Very best pickups you've ever heard or played.

freefrog

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Yeah mate, hard to believe, but those reside in my 2015 Traditional, replaced the useless Gibson '59s.
The second best surprise were the stock pups in my 1995 Orville. Mindblowing.
Last not least Bill Lawrence L500s from 1984

In 57 years fiddling with pickups, '58 PAFs, Shaws ...you name it, I had them. All I can say is there is always only ONE specific guitar that boosts or gets boosted by a particular pickup. You can only try and find the match. And it sure is no matter of price nor elaborate make.
Often enough I had to take an overwound coil, reduce the windings and, after several trial runs arrive at the tone I wanted. Ahhh, and matching the coils of two hambuckers for phase reverse is another story altogether...

I agree with the idea of ONE optimal set of pickups per guitar. That's my experience as well (and it was already my feeling in the early 80’s).

I don't see the origin of magnetic transducers as a criterium of choice. Made in China: why not? My friend luthier had a last series of guitars made in China under his name before to get retired and they were as good as their respect of the specs required.

Now...

1)Chinese pickups can be pretty bad too and typically, the only way to realize it is to discover the actual specs of a set already bought - specs being sometimes very far from those advertised: I've already got humbuckers meant to host A5 and whose mags were in fact the usual cheapo ceramic bars.

2)Humbly, respectfully, peacefully but firmly, I don't agree at all with a bunch of relatively recent and incredibly vocal posts, claiming that measured specs are the only things to trust.

A pickup can exhibit exactly the resistance and inductance of a P.A.F. and sound noticeably different - as well as pretty bad, because the sound of a pickup doesn't depend only on its resistance / inductance.

Granted,, it's possible to measure or calculate ALSO things like resonant peaks with their Q factor, stray capacitance, magnetic field... In fact, such things are done here with lab apparels for almost two decades and I've the related archived data at disposal, as well as the results of other tests (regarding ADSR and so on).

The problem IMHO is to MATCH not only some specs but the TONE of an existing pickup felt as gorgeous sounding - tone depending on the complex interaction between LRC and magnetic specs among others and this overall interaction isn't easy to reproduce.. It's absolutely possible IME to try honestly and carefully to copy a winding, a precise Gauss level, the details of a threaded baseplate, a set of machined keeper bars/ screw poles / slugs and... to end with something sonically different from the pickup modeled. That's where the experience of artisans counts and that’s why measured specs don't give the whole picture IMO/IME. At least if the tester swears by specs considered exclusively or separately instead of using his… ears too.


Incidentally, my favorite set of aftermarket pickups in a LP is a pair of P.A.F. replicas built partly with NOS materials. That’s how I’ve got this elusive tone in my number one LP personally. Most of my other aftermarket pickups (prestigious boutique models included) have been modified in some way in order to match the guitars hosting them.


FWIW - 2 cents of indifferent testimonial & opinion. YMMV.
 
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MiniB

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Tough call, but I kind of look at it like this.

The nicest Stratocaster I have ever played was a 1964 all-original owned and played nightly by a friend, through a '64 Fender Pro Reverb that I owned. Best way of describing what it was like to play it is 'effortless'.

Outside of that, with all the more recent/reissue/etc. Strats I've owned, through the same '65 Pro Reverb, with what must have been dozens of different pickups if not a hundred....none of them sounded as good as that original '64. In fact, I'm willing to bet that if I took the pickups from that '62 and put them in any of my guitars, it still wouldn't sound as good. I would also bet that that '64 would sound better than any of my Strats with any of the pickups that I tried in it.

I have a feeling much the same goes for Les Pauls. Not that it's pointless to try with anything other than vintage, but if the guitar has really got it going on for you. plugged and unplugged, it'll probably translate through a lot of different pickups that are similar in construction/approach.

Also, I don't remember ever having a guitar that had something that I didn't really like plugged in, that was fixed with pickups. Improved or worsened to varying degrees, yeah. But not bad-guitar-becomes-good-guitar, at least not within the range of what I got that guitar for. Always ends up with selling it.

ETA: Check that, I did have a couple Les Pauls that were rather harsh plugged in with factory pickups, that were markedly improved with a set of Antiquities or the like.
 
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OldBenKenobi

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My experience is limited, but right now my favorites are the combo of SD APH-2 in the bridge and APH-1 in the neck. The APH-2 (Slash model) has a lot of balls and the APH-1 is just so sweet.
 

jwinger

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Part of me wishes it wasn't true as the prices are ridiculous for some wire and a magnet, but have to say, original PAFs have been a notable cut above in my experience, for my tastes. It's not night and day, and for many they may not necessarily be 'better', but they are consistently different. And yes, I've a/b compared in the same guitar to some top end boutiques. I got very excited about the OTPG when I first got them as initial impressions were that he may just have nailed it. That said, somehow I found myself picking up the guitar with the old pickups more, despite the fact the two guitars the respective pairs were in sounded very similar accoustically. Go figure.

There are some great pickups being made today, but I've not yet played one with the exceptional treble, clarity and immediacy of a good old one. The strange contradiction is that the brutal honesty and transparency of the pafs and the reams of treble on tap actually puts so much of the tone in your own hands. As I said, for many that may not be better...they can be utterly punishing on any bad playing, but utterly rewarding when you get it right. Perhaps that's why they are so addictive to play...
 
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Stowburst

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Tone is subjective, I had original 59 PAF that has massive topend.. I made my own neck to match it and the middle tone was best I herd, pure Spanky. Jwinger like it so much I brought them off me there and then..

Too bright for me haha
 

jwinger

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Tone is subjective, I had original 59 PAF that has massive topend.. I made my own neck to match it and the middle tone was best I herd, pure Spanky. Jwinger like it so much I brought them off me there and then..

Too bright for me haha
Love top end! And have to say the OX4 rewound PAF/PAT (not sure which it is) in the neck sounds absolutely fantastic also
 
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ezra1

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For me WCR Darkburst in a 1978 Tokai LS-80 and Custombuckers in a 2013 R9
 

bluefrog

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WCR Crossroad neck and GW bridge,
Sheptone tribute in a ES335
OX4 Hotduane in a Traditional LP
also SD59B from 80ties
 

BigJim

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Dunno, I've played a pile of PAF types now, ThroBak SLE 101s are the ones that "stuck". I know that each PAF is different and unique, but the 101 sounds closest to the real deal PAFs I have played over the years.

I know they are a bit pricy, but I found a few sets used that were reasonable.
 

your idol

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59 junior P90
WCR Crossroad/Godwood set
T Tops
Brandon wound T Tops and Pat stickers
Bareknuckle Black Dogs
 

Babushka

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Worst pickups :
I really cant stand Gibson pickups. I dont know why, but they always dissapoint me.

Best pickups:
Had a Bare Knuckle Black Dog in my les paul for a while. I thought i sounded thin and sterile. Moved it Into a Gibson 61RI SG and bang! Best pickups ive ever had. Its something about the SG adding some spicy sparkly highs, which really brought live to the Black Dog.

Otherwise i think the Seymour Duncan SH1b and a SH5 Custom is a killer combo.
 

Pwrmac7600

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So a while back I replied in this thread Suhr Aldrich. These pickups still reside in 90% of my guitars. But recently I tried out a friedman Triple D pick up and so far I am really digging it. It's along the same lines as a Suhr Aldrich in that it is a high output V5 magnet. But it is just a little more open sounding, and the high end isn't quite as harsh.
I also picked up a Friedman Classic+ and Classic For a Warmoth Tele Deluxe build I am doing, They are a little more like a V5 PAF. Lower output in the 8-9k range. Looking forward to trying those out once the body and neck arrive and I can start my build.
 

judson

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two sets of Lollar P90s and a set of Sigil 68 Bluesman

both were great upgrades to the stock gibsons on a 93 studio for the Sigils and one set of Lollars going in a 68 non reverse firebird and the other set is in a custom build...

very happy with both, a noticeable change for the better...
 

bassmannlespaulman

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For single coils

Ron Ellis 54s
Don mare super sports
Raw vintage RV50s
Slider 59s
Rocketfire total 60s

But this list can change because i got mccon-a-wah belltones, amber special 61s, kloppman st60, onamac windery 64s, mark Foley pre cbs 60s and JM rolph 63s to try out still.
 

5F6-A

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I agree with the idea of ONE optimal set of pickups per guitar. That's my experience as well (and it was already my feeling in the early 80’s).

I don't see the origin of magnetic transducers as a criterium of choice. Made in China: why not? My friend luthier had a last series of guitars made in China under his name before to get retired and they were as good as their respect of the specs required.

Now...

1)Chinese pickups can be pretty bad too and typically, the only way to realize it is to discover the actual specs of a set already bought - specs being sometimes very far from those advertised: I've already got humbuckers meant to host A5 and whose mags were in fact the usual cheapo ceramic bars.

2)Humbly, respectfully, peacefully but firmly, I don't agree at all with a bunch of relatively recent and incredibly vocal posts, claiming that measured specs are the only things to trust.

A pickup can exhibit exactly the resistance and inductance of a P.A.F. and sound noticeably different - as well as pretty bad, because the sound of a pickup doesn't depend only on its resistance / inductance.

Granted,, it's possible to measure or calculate ALSO things like resonant peaks with their Q factor, stray capacitance, magnetic field... In fact, such things are done here with lab apparels for almost two decades and I've the related archived data at disposal, as well as the results of other tests (regarding ADSR and so on).

The problem IMHO is to MATCH not only some specs but the TONE of an existing pickup felt as gorgeous sounding - tone depending on the complex interaction between LRC and magnetic specs among others and this overall interaction isn't easy to reproduce.. It's absolutely possible IME to try honestly and carefully to copy a winding, a precise Gauss level, the details of a threaded baseplate, a set of machined keeper bars/ screw poles / slugs and... to end with something sonically different from the pickup modeled. That's where the experience of artisans counts and that’s why measured specs don't give the whole picture IMO/IME. At least if the tester swears by specs considered exclusively or separately instead of using his… ears too.


Incidentally, my favorite set of aftermarket pickups in a LP is a pair of P.A.F. replicas built partly with NOS materials. That’s how I’ve got this elusive tone in my number one LP personally. Most of my other aftermarket pickups (prestigious boutique models included) have been modified in some way in order to match the guitars hosting them.


FWIW - 2 cents of indifferent testimonial & opinion. YMMV.
I totally agree
 

garybaldy

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I've just installed some Tonerider A4s in a LP style guitar.
They are truly awesome.
 

ehb

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Gib Minis & P90s
Gib old PAFs (some) & TTops (some)

A bud's custom build Lester (an oh my homey jeebus T. Shepard build) with DMZ PAF copies sounds glorious.

I've heard a bunch of different custom pickups and liked some and was indifferent on some....and cannot attribute everything I was indifferent about to the pickups as I didn't play/hear the guitar with several other pickups...... It's the entire system... A Gecko Lester with standard factory Gib pickups is the brightest and liveliest Lester I've run across... Pop a harmonic by just looking at it...

As guitars are all different, a specific pickup in one may not be optimum in another.. Didn't say good/bad...optimum... Too many variables in the build... A custom mad scientist winder can get you close to where you want to be....still the guitar itself is contributing to the final picture.... Played a Custom some years back with no Lester bite... Guy rolled several pickups through it.... My first thought was a big wood chipper....and fire....lots of fire....

I have utmost respect for custom winders, they know tons of stuff, little intricacies they've learned analyzing pickups and rebuilding/copying over years.... They do turn out great products... They can predict the final picture to an extent...

Pickup rolling can be a rabbit hole just like jug rolling in an amp.... A lot of variables in a guitar... Some Lesters are brighter than others, some darker.... All Lesters have that low growl but the bite can be at a different point in the spectrum. Pickups can accentuate or attenuate characteristics... The bite on two identical Lesters with identical factory pickups can be at different points... Same pickup in two supposedly identical Lesters can sound a bit different....

I would suggest reading what users have to say about the respective pickup brands and listen to a lot of vids... Become as informed as possible before slinging chippies... I always think One & Done before buying. You woodshed before gigging so woodshed (learn) before buying. Listen to as many different pickups as possible. Read what folks like and dislike about all you can... When you pick a winder, tell them what you are looking for and they can go from there...

One & Done is far cheaper in the long run.... If you go with some highly regarded custom pickups, I would suggest a highly regarded harness to go with em... Do it all at once. You'll be glad you did because ALL is "known good"....

A 426 Hemi is worthless if'n you can't get all that torque to the ground through all that's behind that monster engine....


One can attenuate the too much but one cannot create the ain't there....
from the tao of edro.


edro.
 

Liam

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Gib Minis & P90s
Gib old PAFs (some) & TTops (snip)
Long post, and all worth reading and paying attention to, thank you!

For me it's some Gibson P90s (mainly '57 or earlier), some Gibson PAFs (mainly '59 or earlier), OTPG anything (but all I have were made with my specific instructions, taste, and intended guitar in mind), Fuelie (as above, I still have a pair of Plain Jane without home, but that's not a bad place to be, wish the leads were long enough for a 335). Most recently, OX4 P90s, and they are just amazing.

Only thing I would add to ehb's excellent post is that I have never, ever, ever, heard anyone complain that their neck pickup wasn't muddy enough. I tend to go for the brighter sounding ones. A2 magnets in P90s can be on the dark side in the neck, but OX4 is definitely the place to go if you want that to get better.

Enjoying a potentially golden age!

Liam
 
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afranke

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i replied a few years ago to this thread and now i have changed my mind.
special lower wind rewind paf 1 and throbak w/ vintage wire are the best i have tried
and still own..
 


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