1. Win a Broadcaster or one of 3 Teles! The annual Supporting Member Giveaway is on. To enter Click Here. To see all the prizes and full details Click Here. To view the thread about the giveaway Click Here.

Expensive Tele Pups That Are Actually Worth It?

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by Amon, Nov 27, 2019.

  1. braveheart

    braveheart Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,347
    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2018
    Location:
    here,there and everywhere
    I tried "expensive" boutique stuff and it were always the Duncans that stayed in my Teles...
     
  2. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

    Age:
    61
    Posts:
    25,234
    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2010
    Location:
    Maine
    IME getting the right pickups is more dependent on understanding what we want and how a change in the pickup changes the sound we hear from the amp.

    There are a number of ways to get a functional understanding, and one is to let a pickup maker do the understanding part, while only doing the asking part ourselves.
    Dollars have no tone, but the makers we give the dollars to might be able to help us get what we want.

    IMO buying a random set from one maker after another hoping the makers name will be the secret to our tone is a huge waste.

    But if we buy from a maker and get a sound that's not quite there, we can then ask that maker what they suggest based on how we hear that pickup.
    It's comparatively easy for a maker to give us a little more or a little less treble/ clarity/ midrange/ bass/ fatness/ or whatever we tell them we want more or less of.

    But expecting a brand to be "better" rather than targeting the specific issues with the pickups we already have is shooting in the dark.
    Fralin used to be willing to unwind some turns of wire for free if we bought pickups and they were a little too hot/ dark/ fat/ middy/ bassy.

    Buyers who prefer to pay top dollar have that right, but hopefully they get some custom service for their money.
    The idea that paying more without any due diligence is where IMO buyers get it wrong.
    The right pickup is like the right size shoe, not the right price shoe in any random size.
     
    Peltogyne and Mr Ridesglide like this.
  3. braveheart

    braveheart Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,347
    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2018
    Location:
    here,there and everywhere
    they're good, but not worth the ridiculous money at all...when you see that a Duncan costs half of it...and it doesn't get better than a Duncan...
     
    Mincer likes this.
  4. Mr Ridesglide

    Mr Ridesglide Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Posts:
    2,151
    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2009
    Location:
    Bloomington, MN
    Having read through most of this thread, I understand using custom wound pickups for a guitar that is not branded, or rather the bigger names like Gibson, Fender mostly. But I've always thought that the reason that I play Fenders is that they sound like Fender's, and when I pick up a Gibson, it's because I wanted it to sound like a Gibson. So for those guitars I let them be what they'll be, and when I buy them, I already like the way they sound. Now... having said that, my RI guitars are my favorite sounding..... I'd bet the pickups are more expensive to make for those models than the "standard" models. So once again, what do I know? :)
     
  5. beninma

    beninma Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    3,555
    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2017
    Location:
    Earth
    I think my Lollars were very much worth the money. I absolutely love them. They are very different from the stock ceramic pickups that were in my guitar, so it's very possible I could have been just as happy with some of the cheaper options.

    One of the reasons I got them was I could actually try them in a store in a Telecaster that wasn't too far off mine in a lot of ways. A lot of the cheaper stuff other than Fender is not that easy to try out in the store.

    I think it's kind of silly for someone to throw shade at someone for buying a $200 set of pickups. You have no idea what else the person spent or what their income level is. The person throwing the shade might have 5 Teles and the guy buying the $200 pickups might have 1 Tele. If you only have 1 why not go crazy? We are all just different. I am happy with 1, and I go crazy making sure it's setup absolutely perfect the way I like it. I know other people who think that's silly. They'd rather have 5-10. But I could go through their 5-10 and decide I don't like any of them as much as mine, so what's the point of having 5-10 guitars! And both of us are totally fine and happy.

    That said in the future if I buy another Tele I'll be spending more money up front and it won't be a MIM Standard with Hot Ceramics, so I doubt I'll be changing pickups from the Stock Fender ones. If I was to go buy another Tele today and had to replace my guitar I'd buy an American Pro or maybe an Ultra and I doubt I would change a single thing on it other than setup and adjusting the pickups. If I wasn't replacing mine I'd be looking at a Deluxe or Thinline with Humbuckers. Even if I was to go get a MIM Player I wouldn't change the pickups. This was really specific in my case to not liking the old MIM Standard Ceramics. And I paid so little for my MIM Standard it still cost less than a brand new Player today even after adding up all the costs for the Lollar pickups and all that.
     
    sferguso likes this.
  6. Amon

    Amon Tele-Meister

    Age:
    42
    Posts:
    172
    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2019
    Location:
    Tokyo
    thanks for sharing guys.

    To be honest, I'm not really thinking of buying any expensive PU, unless I hear/play someone's guitar and it blows my mind, assuming it's not the amp, and even then I don't think I'd pay a "whole guitar price" for pups.

    the only pup I have bought so far is a P-rail to replace a crappy humbucker. Already kind of expensive, but I love the concept.

    The other day I noticed I love the texmex on my GF's Deluxe Nashville, but they sound much better than my japanese texmex, so I'll have to look into that. If I didn't own a set already I'd probably go ahead and buy some.
     
    telemnemonics likes this.
  7. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    6,959
    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2019
    Location:
    Between the Raindrops
    Sticking $500 worth of pickups into a guitar that costs $500 is no different than putting $3K wheels and tires on a $5000 used car. The law of diminishing returns is as harsh as the law of gravity when you're operating an aircraft: you *always* have sufficient fuel to reach the site of the crash.

    But it all comes down to what you like, and nobody can tell you differently. Ya buys the ticket and ya takes the ride.
     
    rand z and Amon like this.
  8. 41144

    41144 Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    67
    Posts:
    1,783
    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2017
    Location:
    Brummagen
    You've just got to believe your own ears on all this stuff.

    I definitely prefer AlNiCo over Ceramic, and, when playing them in a 'blind' test to compare them on identical Teles ... think I'd be able to tell the difference.

    But ... Give me 2 identical Teles with AlNiCo Vs in them, one has say Tonerider TRT1s and the other BareKnuckle 55s .... not so sure I could say which was the £60 set and which the £160 one!
     
  9. Amon

    Amon Tele-Meister

    Age:
    42
    Posts:
    172
    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2019
    Location:
    Tokyo
    for real lol

    new pup, new guitar, new leather bag, new shoes lol

    it's harder to judge with electric guitars/parts because of the mix of visual, actual sound, perceived sound, placebo, mood and whatnot, but at the end of the day, regardless of how one hears his guitar,
    there is still some degree of neutral, unbiased "quality" aspect to it.

    It's so interesting to look at things like old springy sound strats and all the fuss, and having to sit down on a rock and take a moment before deciding whether I want to even consider diving into that hole too LOL
     
  10. David Barnett

    David Barnett Doctor of Teleocity

    Age:
    64
    Posts:
    14,196
    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2003
    Location:
    The Far-Flung Isles of Langerhans
    I'm very pleased with the Fred Stuart Black Guard pickup in my Esquire. I don't know if that qualifies as "Expensive"; it was more than Fender CS but it's only one pickup so that takes out some of the sting. Buying pickups for a Strat could be more painful...
     
    swany likes this.
  11. derekirving

    derekirving TDPRI Member

    Posts:
    87
    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2012
    Location:
    santa rosa
    That's a tough one, it's really down to the player/amp/settings/actual guitar and style.
    I've gone through a bunch of Don Mare tele pickups, Curtis Novak, Fender, Vanzandt, etc and while they all sound a bit different, i'd say they are all within 10% of each other and can be similar with EQ and playing style.

    Right now I have a Mexican Fender Tele totally stock including pickups and while they are hotter then a true vintage pickup they work just fine for what I need.

    Unless there is a thing you need out of a pickup (e.g. less wolf'yness or better clarity or less treble) you could look at alternatives, but again these days most stock pickups for Fender, Gibson, etc are pretty good even on their mid Tier guitars. The pressure to change pickups is real :)
    In the golden age guitarist just used what they had.
     
  12. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    54,457
    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2007
    Location:
    New Orleans, LA + in the
    Never assume, it isn't the amp. Or the speaker. Or honestly, the hands and heart of who is playing that moment.

    Some guys here, hear a certain sound in their head, and they go on a pickup quest to try to find that certain sound. I'm pretty much the other way around. If the sound is cool, I find a way to embrace it and incorporate it into what I'm doing.
     
  13. GGardner

    GGardner Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    2,528
    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2017
    Location:
    NJ
    Sometimes when I hear a recording of my playing, I catch myself thinking, "Man, that tone was perfect. I wonder what I was set at there?" But I often can't hear it in the moment. Maybe I should start doing sound tests with my eyes closed.

    P.S. As for boutique pickups, my TVJones Classic (bridge in Gretsch 5120) and Fralin Vintage Hots (MIA strat) sound great to my ears. But, then again, so do the stock pickups that came with my G&L ASAT Tribute and MIJ E-series Squier.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2019
  14. beninma

    beninma Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    3,555
    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2017
    Location:
    Earth
    You're looking at it from the perspective of the collector/guy who thinks this is an investment and not a tool to enjoy & make music with. People who just want a guitar they love don't care about resale value.

    This whole thing is semi-silly anyway. Fender has a $500 set of pickups. Their normal mass produced ones top out at $160 a set. $220 or so to get Lollars or Fralins vs the Fenders is no big deal. Skip buying a pedal. Drink a couple fewer cases of beer.

    Also the $3k wheels on the car is not a good analogy. No one can tell from visuals what pickups are in your guitar, you're not buying any particular pickups to impress people from a distance. The equivalent in the guitar world to $3k wheels on a car is more like fancy inlays or binding that do nothing to make the guitar play better or sound better. We literally call both the $3k wheels & the inlays & bindings bling.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2019
    braveheart likes this.
  15. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Age:
    64
    Posts:
    17,796
    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2010
    Location:
    Western Connecticut
    This is what 'kicking that bucket' looks like.

    You may do better shopping with your own ears and budget.
     
  16. arlum

    arlum Tele-Holic Platinum Supporter

    Age:
    66
    Posts:
    645
    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2018
    Location:
    O'Fallon, MO
    I once picked up a super cheap guitar sitting on a stand in a music store just to noodle around on while I was waiting for a salesman to get back to me. An Ibanez GIO. $179.00. Within a minute or so I realized the darn thing had about the fastest neck I'd ever played on. Low action. No fret buzz. Played like butter. Comfortable. Lightweight. I plugged it in. The pair of humbuckers sounded horrible to my ears. A pair of cheap Ibanez pups that should have been drowned at birth. Yet ..... other than the pickups, I'd have paid half a grand or more for a player like that. So I took the guitar to the counter, added two Seymour Duncan pickups to the order, (an AlNiCoII for the neck and a Custom Custom for the bridge), and a push pull pot for splitting the pickups for single coil tone. $179.00 for the axe. $168.00 for the pickups and maybe $10.00 or $12.00 dollars for the pot. About $358.00 + tax for the whole thing. This happened in 2002. Today I own many guitars than cost over $2500.00 to purchase.. Yet ....... I still own that Ibanez GIO and it's still near the top of the list for pure neck speed. I figure it's one in a million. A wonderful unplanned accident. I've never found another.

    Sometimes it's worth it.
     
    Tommyd55, aging_rocker and Mincer like this.
  17. bblumentritt

    bblumentritt Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,963
    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2012
    Location:
    Austin, Texas
    First, define "expensive"
     
    Tommyd55 and Amon like this.
  18. bblumentritt

    bblumentritt Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,963
    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2012
    Location:
    Austin, Texas
    My MIM Tele came with Tex Mex pickups. I replaced them with Fender Vintage Noiseless pickups, and I constantly get complements on my guitar, and have modded two others to be like mine.
     
    Matt Sarad likes this.
  19. MrGibbly

    MrGibbly Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,694
    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2014
    Location:
    SATX
    I've not necessarily found that price is a particularly good indicator of how much I will like a given piece of gear, pickups or otherwise. In terms of pickups, I've found the Fender Custom Shop offerings to be consistently pleasing and you can often get a really good deal on them. I've really enjoyed (at different times) Texas Specials, '69s, and '51 Nocasters. I was not a fan of the N3 Noiseless. I feel like I got good value from a set of Rio Grand Vintage Tallboys for my Strat-like Object. I've always been pleased with my choices from Gibson USA and TV Jones, as well. On the other hand, I didn't particularly bond with my Seymour Duncan Custom Shop Pearly Gates bridge for Tele and felt a little let down for the money. That's probably because it didn't match the sound in my head and no correlation to actual quality of components or assembly. The only other pickup that I didn't really like was a True Velvet but it was extremely affordable and I got all my money back when I sold it.

    Good look in your quest!
     
  20. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Doctor of Teleocity

    Age:
    70
    Posts:
    11,028
    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2006
    Location:
    Raleigh, North Carolina
    Don Mare and some of the other winders have a reputation for being able to custom wind a pickup based on your description of what you want, and get it right. That's worth more than you'd pay for a comparable off-the-shelf standard pickup. For sure.

    I have a Don Mare set (Supersport/Stelly) $180.00 used. I have a Fender OV set $50.00 used. I like them both. I have an Equire a luthier friend built out of unidentifiable parts bin leftovers (hey, I've got enough odds and ends to make a whole guitar). Pickup cannot be identified, somebody paid to have it replaced, but it sounds good to me.
     
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.