Pickups for an archtop?

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by AJBaker, Jan 29, 2020.

  1. AJBaker

    AJBaker Friend of Leo's

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    I have an old Ibanez AF75 Archtop I got about 15 years ago. I got it second hand at a time when I played very few gigs, and had little money. It later saw me through many of my early gigs, and I even played it when I met my wife! For the price, it's a fantastically well built guitar
    It later on got sidelined by various Fenders and a Casino, but I never sold that Ibanez.

    At one point, as an experiment a few years ago, I put in some Surf 90 pickups from GFS, and redid the wiring, adding nice pots and 50s wiring. It was ok, but very bright and a bit unbalanced with the bridge pickup being much brighter and weaker.
    (They're meant to be Dynasonic-ish pickups, fairly bright and clear.)

    I'm thinking of again having a go at using this guitar, and I'm thinking about finding some pickups that better suit this guitar. (The original Ibanez pickups are long gone, so they're not going back.)
    I might also remove the 50s wiring, but working inside an archtop is a pain...

    I want something that will suit the voice of this guitar, with nice cleans.

    I'm thinking of using/mixing three basic options:
    - The Surf 90s I already have
    - Humbucker sized P90s
    - PAF style humbuckers

    Not planning on spending too much, so I'm looking at the cheaper manufacturers: GFS, Donlis, Bootstrap, Tonerider etc.

    For example, would a Surf 90 neck and a P90 bridge work out well? Or mixing P90 and PAF? Or all P90?

    Thanks!
     
  2. AlbertoMilanese

    AlbertoMilanese Tele-Meister

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    I used to play an old Epiphone and a Peavey with the Surf 90 set from GFS. These pickups are really dependent on your pots and caps. In the Epiphone, they were very bright and twangy, while in the Peavey they have a more rounded, warmer sound. The bridge was not nearly as bright and weak in my Peavey as in the Epiphone. In the end, I settled on a Dream 180 in the neck, and have tried the Dream 180 on and off in the bridge. These are basically a cross-breed between P90s, Filtertrons and PAFs. And especially for the price of around 30 dollars or less, it can't hurt to try them out. I used to play quite a bit of Jazz on the Peavey, so I was looking for a more traditional jazzy tone.

    For nearly all other music styles (disregarding the more heavy ones), I however strongly prefer P90s or Filtertrons to normal humbuckers. They just seem to catch the airyness of these guitars a lot better than most humbuckers can.

    A Surf 90 neck and a P90 bridge may work out very well, if you find a hot enough P90 (shouldn't be much of a problem) -- I'd look for ones around ~8-9k-ish in the bridge, I think the Surf 90 neck has like ~7,2-7,5k output. So find something that has more than 8k, and you're set! The higher output should also take care of your "bright and weak" problems, as a higher output pickup will inevitably come with more balls in the mids and lower mids, as well as less pronounced highs.
     
  3. uriah1

    uriah1 Telefied Gold Supporter

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    AF75 seems like a jazz box to me. I might keep it at PAF format
    just since it was built around those dynamics..but that is me.
     
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  4. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

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    I would probably do what I have done before when I am not sure what I want, look for a good price for some used Duncan pickups. If they don't work out (they usually work great) they are easy to re-sell. With cheaper pickups nobody wants to bother with the used versions, and expensive or too-small brands nobody even looks for. I'd probably go for vintage-output PAFs in a jazz box like that one.
    In your case I would be looking for a pair of '59s, Seth Lovers, Alinico 2 Pro, Pearly Gates, etc. - they are all real similar and you won't know how they sound until they are in there anyhow.
     
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  5. dougstrum

    dougstrum Tele-Afflicted

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    I love a pair of p90's in an archtop;
    A5 and wound to 7-8k. Great for that '50's blue note sound or Tbone Walker vibe.

    If the p90 is too bright and percussive,
    paf that are not over wound would probably be a good choice for you.
     
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  6. rolandson

    rolandson Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    PAF. It's an Archtop.
     
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  7. El Tele Lobo

    El Tele Lobo Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I vote for the humbucker-sized P90s. I have one in a neck-pickup-only tele I built for jazz...a TV Jones T90. Love it. Warm and rich with nice clarity. Very pleased with it. I have some demos on my channel.
     
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  8. AJBaker

    AJBaker Friend of Leo's

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    Interesting advice, thanks.

    I have a SD59, I might try it in the bridge.
     
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  9. jackal

    jackal Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    I like low wind P-90s on an archtop. Take a look at the Bootstrap humbucker sized P-90s.
     
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  10. RobbieAG

    RobbieAG TDPRI Member

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    It depends what you want to do with it. If mainly jazz, then PAF's. If rockabilly, then P90s. A cool combo might be a PAF neck with a P90 bridge.
     
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  11. AJBaker

    AJBaker Friend of Leo's

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    Interesting that you and quite a few others have suggested PAFs since it's an archtop.
    My thinking for archtops was that there were a few basic categories:

    - P90s and other 'primitive' single coils (like Charlie Christianson pickup) for a 40s/50s vibe.

    - PAFs for a later 50s/60s Gibson vibe.

    - Dynasonics/Filtertrons for a Gretsch vibe.

    I don't have much experience with archtops, but hopefully I'll be learning some jazz soon, so it might be the right occasion to sort out this guitar
     
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  12. blowtorch

    blowtorch Telefied Ad Free Member

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    A lot of people love GFS Mean 90s. I do.

    I also think Dream 90s are very nice, but they don't push as hard.

    Like you experienced, the Surf 90s are very bright and clear
     
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  13. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    .

    This LP copy (1970) I put these GFS pickups in it, mean 90 bridge and a dynasonic-ish single coil in the neck. That would be a good option.

    [​IMG]

    I have one of these washburn semi hollows (OE30) that I bought a pair of cream-black zebra humbuckers for $12/pair off ebay. Neck is around 9k and bridge around 14k. Then a standard harness of Bourns 500k pots and modern wiring. You can find the same pickups in dual black, red-black, and chrome covered. I prefer them to the SDs people rave about because they have lower internal capacitance for the same kohms (cleaner and less muddy ... just like hand wound boutique pickups). There are many sellers (people buy a bulk box to break down and sell sets), but generally the pair run $12 to $15/set. Look at the construction/backs pictures when comparing different sellers, plus the kohms you want, they range from 8kohm to 16kohm.


    [​IMG]

    Example link, again there are many sellers to choose from.

    http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-5...0001&campid=5338148343&icep_item=112395320209

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    .
     
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  14. blowtorch

    blowtorch Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Fender Gyrl would likely tell you that Dragonfires are the way to go.
    Myself, as far as humbuckers, I love Ibanez Super 58s for an inexpensive great sound
     
  15. zeedoctour

    zeedoctour Tele-Meister

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    KPH149 or KPH150 (the 150 is slightly more winds, ie: hotter) Gold Foil from GFS (actually an Artec manufactured pickup) ... it's the single coil AlNiCo in a humbucker sized case and will sound FANTASTIC in the neck position of an archop. Will look cool at the same time but you're choosing it for it's amazing tone, being it's an almost identical construction to a Gretsch Hi'LoTron it will surprise you. A pair of them always match up well.

    Top side, cover off

    vistatone_guts.jpg
    Bottom side (original) vista tone_hi-lo tron inside.jpg

    Cover detail jazzcaster2.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2020
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  16. Speedy454

    Speedy454 Tele-Holic

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    A few years ago I had an Epi LP tribute that came stock with good pots, good caps and the Gibson '75 Classic pickup set.
    At the same time I had an Epi LP standard with stock pots, caps and the Tonerider Alnico II Classic humbucker set.

    I was hard pressed to find a difference in tone between them. The neck pickup on the Tonerider was a tad clearer and brighter. Just a tad.
     
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  17. Carcinogen

    Carcinogen TDPRI Member

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    I second everyone who said Mean 90. Huge bang for buck ratio. That gold foil single coil albino in hb body is supposed to be really great, too.
     
  18. rolandson

    rolandson Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    The distinctive flavor that is unique to the archtop melds perfectly to the PAF.
    That's because you said...
    That's why Seth Lover designed them in the first place.
     
  19. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    I think it depends a lot on if you need a noiseless pickup for how you use it. Otherwise go P90's. They are the *&^% for archtops!
    But I can't love HB in any guitar.... so there's that...
    I have been through this on archtops a few times.
    1) No matter what you do , you can only slightly modify the guitar's character with pickups.
    2) You can fit P90's on a humbucker guitar. Gibson P90's are cheap and the way to go. Here's what I did on one, but you need to have room to do it. (P90 covers on top of a HB size plate. This baseplate is sold on Ebay with a Strat pickup cutout on a HB space.) The P90 screws just fit through the Strat pickup opening. Don't go too low wind on P90's, the Gibson ~ 8k wind is warmer than a low wind and you can keep the pickup lower and out of the way:
    [​IMG]

    3) On my current arch top I actually bought a special gold aesthetic Lace Sensor. I would have used a Strat pickup but need noiseless for the Jazzy Duo work: I fit it into a HB ring and it doesn't look too bad. Lace aren't my favorite SC, but compared with HB's they are great! You could also buy a Lace Dually and only hook up one of the two. (they are just two SC's in a HB mount.)
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2020
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  20. AJBaker

    AJBaker Friend of Leo's

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    Interesting.
    I have a Duncan 59 neck, and a JB Bridge pickup that used to be in a Les Paul copy. I might try the 59 in the bridge position.

    Do you think the PAF works better in archtops than the other 'classics' like P90s or Gretsch pickups?
     
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