Am I the only one who can't bond with Keystones?

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by TwangerWannabe, Jul 12, 2019.

  1. TwangerWannabe

    TwangerWannabe Tele-Meister

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    I know these get so much praise around here, and the fit and finish/craftsmanship is second to none. I just can't bond with the sound. I guess what I don't like about them is they seem to be a bit too clean. My favorite Fender pickup is the OV (Original Vintage) set, now just called the Vintage, if I am correct.

    I like a pickup that does the edge of breakup sound, where you can get a decent clean sound if you play less aggressive, then when you dig in you get a nice, gritty, bit of overdrive tone. The OV's seem to do this really well, while the Keystones seem to not like to be pushed and tend to stay clean and feel and sound less natural when you try to overdrive them.

    Am I missing something here? Do I just need to approach these pickups in a different way with more gain, different dirt pedals (my favorites are the Gain Changer, TS808, and Soul Food, Fulltone FD-2), playing a bit of country, alt-country stuff, more classic rock sounds I guess.
     
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  2. howardlo

    howardlo Tele-Holic

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    Just play them clean only and they sound great. A really clean pickup is a good thing.
     
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  3. TwangerWannabe

    TwangerWannabe Tele-Meister

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    Nah. I just most likely bought the wrong pickups. Nothing wrong with them, just not what I'm looking for. Pure clean is not what I'm looking for, nor what I like. I also don't play with heavy distortion. So if that's just how they are I have no problem going with another set of OV's in the new Tele and put the Keystones up for sale.

    The Keystones are for sure the bee's knees for cleans. Just want something that works a little better when pushed with some dirt and breaks up easier. That doesn't mean full on distortion!
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
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  4. paulbaribeau

    paulbaribeau Tele-Meister

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    I have a set. I personally love them. I know what you mean about the clean sound though. I’ve never really played any other pickups that sound like they do.
     
  5. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

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    They don't sound like typical pickups, but they do have a great clean sound! Sounds like they are not your thing - no biggie.
     
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  6. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    .

    How far are they from the strings? I'd raise them up to the famous 'stack of two nickels' and turn the amp gain up a little and roll back the volume a little so it starts to break up around 7-8 on the dial.

    .
     
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  7. mfguitar

    mfguitar Tele-Holic

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    I hear ya, not for everyone.
     
  8. El Tele Lobo

    El Tele Lobo Friend of Leo's

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    I loved them when I first got them. After awhile though, I found them too sterile sounding. The point of Keystones is they don't color the sound. They offer true fidelity. I guess I came to find I like a certain color to my sound. I would concur with @jvin248 that you should experiment with pickup heights and try cranking your amp gain and rolling back the guitar volume. Not all pickups work well that way.

    If worse comes to worse, you could always try some Cavaliers. They sound great overdriven. Just check out @roknfnrol's YouTube channel. :D
     
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  9. EsquireOK

    EsquireOK Friend of Leo's

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    Lawrence pickups are all about versatility – about allowing you to precisely craft the sound you want. Nothing on them "just happens" by accident; you have to will it. That starts with a "blank slate" tone. The things that other pickups do inherently, you have to dial in deliberately on Lawrences. That means you have to really know exactly what technical characteristics make typical pickups sound the way they do. You need to have a very good understanding of e.q., gain, onboard controls, pickup adjustments, strings, and technique. Most people don't know exactly why typical pickups react and sound the way they do on a technical level, so they are lost when it comes to dialing in a blank slate pickup to sound the same.

    It's the same deal with high headroom master volume amps. People coming from low headroom non-master amps have quite the learning curve to get them sounding the way they want, because they're so inherently clean and uncolored. The things that the low headroom non-master amp "just does," without being asked to, are things that have to be deliberately dialed in to the high headroom master volume amp.

    The point of those pickups is tonal versatility and shapability, which basically means that they need to start out "bland" in order to get it. If that's not what you need, you can probably get something more targeted to your particular styles of play, and you'll be in the general area you want to live in, with a minimum of tweaking. But Lawrences are all about the tweaking.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2019
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  10. Mr Scallywag

    Mr Scallywag Tele-Holic

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    Funny. The Fender OVs in my previous tele sounded to me they way you describe Keystones - nice definition but not much oomph. I have Keystones now, but didn't realise they had a 'clean slate' sound before this thread, so EsquireOKs post above is enlightening. I'm sure there are pickups I would prefer but it's extra money and hassle, and these Keystones do a great job; I can get a nice Cropper clean or a dirty Marc Ribot Cold Water tone equally well.
     
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  11. TwangerWannabe

    TwangerWannabe Tele-Meister

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    I'll be honest here, you're making this sound like you need a degree in electrical engineering to be able to use a guitar with these pickups and blowing it waaaay out of proportion.

    [​IMG]

    And for the record...

    [​IMG]
     
  12. EsquireOK

    EsquireOK Friend of Leo's

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    That isn't at all what you need. You just need to have a good grasp on the factors I mentioned. That isn't to say it takes a genius to "get" those things – just experience and practice. IME, most people don't have a full handle on why their tone sounds the way it does, in terms if things that can be dialed in or out of their tone. Some people do, and again, they aren't difficult concepts to understand, but IME, most players don't.
     
  13. telerocker1988

    telerocker1988 Tele-Afflicted

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    I still have mine, but they are in a drawer.

    I had them in a Road Worn 50s Blonde Tele from the first year (2009, best year for RW). That guitar is so light and open sounding and so loud acoustically but it's very neutral sounding. The Keystones are also neutral sounding. No real character, it's giving you what you have, which is fine but the guitar was that way too, and it was too pristine and too tame for me. I like a hefty dose of midrange. I don't mind twang, but no one will accuse me ever of trying to sound like Don Rich or Roy Nichols. I don't want to make it sound like a P-90 or humbucker guitar, I just want the twang to have some beefiness to it. More modern and less glassy. I'm a modern country and classic rock guy, and I play with gain and they just didn't impart enough character on an already neutral sounding guitar. However in the middle position with the tone rolled off was the closest to an acoustic guitar I've ever heard out of a solidbody elec.

    When I get a new Tele that seems to be already mid heavy or has a lot of character, I'd use the Keystones to be more neutral. I've had a pile of pickups in that Road Worn looking for the set that gave it it's sound and ended up on a Lollar Vintage T neck and a Lollar '52 bridge. Finally can say that axe is done.
     
  14. howardlo

    howardlo Tele-Holic

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    That is what I also found with them, clean and clear like high fidelity. I have them in one of my Teles and like them for that clear hi-fi sound. Nice change from two of my others that have Fender Original Vintage and Pure Vintage pickups. I only play clean with a touch of reverb, so YMMV. The one in my avatar has the Pure Vintage pickups.
     
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  15. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire

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    They are typical old school clean pickups. If that's not you move on to something hot! I feel the same about old style Strat pickups like the 57/62's, 69's. Too brittle and clean for me often.
     
  16. basher

    basher Tele-Afflicted

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    I’ve got a set in a drawer too. I think at the end of the day I just wasn’t into the pristine platonic-ideal telecaster experience that Keystrokes offer. Obviously it’s a failing on my part.
     
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  17. Derek Kiernan

    Derek Kiernan Friend of Leo's

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    Not everyone needs to like them, but some overestimate what's "required" to get them to work for them. It's very easy to use the tone control for its intended use, and you won't lose highs until somewhere under halfway through the taper. Playing with pickup heights are also something that should be done with every pickup, same goes for adjusting the highs (or mids/lows) on your tone stack.

    No matter what anyone says about them, they're simply Alnico Fender-style pickups that need to be adjusted for your own use like anything else. They just don't have the same limitations as some due to metal covers, etc, but the "compromise" in setting it up right is not outside any standard for normal use. Just don't expect to be especially pleased using them at the same settings and with all the potentiometers "all the way up" if you're comparing them against a pickup that's clearly different.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2019
  18. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    True story: I just came to this “Just Pickups” sub-forum because I wanted to post a thread about my nearly seven-year pilgrimage with Keystone tele pickups. And what is the very first thread at the top of the page but this one about Keystones? :eek:

    Back in 2012, I was curious about the Keystones. I’d been reading about them on TDPRI, and I heard a video or two that sounded great. So in December of that year, I got my custom-made “Firecaster” guitar (telecaster style guitar made with wood salvaged from our house fire) with the Keystones along with the Lawrence 5-way wiring scheme.

    I was disappointed, on several levels. Regarding the selector/wiring scheme, I didn’t find the configuration intuitive. Position #1 (selector all the way back toward the bridge) is the neck pickup with 10% less low end. That seemed like a weird place to access the neck pickup. And this “neck lite” setting sounded anemic to me, especially when compared to the unfiltered neck pickup sound itself.

    Regarding the pickups, in general they just sounded “too clean.” The typical comments I read about them back in the day advertised them as “transparent.” Well, that’s certainly true, but overly so, IMHO. It is tempting to call them “sterile.” Probably a nicer way to put that has already been expressed in this thread, as in “hi-fi clarity.” I’ve played them through several amps, and no amount of tweaking/dialing-in completely compensated for the “transparency.” The bridge pickup in particular was thin and sterile. I have Wilkinson and DiMarzio (Twang King) pickups in my other teles, and compared to them, the Keystone bridge is what I would call “icepick.”

    But oddly enough, I think I’m going to keep the Keystones right where they are. Like I said, I have been playing them for almost seven years. Because I had read so many comments of praise from players I respect, I decided to live with them, to do everything I could to make sure the problem wasn’t me. In the process, I’ve learned how to get the most out of them, to suit my purposes.

    I still will probably never select the bridge pickup alone, but both pickups in parallel gives me a little more girth to the tone and tames the icepick. I’ve come to really like the (regular) neck pickup setting, and the “neck lite” I’ve finally found a use for. And the “half out of phase” setting approximates “Strat quack” to my liking, and is one of the most fun things about these pickups with this wiring scheme.

    Oh, and FWIW, I play mostly clean most of the time, Classic Country, some newer Country, Classic Rock, a bit of blues.
     
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  19. MickM

    MickM Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    I bought 2 sets of Keystones I'm guessing maybe 7 years ago. They were getting a lot of positive ink on this forum so I ordered 2 due to the low price and since a wait was involved I figured if I liked 'em I'd already have a spare set. Probably shoulda' given them more of a chance but I popped a set into one of the Teles Laying around and was just unimpressed after about 15 minutes and 3 different amps and popped 'em back out. No hate but were just maybe sterile. Still have the one un-mounted set and the "used" set in the box that they arrived in. Who knows? If I had the urge and mounted them again I might be gushing over them but not at first listen.
     
  20. Bruxist

    Bruxist Friend of Leo's

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    I had a set and they sounded good but I wanted something a little "ruder" for lack of a better word. With a bit more output.

    Darrell Braun sure can get a great sound out of them though.

     
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