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Old February 7th, 2013, 02:37 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Struggling with pickup choice

I have a Fender 52 Reissue tele. Love it. I have had it for 3 years. I've always found the bridge pickup to be a little too ice pickey and the neck to be a little muddy. Don't get me wrong, the pickups aren't bad. However, I want to experiment a little and see if I can coax a little more out of the guitar. I am looking at Don Mare pickups, Bare Knuckle and Lollar.

What am I have after...

A little more articulation
More twang in the bridge
More definition in the neck
A little more character/personality

I have a Les Paul that I used for rock stuff. I use the tele for more modern country and lighter rock. I generally play clean. When I want dirt, I used pedals. But fairly selectively. Noting with too much gain.

I have two amps. One is a Swart STR. Love it. I don't use pedals with it (I may plug in a timmy at times to push the amp a little for bedroom playing). My second amp--and my main amp--is a blackface-style amp by Phaez.

When I go to Mare, Lollar, and Bare Knuckle sites I freeze...too many choices. I have no idea which direction to go in.

I am in no rush...as I said, I don't hate the stock pickups. But it would be nice to try something new.

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Old February 7th, 2013, 03:17 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Why not contact all three makers directly and ask their advice? Go with the response you like the best.

You can't lose with any of those 3 manufacturers, IMO.
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Old February 7th, 2013, 03:19 PM   #3 (permalink)
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If they still sell Fender Nocaster pickups those are a good bet.
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Old February 7th, 2013, 03:33 PM   #4 (permalink)
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If they still sell Fender Nocaster pickups those are a good bet.
How are they different from the vintage pickups that are in my 52?
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Old February 7th, 2013, 04:21 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Fender Custom Shop Nocaster pups rawk! They are fantastic and seem like a no-brainer. Buy 'em, install 'em, and play 'em. Get back to playing.
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Old February 7th, 2013, 04:51 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Take a look at Bill Lawrence's Keystones as well as the Nocasters. In comparison they're a little sweeter and more transparent with a very clear bell like neck. They sound incredible wired in series too and I'd say they're a little more versatile than my Nocasters without giving up the vintage tonality and twang. Just a shade different but still in that direction.
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Old February 7th, 2013, 05:14 PM   #7 (permalink)
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^that sounds like a really good choice. Keystones and all Wilde options are guaranteed perfectly wound for a balanced and clear pickup. Very affordable, too. A pickup like that will allow the true character of the guitar to be heard allowing upper mids and highs to pass unencumbered for excellent articulation and twang. As with any pickup, make sure you use a low enough capacitance cable for those highs to pass.
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Old February 7th, 2013, 05:26 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Interesting that you want more twang in your bridge, but find your current one too bright. I guess it's a matter of defining the terms. To me, the 'twangiest' sound is the lower wound pickups that end up with scooped mids, a BIG bottom and LOTS of high - that plucky bright sound - especially plucked near the saddles. To me, when you start overwinding pickups and introducing a hotter signal with more mids and less highs, you start heading towards a thicker sound that is great, but technically less inherently twangy, moreso even depending on how far you go. The furtherst being a mid heavy wind with less highs - suited for great rock sounds, but not exactly for twang. I also believe any pickup can be twangy, - as it has a lot to do with the right hand, but for arguement's, sake, I'm just talking about comparing what I hear built into pickups.

I personally LOVE A3 mag, slightly hotter winds of the Nocaster variety, Fred Stuart Balckguards, SD Broadcaster - they all have that rawer thing going. They rock. They can still provide plenty of twang, however I'd never call them 'twangier' than the Custom Shops in your 52.

For neck pickups, there are plenty of brighter/clearer options. The Nocaster neck comes to mind. As does the Dimarzio Twang King neck (very bright). I find these clearer sounding options to start to have a strat meets tele quality to them.

It's often a bit of work to balance the two I find. When your bridge loses too much brightness and you neck gets too clear, the middle position can be less magical (I love using the middle position). I find it best to hunt down that bridge that is just warm and thick enough, but not too much - and a neck that is more bright and clear, but not too bright, so that I can still have that magical middle position that is big and bassy, yet bright chimey and very present.

For me, on ONE guitar, it's a Fred Stuart Bridge mixed with a Twisted Tele neck. The brightest, most clearest neck I've tried was easily the Twang King, followed closely by the Dimarzio true velvet and Nocaster - which were very very similar. The twisted Tele is in that same camp but mine has a bit more output which matched with the Fred Stuart, which is surprisingly loud.

And sometimes just rolling off a bit of tone perfect and simplest way to eliminate icepick. Because of that, for me, the bridge pickup hunt is more about the bass/mids/treble balance and less about just getting rid of icepick. -The latter will also vary with amp choice and also speaker choice within any given amp.
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Old February 7th, 2013, 11:02 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Alex W View Post
If they still sell Fender Nocaster pickups those are a good bet.
^ This
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Old February 7th, 2013, 11:26 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Just installed Twang King bridge pup in my MIM. Classic twang baby! Really snappy and love the clear lows. Keeps getting better as I raise the pup. I may move to Bakersfield
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Old February 8th, 2013, 12:01 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Define twang...if you want phat twang, go with a hotter bridge pickup but be careful not to go too hot on the neck or it can get duller sounding especially with a chrome cover. I can actually get a version of fat "twang" out my Les Pauls, especially my old Deluxe with minibuckers.

And do you live by the tone control? I usually set up my amp to give me clarity on the neck pickup and use the tone control to trim down the middle position and more to trim down the icepick on the bridge. The criteria I use is that if the amp is aimed at my head, the treble should not hurt my ears, ever. Because that means it is hurting the audience's ears too.

I do have a pair of recent Nocasters, and both pickups are around 7.1k. They are great sounding pickups but the bridge can get trebly. I also have a Muddy Waters tele with a bridge pickup that is a lot like a US vintage '52 pickup but with staggered poles. These are great pickups but both need the tone control at all times. And I have a Duncan Broadcaster in yet another tele--it has more midrange growl and is not as icepicky but still needs the tone knob.

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Old February 8th, 2013, 09:27 AM   #12 (permalink)
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A lot depends on the guitar itself. I have two Teles both with the same pups. Overwound bridge (9.5k) with A3 magnets and "blues special type tall-boy style" hotter neck pups with no covers.
The bridges both twang, but one guitar is definitely "brighter" than the other. Same with the neck pups which are very stratty. Not quite as bright as the DiMarzio Twang King neck but close with a lot more punch.

Having said that, I tried several variations of low output pups in the bridges. All had A5 mags and were wound around 6.7 to 7.3k. They definitely twanged but no matter what pup I tried, the high strings were too thin sounding for my taste. I like the richer tone I get from my current bridge pups and they have a lot more sustain and ring on the high strings.
Now I have two guitars which are very similar in sound, but one is definitely twangier and brighter than the other and it's my guitar of choice for country.
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Old February 8th, 2013, 04:42 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Mick Brierley - brierleyguitarpickups.com.au, I think.

My Tele sounds just beautiful whether it's the bridge or neck pickup. No ice-pick, no mud, just wonderful sounds. I went with his Kingman signature set but he'll wind you whatever you're asking for.

Plus he's a really nice guy to deal with and will make sure that you like your pickups after the deal is done. Definitely worth checking out man.
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Old February 9th, 2013, 03:23 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian blaut View Post

I personally LOVE A3 mag, slightly hotter winds of the Nocaster variety, Fred Stuart Balckguards, SD Broadcaster - they all have that rawer thing going. They rock. They can still provide plenty of twang, however I'd never call them 'twangier' than the Custom Shops in your 52.
Love the SD Broadcaster set, I think they would be all the rage if they weren't so reasonably priced.

All kidding aside, it may be my favorite tele bridge pickup ever.
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Old February 9th, 2013, 01:11 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Someone has a set of Keystones for sale in the free classified section here.

I don't think you can get any better than those no matter what the price.
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Old February 9th, 2013, 03:19 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Quote:
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Why not contact all three makers directly and ask their advice? Go with the response you like the best.

You can't lose with any of those 3 manufacturers, IMO.
+1. I did this with Don Mare and couldn't be happier.
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Old February 9th, 2013, 06:13 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Bluemoon:

Just call Don Mare. His 2324 "Nancy" pickups in my partscaster are probably the best sounding tele set I've heard. Great warmth and depth in both p/us. The neck alone is so good, that's what I use more often than not. But the bridge is maybe even better. No ice pick at all. Not sure he makes this set by that name now. I think he's calling it his "Donocaster" set. He does use that same neck p/u I have in several different sets.
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Old February 9th, 2013, 09:24 PM   #18 (permalink)
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I am a fan of the Bare Knuckle pickups. I suggest you pose your question directly to Tim there by writing him at: sales@bareknucklepickups.co.uk

I got the Blackguard Tele set -- '55 stagger -- for a relic build. Let me tell you that the bridge in that thing sounds almost like a piano .. clear and sharp and man-o-man what a pickup! The neck is however, more melodic like the '52 OVs, so that may not be what you're after. But tell Tim what you wrote here ... my bet is he'll give you a straight shot to what you're looking for.

Plus, how cool is it to have a set of Bare Knuckles?
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