright enough, but they seem to cross too quickly into high gain territory, which I wouldn't really need. Would you say PAF pickups aren't as bright and clearly defined with individual notes as the Super Distortions? I played a couple vintage LPs with true stock PAFs that seemed to be more open and clear in the higher register. But like you mention, so many other factors play into that, the pots, the amp I used in the shop, etc.

So I checked my guitar (it's a 2012 Gibson USA Ace Frehley) and it does have the 500k pots. One issue may be my amp though; I'm currently away from home and have an Orange Crush Pro 60 at my apartment, my OR15 and bigger cab is back at my family home. I wonder if the amp is part of the issue in not getting those clearer, sparkling highs? I haven't tried this guitar on the OR15 yet but I'm quite curious now.
 

cooljuk

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Ya, most PAF-style pickups are not as bright, or tight as Super Distortions. They are going have lower actual output, mostly due to the much weaker AlNiCo magnets.

Openess, clarity, note separation, etc. are all case-by-case.

I've not, personally, played an Orange Crush Pro 60 but the modern Orange amps I've played are all about that big dark compressed sound. Very mushy and full sounding. Definitely a big blur of warm sound. Not like the 1970s ones I've heard. I'd actually think Super Distortions, being bright and tight, would be a good compliment to an amp with that sound. T-Tops might work, too, if you want something with less output, a warmer AlNiCo sound with a little compression, but still bright and tighter for something in that style of a pickup. ....but, again,I've not played your model, specifically.

Ultimately, I'd play some other amps before you decide to swap any pickups, especially if that's not even your main amp.
 

jrkhav

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The weaker output wouldn't be an issue because it'd likely be all I need out of the pickups as it is but the clarity is a whole different thing. I'm surprised to hear this but it's been so interesting to learn about here.

As for the Crush Pro 60, it's a fine amp, sounds pretty good and gets more than loud enough for my room or the occasional jamming with friends. The OR15 is nice also but I didn't wanna lug that up and the 212 cab as well; the portability of the Crush Pro 60 was part of the draw. But that's a pretty fair assessment of the sound; it's quite different from the old 70's models unfortunately, which is the sound we all have in mind when we think of vintage Orange! They really should make a vintage reissue line with the same circuitry as the originals.

Actually you've brought me to the idea of looking through some different amps now as well, I'm curious how this guitar/pickups will respond with different amps. It really is a never ending rabbit hole!
 

AcVox

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I'm aware that DiMarzio's Super Distortion is a high output ceramic magnet humbucker.
Based on other humbuckers with similar properties that I have to hand, I'm thinking this Super Distortion will be in the same ballpark.
So, approx 14-16 Kohms, induction is tricky but if approx 7.0 - 8.0 henries then based on others a resonant peak in the region of 6 - 6.5 kHz seems plausible.

If I recall the specs of Duncans Pearly Gates Bridge it has a resonant peak at 6.3KHz.(I think..)
Replace the alnico 2 magnet with a strong alnico 5 and the resonant peak should rise as induction falls, I'm speculating towards the 6.5 - 6.8 KHz range.

Is it a given that DiMarzio's Super Distortion will be brighter than some ceramic and alnico humbuckers ? Possibly, but as a rule?

Pickups are a complex set of variables and if I'm making mistakes let me know, I'm on a learning curve..
 

ErictheRed

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I'd just add that when most people say that they want PAFs, they don't often REALLY want a PAF! They want a slightly tweaked, modernized version of one, which is essentially what the vast majority of these boutique guys are offering, anyway.

For lower output, non-Gibson PAF style humbuckers, I've played Bare Knuckle Mules, Suhr Thornbuckers, and Suhr SSVs (which are maybe slightly modernish). My favorite are the Suhr SSVs, for what it's worth. The Thornbuckers were a little bit brighter and slightly thinner. The Mules weren't bad, warmer and maybe more "throaty" than the Thornbuckers, but a little bit underwhelming to me. The Thornbuckers were probably the most clear, followed by the SSV, then the Mules. I thought that the SSV combined pretty much the best aspects of the Thornbuckers (clarity) with some of the better, "vocal" quality of the Mules.

As an aside, I've tried a lot of Bare Knuckle pickups over the last year or so, and they really vary a ton depending on model. Which is good if you really know exactly what you want, but otherwise expensive to keep changing pickups to try to find exactly what you want! I think they have too many models to choose from, and probably do that on purpose to keep you trying a different one in a never-ending tone chase. Same with maybe Seymour Duncan, etc. I like that Suhr (I'm a big Suhr fan) has a relatively limited family of offerings, and within that family you just choose how hot you want your pickup to be.

Honestly I'd probably start with something like the SD Antiquities, as they're relatively cheap (and you can easily find them used). If those don't do what you want, focus in on what differences you're looking for and go from there.
 
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ErictheRed

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One last thing, the first things that I'd do before going down the pickup changing rabbit hole are 1) check pot/cap values, 2) try 50s wiring, and 3) properly adjust your pole pieces. See the stickied thread about that.
 


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