Tone Specific pickups

Fenderbaum

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Too expensive for me.. Never see the point of paying more than $200 max for a set of pickups.
That, and the Arlo fabrication gets me to stay away from this company. To me, just a tactics from their side to sell pickups for $1000 a set.. Good ploy, but i wont bite it..
Im sure their pickups sound good, but one can find just as good pickups everywhere else for 1/3 the price.
 

Antigua Tele

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I suspect that TS pickups are made in Asia. The whole fake “Virgil Argo” thing makes me question the whole enterprise. Buyer beware

He posted a video of his shop. It looked rather dirty, but none the less functional. He charges so much for the pickups that I don't think he would need to outsource at that price.

This is just assembly though, I'm not sure any of the well known pickup makers actually produce their own covers, bobbins and baseplates. I think at best they might cut their own fiberboard with a laser cutter. Most if not all of them don't have the tooling for making the metal and plated parts in a cost effective production.
 

cousinpaul

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I'm a little confused about the "harsh tone in the middle position" that TS speaks of. I've had a SD59 and a Phat Cat in and out of my tele and never encountered that.
 

bgmacaw

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11 Gauge

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If pickups weren't different from one another, we wouldn't be having this conversation.
But there are more than a few instances where different vendors make what are basically the same pickups - same bobbins, wire, number of winds, and same magnets. And IME, these pickups sound the same, regardless of who makes them, or what they cost. And we talk about these similar/same pickups all the time.

I really find this to be true of many different Strat pickups, regardless of who makes them. Again, I'm talking apples to apples with materials - same wire gauge, same magnets, same (or at least very similar, for the sake of audible sonic differences) # of turns of wire.

And in the case of what's IMO just a basic Fender single coil, what can possibly be done to either the wire or magnets to make it 'more better' than the many affordable examples that already sound great? What can possibly be done to 42 gauge or 43 gauge wire, or alnico 2/3/5 that others aren't already doing? I'd really like to know. If it can't be clearly and easily explained, it personally makes it hard for me to believe it.
 

jdl57

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What can possibly be done to 42 gauge or 43 gauge wire, or alnico 2/3/5 that others aren't already doing? I'd really like to know. If it can't be clearly and easily explained, it personally makes it hard for me to believe it.
My experience is that of a long time audiophile, someone interested in getting the best sound out of stereo gear. The problem is, a wire is not necessarily just a wire, and a magnet is not necessarily a magnet. Wire is made by using cast copper rods which are forced through dies that form it to the desired diameter. When copper is cast, impurities and especially oxygen molecules get in between the copper crystals, affecting the electrical flow through the wire. In the stereo world, this can be mitigated by using oxygen free copper, or better yet, Ohno continuous cast copper, which draws out the grains of copper to the point where they effectively are single grains throughout the wire. Since there is 4,000-5,000 feet of wire on a pickup, OCCC is not possible. OCCC is also very expensive, and in my opinion, worth it. Also, along the length of the pickup wire, the thickness may vary from 40 to 46 gauge. Magnets can be cast (melted) or sintered (mashed together under heat and pressure). High quality wire is expensive, high quality magnets are expensive.

A pickup works by the vibrating string causing a flux in the field of the magnets, thereby inducing a current in the wire. It is a generator. If you cause a current to flow through a wire, that will also induce a current in another wire next to the first wire. Wires laying side by side have the most inductance, wires crossing at a 90 degree angle have almost none. This is why scatter wound pickups are desirable.

The amount of current produced by a pickup is infinitesimal, that's why so much wire is required. Would you suppose the quality of that wire might have an influence on the sound of the pickup? Why do we bother with alnico magnets when ceramic magnets are still magnets, and so much cheaper? In that interview with Ron Ellis that I posted the link to, he states that he rejects a lot of the materials that he gets. I wonder if Fender or Seymour-Duncan do that?
 

11 Gauge

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My experience is that of a long time audiophile, someone interested in getting the best sound out of stereo gear. The problem is, a wire is not necessarily just a wire, and a magnet is not necessarily a magnet. Wire is made by using cast copper rods which are forced through dies that form it to the desired diameter. When copper is cast, impurities and especially oxygen molecules get in between the copper crystals, affecting the electrical flow through the wire. In the stereo world, this can be mitigated by using oxygen free copper, or better yet, Ohno continuous cast copper, which draws out the grains of copper to the point where they effectively are single grains throughout the wire. Since there is 4,000-5,000 feet of wire on a pickup, OCCC is not possible. OCCC is also very expensive, and in my opinion, worth it. Also, along the length of the pickup wire, the thickness may vary from 40 to 46 gauge. Magnets can be cast (melted) or sintered (mashed together under heat and pressure). High quality wire is expensive, high quality magnets are expensive.

A pickup works by the vibrating string causing a flux in the field of the magnets, thereby inducing a current in the wire. It is a generator. If you cause a current to flow through a wire, that will also induce a current in another wire next to the first wire. Wires laying side by side have the most inductance, wires crossing at a 90 degree angle have almost none. This is why scatter wound pickups are desirable.

The amount of current produced by a pickup is infinitesimal, that's why so much wire is required. Would you suppose the quality of that wire might have an influence on the sound of the pickup? Why do we bother with alnico magnets when ceramic magnets are still magnets, and so much cheaper? In that interview with Ron Ellis that I posted the link to, he states that he rejects a lot of the materials that he gets. I wonder if Fender or Seymour-Duncan do that?
IMHO, something that may be potentially very important for one form of audio (in this case hifi audio), may not really be applicable to other non-hifi forms of audio (in this case most things electric guitar).

I'd probably argue that the reason we bother with alnico magnets has more to do with the conservative nature of many guitarists, and therefore a belief that they are necessary for optimal sonic whatever. Also, there's a misperception among many guitarists that 'magnets have a sound', when they do not. It seems that many pickup makers would rather just play it safe, and continue to offer pickups that are made the same way as when first introduced, so that means using the same magnets ensures that you don't scare away any conservative-minded customers.

As far as Fender or SD rejecting a lot of the materials that they get, I imagine they have sufficient QC given their pricing. And just using my ears, and being happy with more than a few of their offerings, IMO it is probably a moot point whether or not they reject a little or a lot of materials.

If rejecting a lot of the materials used in assembling (IMO) basic passive transducers results in the price being much higher than $90 or so (at least for something like the typical Strat or Tele single coil), I'm personally not interested in such a product. Maybe if what I've been using all these years sounded in some way sonically deficient, then I'd try to seek out something better.
 

thegaijin

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I have no experience with Tone Specific. I do own a pair of Ron Ellis pickups. This is a discussion about "overpriced" pickups. Ninety nine percent of the people here, will tell me that they can't possibly be worth the money. I had built a partscaster and was rolling through pickups trying to find something I liked. On a whim, I had emailed Ron Ellis, figuring he would not get back to me. I first tried Lace Sensor bridge combined with a Lace Alumitone neck that I already owned and liked. I didn't care for that combination at all. Another neck pickup I owned and liked was a Lollar Charlie Christian, humbucker sized, and I had just found and ordered a used Lollar B.S. Tele bridge at about half price, when I got a reply from his son, Alan. Since I had their attention, I decided to order a set when I could. I knew if I didn't think they were worth the money, I could sell them on Reverb for a profit. They cost $678 delivered. So the question is: are they really expensive if I can resell them easily for $800?

So, I put them in my guitar. View attachment 984782 The neck pickup didn't work hidden under the pickguard like the CC did, so I had to make a hole for it. They took about two months to come and they have been in the guitar since early March. They are staying in this guitar. I love them. I have not heard/played every pickup made, but these are best I have experienced.

If you are one of the people who think a pickup is just magnets surrounded by wire, then feel free to buy the cheapest Guitar Fetish pickups. If pickups weren't different from one another, we wouldn't be having this conversation. I have watched the Tone Specific videos, and certainly considered them, but you cannot get a good idea of how they really sound on a YouTube video. I can recommend Ron Ellis pickups.

This is kind of long but it explains why Ron Ellis pickups cost so much. In a few words, he tests everything that goes into each pickup, in a materials lab.

I just got a set too. Setting cost aside, I’m with you all the way on how good they sound. Glad I got them.
 

rigatele

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Would you suppose the quality of that wire might have an influence on the sound of the pickup?
It would depend on how you define and measure quality. Quality never stands alone - it is always a measure of how close something comes to a set of standards. Those standards are typically conditioned by the application to which the thing is put. That is because some aspects of a thing have no bearing on the quality as it would be measured by the application. Others depend completely on the application.

For example, a guitar wire used to supply power to a desk lamp would be considered of very poor quality - it is too thin. A lamp cord wire would be considered of terrible quality if used to wind a pickup coil - but it's really perfect for the lamp!

If you want to talk about "qualities" which really means parameters or properties, that is a different discussion. Different gauges of pickup wire and different kinds (especially thickness) of insulation are known (proven) to influence pickup electrical performance, hence also the sound to some degree. But the choice and assessment of parameters that increase assessed quality by getting closer to some defined target performance, is not something that can be done blindly. It requires an engineering understanding of how those parameters do affect the outcome.
 

jdl57

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But the choice and assessment of parameters that increase assessed quality by getting closer to some defined target performance, is not something that can be done blindly. It requires an engineering understanding of how those parameters do affect the outcome.
You just described Ron Ellis.
 

jdl57

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If rejecting a lot of the materials used in assembling (IMO) basic passive transducers results in the price being much higher than $90 or so (at least for something like the typical Strat or Tele single coil), I'm personally not interested in such a product.
Amazon has a set of Wilkinson Tele pickups for $26.80, $13.40 per pickup. If nothing that goes into making pickups matters, after all it's just magnets and wire, why would you spend more than this? We live in a world where a $700 guitar is considered expensive. You're not going to put $650 pickups in a $700 guitar. I get it. My reference point is different. I started playing in 1965. After playing for 3 years my parents bought me my first guitar, a Supro Folkstar. It was not my dream guitar, that would have been an ES-335. The Supro was $130, an ES-335 cost $915 in 1968. In today's dollars, the Supro would be $1080, and the Gibson, $7600, and you still need to buy an amp. A Telecaster with a Champ amp? --$2,600 in today's dollars. I don't come from a world where quality instruments are cheap.

When I built the Shell Pink guitar that is my avatar, I tried a lot of pickup variations ranging from a vintage gold foil to a Lace Alumitone. Ever wonder what a Tele bridge pickup sounds like in the neck position? I tried it--it sounds like a neck pickup. I obviously did not try every possible pickup. In the picture there is a Lollar B.S. in the bridge and a Lollar Charlie Christian hiding under the pickguard, both pickups exceeding your price limit by 100%. They would have been suitable if I had never tried the Ellis's.

I'm a bedroom, basement actually, player, I play clean 99% of the time through a Surfy Bear spring reverb and a 1949 Tweed Princeton. I love the sound this guitar makes, and that justifies the price for me.
 

old wrench

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There are always going to be some folks who equate "expensive" with "quality" - there is a perception of belonging to a select group, or an exclusive club - Group A

There are always going to be some folks who demand "value" and "quality" in exchange for their dollars - they also have a perception of belonging to a select group, and some of them do belong to a club, like Sam's Club or Costco - Group B

Who determines exactly what "quality" is?


Why would we think pickup winders should be any different than the rest of us?

Some winders are going to target Group A - other winders will target Group B

I don't have to give you any examples of pickup winders in either category because, no doubt, you are already thinking of your own examples


Advertising - that's all the info that pickup winders include along with a picture of their pickup - if they do include a picture

Yeah, it's all advertising - the descriptions, the superlatives, all of it

There are laws and regulations regarding advertisements - but they only apply in cases of blatant deception, because advertising is protected under the first amendment to the Constitution.

For example, a pickup winder cannot make the claim that their pickup will make you lose four inches off your waistline in one week - but they can say their pickup will make you sound like Eric Clapton or Eddie Van Halen

Sometimes what pickup makers don't disclose - like a simple resistance reading - is also telling

So, try to think objectively when you select your pickups - "caveat emptor" :)

.
 

Antigua Tele

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Amazon has a set of Wilkinson Tele pickups for $26.80, $13.40 per pickup. If nothing that goes into making pickups matters, after all it's just magnets and wire, why would you spend more than this?

I would say that those pickups are so cheap that they do have the objective deficiencies, for example they're not vintage correct, but you can't get a vintage correct pickup for around $50. What's the pickup is made vintage correct, there's nothing more to be gained by spending more money, and if you spend $600 instead of $50, then you will have wasted $550 for no functional gain.

But the fact that you are under the impression there would be a reason to spend $600 for pickups, is the very reason why this market exists.
 

jrblue

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I've dumped everything from humbuckers to active pickups -- including both active and passive in the same instrument -- into Teles and never found it to be some incredibly challenging operation that reuires post-guru training and experience. I've grown to really, really dislike the self-appointed and self-described pickup swamis who brag about their magical creations. I'm no genius tech or player, but I can get truly great sounds out of most pickups and signal chains. It's not that hard. And if I could buy anything magical, it would be note choice, touch, and phrasing, and nobody's selling that kind of magic.
 

jdl57

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I would say that those pickups are so cheap that they do have the objective deficiencies, for example they're not vintage correct, but you can't get a vintage correct pickup for around $50. What's the pickup is made vintage correct, there's nothing more to be gained by spending more money, and if you spend $600 instead of $50, then you will have wasted $550 for no functional gain.
There is a famous anecdote attributed to many people, but I'll use Groucho Marx. While sitting at a table next to a beautiful actress, Groucho asks: "Madam, would you sleep with me for 10 million dollars?" "Of course", she says. "Would you sleep with me for 10 dollars?" "What kind of a girl do you think I am?" "We've already determined that, now we are just negotiating a price."

So, we have determined that a $14 pickup is not any good, and yes, I would agree, and a $300 pickup is an overpriced folly. How about a $30 pickup? $50? $90? At what point does it become impossible to make it better?

I also have a different definition of spend than you do. I knew that if I didn't like, or was unimpressed, by these pickups, I could turn around and sell them on Reverb for a profit. Hardly a waste of money. What was a waste of money were the Lace Sensor and Lollar B.S. that I bought in an attempt to not spend $600 on pickups.
 

Antigua Tele

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So, we have determined that a $14 pickup is not any good, and yes, I would agree, and a $300 pickup is an overpriced folly. How about a $30 pickup? $50? $90? At what point does it become impossible to make it better?

Like has been said, you have to first decide what "good quality" means in this context. I'm saying "vintage correct", but we could lower our standards to "it just works", if we wanted, and a $14 pickup would be "high quality" from that standpoint. From the standpoint of vintage correct, it can be had for under $100 realistically, from brands like BYO and Tonerider, and I've even found ProBuckers on AliExpress that are vintage correct for around $40 per set, or $20 per humbucker. Really amazing, to be honest. From AlNiCo 2 and nickel silver covers, to wood spacers and braided hookup wire.

I also have a different definition of spend than you do. I knew that if I didn't like, or was unimpressed, by these pickups, I could turn around and sell them on Reverb for a profit. Hardly a waste of money. What was a waste of money were the Lace Sensor and Lollar B.S. that I bought in an attempt to not spend $600 on pickups.

You can't spend that $600 you don't have, though. And I don't think you're going to make a profit, these things hold value OK, but they typically do not appreciate. Even if you sell it for the same price, you take a loss on the seller's fee.

Say for the sake of argument the $50 and $600 pickups function the same. You spent $600, and you have $600 in stored value, but you only have $50 worth in utility value. The other $550 is basically stuck inside an object that is only yielding $50 worth of function. That other $550 could have contributed towards a better sounding amp, you still have the same amount of asset value between the amp and the $50 pickup, but now you have both the utility of the pickup and the better amp.
 
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oregomike

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Anybody try them? Not cheap... Sometimes I wonder if any boutique pickups are any better that SDs or Fender...
$600 and 2 month wait? Lol, hell no. Good luck with that business model.
 




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