Swap Alnico 2 for PAF, or leave it alone?

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by Hastings, Aug 20, 2019.

  1. Hastings

    Hastings Tele-Meister

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    Thanks for all the helpful bits. This is useful information for me, and I think that I will leave the PAF thing for a future guitar. The A2 is probably close enough to ideal that I don't want to waste time searching for a hypothetical 5% improvement. Thanks again.
     
  2. rogb

    rogb Tele-Afflicted

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    I wound up some PAFs as close as I could to the accepted vintage specs. I ordered 2x rough cast A4, 1x A2 1xA5 all unmagnetised (total cost £9.60!) in case I felt like swapping them around. I put the 2x A4 in and never changed them out. They sound right to me, good strong mids, sweet but bright top end and smooth solid low end. No mud anywhere until you really roll back the tones!
     
  3. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire

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    Not a HB expert but isn't Al ll what you want on a bright guitar? I put an Alnico ll Pro in my Ibanez for a hotter neck pickup and like it a lot. I usually like Seth Lovers too but wanted a bit hotter this time.
     
  4. JL_LI

    JL_LI Friend of Leo's

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    Bright but OK? Leave it alone and save your money until you find something with a PAF spec pickup you like. You play only the neck pickup. I’d be thinking jazz box. Or you want a solid body, shop the used market for an Epiphone or PRS in great condition and put the pickups you want into it. What if you mod the Godin and you’re not pleased with the result?
     
  5. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    .

    Find the youtube videos "joe walsh gibsonuk setup" numbers 5 and 6 and follow Joe along setting pickup heights for best tone.

    Measure pots and caps in your guitar and go higher/lower measured values and test. Pots have a 20% tolerance range from the factory, and it matters (just like swapping 250k vs 500k vs 1Meg pots, a 550k vs 450k changes the tones).

    Only if those moves failed to get what you want, to swap pickups. But then start at the beginning with height, pots/caps, and new pickups...

    .
     
  6. artzeal

    artzeal TDPRI Member

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    I've used or installed for clients all manner of Alnico II (and other) pickups for decades now, and have had an SD Alnico Pro II around in something ever since they came out in the 80s, because they are a very well balanced pickup, about the best you can do for an Alnico II PAF in the neck position. For a bridge A2 PAF there are many useful variants. The SD A2 is not as edgy as most PAFs which are A5. Its pretty much perfectly wound for Alnico II in that it has that hint of A2 dynamic attenuation capable highs which works so well, but not so much as to lose sparkle and definition. As an overdriven tone it is effortlessly silky smooth. It won't do aggressive crunch anything like ceramic or A5, but unless that's your identity: it's certainly serviceable. If it sounds overly bright in the neck of the guitar - that's one bright guitar: So going to Alnico 4,5 or ceramic PAF will probably sound even brighter unless its overwound, which of course changes the character of the pickup away from PAF. First off, I'd mess with pickup height to see if that can dial it in to satisfaction. If not, maybe an overwound Alnico 2 or 5 could work, but those tend to being thick, even muddy in most guitars (but might be the ideal match for a bright one that that isn't super resonant). A well made higher output ceramic can give tonally balanced, defined and detailed power that would be ideal for focused clean or taut high gain, but then that's no longer a PAF.

    IMO, not enough attention is paid to the characteristics of the guitar in hand: the guitar's resonance is vibrating the strings that the pickups detect, and the same pickup that is bright and tinny in a maple solid body can sound like mud in a hollow body. I once had a Vanson overwound A2 pickup that was downright muffled in anything I had, but (with full disclosure), I traded it to another builder, who called me back a week later proclaiming it was the ideal match for a solid maple guitar that nothing else could rescue: so there you have it: take the guitar into full account when tracking down pickups.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2019
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  7. Golem

    Golem Tele-Holic

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    I tried a set of Lollar Imperials in a Bilt once, and they were bright and single-coil like in nature. I didn't find it too thin, I loved it, but I could easily see your description as the flip side to what I loved about them.
     
  8. Golem

    Golem Tele-Holic

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    Also, to answer the OPs question, I think an A2 Pro is a PAF style pickup. While not all PAFs sound the same, an A2 Pro will at least be in the same general ballpark as other quality PAF designs.
     
  9. Zepfan

    Zepfan Poster Extraordinaire

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    The real PAF pickup made in 1959 had A5 magnets. The earlier year pickups used A2 and some others. Think about the difference between the Gibson 59PAF(A5) and the 57 Classic(A2). They do sound different from one another, but it can get blurred when more winding's come into play like the A2 Pro.

    I tend to prefer a A5 in the neck and A2 in the bridge.
     
  10. homesick345

    homesick345 Poster Extraordinaire

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    The Duncan's Anico 2 pro is an excellent PAF replica

    Variations with any vintage flavored bucker - in this price range - will be minimal
     
  11. archetype

    archetype Fiend of Leo's

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    What @Ian T said. Also ,break out the screwdriver and dial in the pickup height. Give youself a lot of time to do this. When you're done, put the guitar down and do the same process again the next day with rested ears and brain. Also, turning up the amp and then using the guitar's volume and tone controls can work wonders.

    I think your tone is in there. You just need to find it.
     
  12. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    If you have the funds to satisfy your curiosity and the pickup in there now isn't even stock or one you chose as your favorite, I'd say it's always woth exploring pickup choices.

    I would not however buy one of the secret sauce holy grail $400 PAF copies hoping for the perfect PAF.

    I'd suggest starting with maybe one of the Gibson Burstbuckers that come in many variations and are popular to remove without even plugging the brand new $4000 guitar in for a listen first.
    Because internet mass complaining tends to pick favorites that new buyers repeat over and over without ever hearing the pickup they claim to hate, there are lots of good deals on them.
    Aside from the asymmetric coils (not counter wound to the same turn count) which is more vintage PAF correct than the modern improved PAF, the BBs come in several winds with IIRC both A5 and A2 magnets, as well as potted and unpotted.
    You can explore almost the entire range of PAF variants just in the BB model, except for really low wind and symmetric wind.

    Now and then they sell for $50- $60 on ebay and are beautifully made pickups with the solid nickel silver covers (or no cover) and the winder name and date along with model on a sticker on the bottom.

    The Gibson 57 Classic is the symmetrical coil modernized version and is good as well, for maybe double the price used.
    Both run $200 each new.

    Gotta love the fickle pickup swappers of the world!
     
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  13. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I wish there were more truly bright PAF clones on the market, but the buyer of today seems so afraid of treble (AKA ice pick) that pickup makers have to bow to popular demand.
    All the hemp cones sold seems to confirm this, along with buyer general preference for hotter/ fatter/ darker pickups when seeking to recreate vintage toanz made with clearer brighter lower wind pickups and no treble dulling hemp.

    AFAIK original PAFs were closer to 7k with the same other specs, but today buyers prefer more like 8k and claim lower winds with more vintage clear bright tone sound thin compared to their other preferred more modern HB guitars.

    All this fits with popular dislike for bright clear HBs.
     
  14. Teleterr

    Teleterr Friend of Leo's

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    Magnet swap, easier and cheaper.
     
  15. Golem

    Golem Tele-Holic

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    I know T-Tops were in the 7.2K range but I've been under the impression that winds were all over the place DCR and magnet type wise for the first years of their existence.

    I feel like people don't advertise PAFs as bright, but there are some famous ones that I find bright: Seth Lovers, T-Top replicas, Super 58s (in the high end Ibanez guitars), most low-wind PAFs. I'd almost argue some of the warmer and hotter filtertrons easily get into low-wind PAF territory and blur the distinction between PAFs and Filtertrons quite a bit. The Lollar El Rayo, is a bit unusual, but certainly can do bright PAF if you don't hit the strings too hard. I don't know if I would say they're unpopular so much as they aren't called bright.
     
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  16. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Maybe the buyers asking for a pickup with a "warmer tone" drive the manufacturers to make darker pickups, when what buyers need to do as players is look to their hands for warmth rather than expecting the pickups to provide it.

    We often see the idea of a "Jazz HB" as being a warm sounding pickup, when in reality it is a bright sounding pickup in the darker warmer neck position. All know they want clarity, but asking for more warmth in a neck position HB reduces clarity.

    I just find it an endless mystery how marketing and internet discussion has found for example the common vintage Tele bridge pickup @ around 6k to have ice pick tone.

    I just don't let my pickups dictate my tone as much as choosing pickups that have the degree of clarity and overall character I want, then picking and muting for the resulting tones.
     
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  17. fenderchamp

    fenderchamp Tele-Afflicted

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    Last edited: Aug 26, 2019
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  18. Volktar

    Volktar TDPRI Member

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    My suggestion is to call Lindy Fralin. Eve if you dont buy from him, he and his staff are amazing at pairing the right sort of pickup to whatever guitar you are trying to tame and what you are personally trying to get out of it.
     
  19. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

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    They will sound the same if the inductance is the same.

    All of those PAF clones use grades of steel for the screws and slugs, of which are effectively identical, nickel silver cover and base plate, four little brass screws, and some sort of plastic (butyrate, ABS) for the bobbins and a wood or plastic spacer. People observe, without direct evidence, that one PAF sounds unlike another, and while there are a lot of magical reasons given for why that should be (it was wound with more passion than another) chances are that they don't have the same inductance, because so few people have LCR meters on hand, and the makers won't list inductance.

    Regarding this whole issue though, you mentioned the tone control, was a tone control adjustment enough?
     
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  20. Teleterr

    Teleterr Friend of Leo's

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    Same induction doesn't necessarily give the same tone. If you have two HBs in parallel and connect the coil junctions they sound brighter. Induction of the 2 together remain the same.
     
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