Looking for Recommendations on Humbuckers with a Natural, Flat EQ Response

ToneCapMan

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Contrary to my name, I’ve never been a tone chasing gear guy until very recently. As a player, I’ve always been far more interested in technique, music theory, learning as much about the fretboard as possible, etc. I’d been playing a 2014 Epiphone Les Paul Standard with “sh1tty” Alnico Classic pickups (not the Classic PROs) for years through a Roland Cube amp. It sounded fine to me.

Recently, as I’ve become more interested in the physical aspects of the guitar itself, I decided to try a set of Epiphone Probucker PAF-style pickups to see if a higher quality set would really make much a of a difference in tone.


There’s no doubt that these pick ups have a clarity that my old stock pick ups did not have. When playing a harmonically complex chord, each note is distinctly audible; not drowned in the bass tones. The attack of the pick hitting the string is punchier; Sharper. I like them! I play a lot of 40s-60s jazz oriented music & these pick ups make my solid body electric sound much more like a Gibson ES-175; A guitar I like very much & that is featured on many of my favorite guitar recordings. But I feel that the older stock pick ups had a flatter, more natural EQ response that I miss a little. Its a common sentiment that PAF pickups have an upper mid range “honk” and I agree. I’d even go so far as to say they have a certain “playing through a megaphone” quality about them.

Anyway, now that I’m becoming a gear guy but still know very little about pick ups, I was wondering: What are a set of nice humbuckers known for having a very flat, natural EQ? I play mostly clean I’m not too concerned with how they sound overdriven.

Thanks!
 

Will_Darden

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IMO, tone is often more subjective than waveform measurements would suggest. I would encourage you to spend time listening to samples of different pickups.

That said, I picked up a pair of Gunstreet Wiring Shop’s PAF-style HBs and I’ve been very impressed. They come in three flavors with slightly different tone profiles — I chose the vintage for their treble response (they went in a baritone tele deluxe) and remind me of the pups on my ES335. I have no affiliation with GSWS outside of also being from Portland, but I have been so satisfied that I will happily recommend their stuff to anyone who will listen.
 

schmee

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Seymour Duncan '59's seem to be a traditional, fairly flat eq HB. I like the Seth Lovers a tad better , but really, they are very close.
Another option is to get yourself a Boss EQ pedal and take some mids out if you need to.

For real flat flat EQ, you could go to some active EMG's. Personally they seem life less to me, but maybe that's what you are looking for.

I'm not a big HB user, but over the years I have found swapping HB's to actually create very little difference.... unless you go extreme hot/cold or something.

The Duncan site has comparison on their HB's with "LOW#- MID#- HIGH#" numerical comparison, which is useful.
So a Duncan '59 is rated at 6-3-8 and a Seth Lover is at 6-4-8 Although the mids seem scooped reading those numbers, they dont sound scooped to me.
Check out column 5, scroll down:
 
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bgmacaw

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For real flat flat EQ, you could go to some active EMG's. Personally they seem life less to me, but maybe that's what you are looking for.

Active EMGs was what I was thinking as well and I agree that unless one is going for a super high gain metal-ish sound they probably aren't the best choice.
 

DugT

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Contrary to my name, I’ve never been a tone chasing gear guy until very recently. As a player, I’ve always been far more interested in technique, music theory, learning as much about the fretboard as possible, etc. I’d been playing a 2014 Epiphone Les Paul Standard with “sh1tty” Alnico Classic pickups (not the Classic PROs) for years through a Roland Cube amp. It sounded fine to me.

Recently, as I’ve become more interested in the physical aspects of the guitar itself, I decided to try a set of Epiphone Probucker PAF-style pickups to see if a higher quality set would really make much a of a difference in tone.


There’s no doubt that these pick ups have a clarity that my old stock pick ups did not have. When playing a harmonically complex chord, each note is distinctly audible; not drowned in the bass tones. The attack of the pick hitting the string is punchier; Sharper. I like them! I play a lot of 40s-60s jazz oriented music & these pick ups make my solid body electric sound much more like a Gibson ES-175; A guitar I like very much & that is featured on many of my favorite guitar recordings. But I feel that the older stock pick ups had a flatter, more natural EQ response that I miss a little. Its a common sentiment that PAF pickups have an upper mid range “honk” and I agree. I’d even go so far as to say they have a certain “playing through a megaphone” quality about them.

Anyway, now that I’m becoming a gear guy but still know very little about pick ups, I was wondering: What are a set of nice humbuckers known for having a very flat, natural EQ? I play mostly clean I’m not too concerned with how they sound overdriven.

Thanks!
You sound like a good candidate for single coils unless you need the low noise of humbucking. For Jazz you might prefer a low output single coil neck pickup. The highs might be too high but that is what the tone knob is for. 4 wire Humbuckers and a coil split switch is another good option. When I want a clean tone that sounds the most like an acoustic guitar I use a low output single coil strat middle pickup.
 

Telekarster

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FWIW when I recently built my 335, I used Gibson Burstbucker's 1 and 2 and I love em. In fact, I just bought another set of them to use in yet another 335 build that I'm doing for a friend of mine. When he played my 335 he simply couldn't put it down, saying it was the best sounding/playing 335 he'd ever had in his hands, and wanted me to build one exactly like the one I built for myself. He's a long time rocker who's been on the scene professionally for decades, traveling the world with big name people/groups you'd know, so I was rather blown away by his reaction to my 335 to say the least i.e. if it blew him away well.... Anyway, don't know if the BB's are what you're looking for but you might want to give em a look/see. Good luck in whatever you decide to to man!
 

ToneCapMan

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You sound like a good candidate for single coils unless you need the low noise of humbucking. For Jazz you might prefer a low output single coil neck pickup. The highs might be too high but that is what the tone knob is for. 4 wire Humbuckers and a coil split switch is another good option. When I want a clean tone that sounds the most like an acoustic guitar I use a low output single coil strat middle pickup.
Come to think of it you may be right. I bought the Les Paul back in the day because I thought "Jazz = neck humbucker" but have always been impressed with the sound of single coil guitars when I pick them up now and then. Maybe I need to just get a Squier Affinity of some sort to mess around with for a while and see how I like the tone.
 




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