Question on PAFs in a 2005 ES-335 dot

dlew919

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My duo partner has this guitar. He struggles to get a good tone out of it. I suspect it's because he's hearing in his head the sound of brighter guitars - Teles, Strats, or even Gretsches. There are other possibilities, too, I guess - the wrong pots - 250k pots, rather than 500 (for some manufacturing reason.) He plays through a Hot Rod Deluxe, so I don't think it's the amp. The pickups might have been degaussed for some reason. There are likely other factors I haven't thought of.

I've confirmed the guitar as a genuine Gibson - the serial number is legit and there doesn't seem to be any red flags re: fit and finish. (It plays beautifully).

He still thinks that perhaps the more expensive PAFs were replaced by cheap knockoffs for some reason. He said a luthier told him that the word 'Gibson' has to appear on the cover. I've looked at dozens of pictures on the Gibson website, and I don't think that's necessarily correct.

But apart from taking the pickups out, is there a way of telling if they're fake? (We're still more or less in lockdown and he lives 2 hours from me. (Normally not a problem, but travel restrictions). He has no tech ability.

I find it muddy but I am not a fan of PAFs (I envy Slash, and Larry Carlton, and Alex Lifeson and B B King who get great, great tone. So it's me.)

Anyway, just asking the collective hive?



Thanks in advance!
 

dlew919

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Oh, he bought it off a company in Sydney who had a reputation (whether justified or not) for dodgy dealings. they've since long gone.
 

Dacious

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The luthier is wrong. Genuine PAFs never had Gibson printed on them - they only appeared briefly in the early 70s on fairly generic buckers. . The PAF sticker appears on the bottom usually but not always.

Theres multiple reasons for crap sound. It could be as simple as the pickups being adjusted up in their mounts too close to the strings. Sometimes dropping the pickups and especially the bass side away from the strings will reduce mud and give a brighter tone.

Also - the Horrid Deluxe can be 'questionable'. To reduce mud, careful setting up helps. Version, speaker and tube condition all count.

People don't realise but the Fender tone stack makes it possible to have a harsh bassy tone. The treble also controls the mids and bass at high settings.

It's best to start with tone controls on midday. Don't crank treble thinking it will go brighter. You shouldn't need much more than 6-7. If you're on 8,9,10 it's probably set too high.

Reduce bass and mids slightly.
 
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dlew919

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I did suggest to him pickup height, and still think that might be the issue. I've also shown him how to find the sweet spot on an amp.

Thanks!
 

hamerfan

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Next time he is going to change strings he can look under the pickups. Take a pic of both undersides and post it here. We will tell you.
 

Chiogtr4x

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Put in some 500K pots, and you will be surprised how much it will liven up the sound.
I know I may be comparing apples and oranges ( Epiphone vs.Gibsons)
but I have owned and sold 3 Epi 335-style ( from late '90's-early 2000's) that had Epi PAF-style pickups and even replaced a few with Gibson Classic '57's.
They all had the 250 K pots ( which I just overlooked, at the time, when having pickups upgraded), and always sounded unclear, muddy ( I'm talking clean here...)

These guitars only sounded decent with Tone controls and Volume knobs all the way up ( into clean Fender combo amps), and as soon as I turned Volume knobs back, from full ON, just blah/toneless. Can't play or sound good, like that.

Fast forward to last year I got a 2018 Epi SG Pro ( after falling in love years ago with a buddy's real Gibson '61 RI SG) with PAF-style pickups and CTS 500K pots, and literally 'night and day' between this guitar and the previous Epis.
Daylight, dynamics, tone all there! And easily shaded ( bass<>treble) with the guitar's controls.

I think those 500K pots made all the difference
 

SixStringSlinger

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As others have said, lowering the pickups (and raising the pole pieces to make up for volume loss, if your friend wants) will help a lot, as will checking on the pots (humbucker-equipped guitars - regardless of manufacturer - tend to come with 500k pots, but given a possible 20% tolerance, they may actually measure anywhere between 400k and 600k, a very noticeable difference that may cross the line between your friend liking and hating the sound).

It may well be that the pickups are not what he thinks they should be, and that they're to blame for his tone woes (though it should be noted that there are two separate issues). But to a very large extent a pickup is a pickup and assuming they're of the same basic design there should be very little difference between them that can't be made up for by tinkering with the electronics (cheap!) and playing with the pickup heights (free!).
 

Larry Mal

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Also there is pretty big variety with the PAF type pickup, some of them are wound pretty hot and do suffer from a dull sound.

If he is replacing the wiring harness then he might want to consider looking at what the pickups are. Chances are they are pretty good and pretty low wind, though, Gibson tends to make the ES-335s have versatile pickups in them. I am looking at a 2005 335 and it is listed as having '57 Classics, which really aren't bad pickups and should be able to generate a good clean sound with good high end to them.

Who knows what is really in them at this point.

But no, Gibson pickups don't have "Gibson" on them. Only way to know what they are is to pull one, which will take about five minutes at a string change.
 

Dacious

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I had a 59 Fatneck Dot - not the CS which was closed due to the flood in Nashville. Mine was a Memphis built one. Some orange peel but a very resonant guitar. I think Gibson built these to use bits intended for the Historics.

It had the nickel cover 57 historic PAFs 7.5k pickups with all nickel hardware including tulip key tuners. 300k pots. It had the 50s style wiring. Not dark or muddy but the controls on these are very interactive. You have both pickups selected and turn one volume or tone down it globally affected both. So it could sound dark.

Being 2005 it should have 57 Classic type pickups which are probably vintage ballpark 7-8kohm. In my experience the 50s wiring is better in terms of less mud if the volumes and tones are less than ten. Otherwise you need treble bleeds.
 
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arlum

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I've only owned one set of Gibson pickups with the name Gibson stamped into the cover. They came standard production on the 1972 SG Deluxe and are known today as "Black Back" Gibson pickups. No other Gibson pickup I've ever owned has a stamped name on the cover. I would think 500k pots would be the minimum mandatory value on a 335. If your friend wants to brighten it up even more he could have 1 Meg-ohm pots installed.
 

old wrench

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Gibson ES 335 with 250k pots?

Sure doesn't sound like "from the Gibson factory" equipment ;)

If it has 250k pots, who knows what type of humbuckers are in it till you look and see.

They could be aftermarket "hot" humbuckers.

Those "hot" ones are really the only humbuckers that sound muddy to me.

Good vintage wind or PAF type humbuckers have sparkle and chime in their high end



Every stock ES 335 I've played has had a nice range of good usable tone - that's really what 335's are known for - very versatile guitars :).


.
 

uriah1

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I thought most 335 since 2001 had classic 57. Love those. What is his ohm readings ?
 

JL_LI

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A dot isn’t the top of the 335 line. It likely has 490R and 498T pickups. What’s wrong with them is that they’re middle of the road, neither vintage nor hot. I have 490’s in my SG. It’s easy to get a clean bright tone from them if you use an equalizer. Rolling off low frequencies will get you clarity. You may find that’s all you need. If you still want more brightness, boost highs by a few dB. With low frequencies rolled off you won’t be pushing your amp. I use a BOSS EQ-200. It’s $250US and worth every penny.
 

BFcaster

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As many have already said, 500k (audio taper for both Tone and Volume- my opinion) pots and pickup height are crucial. I'll add check the resistance of the pickups just to have it as a comparison number for the various brands out there. Easy with a multimeter and a guitar cable plugged in.
50s wiring is my preferred PAF scheme, as it is more versatile. My opinion of course.
**Worth checking is to make sure the capacitor value is .22. If the pots are 250k then the cap might be .15 or something. 500k and .22 are 'standard' for PAFs, but by no means carved into stone.
 

Si G X

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He still thinks that perhaps the more expensive PAFs were replaced by cheap knockoffs for some reason. He said a luthier told him that the word 'Gibson' has to appear on the cover. I've looked at dozens of pictures on the Gibson website, and I don't think that's necessarily correct.

But apart from taking the pickups out, is there a way of telling if they're fake? (We're still more or less in lockdown and he lives 2 hours from me. (Normally not a problem, but travel restrictions). He has no tech ability.

Just check what the pickups are first, they are sat in the rings.. you only have to take the 4 corner screws out of the rings and have a look underneath at the bottom of the pickup... genuine gibson pickups will be marked underneath.

He has the 'tech ability' to use a screwdriver I would guess?
 

SixStringSlinger

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You can also just email Gibson with the serial number and a few pics and they can tell you all about the guitar, including what pickups it left the factory with. That may help set an expectation for what to look for.
 




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