A word on the Gibson 61 Burstbucker pickups.

Jakedog

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Alright. On Thursday I got my new Les Paul Classic. Since then I’ve played the snot out of it getting my rig dialed in for it. It hasn’t been plug and play. These pickups are a different animal than what I’m used to. But rather than just yank and replace, I really wanted to give them a fair chance and see if I could make them work. I freakin LOVE the guitar, and it would be fun to keep something stock.

I read a lot of reviews and forum posts and watched a lot of videos before I bought the guitar. Some people love the pickups, some hated them. Like most things, the videos I watched were inconclusive. Some demos sounded great, others sounded like cats making love while stuck in an electric fence.

Here’s my conclusion on the 61 Burstbucker pickups-

They are EXTREMELY sensitive to height adjustments. Maybe more than any other humbucker I’ve ever encountered. A very little adjustment up or down makes a huge difference in tone and in the way they hit the pedals and the front end of the amp.

From the factory, they are set up hot, adjusted very high. They don’t sound their best like that. Adjusted up right by the strings, they have an almost extreme bass and treble boost. The high end is harsh and clanging, the low end will flub the tightest speakers and overload and splat the front end. It’s not optimal.

I backed them down just a half turn on each screw immediately, and got a lot more clarity and dynamics right out of the gate. Today I went another full turn, trying to calm the bass down a little more. It was a little too much. They settled down nicely, but were kind of lifeless and flat sounding. So I brought them back up a half turn, and then made very minute adjustments fine tuning. The bridge now cuts nicely on the high strings without any ice pick or harshness, and the low strings don’t flub or fart out the amp at all. They sound nice and tight. The neck is a shade dark. But just a shade. I’d like a little more presence and clarity out of it, but I’m gonna live with it, because I do not want to screw up the middle position. That has gotten just plain SICK. Almost like a really fat sounding strat. It’s nothing short of gorgeous, clean or dirty.

I’ve decided I do not like any of the tapped or phased sounds available with these PCB electronics and push pull pots. I will never use them in a million years. So at some point down the line, I’ll yank all that outta there in favor of a traditional wiring harness. But I see no reason now to change the pickups. They’re not in any way bad sounding pickups. They’re just exceptionally picky about their height adjustments, and are not set well from the factory. A half turn here or there makes a huge difference.
 

Ringo

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I had a 72 Les Paul that originally was a reissue of the original goldtop with 2 P90s, sometime in the 70s it was refinished tobacco sunburst and converted to a tuneamatic bridge w tailpiece brass nut Grover tuners typical 70s stuff. I put some Gibson vintage style tuners in it, new bone nut, and
I had a set of Gibson 57 Classic humbuckers installed along with a high end wiring harness and pots switch etc...
It sounded great. The Burstbuckers are a bit hotter but I'm sure you can work with them.

Les Pauls have a great sound, I won't say I'll never own another one but I've had several over the years and never ended up keeping one.


top.JPG
 

jlsantamaria

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Alright. On Thursday I got my new Les Paul Classic. Since then I’ve played the snot out of it getting my rig dialed in for it. It hasn’t been plug and play. These pickups are a different animal than what I’m used to. But rather than just yank and replace, I really wanted to give them a fair chance and see if I could make them work. I freakin LOVE the guitar, and it would be fun to keep something stock.

I read a lot of reviews and forum posts and watched a lot of videos before I bought the guitar. Some people love the pickups, some hated them. Like most things, the videos I watched were inconclusive. Some demos sounded great, others sounded like cats making love while stuck in an electric fence.

Here’s my conclusion on the 61 Burstbucker pickups-

They are EXTREMELY sensitive to height adjustments. Maybe more than any other humbucker I’ve ever encountered. A very little adjustment up or down makes a huge difference in tone and in the way they hit the pedals and the front end of the amp.

From the factory, they are set up hot, adjusted very high. They don’t sound their best like that. Adjusted up right by the strings, they have an almost extreme bass and treble boost. The high end is harsh and clanging, the low end will flub the tightest speakers and overload and splat the front end. It’s not optimal.

I backed them down just a half turn on each screw immediately, and got a lot more clarity and dynamics right out of the gate. Today I went another full turn, trying to calm the bass down a little more. It was a little too much. They settled down nicely, but were kind of lifeless and flat sounding. So I brought them back up a half turn, and then made very minute adjustments fine tuning. The bridge now cuts nicely on the high strings without any ice pick or harshness, and the low strings don’t flub or fart out the amp at all. They sound nice and tight. The neck is a shade dark. But just a shade. I’d like a little more presence and clarity out of it, but I’m gonna live with it, because I do not want to screw up the middle position. That has gotten just plain SICK. Almost like a really fat sounding strat. It’s nothing short of gorgeous, clean or dirty.

I’ve decided I do not like any of the tapped or phased sounds available with these PCB electronics and push pull pots. I will never use them in a million years. So at some point down the line, I’ll yank all that outta there in favor of a traditional wiring harness. But I see no reason now to change the pickups. They’re not in any way bad sounding pickups. They’re just exceptionally picky about their height adjustments, and are not set well from the factory. A half turn here or there makes a huge difference.

I have them in a 2019 Maestro SG 61. The bridge pickup sounds great but neck one no so much, it lacks clarity. I've spent hours trying to get the height right but I think I will end removing it. What heights have you set them to?
 

Jakedog

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I have them in a 2019 Maestro SG 61. The bridge pickup sounds great but neck one no so much, it lacks clarity. I've spent hours trying to get the height right but I think I will end removing it. What heights have you set them to?
I have no precise idea because I don’t measure anything when I work on guitars. Everything goes by sound/feel. I just checked it using my picks as a gauge.

Neck pickup seems to be roughly 4.5 mm on the treble side, 5.5 mm on the bass side. Bridge seems to be roughly 3.5 mm on the bass side, and around 3 mm on the treble side. This is measuring by the slug coil, so the picks would sit flat.

These guestimations are based on stacking brand new Dunlop Gator Grip 1.5mm picks.
 

Treynor

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Great review, @Jakedog! I was very tempted to get this same Classic in black, but wound up getting a good deal on the 2020 Epiphone Modern. I do have those same pickups in my 120th Anniversary SGJ, and like you, had to tweak the 61's height until I found the sweet spot. Once I did, my SGJ became the only SG I bonded with and kept.
 

shawnoh4

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Alright. On Thursday I got my new Les Paul Classic. Since then I’ve played the snot out of it getting my rig dialed in for it. It hasn’t been plug and play. These pickups are a different animal than what I’m used to. But rather than just yank and replace, I really wanted to give them a fair chance and see if I could make them work. I freakin LOVE the guitar, and it would be fun to keep something stock.

I read a lot of reviews and forum posts and watched a lot of videos before I bought the guitar. Some people love the pickups, some hated them. Like most things, the videos I watched were inconclusive. Some demos sounded great, others sounded like cats making love while stuck in an electric fence.

Here’s my conclusion on the 61 Burstbucker pickups-

They are EXTREMELY sensitive to height adjustments. Maybe more than any other humbucker I’ve ever encountered. A very little adjustment up or down makes a huge difference in tone and in the way they hit the pedals and the front end of the amp.

From the factory, they are set up hot, adjusted very high. They don’t sound their best like that. Adjusted up right by the strings, they have an almost extreme bass and treble boost. The high end is harsh and clanging, the low end will flub the tightest speakers and overload and splat the front end. It’s not optimal.

I backed them down just a half turn on each screw immediately, and got a lot more clarity and dynamics right out of the gate. Today I went another full turn, trying to calm the bass down a little more. It was a little too much. They settled down nicely, but were kind of lifeless and flat sounding. So I brought them back up a half turn, and then made very minute adjustments fine tuning. The bridge now cuts nicely on the high strings without any ice pick or harshness, and the low strings don’t flub or fart out the amp at all. They sound nice and tight. The neck is a shade dark. But just a shade. I’d like a little more presence and clarity out of it, but I’m gonna live with it, because I do not want to screw up the middle position. That has gotten just plain SICK. Almost like a really fat sounding strat. It’s nothing short of gorgeous, clean or dirty.

I’ve decided I do not like any of the tapped or phased sounds available with these PCB electronics and push pull pots. I will never use them in a million years. So at some point down the line, I’ll yank all that outta there in favor of a traditional wiring harness. But I see no reason now to change the pickups. They’re not in any way bad sounding pickups. They’re just exceptionally picky about their height adjustments, and are not set well from the factory. A half turn here or there makes a huge difference.
Your observations are amazing and put my mind at ease. i have a 2020 50s standard lp, and the bb bridge, i think (3) is very good, but i like to try different things, and wanted a little tighter more classic rock sound. my buddy has a 60s lp and i like the way his pups sound so much i found a 61 new and got it. this was a year ago when there were hardly any gibson pups available from them directly. anyway, i finally got around to putting in the 61 and i loved it, a page-ish type classic rock sound with a sweet sustain and tone. i have tried 2 other pups all of which were good, but not exactly what i was looking for. well, after loving the 61 i had to try to get more out of it and raised the pup closer to the strings. tried it tonight, it went one dimensional, sounding mostly dark with a little clang on top. i'm going to lower it again and see if it gets the definition back. its not the most defined pickup to begin with, but it is nice sort of middle of the road, and avoids the ice pick. So thanks for your observation, i had forgotten that i raised it, and am pretty sure it will be sounding good again tomorrow.
 

shawnoh4

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and i must say this about the 61 bridge, it got me bashing power chords again, like when i was a teen in the 70's. the other modern pups i tried might have been a little sweeter and cutting on the highs which is very important to me, but always seems to come at the expense of the wound strings ability to do a nice, punchy power chord. they mush out with too much gain, and they just aren't eq'd for it. so i'm giving this 61 a whirl for now, i'm loving the old school power chord thing again. big part of rock in my book. where would classic rock be without power chords, The Police lol? no disrespect, brilliant music, love it, but not exactly power chord bashing heaven either.
 

Cosmic Cowboy

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The LP on the right is a 2006 Premium Plus with Burstbucker 'Pros' I believe. I really like em. I play almost exclusively single coil guitars, but I do have the 2 gibbys.

When I go from the single coils to the LP, the pickups always strike me as a bit dark for the first noodling. Pretty soon my ears adjust and the world comes back into alignment.

Also, I try to remember, when I am pushing my amps, they always get a lil brighter than at bedroom levels.

As far as the pickup height sensitivity, Lower output humbuckers are kinda that way. I like my humbuckers as low as possible while still giving me the sustain and attack I'm looking for.


SchecTele.png
 

KelvinS1965

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Are these the ones that are referred to as '61T/61R' or are you talking of another pickup as I get confused with the names? If they are 61T/61R then that's what I have in my 2019 SG Standard. I changed them briefly for a set of DiMarzio 36th Anniversay pickups that I already had, but changed them back again, because the sound was the main reason I picked this particular guitar over the other 4-5 I tried in the shop. I guess I'd changed them for the sake of it rather than any particular need.

As you say small adjustments make a big difference. I also took out the PCB and re-wired it. I wired it as vintage wiring, but I also put a lower value tone cap on the neck pickup, a 0.015uF instead of 0.022uF (as the bridge still has). This seems to give a smooth control of roll off, but even with the tone fully up will tend to give a slightly brighter tone.

I love the middle position sound on mine too, but the neck is probably my favourite.
 

Marc Morfei

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I'll chime in to this thread, even though it's old. I picked up a used LP Classic a few months ago, with these same 61 Burstbucker pickups. I love, love, love the bridge PU. Real thick and lush. Just beautiful. But the neck pup is just too muddy. I tried everything -- height adjustment, pole piece adjustment, adjust amp EQ, etc. But it just disappears when you get it in a band mix.

Last week I popped a Duncan Jazz into the neck. Night and day difference. Sounds great. It's a keeper.

As an aside, the PCB control board is a conundrum. On one hand, it's basically impossible to mod. But on the other hand, pickup swaps can be easy IF IF IF you have the a quick-connect adapter. I bought one off eBay.

As the OP noted, the push-pull features on the Classic suck. I normally like having a split-coil option, just since it adds versatility on the occasions you need that. But the split sound on the Classic sounds terrible. I'll probably rip out the PCB board and re-wire it the normal way.
 

hopdybob

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I’ve decided I do not like any of the tapped or phased sounds available with these PCB electronics and push pull pots. I will never use them in a million years. So at some point down the line, I’ll yank all that outta there in favor of a traditional wiring harness. .
if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
you like what you have, and you don't know what a traditional will bring because of the tolerances in pots.
tested some 250Kohm,. result: 1= 241Kohm, 1= 280Kohm

but that is my personal opinion ;-)
 

Jupiter

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if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
you like what you have, and you don't know what a traditional will bring because of the tolerances in pots.
tested some 250Kohm,. result: 1= 241Kohm, 1= 280Kohm

but that is my personal opinion ;-)
Heh man JD don’t even play this thing no more
 

somebodyelseuk

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Alright. On Thursday I got my new Les Paul Classic. Since then I’ve played the snot out of it getting my rig dialed in for it. It hasn’t been plug and play. These pickups are a different animal than what I’m used to. But rather than just yank and replace, I really wanted to give them a fair chance and see if I could make them work. I freakin LOVE the guitar, and it would be fun to keep something stock.

I read a lot of reviews and forum posts and watched a lot of videos before I bought the guitar. Some people love the pickups, some hated them. Like most things, the videos I watched were inconclusive. Some demos sounded great, others sounded like cats making love while stuck in an electric fence.

Here’s my conclusion on the 61 Burstbucker pickups-

They are EXTREMELY sensitive to height adjustments. Maybe more than any other humbucker I’ve ever encountered. A very little adjustment up or down makes a huge difference in tone and in the way they hit the pedals and the front end of the amp.

From the factory, they are set up hot, adjusted very high. They don’t sound their best like that. Adjusted up right by the strings, they have an almost extreme bass and treble boost. The high end is harsh and clanging, the low end will flub the tightest speakers and overload and splat the front end. It’s not optimal.

I backed them down just a half turn on each screw immediately, and got a lot more clarity and dynamics right out of the gate. Today I went another full turn, trying to calm the bass down a little more. It was a little too much. They settled down nicely, but were kind of lifeless and flat sounding. So I brought them back up a half turn, and then made very minute adjustments fine tuning. The bridge now cuts nicely on the high strings without any ice pick or harshness, and the low strings don’t flub or fart out the amp at all. They sound nice and tight. The neck is a shade dark. But just a shade. I’d like a little more presence and clarity out of it, but I’m gonna live with it, because I do not want to screw up the middle position. That has gotten just plain SICK. Almost like a really fat sounding strat. It’s nothing short of gorgeous, clean or dirty.

I’ve decided I do not like any of the tapped or phased sounds available with these PCB electronics and push pull pots. I will never use them in a million years. So at some point down the line, I’ll yank all that outta there in favor of a traditional wiring harness. But I see no reason now to change the pickups. They’re not in any way bad sounding pickups. They’re just exceptionally picky about their height adjustments, and are not set well from the factory. A half turn here or there makes a huge difference.
Les Pauls are my first love.
The pickups take ages to dial in...
On the neck, try dropping the pickup a little and raising all the poles a smidge.

I'd do the wiring/pots/cap before looking at pickups.
If you ever decide to change pickups, your starting point should be Seymour Duncan Seth Lovers. Anything cheaper, you're wasting your time. Gibson's pickups aren't the best available, but it costs proper money to improve on them.
 
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JIMMY JAZZMAN

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I have a Les with the pcb electronics. I'm just wondering how much tone do you lose or
is different with the pcb. I know when I looked inside and saw those little pcb's, I thought
the world will probably end in a few days. Now, I have seen it all.
 

twochiptele

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Well, the pcb is not that much of a hassle, you can just solder on the right spots if necessary. The coil taps and what not, however, on my 2021 Classic... well, nothing special, for me anyway. But those 61R and 61T, well, I found them lacking in (lower) mids, too shrill and too boomy, and with volumes and /or tone dialed down a bit way too generic and bland for my taste, even after a lot of fiddling with pickup height.

IMG_20220809_180127.jpg



Replaced them with a Super Distortion in the bridge and a Super2 in the neck that I had lying around. A bit smoky on the neck and a bit perky on the bridge, just the way I like it. Nice balanced lows and mids, and even lovely for blues and jazzy stuff with the controls dialed down, I couldn't be happier!
 

KirkDahnke

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This guy is making the best pickups around these days. Custom wound and as affordable as Duncans, etc. I have the JP#1 set in my LPC. Which is a mix of a PAF and a T-Top. Best sound I ever gotten. They are very responsive and fly under the radar because they mainly make pickups for custom guitar makers. They even have a lot of machinery from an old Gibson plant.


 




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