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BYO Blizzard of '59, Analysis and Review

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by Antigua Tele, Jul 17, 2017.

  1. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    http://www.byoguitar.com/Guitars/Blizzard-of-59----Vintage-Humbucker-Set__BYO-BLIZZARD-SET.aspx

    [​IMG]


    There's some evidence out there that BYO's pickups are closely related to, or possibly the same as, Tonerider's pickups. If that's true, this pickup would be the AlNiCo II Classic http://www.tonerider.com/alnico-ii . The DC resistance figures don't match precisely, but then again the DC resistance value I recorded didn't match the BYO specs, as these value can change with the ambient temperature. The Tonerider humbuckers have a stamped logo on the underside, while the BYO is blank.

    There is a very significant difference though; a set of Tonerider AlNiCo II Classics goes for about $130, and this nearly identical looking BYO set is going for only $80. The Toneriders were already a good deal to begin with, the BYO set is an even better deal than that, saving another $50, for what appears to be the same product.

    A set of Seymour Duncan '59's would cost $200, and the boutiques only go up from there, all for the same stuff: nickel silver cover, nickel silver base plate, wood spacer, minimal wax potting, a neck pickup wound to 7k, and bridge pickup would to 8k, vintage braded hookup wire.

    The only details I can find that is not apparently "vintage correct", aside from the short legs, is that this uses a light colored wire, as seen through the little peep hole in the bobbin in the picture below. Their site claims it's plain enamel:

    upload_2017-7-17_10-15-27.png

    .. but plain enamel is usually red. The clear copper color suggests that its poly or formvar insulated. I haven't seen any cause to believe the insulator matters, but it's like the wood spacer; it's the thought that counts.

    The other detail, as can be seen in the pic below, which is also seen in the Tonerider AlNiCo IV Classic, is an unnecessary oval shape home in the base plate, opposite the corner where the braided cloth hookup wire enters the underside. This also supports the idea that these are Tonerider OEM, but I don't know how these business arrangements work.

    So I would assume these are made in China. Most Eastern import humbuckers in this price range feature brass covers and base plates, use plastic spacers and plastic insulated hookup wire. This BYO set is by far the cheapest vintage correct-ish PAF set I've come across yet.

    To find ways in which this pickup is not vintage correct, aside from the magnet wire insulation and the extra hole, you have to look at whether the bobbins are butyrate or a modern poly- plastic, or the particular grade of low carbon steel used for the screws and pole pieces, things which are not apparent to the naked eye, require lab equipment to authenticate, and are exceedingly unlikely to alter the tone in any way that matters, even a little. Sounds good, looks good, even under the hood. To think that some vendors are selling largely the same thing for $500, and staying in business, should give pause for thought.



    Measurements:

    BYO Blizzard of '59

    Bridge
    - DC Resistance: 8.48K ohms
    - Measured L: 5.347H
    - Calculated C: 117pF (127 - 10)
    - Gauss: 250G screw, 200G slug

    Bridge unloaded: dV: 4.0dB f: 6.73kHz (black)
    Bridge loaded (200k & 470pF): dV: 1.2dB f: 2.52kHz (red)

    Neck
    - DC Resistance: 7.56K ohms
    - Measured L: 4.201H
    - Calculated C: 123pF (133 - 10)
    - Gauss: 250G screw, 200G slug

    Neck unloaded: dV: 3.9dB f: 6.89kHz (green)
    Neck loaded (200k & 470pF): dV: 1.6dB f: 2.93kHz (gray)


    Bode plot:

    [​IMG]

    These electrical values, DC resistance and inductance, make this set very close to the Seymour Duncan '59 set, which seems to be the ideal for a lot of PAF knock-offs. Assuming you don't have a brass cover, which these do not, there's nothing that makes the magnetic circuit, nor the RLC filtering any different from the '59 set. The magnets are AlNiCo 2, not AlNiCo 5, though. That increases the inductance and decreases the string pull a bit.

    The high capacitance is mostly due to the braided hookup wire. I measured one foot to result in about 75pF capacitance, so the actual capacitance of the pickups is the measured value, minus 75pF, give or take.


    Pics:


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]




     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
    CFFF likes this.

  2. kidmo

    kidmo Friend of Leo's

    May 25, 2008
    Funkytown
    Not sure how all that matters? How do they sound? Vintage correct? I could forgive a lot of transgressions for a great sounding pickup.
     
    emisilly likes this.

  3. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    I doesn't take much to make a decent sounding pickup. It's mostly a matter of not over or underwinding the coil, and not using highly conductive metals in the construction. It so happened that vintage PAFs were of good quality in both respects, but used to be that import pickups broke both of those rules ten times out of ten. But, increasingly the Chinese makers are paying attention to detail. I would assume that's thanks to Tonerider, who has a Chinese manufacturer making pickups with premium materials to exact specifications. The "vintage correct" Chinese pickups are still more costly than their typical cheaply made pickups, but the gap is closing. $40 for a fine, BYO PAF replica, $10 for a KAISH basement bargain, and about $25 for a Donlis, which falls in between the two.

    As for the stuff that doesn't matter so much, the wood spacer and braided wire, it's all about the satisfaction of having a guitar that looks like it was forgotten in a closet for sixty years, or one that is the same, in exacting detail, to the guitars heard on many famous classic rock records.
     
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  5. kidmo

    kidmo Friend of Leo's

    May 25, 2008
    Funkytown
    So what you're saying is, you're happy to get a "decent" sounding pickup for $40? Still haven't heard anything about how these sound and the one Youtube video I saw wasn't that great. I appreciate how well made they are but that doesn't mean that much to me. I'd rather have a PAF sounding pickup made out of Popsicle sticks and refrigerator magnets.
     
    emisilly likes this.

  6. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    By decent I mean great. It doesn't take much to make a great sounding pickup. These pickups do sound great.

    I can't tell you what to do, but you ought not trust YouTube demonstrations of pickups. You're not just hearing the pickup, you're also hearing a particular amp and speaker, a particular play style, and a response curve of the microphone, as well as acoustic damping and reflection effects of the recording environment. It would be misleading to suggest that you're really "hearing the pickups".
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
    Iago and CFFF like this.

  7. chris m.

    chris m. Friend of Leo's

    You have to forgive Antigua Tele-- sometimes he thinks we "get it" when he posts performance specs. I.e., if the pickup is made of the correct materials and dimensions where it matters, has the same resistance, output in henries, etc., then that means it will sound the same (within the ability of humans to differentiate) as a baseline PAF. In other words, if you love PAF x you will also love PAF y built to the same specs.

    Of course there is also a potential subtle effect on the winding approach itself- regular winding vs. scatter winding...not sure how much that matters at the end of the day.

    Sometimes he will post a frequency spectrum showing the pickup's performance that goes well below and above the range of human hearing-- both with the load of the rest of the circuit as well as naked, and again compared to a reference pickup.

    I'm with Antigua on this-- the physical analysis of the pickup's construction (dimensions, materials) combined with the electronic analysis yields the juice you need to know exactly what it's going to sound like...although I do like the spectrum graphs against a reference pickup.

    The idea that there's some mystical mojo out there that can't be defined by this type of analysis is a faith-based, unscientific option, of course.
     
    CFFF likes this.

  8. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    Scatter winding can be lumped together with coil tension, because they do the same thing, reduced inductance and intrinsic capacitance. The degree to which either is virtuous is debatable, but even still, it's not an issue with PAFs for two reasons: 1) the bobbins are a lot smaller and historically machine wound, so their parameters are much more constrained, and 2) when you divide a coil into two halves, the capacitance is also divided into two halves. What happens when you put two capacitors in series? The capacitance drops. So the capacitance of a big, chunky PAF is only about half that of a Tele single coil, surprisingly enough.

    With Fender style pickups, where you have large bobbins that are given to sloppy hand winding, there is more room for variation with a given set of materials. The takeaway from that, I think, is that with Fender style pickups, it's interesting to measure the inductance and resonant peak and see where the manufacturing causes that pickup to land on the response spectrum, but with PAFs, most of what there is to know about it can be seen with the naked eye, and inferred from the DC resistance and magnet type.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017

  9. kidmo

    kidmo Friend of Leo's

    May 25, 2008
    Funkytown
    I'm a big boy, I've watched a broad range of youtube videos to acquire a general knowledge of what I'm actually hearing. I've watched vids of expensive pickups and cheap ones and cataloged the sounds of both so that it's easy to tell the basic difference of each. Evidently, these just aren't my sound, maybe someone else will appreciate them more than I.
     

  10. chris m.

    chris m. Friend of Leo's

    I think the published specifications are going to be much more useful than YouTube videos. There is so much variability in a YouTube video that can make things sound great or horrible that I don't see how anyone could use it as a reliable reference. Manufacturer websites often provide audio clips. Assuming these are produced under identical, controlled conditions, they might be somewhat helpful in getting the sense of a pickup, at least if you know what one of your favorites sounds like on their clips and can use it as a reference comparison.

    Seriously, though, think of the variables: player, pickup height, guitar, guitar electronics, guitar pot settings, patch cord capacitance, effects, amp, amp settings, speaker microphone, recording software, EQ of the recording, any mixing/mastering, the room's ambient sound, distance of microphone from the amp speaker, etc., etc., etc. It's almost endless.
     
    Iago likes this.

  11. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    I think a YouTube clip makes sense if you're trying to discern between different timbres, for example, what a wood wind instrument sounds like compared to a brass instrument, because those differences come about from difference harmonic profiles that are readily obvious, even with different EQ curves.

    With a pickup change, you're not changing the harmonic profile, you're changing the overall EQ curve. Listening to an EQ curve on YouTube, is not practical, because the video itself is subject to other various roll offs and non-linearities.

    The harmonic profile is in part determined by the position of the pickup under the strings. If changing pickups also involved moving the pickup's position relative to the strings, there would be more merit to a YouTube demo, and in that case you'd not be auditioning the pickup so much as auditioning the new position of the pickup.

    One instance in which a pickup change also constitutes a harmonic balance change, is when you replace a humbucker with a humbucker sized P-90, because you drop from two rows of poles to one row in between, but even that is a fairly minor difference, possibly too small to perceive through a YouTube demo.

    Even more tenuous, but for the sake of argument, is if you replace a pickup with weak string pull with a pickup with strong string pull, or vice versa, the change in magnetic damping will also cause a change in the harmonic profile. This is the same thing than happens when you raise or lower a pickup though, so changing pickups isn't even required, and also raises the point that when comparing one pickup to another, with respect to string pull, you'd have to ensure that they pickups were set to precisely the same heights when tested, at high E and low E.
     

  12. gtrguru

    gtrguru Friend of Leo's

    Apr 29, 2011
    Detroit Metro
    Interesting. I have Tonerider Alnico II in my Les Paul Traditional and they sound way better than the Burstbuckers that came with the guitar.
     
    Shango66 likes this.

  13. -Hawk-

    -Hawk- Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 14, 2015
    IL, USA
    Would have appreciated seeing this a couple weeks ago! I just picked up a set of TR, though it cost me $115'ish I believe.

    I ended up with an AC2 neck and a Rocksong bridge, because I wanted something just a smidge hotter.
     

  14. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 21, 2003
    Near BWI Int'l
    Boy am I glad I just dropped in here. I've gotten a few Tonerider pickups over the last year and a half or so, and am looking at putting a TRT2 bridge in my 50's Tele (I've got one at the bridge in a partscaster, and I love it). It looks like the BYO Vortex set is closely related to the TRT2s. At $60 for the set of pickups, I'll be happy if only one of the two pickups works out to be a winner.

    As for the statement about it not being hard to make a great sounding pickup, I can only say that every Tonerider I've yet tried has truly been great sounding. Knowing that they have their stuff produced offshore kind of proves that, to me. For those who aren't sold on it, I'd think it's hard to dispute that Tonerider at least has a really good method of making stuff that sounds good and doesn't cost a fortune. If their supplier is paying attention and offering something similar/related to for less, that's good for any of us who don't have unlimited funds...
     

  15. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    The BYO Vortex looks good, they claim to use a nickel silver cover, which is 50% of the quality issue at hand, the other being the user of AlNiCo poles instead of a ceramic bar magnet. You're right that the specs are virtually identical to the Tonerider Hot Classics / TRT2. I notice that the Tonerider has fiber flatwork (looks more like a a press board than vulcanized fiber), where as the BYO Tele set is either vulcanized fiber, or a plastic that has been made to simulate the appearance of it. It looks you will save about $40 getting the BYO set. I'm glad you pointed this out because I need a nice Tele pickup set for my father's import Fender Tele. It looks like I have a new low cost pickup crush, but Tonerider will always have a place in my heart.

    I think the determining if a pickup sounds good or not is to tell yourself, "this pickup cost $1,000 and was made by a world renown pickup winder", believe it for a moment, and see if the made up assertion alone improves your sonic evaluation of the pickups. Or try the reverse, try telling yourself your Lollar set is a basement bargain set from China, and see if you can convince yourself of it.
     

  16. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 21, 2003
    Near BWI Int'l
    I'm fortunate enough to have a bunch of different guitars with pickups by lots of different vendors, at all sorts of different price points. I don't have a lot of time to play these days, so it's honestly the guitars that sound the best that get played the most (or with any regularity). I can truthfully say that the guitars that see the most amount of play typically don't have what would be considered to be "premium" by the measure of someone who considers the Lollars et al to be the benchmark pickups.

    In all honesty, the guitars I'm favoring right now have the following pickups in them:

    - partscaster with a pair of GFS Mean 90s

    - partscaster with TRT2 bridge and MIM Strat neck pickup

    - Nashville Tele with Texas Specials (neck and bridge only, cover removed from neck pickup)

    ...I've been playing the partscaster with the Mean 90s regularly now for going on 3 years, possibly longer. The partscaster with the TRT2 bridge was only put together as of about February of this year, but it gets chosen almost more than the M90 partscaster. The Nash Tele was kind of dumped on me by a family member, and was a mess when I received it. When I initially cleaned it up, the idea was only to be a backup, and the Texas Specials were something I had laying around...

    ...Despite whatever the opinions are with Texas Specials, and even though I've had some negative experiences with them in the past, I can't lie - that N'ville Tele is possibly becoming #1 in the roster, and I've had to admit to myself that I would be an idiot to pull the pickups out - it doesn't just sound good - it sounds great. Since I don't have the time to pull the pickups and barely have the time just to play at all, it's a big help to keep me from doing something stupid.

    I'm honestly grateful that both my funds and time are limited - it helps to keep the focus on the parts of my gear where I might actually make sonic changes for the better. I really don't experience "shades of gray" with the performance of pickups - either they sound really good (or great), or they sound less than that (after tweaking heights, tone cap values, etc.). Some may consider it to be heresy, but a pickup (IMO) is really not a mechanism that is capable of elevating a guitar to produce some kind of grail sonics. The reality is that it's nothing more than magnets and coils of wire. That's not to say that some manufacturers haven't come up with good 'recipes' for them, but IMO that's about all they really are.

    ...Maybe my experiences are limited, but I've yet to play a guitar that had an otherworldly sound, and that the sound could be attributed to the pickups. OTOH, I've played quite a few really good sounding guitars and most of them had pickups that were pretty standard fare.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2017 at 9:16 PM

  17. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 21, 2003
    Near BWI Int'l
    I just placed an order for the BYOs, so I guess we'll find out just how closely related to the (bridge) TRT2 that it really is, since I have one to A/B against. As for the Vortex neck pickup, I've only got the TRT1 to compare against, but I'm mostly interested in whether or not the Vortex also uses a nickel silver cover. I very much prefer using Strat neck pickups in Teles, but the TRT1 retains a good bit of top end.

    Mine too. Since I only wanted/needed the bridge pickup, I was still contemplating getting just the actual TRT2B. But it was just $20 more for the neck pickup, and half of that is for the shipping for the BYOs.

    Funny aside - there's a TRT2B currently for sale that's $5 cheaper than the other offerings, and it's available for purchase via Wal-Mart as the actual intermediary. o_O
     

  18. LtKojak

    LtKojak TDPRI Member

    66
    Sep 10, 2013
    Milano, Italy
    Antigua, would you please be a darling and publish the polepiece spread of both p'ups?

    If they're 49.2mm in the neck and 52mm in the bridge, I'm almost certain these p'ups to come from the same factory that makes the Epiphone Probuckers, specifically in this case, the "Alnico Classic Pro" set, the same ones I got in my ES-339.

    Pretty please? ;)
     

  19. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    I don't have this set on hand anymore, it went into someone else's guitar, but their website claims the pole spacing is 50mm http://www.byoguitar.com/Guitars/Blizzard-of-59----Vintage-Humbucker-Set__BYO-BLIZZARD-SET.aspx , identical to Tonerider http://www.tonerider.com/files/schematics/metric/humbucker_regular_covered_metric.jpg

    The Probuckers I have on hand has the conductor wire enter in the same side of the pickup where the coil connections are made. Consequently, they stuck two wood spacers in there for double the woody toans, and to fill up the vacant space, where as the Tonerider and the BYO have the conductor cable spanning the pickup, between the base plate and bobbin, in a vintage correct fashion, and only one wood spacer. Also note that the Tonerider and BYO base plates have the same unusual oval opening (through which you see the wood spacer) in the opposite corner of the base plate.
     

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