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Better than Ellis?

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by stefanhotrod, May 26, 2019.

  1. Whoa Tele

    Whoa Tele Friend of Leo's

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    It's too bad James Burton never played Ellis pickups. He could've really gone places. I'm sure they are great pickups but the business model is ridiculous. I don't mind a long wait list but don't take my money until they're ready to ship. He could easily resolve any speculation by adopting this practice. If you do take my money upon placing my order, tell me up front that there's a two year wait with no communication. It is my understanding from reading different threads that some buyers have been given shorter wait times and been unable to contact mr. Ellis to check on the status of their order. There are too many other quality winders who provide quality pickups at much lower prices. Plus, I can pick up the phone and talk to Dave (Budz) Don (mare) et al should I have a question or concern.
     
  2. theprofessor

    theprofessor Poster Extraordinaire

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    That's quite funny.
     
  3. maxvintage

    maxvintage Poster Extraordinaire

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    “Craftsmanship” is a stretch, I think. The original pickup Ellis imitates were not produced by “craftsmen” and weren’t intended to be. They were mass produced on industrial machinery by basically unskilled workers. They used readily available industrial materials. And sure some pickups are better made than others, but “craftsmanship” is maybe a stretch. I feel the same way about “Tadeo Gomez, genius of the belt sander.” Nothing against mr gomez, who seems to have been a good guy, but “craftsmanship” is kinda the wrong word. If you apply it, you’d have to say it consists not in the rare slowness of the work, but in the fact that tadeo made dozens of necks a day. Not precious painstaking craft work, but the craftsmanship of a good drywall guy, who does the job quickly and well.

    Research into old pickup designs? Ok maybe, although pickups are the cutting edge technology of 1924. They aren’t that complex and there aren’t that many variables.

    What we see with Ellis is “mystification.” A basically simple process is being mystified. If buying Ellis pickups makes a person play better or feel better good for them, it costs me nothing at all. But the idea that magic comes from Ellis winding ten turns a day of something is silly, and at this point Ellis is in the enviable position where being extremely slow increases his profits.
     
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  4. theprofessor

    theprofessor Poster Extraordinaire

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    A few more thoughts on the phenomenon:

    First of all, we must admit that is is largely people like us (who hang out on TDPRI, the majority of which are not professional musicians) who keep the myth alive. The large part of us are hobbyists whose hobby it is to chase tone and spend our money earned in other professions on a wonderful diversion related to guitars and amps and the like. I, for one, am very grateful that I can do that, and it is a lot of fun. But the industry survives on people like us, I'm afraid: people who may not be great players, but who definitely have great gear. I joke with my friends that I have to have great tone, because I don't have all that many chops!

    Secondly, I doubt very much that musicians of yesteryear fussed overmuch with their equipment. There are some of more recent vintage who are tone-chasers, but I think they're in the minority. I think folks largely went with what was in the guitar they got, and most probably still do. And if they didn't like the pickups, for example, they didn't fool with the guitar. Leo's Tele design was economical. It has had the unintended consequence of becoming the ultimate modding machine. It's just so darn easy to swap parts in and out. Before spending a lot of time on TDPRI, I could do nothing more to my guitar than change the strings. I can do a heck of a lot more now, and I'm motivated to do so. You might be even more motivated to do so if a luthier or pickup winder wants you to hold their products and play them so that hobbyists from TDPRI or TGP can take a home video of you on their iPhone using the "latest, greatest."

    A related point is that musicians of the class of Julian Lage are probably not spending loads of time going through stock Fender options or even less expensive "boutique" pickup options before finally deciding that Ellis pickups (or whoever) are better. I doubt very much that he's run the gamut all the way from the cheapest ceramics and has now landed at pickup Mecca. I imagine he just orders Ellis pickups and that's that. Or his tech does. He has a nice guitar from a great builder, and he's probably not even making all that many decisions about what goes in there. So association of certain brands with certain players can be--and probably usually are--quite misleading. Do you really think Eli Manning likes Tag Heuer watches and that he likes them best over the hundreds he's tried? Do you think Eli Manning even wears a watch?

    And on another related point: Julian Lage could make anything sound good. I can't. I think most of us--certainly I am!--are working to make up deficiencies in our skill or technique by buying better gear and having better tone. Certainly that's not the only reason. Tone is enjoyable in-and-of itself. But I do think this is one of the reasons.

    Couple all this with an explosion in "boutique" pickup production and do-it-yourself-ers, and with some good marketing and word of mouth (even if that word is unverifiable or maybe even exaggerated), you've got yourself an industry.

    In short, I think it's all about the Internet. :) But seriously, I do.
     
  5. theprofessor

    theprofessor Poster Extraordinaire

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    Amen.
     
  6. AJ Love

    AJ Love Friend of Leo's

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    I personally hear a difference in the pickups that Ellis & Hamel made/make that, to me in my applications, sounds more like the best of the vintage Telecaster sounds than any other modern pickup maker .... And I've either tried or heavily invested in researching them all.

    I will absolutely and fully admit that my ears might not be advanced enough to hear the wonderful aspects of the other modern pickup makers. That reads as being snarky, but that is not my intent. I am sincere with that. I know for a fact that there are many other musicians out there with much better ears than me.

    I do tend to chime in on threads about Ellis or Hamel pickups, because I think they are truly something special. It's fine with me if others disagree, however I do feel the need to speak.

    I'm certainly not listening with "internet hype". There are other pickup makers that get much much more Internet Hype these days.... And I never go in those threads and rip on those pickup makers
     
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  7. Whoa Tele

    Whoa Tele Friend of Leo's

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    Nicely put AJ and I'm sorry if my post was too critical of Ron. I don't know the man or what his situation is. However, it does appear that some folks have been mislead when ordering pickups from him and he could easily remedy the situation by doing a waiting list ala analogman and the King of Tone. If the pickups are as good as advertised he would have no problem selling them to the next guy if the original customer had a change of heart. I was able to contact him one time and he quoted me a 6 month wait time but then I read of others who had been promised the same thing and never received the pickups. I wish we could hear from Ron regarding these issues, but to my knowledge he has never addressed the complaints.
     
  8. Rob DiStefano

    Rob DiStefano Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    the problem i have with ellis, hamel and others of their ilk is absolutely not with their product offerings, nor the price tags they hang on them, it's their business tactics, or lack thereof.

    i will not even go deep into the kind of consumer thinking it takes for them to feel that it's quite appropriate to pay a considerable amount of loot in advance for a product that may take years to arrive. clearly to some, that's a fair way to do business, and to others it's a fool and money quickly parted in a long gamble of sorts. and, once having spent the money, when the item does arrive, how many will rave about it because, after all, it's *that* special ... no? no, that's mind games, bud.

    take any other commercial or garage winder and there will be Strong similarities in their vintage build wares, which, if one knows what to look for, will be quite like the wares of an ellis or hamel. does that mean that all vintage build pickups are alike? of course not, but there is no magic tone in any builder's passive transducers. that's where guitarist artistic chops shines above and beyond the tools employed in making great memorable music.

    the human mind can be its own worst enemy, making castles out of sand, or chasing windmill dragons. it's that ego thing about brand identification and peer pressures - and those who will profit from such misguided customer behavior.

    then again, too much of the tools of guitarists are chock fulla nonsense that seems to perpetuate forever. whatever. i guarantee that in double blindfold sonic taste tests it will be a [email protected] shoot for anyone with boutique ears to identify specific pickups. are you that good, or feeling lucky? hah!
     
  9. hopdybob

    hopdybob Tele-Afflicted

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    and if there were a objective soundsample, then your ears, what freq did you loose on your journey through life, would fool you because the player hears something else.
    than, how do you reproduce that sample? played on a 12"speaker, and we, at the other side off internet hear it with little computer speakers, ore headphones with a added (read, more bass) attitude?

    then, if you were at the recording site, do you have the same amp, cable, strings, picks,(pickup height) etc at home?

    that hard is getting an objective sound sample, and your judgement about them ;-)
     
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  10. Whoa Tele

    Whoa Tele Friend of Leo's

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    I've always been of the opinion that pickups need to be matched with to the guitar and amp to some degree. I've got some Teles that are light weight and bright by nature when played acoustically so on a gtr like that I might go with a little higher wind to darken it up a little. Other guitars might need a brighter pickup. Luckily for us, there are a lot of quality winders and options.
     
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  11. stefanhotrod

    stefanhotrod Tele-Holic

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    I absolutely agree with you- pickups should match your guitar! But in a different way: to me a pickup should pick-up the acoustic tone of your guitar and make it loud. It mustn‘t add something that isn‘t there unplugged!

    I guess that’s the difference between good tone and fantastic tone :cool:
     
  12. beninma

    beninma Friend of Leo's

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    This whole "Wait list for exclusivity" business model is well established in other areas where people make things by hand.

    It is almost the norm for custom bicycles.. just about every boutique frame builder who has any success tries to get to this business model.

    The worst cases you pay $5000+ for a custom steel frame that you have to wait 5 years for... meanwhile you can go buy a top tier Carbon Fiber one like the ones the top pros ride for $2000-3000 in a lot of cases, with no wait time. But the stuff the guy winning the Tour De France on isn't necessarily good enough for the middle aged guy of means who needs the best, even if it's measurably inferior in performance to the off the shelf stuff. For some reason these wait list made to order bikes get flipped really fast too. They have almost no resale value and there are tons of them for sale all the time. Some guys go through 10s or 20s of them trying to find the "perfect one", meanwhile a lot of them are slow no matter what they ride cause they're spending so much time flipping bikes they don't have time to lose weight or get strong.

    They will build you stuff you can't necessarily get off the shelf.. but there are plenty of other custom bike manufacturers without the "wait list" business model.
     
  13. stephent2

    stephent2 Poster Extraordinaire

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    A customer sent me a set of Ellis Strat pickups, wanted them installed on a guitar I was building and I have to admit they were very interesting as a set. Each pickup had it's own tonal character, worked great as a set and individually. and they were quite microphonic. I suppose that's the "magic click". I'm kinda jaded on most pickups, a lot of boutique brands sound very similar, the Ellis's stood out.

    I was one guy who was able to buy from Alan Hamel and actually get pickups delivered in a fairly timely manner, while Ellis was representing him and after they split, directly from Alan. Had some prototypes of Ellis's tele pickups, spoke w/ him on the phone one time for 30 minutes,.. Hamel knew what he was doing for sure and Ellis learned from him. His early tele pickups sounded like Hamels.

    I came to realize I couldn't rely on Hamel or Ellis for consistent product. I met David Budz just after Hamel and Ellis parted ways. Since then it's been Budz for me. I have a set of Budz on my "tele"(and 98% of the guitars I've built), his newest bridge PU and a 2014 neck PU (his purebred), just wow. I prefer Budz to all I've used. Great guy, great work ethic, best pickups.
     
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  14. stefanhotrod

    stefanhotrod Tele-Holic

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    Tbh, there is a blueprint when it comes to vintage pickups: the original. If one analyses an original pickup, e.g. a 1953 Telecaster bridge pickup you‘ll get anything you need: alnico types, windings, wire, bridge plate etc. Following the receipt exactly as possible he’ll get a close clone, or am I wrong? I guess it‘s not rocket science and for sure not voodoo.
     
  15. Rob DiStefano

    Rob DiStefano Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    NONE to light wax potting will *ALWAYS* make any passive single coil pickup sound absolutely amazing and alive at rather low volumes, within the spectrum of its wind and the treble it will produce. the paradox is that such a pickup will howl and screech as microphonics abound as the volume increases to stage and studio levels, or when boosts and overdrives are employed. this was true for gibson burstbuckers when they first arrived on the scene and i potted a fair amount of those buggers for gigging customers. so take the matter of passive pickup potting into serious consideration when it comes to your requirements ... and this business of real-world tone.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2019
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  16. Rob DiStefano

    Rob DiStefano Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    having been a budding guitarist in that era you'd find that the pickup component materials were quite consistent for the years that fender pickups represent. the fly in that ointment is the total inconsistency of the coil wire turn counts and winding tension. therefore, the functional output results will be inconsistent. there is no such thing as a "standard" leo fender pickup when it comes to tone and output. it was always a [email protected] shoot of sorts. they were all over the map. this is proofed in nacho's "blackguard" book, and by my dad and i when in the mid to late 50's we reverse engineered quite a few leo fender tele and strat pickups. most were low wind ear bleed screechers. the "holy grails" for us were the ones that were "over wound". ymmv.
     
  17. stefanhotrod

    stefanhotrod Tele-Holic

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    Ouch! I always thought less wax=more tone! Today I‘ll receive a custom Barfuss Telecaster bridge pkup, ordered explicit „thin potted“:rolleyes:
     
  18. Rob DiStefano

    Rob DiStefano Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    "tone" is subjectively registered in the ears of the beholder(s). if you consider "tone" as an adjective for microphonics, yer good to go with no or light wax potting IF your playing at substantial volumes and you don't mind the results. if yer a house player, no problemo. do you understand what happens with passive coils that are "lightly wax potted"?
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2019
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  19. stefanhotrod

    stefanhotrod Tele-Holic

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    Let me know.
     
  20. steve v

    steve v Tele-Holic

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    A while back I realized any guitar, pickup, etc. still sounds like me. It's been an expensive journey, but I'm very happy with the pickups I have in each of my guitars. Are they magic? ..nope, but they fit with that particular guitar, my other gear, and my ears.

    Oddly enough, I get many "tone compliments" with my cheapie Squier '51 with GFS lipstick pickups. That guitar probably cost me $200 and it puts many pricier guitars to shame.
     
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