What pickup really knocked your socks off?

TokyoPortrait

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Hi again.

Now, what was the OP’s question again? Oh yeah.

Well, first off, I don’t have a specific answer, as my ‘blown away’ moments are more generic ones.

I only had one guitar, an Ibanez Roadster (kinda strat-like) for some 16 years or so (I think) before moving to Japan. Then I bought an Epiphone Japan (when it was still a thing) Les Paul, based around the idea of ‘59 bursts. It has, I dunno, some kind of PAF type pickup set.

They blew me away. Just such a different tone and feel after 16 years of single coils. Thick, juicy, kinda spongy and with the ability to tweak vol and tone for each, I soon discovered various ‘woman tone’ options in the middle position too. Zounds, it was great.

Then that was my only guitar for, I dunno, another 18 years or so. So, when I bought my MIJ Tele with the American Vintage '62 Custom pickup set in 2017, again it was a zounds moment.

But again, generic.

Recently I bought a MIJ lacquer finished 50s / Blackguard styled Tele, and I swapped in a Bootstrap Extra Crispy set. Now, they are fantastic, don’t get me wrong, and I love them, and the neck is a huge improvement over the stock one it replaced, but they are still very much Tele and lie closer to the OP’s ’minor change’ than socks off (but, they are outstanding and a loverly example of what I believe is a more Broadcaster tone). Maybe ‘moderate tonal change yet great improvement’ would better describe them and their relationship to what they replaced.

But, on my first Tele, I recently took out the ‘62 neck and replaced it with a TV Jones offering, the TV Classic. Another zounds moment. But still in the generic, it’s different camp.

I love the TV Jones. It has this odd mixture of deeper, thicker humbucker tones, yet a sparkly, lively sizzle in the top end. It can sorta twang, kinda, but it can also chime, and grind and howl.

I’m now thinking I might swap out the ‘62 from the bridge and stick in something from Bootstrap. While it’s a great pickup, I feel the bridge doesn’t quite match the TV Jones, and, since the ‘62 set are so great together, I kinda don’t want to separate them. I’d rather keep them as a set tucked away in a draw, waiting to the right circumstances to bring them out again.

Yikes, once again I have trounced brevity with relentless brutality. Oops :rolleyes:

Pax/
Dean
 
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MatsEriksson

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I do not see it that way, either at the other opposing thread, "pikcups you hated", I have not hated any guitar, or guitar pickup.

All pickups I've "liked" or knocked my socks off, or "hated" (if ever that happened) has eventually, when it dawned on me slowly, showed some traits (if initially hated) or showed some shortcomings (liked). Coming to the conclusion that there is no pickup like a Swiss Knife that does jazz, country, blues, pop, super heavy high gain metal with the same aplomb, or gusto.

I am all game if a pickup has ample output, and today, single coils is not excuse anymore for keeping hum, I don't complain that much. The only thing I've discovered is that I do not want any microphonic feedback, and if they are remotely hi-fi like with neodynium pickups I think, the higher the frequency (like SD Zephyr) the less they are suitable for any kind of distortion, even mild gain ones. I don't view pickups like that. Pickups are like spices on a spice shelves. What are you going to use them for?

The one and only review on pickups that I like, is actually here on tdpri. It was one who actually bought those Seymour Duncan Zephyr with silver wiring that costs an arm and leg. I e one pickup costs as much as a regular 3 pickup strat assembly. He initially glorified them, hyped them to the moon and back, and went hyperbolic. After half a month - always the honeymoon period - he shifted to the opposite, totally opposite. I quote:


https://www.tdpri.com/threads/sd-zephyr-silver.295664/

Otis Hertz JULY 13 2013:
"
These pickups are GREAT!!! I plugged the guitar into my amp and the sound was amazing. It improves the chime and twang of a telecaster. Its sort of like going from a cheap solid state practice amp to a great tube amp. The signal strength is not any stronger but the sensitivity is. The notes bloom immediately. And the attack makes you want to play more aggressively. I'm very impressed.
"

Otis Hertz July 24 2013:
"
To be honest with you I'm pissed off. With the amazing tone and clarity of these pickups I wish I could give a stellar review but I just cant. They are way too expensive to be having problems like microphonic noise and feedback issues at moderate levels.
"

So there. But if push comes to shove JBE pickups, some of them, have my liking, but I certainly wouldn't equip every guitar with them. If I would own a plethora of different guitars, I would not use the same brand of pickups or models in all of them at all. Kind of defies the purpose or whatever it is called.

JBE pickups, my take on them:

1. Comes with 6 installation wires (two/tone series HB). Split and/or Tap and full humbucking mode. Your choice.
2. Ceramic which has almost as great and loud output as actives, but yet no harsh spikes, and absolutely no Magnetic String Pull on the strings.
3. Can use the rails as frets if ...I like. Granted other rail pickups has these traits too.
4. Combined in a HSH combination these are the pickups closest to give that true SC "quack" in 2 and 4 positions of a strat, provided you use the tap/split option of their Hbs.
5. No noise, no hum. Perfect for pedals. Can do high-gain.
6. Can change timbre with adjusting the height only, and quite radically so.
7. Magnifies sloppy playing, and exacerbates irks and quirks in ones fingering.
 

kodiakblair

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My experience and expectation is that a pickup swap results in a minor change. I'm curious for instances that went way beyond that expectation.

I want to hear about experiences where it wasn't just incrementally better, but was like a whole new revelation about what a pickup could do. Be as specific as you can.

This is quite easy for me.

2010 ; Peavey launched the Zodiac DE Scorpio , signature model from the Megadeath bass player Ellefson . An alder body PJ design with Duncan QPs as stock.

You'll see plenty of love for Duncan QPs online with folks raving about how powerful they are . I've a few basses with them myself.

2014. In the months prior to closing Peavey UK they were selling off spares , I bought parts for a DE Scorpio back up. Around this time I became aware that , former Hohner guitar designer , Alan Entwistle was selling his own brand of pickups.

For the DE Scorpio back up , a set of Entwistle Neodymium PJs were purchased.

Back up was assembled and set up to the same spec as the stock DE Scorpio. Pickup heights were the same, pots and cap the same. Both basses strung with Rotosound Nexus. Apart from the pickups , they were as identical as could be.

Here are screenshots from the A/B ; recording settings remained the same .

The Duncans look pretty good , giving a strong signal.

Duncan Zodiac.jpg


Here's how the Entwistles compared.

Entwistle Zodiac.jpg


In terms of output the Entwistles far outperformed the Duncan QPs , they also have a lower wire count so no scooped mids like Seymour's product.

To start off with so much power under the hood was a revelation to me , no irony that Revelation Guitars opted to use Entwistle pickups in their products.
 

John_B

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Recently: Bootstrap's Extra Crispy A3! Throaty, raw & twangy. So far the best new A3 I have heard.

In the past 2 years: Seymour Duncan Broadcaster A5! Snarl, growl and attitude. Outstanding can be rude A5 IMO.

Late 1980's: 2 real deal sets of 1950's to early 1960's Gibson PAF humbuckers! The music store I repaired for owned one set and I owned one set in my 1954 gold top Les Paul that was converted to '58 specs with PAF's, stop tail piece and cherry SB paint job. I bought this LP at THE guitar show in Dallas.

We were lucky to have PAF's that were really good (I have heard PAF's that where duds). Neither set had zebra stripes though. Both had black bobbins.
 

Sconnie

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Hi.

I’m not entirely, utterly sure, but I am pretty sure my first Tele, an MIJ one, came with them. In the specs, it lists the pickups as US made “American Vintage '62 Custom Single-Coil Pickups.”

And yeah, they are, to use a word I think is way overused, awesome.

The bridge is a spangly, twangy thing, but not shrill and can get a little raunchy, and the neck is smooth and what I call ‘Tele warm,’ and quite clear and defined too. Really nice.

Ironically, I swapped the fantastic neck out for something else. Which I might talk about later.

Pax/
Dean

The ones in AVRI 62 Telecaster, AV64’s and Gibson P90’s

Oh yeah!
 

Chester P Squier

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Not on any guitar I have or have ever had, but ...

December 2020 I was livestreaming a church service. The guitarist played a guitar with a really great sound. I re-viewed the service on the church Facebook site.

The guitar was a G & L ASAT with Magnetic Field Design (MFD) pickups. Gorgeous tone!
 

Jim622

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Since I had my MIJ telemaster (?) open to install a Lollar P-90, I decided to replace the bridge as well with a Lollar J-Street. It was a shot in the dark -- didn't really know what to expect.

View attachment 897948

Well that J-Street is hotter than a jalapeño suppository. It's been about two years now & I really like it. Simply wasn't expecting that much heat & while it's still got some twang, it's certainly not traditional. It was a good surprise, & my luck doesn't usually fall that way!

Beautiful axe.
 

donrichfan

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Since I had my MIJ telemaster (?) open to install a Lollar P-90, I decided to replace the bridge as well with a Lollar J-Street. It was a shot in the dark -- didn't really know what to expect.

View attachment 897948

Well that J-Street is hotter than a jalapeño suppository. It's been about two years now & I really like it. Simply wasn't expecting that much heat & while it's still got some twang, it's certainly not traditional. It was a good surprise, & my luck doesn't usually fall that way!

hotter than a jalapeño suppository
Completely agree. I have a J Street in an Esquire-type and love it. The description on Lollar's site is right-on, but they might think of using your description as well. I think my favorite sound is with the tone rolled all the way off.
 

Ebidis

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This guitar came with generic ceramic humbuckers, but still sounded pretty good.

I put a Duncan Jazz in the neck, and a Duncan '59 neck humbucker in the bridge because that was what I had lying around.

Who woulda thunk a neck pickup in the bridge would sound so fantastic. Clear, articulate, full bodied, smooth, bright but not spiky/icepicky. It's basically a low wind vintage PAF style bucker. It actually pairs really well with the Jazz in the neck.

Anyway, the guitar came to life in a big way. 6 years later, I still have the same pickups in it, and I still love the sound and response from this guitar. It has pretty much become my #1.

fullsizeoutput_345.jpeg
 

Vibro Chimp

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The TV Jones neck Supertron, and the TV Jones bridge Classic+.
My all time favorites!
They’re clear sounding, and hum-free.
Perfect, IMO.
Supertron bridge for me. Very similar to the Classic+ but with a bit more low end. The first humbucker I ever liked, sounds great clean and dirty. Gotta try the neck version someday…
 

Hodgo88

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A lot of really fun and funny opinions here.

I remember being totally blown away when I swapped my Ibanez AX120s pups for my guitar teachers recommendation: Seymour Duncan JB/Jazz. I was 14 and it was my first electric guitar. It REALLY brought the Line 6 Spider II 2x12 to life :lol:

James from Rewind Pickups also made me a set of humbuckers as well as a P-90 that both sound insane and get played more than anything else in my collection. The humbuckers are PAF clones that I have in a refinished Les Paul Traditional, with a PIO bumblebee harness from James as well. The dynamic response of that guitar is astounding.

Don Mare pups wound me a 2-Speed Stangray with a 10.5k and 5.6k tap. It's so freaking cool in the bridge of my Esquire. The hot tap is like a built in OD, adds a ton of versatility to the single pup configuration.

I also have a Mexican Tele with I-don't-know -whats in it, that was like that when I bought it, and it sounds phenomenal.
 

tomasz

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It's never a single pickup for me, but a combination with the guitar and I can bet, that each guitar will shout for a different approach... it was:
- A set of Seymour Duncan APH II S set in a PRS Custom 22 with rosewood neck, that made this specific guitar beat a number of PRSes and have singing leads for ages
- A set of Hot Noiseless (at last) in a Strat with black limba body, that made that guitar to my number one. I can get any sound I dream of out of that, and I totally get it, that people hate fender noiseless pickups.. well this worked
- It's a set of a Bridge Twang King and a N4 noiseless in a 50's Mexican Tele, that just Twangs and kills with neck pickup solos
- Its's a Set of David Allen's VooDoo 69's in a Highway one strat with an aftermarket warmoth neck..
- Its the stock MFD pickups in a G&L ASAT

All what I'm saying is, it's never a pickup alone, it's a blend of feel, sound, emotions and it is highly subjective. There you go. I think I didn't add to the thread anything substantial :)
 

Churchjack

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Man, some plain ol' Fender Tex-Mex pickups I put in my Squier Affinity Strat turned a homely, unloved beginner guitar into a real Strat-O-Caster. Blew my mind, I just am still amazed whenever I get in that Strat kinda groove and can't put it down.
 

fjfinamore

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Since I have been changing pickups in my guitars for over 3 decades, most of the time the change is incremental or subtle, and usually not instantly phenomenal. How many times have pickup changes vastly exceeded expectations?

Replacing the stock pickups in my 1983 Fender "Strat" for Fralin Vintage Hots.

Putting a Florance Voodoo TE-60 in the bridge of my MIJ Fender '62 Tele Reissue.

Replacing the Gibson '57 Classic and '57+ in the '83 Les Paul with Duncan Antiquities.

Putting a Lollar Low Wind Imperial in the neck, and an Imperial in the bridge of my Epiphone Sheraton.
 

Zepfan

Doctor of Teleocity
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Cavalier Fat Lion Tele bridge pickup in the bridge of my Squier Strat. Awesome tone.

As for HB's, there are 3 that have been the most jaw dropping tone.
1. Real Firebirds in the A5 or A2 variants, really shine in the neck position. IMO
2. TVJones Classic Filtertrons Love them in the bridge position.
3. Seymour Duncan PRails.
 

jvin248

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Lions & Tigers oh Mi !
...I want to hear about experiences where it wasn't just incrementally better, but was like a whole new revelation about what a pickup could do. Be as specific as you can.

I have this Epiphone Special Junior I bought used for $15 and put a $7 import pickup off ebay in it and the guitar knocks the socks off all the others in the fleet, including the vintage Kalamazoo Gibson and 'first factory' PRS ... it gets more play time because it is easy to play (fret level was involved) but also sounds great (it weighs half what a typical Gibson LP weighs). The pickup is rotated 180deg so the screw poles are on the 'inside', the pickup is lowered and the screw poles raised slightly. Gives a P90 type tone with humbucking noise reduction. It's just a fun guitar. That's the quick answer.

epilpjr_170114.jpg


The specifics: Like many I had been chasing pickups for a while. The swaps. Eliminating the myths like 'tone wood!' and other magical marketing yammering.
Eventually I had a group of guitars that I went through and lined them up from best to worst pickup tone. I measured those pickups a dozen ways to breakfast and found all the usual favorite forum fare did not predict that range of guitars' tonal performance. These are the things that did:

-Often the cheapest pickups had the best tone, a pair of humbuckers for $12 (they are running $18 these days with inflation). They had the note clarity of boutique hand-wound pickups but were dirt cheap. I suspect these inexpensive pickups were actually hand-wound based on comparable measurements. Mid-market aftermarket pickups were often the worst sounding, machine wound and high capacitance, and I've learned to avoid them even though practically every "favorites" thread puts that brand in every other post.

-Internal capacitance measurements predicted the performance range between similar kohm-wound pickups. High capacitance meant muddier results. Some players like that when they want 'smooth tones' from their bright amps. Most players hate muddy pickups and make an immediate pickup swap.

-Ceramic vs Alnico just produce a stronger/weaker magnet that can be adjusted out by putting the pickup higher or lower to the body and away from the strings. 1/8th inch height difference can mean a lot. Tipping for more Bass/Treble is important, important enough old videos of Hendrix reveal he did that too. What generally happens: players set their pickups to 'the factory specs' that were developed for alnico but if they have ceramic pickups the tone is too harsh there and they complain. Just lower the ceramic pickups, use their ears, and they'd be fine. For those complaining they put their (alnico) pickups close to the strings and they still sound weak and thin they need to just get a ceramic magnet powered pickup and there will be more horsepower to play with.

-Pots 'n Caps directly impact the pickup tone and for 1/10th the price of pickups. A series cap on a muddy pickup can convert it into the same output as boutique hand-wound pickups for note clarity performance. Pots have a 20% tolerance range and it matters just like players select 250k vs 500kohm pots.

-Buchannan's Nancy Tele pickup and EVH's Frankenstrat (Gibson 335) pickup were measured by the guitar factories to build duplicates and found to have favorable breaks in them that blocked DC and let the AC signal through. Those reviews left the factory people scratching their heads. I saw what they found much like what a series capacitor will do and that explained a lot to me how they had such a great tone because they were given by accident a much lower internal capacitance. They had off the shelf machine wound pickups that accidentally sounded like boutique hand-wound products. Buchannan's Tele was an accident. EVH had gone through dozens of pickups and found this one pickup he pulled from a smashed up 335 had really good tone so he built his Frankenstrat around that pickup. He used his ear to rank all his pickups and used the best one. He didn't know why (and probably didn't care why) but it sounded great and he used that on his band's meteoric rise.


Once I understood how much a guitar's tone can be pushed around with pickup height adjustments, pickup tip bass/treble, pickup screw pole height adjustments, potentiometer selection, and capacitor selection, plus minor circuit layout tweaks (like series caps if needed), I stopped swapping pickups.

Now I only swap pickups when I want a different style of pickup. Like going from a humbucker to a P90 or lipstick or goldfoil. I can freely buy any guitar without playing it because I know if I don't like the tone all I need to do is adjust the pickup or swap five dollars of caps or maybe a volume pot. Getting a tone I like on a new guitar is a non-issue.

That Junior of mine ... the internal capacitance of that pickup is half what is measured in the comparable popular mid-market brand (probably appearing in the other five pages of posts so far, lol).

.
 
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