Continue weird pickup quest or just adjust EQ?

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by chris m., Feb 10, 2016.

  1. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    Hey guys,

    I've stumbled into a worm hole of discovering all kinds of pickups. Like most electric guitar players I thought pickups came in three basic flavors with a lot of variants-- Tele, Strat, and Les Paul. But truth be told the Tele and Strats tended to be a little too strident and the PAFs tended to be a little too muddy, especially on the wound strings.

    Now, as we all know, there are lots of pickups out there in these 3 categories that have different ways of addressing these problems-- different winds, different poles, rails, stacked, yadda yadda yadda.

    But then there's all the other pickups out there. Mini-humbuckers like on my '79 Les Paul Deluxe. Dynasonics-- the Dynasonic 2000s in my Gretsch 5127, and the Dynasonic 2ks in my DeArmond M75-T (kind of like a light P90). Then there are P90s, WRHBs, gold foils, Filtertrons (all types including uber expensive TVJones to the affordable Fidelitron), Jazzmaster pickups, Jaguar pickups, various lo-fi pickups found in old Harmonys/Silvertones, etc.

    The good news is that rather than have five Telecasters with five different takes on the classic Telecaster pickups, I can have a much wider variety of guitars with a much wider variety of sounds.

    The bad news is that the worm hole has infinite gravitational pull-- there is no end to the pickups that can be tried and critiqued, with many variants of each type, original and copies, for the cork-sniffers to debate.

    I was going into the worm hole of thinking that some kind of Filtertron might be just the thing-- the pickup that has everything I could want-- humbucking with clarity, tight lows and highs, but also sounds good dirty, etc. But then I thought, wait a minute-- I've got a huge range of guitars/pickups already, this is really much more a want than a need. Besides, with the arsenal I already have, I could probably take an EQ pedal to one of the guitars in my collection and get something plenty close.

    So for you guys that have tried every kind of pickup under the sun, which comes closest to your Platonic ideal pickup? What would be your guitar pickups if you could only have one type? Right now I'm leaning towards my two Dynasonic variants although it would be wonderful if they were humbucking. I had high hopes for my Telenator Mod1 WRHBs but at the end of the day for me they are really good but not top of the heap.

    I'm also starting to think that even something like the DiMarzio Eric Johnson pickup would work-- traditional humbucker but EQ'd very bright and clear. Or the many stacked pickups that are out there-- you get tight focus and clarity due to the narrow design, but you also get humbucking. They may not have as much personality as some of the classic pickups like Filtertrons, but on the other hand maybe that makes them more versatile-- nothing a little EQ can't fix....and we also can't forget that the whole sound is also a product of the other aspects of the guitar's design as well as the rest of the signal chain. This is definitely a first-world, middle class problem. When I was a kid I could only afford one electric guitar and I would just make do as best I could.
     
  2. Buzzardeater

    Buzzardeater Tele-Holic

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    Dude. It's all about the amp.
     
  3. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    LOL, Buzzard, I already got a passel of amps! Good ones!
     
  4. songtalk

    songtalk Friend of Leo's

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    What you are talking about is LARGELY personal taste.

    My end all be all pickup right now is the keystones from wilde. Never brittle or ice picky, lots of watmth, very low noise, gobs of clarity, sound great with effects. Hard to beat.

    If you love filtertrons, maybe just get some and make a tele with em. I personally find them harshe and brittle. Noise is less of an issue for me than clarity so I prefer true single coils most of the time.
     
  5. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Doctor of Teleocity

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    Chris, I've been down that wormhole and eventually climbed out. I'm detoxed now.

    First off, if your budget is an issue (isn't everybody's?), used pickups are your friend. Buy them right, and you can sell them for about what you paid if you decide to move on to something different.

    I like vintage winds for the high end and clarity. You can't put back the high end if the pickup winder took it away.

    Going for clarity and focus, my first thought is either an EMG T set or Bardens. Very clear, bags of high end, and noiseless. I've tried the EMGs, and decided I wanted something a little more gnarly.

    Right now, I have three Teles. Fender OVs in one, Don Mare Stelly/Supersport in another, and unidentifiable cheapo no-names in another. The Don Mares are a little fatter than the OVs, and the no-names are in between. All three sets can be very bright when I want that, and they all fatten up nicely if I roll back the guitar's tone pot a little. My favorite overall is definitely the Don Mare set - something happening there I can't verbalize.
     
  6. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    Songtalk, I agree with you that it's largely a matter of taste if we're talking about a rational, logical process. Some kind of blind tests would probably be the best way to go. But what we're talking about is GAS-- people chasing pedals, amps, and pickups just because it's a hobby unto itself.....not because it actually makes a whole lot of sense. Sure is great for the music equipment industry, though.

    My other embedded question is about form vs. function and design approach. Let's talk Filtertrons. Boutique makers like TVJones, Lollar, etc., dissect the originals and then re-create them very faithfully in terms of construction. For example, Seymour Duncan even bought the original pickup winding machines. The other approach is to put the pickup on an oscilloscope and otherwise measure its output qualities, and then reproduce it, (or "improve" it) potentially with totally different dimensions, wind, magnet types, etc., from the original. That is what DiMarzio did, according to their website-- quote: "Although Eric Johnson is best known as a Strat® player, he has always played humbucker-equipped guitars as well. After getting a new Gibson® Les Paul® 1959 re-issue, Eric asked us if it could be made to sound like an old Gretsch® Country Gentleman guitar. We said, “No problem!” " I think good old Bill Lawrence took this approach as well- rather than just copy the original designs he used fundamental engineering principles to design pickups from scratch that met the performance criteria that he wanted to achieve.
     
  7. songtalk

    songtalk Friend of Leo's

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    Wilde pickups are the only pickups that I've tried that stand out as leaps and bounds ahead of the herd.

    As you say, everything else is an approximation of a vintage pickup that every winder/company as an analog of.

    Just MHO. Lots of people feel very attached to their Mares and their Budz and their Fralins. Great pickups, the whole lot.

    Bill Lawrences designs are the only ones that instantly had me grinning from ear to ear going "woooooow".
     
  8. JD0x0

    JD0x0 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Depends what you're going for. I have different pickups for different jobs.

    Wilde L-600's these are my twangy bright clear humbuckers. They twang more than my Filtertrons, IMO, but both kind of do their own thing. IMO, these are more single coil-y sounding than the TVJ Filtertrons. Tons of high end on tap, but at the same time, they're not anemic or harsh like a single coil can sometimes be.

    TVJ Classic/Classic plus these are twangy, but the wound strings are a lot more mellow compared to the L600's. overall, the TVJ's little more 'jazzy' with the tone control wide open with a bit more of the 'clang' that the filtertrons have. They seem to have a bit more of a low midrange thing going on compared to the L600's

    Wilde L-90's These are my thick but clear buckers. They're fatter, smoother and more midrangy than the L600's and TVJ's but also dont mud up like a typical PAF. They remain very clear and articulate considering how fat they sound.

    Overwound single coils (tapped) (tele bridge/Strat neck) these are my jack of all trades single coils. They're fat in the mids, like a P-90 but have the top end like a traditional single coil. With the taps, they get the classic single coil tone with more highs, less mids. These are true single coils with taps installed.

    Low output strat singles A3 mags - these are my classic sounding strat pickups. The A3 mags keep the glassiness, IMO, without being as icepicky, harsh, or digging, in the treble as the more generic A5 strat pickups with the same wind tend to be.


    If you're looking for buckers that aren't muddy. Bill Lawrence Wilde, would be my recommendation. Currently I'm waiting on a noiseless set of single coils from them.


    Hard to say. Maybe the L-90's simply because I have them wired for a split, and it seems to give the widest range of tones. The L600 gets split, but it already has a ton of highs, so I think the L-90's may cover more ground. Then again, a small capacitor with the L600's fattens them up nicely and adds more versatility. It's rather easy to dial in fatter tones with a bright pickup, rather than trying to recover highs of a muddy pickup by boosting at the amp or EQ. That's the idea behind Bill Lawrence's low inductance choices like the microcoils. Caps can be used to mimic resonant frequencies of darker/fatter pickups, so you can cover a wide range of tones with a single pickup. For example, with my Filtertrons, (which are low inductance, especially for humbuckers) I use a 2.7nF cap on the tone control to mimic a sort of a PAF humbucker sound by shifting the resonant frequency from ~6000hz (twang) to ~2200hz (fat) when the tone control is rolled all the way back.
    I have a similar setup with the L600's with a different cap value.
     
  9. Tony Done

    Tony Done Friend of Leo's

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    With my amps :)mrgreen:) I also find Fenders SCs a bit to bright and strident, and most humbuckers are too warm and muddy, especially in the neck position. P90 types work for me, even Gibson P100s, although they got a bad rap, are good. I also like GFS Memphis - low output Retrotrons, somewhat Gretsch-like. I also have a couple of sets of GFS Brooklyns, hot ceramic humbucker size P90s that work well. More expensive isn't always better - my 2nd place favourites, after the P100s in my Gibson are the super cheap ceramic 1/4" slug HSS set that came with my Oz$65 Peavey.
     
  10. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Chris, it sounds like you're describing what I'd want in terms of clarity but hum free, and while I did a lot of pickup swapping in past years I'm more focused on playing what I've got, partly because I doubt the perfect pickup exists.
    I play Esquires because I just want one sound that works for everything, which I get, except for the hum.
    One basic "improvement" I've been attempting is the angle of the Tele bridge pup, which makes just the high E too much brighter than the B. No miracles but I'd like to try the Billy Gibbons bridge.

    JD0x0, the Wilde L-600 sounds pretty interesting and not that expensive to try out.
    How would you compare it to a Tele bridge pickup? I know you like a pretty hot (tapped) bridge pup in your Tele(s), but I'd be interested in your comparison.
    Specifically how much more or less low end clarity does it have?

    If I could have a pickup made it would be a Fender bridge spaced Firebird HB.
     
  11. Mutato

    Mutato Tele-Meister

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    Hi,

    I'm kind of starting down that wormhole. I have an ES335 that has been kind to me for 25 years, but tended to be on the mellow darker side. Amp control could be turned up but then it accentuates the mid highs. Not really bringing some clarity.

    I had some Surf 90's (GFS single coils) in an Epiphone Dot and they sounded great. Like Beatles gretsch tone. Well, this week I dropped them into my ES335. They sound awesome. Def takes away some of the ES335 character. But a good experiment.

    This leads me to finding brighter humbuckers that preserve that tone but give me more clarity. I have narrowed it down to Seymour Duncan Jazz neck, which is a very bright humbucker.
    http://www.seymourduncan.com/pickup/jazz-neck

    And possibly the '59 Bridge:
    http://www.seymourduncan.com/pickup/59-bridge

    Like others have said, look for used on Ebay and if you don't like, you can resell without loss.
     
  12. gwjensen

    gwjensen Friend of Leo's Platinum Supporter

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    Plug your guitar into one of these. So easy to dial in and it focuses on the most important frequency, the midrange. You can scoop your buckers to sound like a strat or add beef to your single coils to make them more bucker like and everything in between. Its really brilliant for fine tuning a pickup's tone.
    diamond.jpg
     
  13. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    What does tilt do?
     
  14. hwestman

    hwestman Tele-Holic

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    With the idea of having different tones available I have over the years acquired strats, teles, a rickenbacker 360, a Gretsch Sparkle Jet, a jazzmaster, a jaguar, an LP special w P90ies, humbucking guitars etc.

    Quite a few of them are still in the house...

    But what I find is that differences in tone, output etc is more of a nuisance than an asset when playing with a band since the amp and effect settings I use are dialed in for one guitar and when I switch i get jumps in overdrive levels, perceived output, treble response etc. When bringing a backup guitar to a gig I want something that is as close as possible sound- and outputwise.

    Therefore I seem to stick to one guitar when playing with the band (also - I find switching guitars during a gig kind of pretentious unless I break a string - not judging anyone else though).

    During the few occasions I have made studio recordings I have also tried alternating between guitars but in the end I have found the differences in sound very subtle and with little effect on results (admittedly I tend to stick to guitars with similar characteristics which may explain that though).

    But for noodling away at home it is fun at times to switch between different guitars.

    If you have the money and space and it makes you happy - "Do what thou willst!" :)
     
  15. Rob DiStefano

    Rob DiStefano Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    pickups will ALWAYS take a long back seat to your musicality and playing chops.

    far Far FAR too many folks embark on a futile don quixote quest for pickup "tone" - the few really lucky ones discover that's in their brain and fingers.
     
  16. bchaffin72

    bchaffin72 Friend of Leo's

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    Man, oh man! I thought it was in the Special Sauce. Or the 11 secret herbs and spices.:D
     
  17. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    For the most part I agree that tone is in the fingers and the rest of the signal chain. However, there are many recordings out there where it is so quintessentially Strat sounding or Tele sounding. In some cases perhaps it's another guitar, but I bet in most cases when you hear that classic Strat quack it is a Strat, and when you hear that clear, cutting tone it is a Tele. Similarly, many other classic guitar models have their own signature tone. Of course the player tends to make all guitars "sound like him". But there are differences, and that's why many players want an assortment of guitars.

    I usually pick one guitar for a gig and bring just one backup. I actually tend to bring a fairly different guitar for the backup. I might just change guitars between sets for variety-- not for the audience but for myself. I don't mind quickly adjusting the settings on my amp and pedals to compensate for the guitar change. The pedals on my pedal board were selected partly based on their ability to work effectively with a wide range of guitars.

    For us tinkerers, at least changing pickups is usually cheaper than getting a whole different guitar, just as buying pedals is usually cheaper than buying amps.
     
  18. Rob DiStefano

    Rob DiStefano Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    having worked in recording studios, with one that's gained national recognition with at least grammy nominees, lots of the recorded sound of guitars is just plain manufactured and sometimes can't be duplicated on touring stages.
     
  19. bchaffin72

    bchaffin72 Friend of Leo's

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    That's a very good point too, Rob. Studios use plenty of tricks and techniques that are hard, if not impossible, to duplicate outside the studio. I'm no expert, to be sure, but I have studied the matter and even set up my own small recording rig, so I've learned a thing or two, at this point.
     
  20. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    True, but I'm thinking of old classic recordings such as The Meters, stuff out of Sun Studios, old Nile Rodgers, etc. Just a guitar plugged into an amp with a mike in front of it. Compression, reverb, echo, panning, mixing, mastering, added later, but the original, essential tone of the guitar was what was laid down live in the studio.
     
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