Which pickups closest to original PAF?

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by HaroldBKNY, Jul 25, 2020.

  1. HaroldBKNY

    HaroldBKNY TDPRI Member

    Age:
    43
    Posts:
    86
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2019
    Location:
    New York
    This has probably been covered (a billion times) before, so feel free to link me to particularly ingightful threads on this, if there are any that don't devolve into insanity.

    Wondering which pickups on the market today are the closest in design/sound to the original Gibson PAF hunbuckers? As far as I understand, 57 classics are the same in design, Burstbuckers try to account for the variations in actual production, and there are probably a million third party brands doing great things that I don't know about.

    But has there ever been any consensus? Whenever I see a video of someone comparing a modern Les Paul reproduction (including historics) to an original, it usually sounds kinda different.

    I think I have a Les Paul with BurstBuckers with alnico Vs in them (BB pro? can't remember), which I think sound great, but are very very high-output. Maybe it's possible some were made like that back in the day, but it's probably not what people think of the "canonical sound" of a Les Paul.
     
  2. tah1962

    tah1962 Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    2,889
    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2020
    Location:
    Heart of Illinois
    Seth Lovers
     
    Bluesbob, Churchjack, Geo and 8 others like this.
  3. ReverendRevolver

    ReverendRevolver Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,369
    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2019
    Location:
    Ohio (Nerk)
    Since EVERY component of the old magical pickups (which were magnetized Phoenix bones wound in copper unicorn hairs, potted in Griffon marrow, and attached to an unobtainium bobbin. Obviously) can in fact be quantitatively studied and duplicated, your differences come down to the following:

    Materials (what materials and how they're made)

    Magnets are alnico IIs in PAF copies, but production variations exist. Strength of it, gauss..... slot, but quantifiable.

    Wire gage, number of winds, wind pattern, etc

    Bobbin, spacer, porting, cover materials.

    And how its assembled.

    So, what's it mean? Vintage ones don't sound now like they did then, and unfortunately you gotta dig around until you find a favorite.

    I love my 57 classic and classic +, they do exactly what I wanted them to.

    Seth Lover stuff is obviously gonna have legitimacy.
    Duncan, Fralin, and loads of custom winders put them out too.

    Due to manufacturing inconsistencies, the canonical PAF would technically be a Frankenstein of various values and data from the pickups (which varied) used to get the data, so would itself be a representation of a pickup that math says is the average canonical PAF but may have never existed.

    So, I reccomend tone hunting and picking a favorite.

    Sorry. The rabbit hole is deep.

    Edit:

    You BBs aren't as low output, but sticking with Gibsons, you should be able to test drive 57 classic equipped LPs. Other stuff isn't as easy to get your hands on already in a guitar.
     
  4. Zepfan

    Zepfan Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    9,801
    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2013
    Location:
    Horn Lake, MS
    Seth Lover's, 57 classic's from Gibby, 59 PAF's from SD and Dimarzio's 36th Anniversary PAF's.
     
  5. HaroldBKNY

    HaroldBKNY TDPRI Member

    Age:
    43
    Posts:
    86
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2019
    Location:
    New York
    Sounds like people really like the Seth Lovers and 57 Classics.

    Questions:
    1. What's the difference between the Seth Lovers, The 59 PAFs, and the Antiquity Humbucker from Seymour Duncan?
    2. Is the general consensus that 57 classics are significantly better than/closer to a PAF than BurstBuckers? If so, why?
     
  6. Guitarteach

    Guitarteach Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    9,610
    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2014
    Location:
    UK
    Get some Tonerider Alnico IIs ... Sounds like all the other ‘boutiques’ claiming PAF magic at a fraction the price so you could try their Alnico IV version too
     
  7. DrThompson

    DrThompson TDPRI Member

    Age:
    31
    Posts:
    38
    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2019
    Location:
    Switzerland
    LP guys pay crazy money on boutique PUs which is insane to me. Before anybody does that you should buy a reasonably priced set of 60s Pat.No. / T-Tops. LP fellows don‘t like to hear that most of them are in fact really good PUs. The ones in my 1969 ES 345 couldnt be better.

    I had two 335s in the past with 57s and couldnt hang on to them because they were too dark. The third one had Burstbuckers and seemed to be a keeper until i got the 69! That tells ME something about the 57s but other people seem to have other opinions on the 57s which is surprising to me.

    For a 58 V replica i‘m going to get the Seth Lovers and „ignore“ the low price because they seem to be just great without peacocking around.
     
  8. EsquireOK

    EsquireOK Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    3,861
    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2011
    Location:
    U.S.A.
    Original PAFs were all over the map. Inconsistent number of winds, inconsistent wire layering, inconsistent magnets (they've been found with A4, A5, A2, and A8 TMK). Much of what you think is "the PAF tone" is really just the production values and the musical styles/playing of the time – NOT the detailed technical specs of the pickups used.

    For bang for the buck, you'll do fine with a set of Seymour Duncan Seths or DiMarzio PAF '59s.
     
  9. Rayf_Brogan

    Rayf_Brogan Tele-Meister

    Age:
    39
    Posts:
    424
    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2017
    Location:
    Washington
    I know this question comes up every other month but I've always been curious. How do people answer this question that have never owned or played a 50s Les Paul?
     
  10. Dismalhead

    Dismalhead Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    57
    Posts:
    7,650
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2014
    Location:
    Antelope, California
    Not sure how "close to an original '59" they are, but the Tonerider Alnico IIs are great pickups. I've put them in a couple of Les Paul Jr. builds and they're spectacular.
     
  11. Squier by Squier

    Squier by Squier Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    153
    Joined:
    May 29, 2020
    Location:
    Finland
    Yeah, this.

    I have DiMarzio 36th Anniversary neck humbucker in Tele, but can't tell much because never played any guitar with vintage P.A.F.s.

    Other than I like mine like it is

    And to be honest, I've understood that the actual structure of 36th Anniversary isn't like back in the good ol days. DiMarzio just tells us they tried to simulate Larry's '59 LP characteristics.
     
    basher likes this.
  12. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Doctor of Teleocity

    Age:
    69
    Posts:
    10,725
    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2006
    Location:
    Raleigh, North Carolina
    There's a lot of variation among the actual original PAFs. There's probably a real PAF out there to match every current production PAF clone.

    If it was my project, I would probably go with a Duncan SH-1 59. $79.00 at Darren Riley. They sound great to me.
     
    Maguchi and PlainAllman like this.
  13. drumtime

    drumtime Tele-Holic

    Age:
    69
    Posts:
    600
    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2018
    Location:
    the mountains of Virginia
    There is no consensus as far as I've ever seen - everybody likes what they like. As noted above, the originals were not nearly consistent in their construction, and probably not in the materials either, so it's not even really possible to reproduce them exactly.

    Pickups are such simple technology, it's hard to see where one off-the-shelf one can be magically better than another, given the same materials and care in construction. Members here have done some extensive testing of various pickups, and the cheapo ones held up quite well in the analysis.

    I think you'd do fine with something like the Toneriders mentioned above, or even some Artecs. They have a PAF-style for like 80 bux a pair.

    It's all about what sound you have in your head, and I'd bet that, no matter which one you end up with, you'll still be tweaking pickup height, polepieces, and maybe even electronics to get there.
     
    adamstrings, Ricky D. and W.L.Weller like this.
  14. HaroldBKNY

    HaroldBKNY TDPRI Member

    Age:
    43
    Posts:
    86
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2019
    Location:
    New York
    It's a good question, what am I after... I guess what I want is, if it's in-fact true that:

    1. the original PAFs were pretty relatively low-output, especially compared to modern humbuckers
    2. the original PAFs were kinda single-coil like in sound, much more like a single-coil than most of the humbuckers today, or maybe kinda "flute-like"

    Then I'd really like to have a pickup like that in my guitar so I could try it out and see how I like it. If they really were very different than what we think of as a humbucker today, then I really want to experience it. So I'd maybe like to get a set close to that.

    So what would be the best pickup like that? One that's different from most modern humbuckers, in a way that makes them more like the original PAFs, less gainy, more single-coil-y?
     
  15. Ed Driscoll

    Ed Driscoll Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    245
    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2003
    Location:
    South of Dallas
    That seems like a pretty easy answer: Do the pickups make the guitar subjectively better to your ears, enough to inspire you to want to play it more and/or gig more with it? And while not everyone has owned or played a '50s Les Paul (I played a '59 very briefly at a Dallas Guitar Show, FWIW), we've all heard them on record. So another related question would be: do these pickups get your reissue to sound more like the classic tones of Clapton, Page, Beck or (RIP) Peter Green? I'm pretty happy with the '57 Classics in my 2000 R9, but nothing wrong with experimenting 'til you find the sound of your dreams.
     
  16. rangercaster

    rangercaster Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    7,562
    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    Location:
    Knoxville TN for now
    Just buy some original PAFS ...


    they are spendy, though ..
    .
     
  17. Jakedog

    Jakedog Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    18,573
    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2003
    Location:
    The North Coast
    I love the 57 Classic Neck. Great pickup. I do not like the 57 Classic + bridge model at all. Couldn’t wait to get rid of it.

    I love the DiMarzio Air Classics. I also like their 36th Anniversary models. PAF Classic is another great DiMarzio model.

    I like Seth Lovers. And the other vintage style Duncan offerings. They’re all great.

    Once I figured out the height adjustments, I really like the 61 BB’s in my current LP.

    I’ll say this about PAF pickups:


    I’ve played three actual late 50’s bursts, and several gold tops with PAF’s. I only got one opportunity to play two right next to each other and legit A/B them, and they were a 57 GT, and a 60 burst. Both with PAFs. I have also played several newer guitars with actual vintage PAF pickups installed.

    In my experience, there is nothing magical about them. And they are hella inconsistent. The two guitars I got to play side by side really didn’t sound much alike at all, although they both sounded great. The GT was much brighter and more lively.

    Then if you allow for things like caps or pots being replaced, and the variances in manufacturing tolerances for caps and pots in general, and the fact that PAF winds can be a little all over the place...


    There is no definitive answer. Because one guy’s ideal PAF sound doesn’t sound like another guys actual PAFs.

    All the pickup makers claim they have compared to actual super choice examples of real PAF pickups, and I’m sure they have, inasmuch as whatever PAF they were able to get a hold of is a super choice example, which is subjective anyhow.

    My personal answer when people ask me, is to find some pickups with vintage style construction and materials, that are low output, and you will more than likely be over 90% of the way there. Try a bunch of them. Keep the ones you like best and don’t put too much thought into it. After all, if you really don’t know what they sound like (and nobody can say definitively beyond a ballpark summing up) then how do you know you’re not there already?

    And also, be prepared for them to not be what you want at all. Real 50’s buckers are quite low output. They sound beefy on old recordings where they’re plugged into cranked big iron high powered amps, and preserved for posterity on saturated tape. If you’re playing in your bedroom at “don’t wake the baby levels”, or using pedals to get your drive, pretty much any decent quality lower output humbucker will sound the same. And if you’re in those situations and want thick, meaty, overdrive, you may even be better off with a more modern, thicker sounding, higher output pickup.

    I love low output buckers, but I also keep a guitar on hand with medium output hotter buckers. It puts a lot of guts back in the rig for situations which require more volume control.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2020
  18. Jeru

    Jeru Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    674
    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2006
    Location:
    Chicago
    consensus..? On the Internet..?

    You must be new..
     
  19. Fretting out

    Fretting out Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    28
    Posts:
    4,812
    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2019
    Location:
    Land of Mary
    If I had the money to spend I’d go for throbak pickups

    The dude is insane about p.a.f’s and all the differences they had

    I think he makes a bunch of different ones based on real variations that have been found

    I’m sure if you contacted them they’d help you decide what you need

    There’s a bunch of good videos that throbak has on YouTube about their p.a.f’s

    To me p.a.f’s shouldn’t be potted
     
  20. john_cribbin

    john_cribbin Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,369
    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2014
    Location:
    London
    Have to say, I can live with pretty any much bridge PAF.

    Neck, nah. SD Jazz is the way to go for me.
     
    Maguchi likes this.
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.