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Thread: Pickups

  1. #1
    GAStronomist wazkelly's Avatar
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    Pickups

    Hoping this topic engages plenty of debate from forum members as it is such a personal one.

    I must confess that 6 out of 7 builds no longer have the standard kit supplied pickups installed. The only one to escape an upgrade was the ES1 as they sounded pretty good for that style of guitar and anything hotter might have taken away the character of a traditional semi hollow body guitar.

    The reason for mentioning this is that I have tried using standard kit pickups first before upgrading on all except my EX1 where I knew it had to have something scorching hot to go with the look and image that a guitar like that projects hence why I chose a set of Tonerider Alnico 4's. Looked long and hard and listened to all their sound demo's online before selecting Alnico 4 which to me had the perfect frequency range I was after. Happy to say they are awesome and money well spent and will have to get around to doing a sound demo video one day.

    When considering upgrading pickups there are so many choices and price points that it can be difficult to narrow down exactly what might work and sound the way you expect. On one of these other upgrade threads Marcel made a few good points about giving stock parts a try before upgrading and I tend to agree. It is so easy to spend plenty of money on bits and pieces and sometimes it may become brand snobbery that influences you.

    I was guilty of this back in the 1980's when Di Marzio were the 'must have' pickups IMO. In hindsight the super distortion II's that were dropped in my Ibanez Explorer copy were not as good as their Super Distortions which had a more lush mid range sound compared to the brighter and harsher SD II's. Blackface vs Cream also appealed the young 18 y/old that I was back then and became sucked in by form over function. By that I mean look and styling plus brand reputation rather than how they actually sounded. And to add more to that topic when I bought the guitar 2nd hand it had the SD II in bridge position and a genuine Gibson PAF in neck position. Stupid me rarely used neck position but thought I need to have matching PUP's and tossed the PAF or gave it away, can't remember but sad I never knew just how good it could have sounded, all because of my youthful ignorance.

    A few decades later finds me enjoying this GAS kit building addiction and trying to stick to a modest budget on each build so that I can afford to do more than just 1 or 2. Most expensive build so far was the EX1 which came in around $500 - $600 including genuine Epiphone hard case and the EX5 is not far behind that due mostly to the cost of upgraded pickups.

    I will do separate posts on the reasons behind PUP upgrades for each Guitar and Bass and invite you all to add as much as you like about your own experiences too.
    # 1 - EX-5 https://goo.gl/fQJMqh
    # 2 - EX-1 https://goo.gl/KSY9W9
    # 3 - Non PBG Tele https://goo.gl/W14G5g
    # 4 - Non PBG J Bass https://goo.gl/FbBaFy
    # 5 - TL-1AR GOTM Aug 2017 https://goo.gl/sUh14s
    # 6 - MMB-4 Runner-up GOTM Oct 2018https://goo.gl/gvrPkp
    # 7 - ES-1 Runner-up GOTM Aug 2018https://goo.gl/T9BEY8

  2. #2
    GAStronomist wazkelly's Avatar
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    As I have already spoken about PUP upgrade for my EX1 here is the Tonerider sound demo video that convinced me they were the right choice and hope you enjoy it as much as I did and still do.....(damn fine guitarist in the demo)
    # 1 - EX-5 https://goo.gl/fQJMqh
    # 2 - EX-1 https://goo.gl/KSY9W9
    # 3 - Non PBG Tele https://goo.gl/W14G5g
    # 4 - Non PBG J Bass https://goo.gl/FbBaFy
    # 5 - TL-1AR GOTM Aug 2017 https://goo.gl/sUh14s
    # 6 - MMB-4 Runner-up GOTM Oct 2018https://goo.gl/gvrPkp
    # 7 - ES-1 Runner-up GOTM Aug 2018https://goo.gl/T9BEY8

  3. #3
    GAStronomist wazkelly's Avatar
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    EX5 standard kit soapbar humbucking pickups review

    This was my 1st build and after doing a few more you can reflect back on what could have been done better.

    Initially I thought the kit supplied pickups sounded OK but found them low on output which was a surprise given around 16k ohm reading for both neck & bridge (both the same) when left wired in series, as they come with 4 wires (actually 5 with 5th being an outer ground shield). They can be split down at around 8k ohm per coil from memory.

    Part of the low output reason was really only discovered long after installing a pair of Custom Bensons that cost around AUD $240......high action at bridge and PUP's seated low down in their cavities left too much space between strings and magnets and was a contributing factor toward lower than expected output, but the sound of the Bensons more than justifies their price point. Maybe the stock ones may have been adequate with a bit better setup and these days reckon trying a $20 Belcat Preamp off eBay first to see if that helps before spending around $200 bucks on upgrades. Due to the size and shape of the PUP cavity most replacements start around $100 each and work their way up from there.

    I did a couple of sound demo's before & after upgrade that can be found in the build diary with links to relevant pages copied below.

    Before: http://www.buildyourownguitar.com.au...t=4257&page=12

    After: http://www.buildyourownguitar.com.au...t=4257&page=13

    In addition to upgrading PUP's I also converted wiring to Master Vol & Master Tone with 3 way selector switch, and push/pull pots to split coils on each PUP thus providing a lot of useful sounds and tones. Highly recommend this wiring modification even if sticking with standard kit PUP's as they are splittable..... here is a link to that thread too: http://www.buildyourownguitar.com.au...ead.php?t=6476
    # 1 - EX-5 https://goo.gl/fQJMqh
    # 2 - EX-1 https://goo.gl/KSY9W9
    # 3 - Non PBG Tele https://goo.gl/W14G5g
    # 4 - Non PBG J Bass https://goo.gl/FbBaFy
    # 5 - TL-1AR GOTM Aug 2017 https://goo.gl/sUh14s
    # 6 - MMB-4 Runner-up GOTM Oct 2018https://goo.gl/gvrPkp
    # 7 - ES-1 Runner-up GOTM Aug 2018https://goo.gl/T9BEY8

  4. #4
    Mentor Andyxlh's Avatar
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    I love all the Tonerider pickups I have.
    I'd also buy another Artist Bullbucker at about $30 too, outstanding value I think

  5. #5
    Overlord of Music dave.king1's Avatar
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    Pickups are such an incredibly personal thing because we all have that certain sound we want from our pride(s) and joy

    I don't think I've found demos on YouTube that give a real indication of what pickups and amps deliver, there always seems to be a pedal or two in the chain to illustrate their favorite tone rather than the bare sounds.

    Often it comes down to taking a punt on written reviews or getting something wound to spec.

    As I have said on the aftermarket parts thread it took a couple of changes to get the Strat sound I wanted, the Tuff Dog was pretty easy with the Toneriders because they are close to the Texas Specials that F Custom Shop used but Redd Volkaert swapped Merle's pups out for Seymour Duncan's so I don't quite have Merle's tones.

    Redd prefers low output single coils and P90s because they are or can be so clean.

    I my Squier CV Thinline I wanted Blackguard Tele spec pups to get that very early Tele tone and had them custom wound, they are brilliant.

    The lid is off the can and the worms are swarming out

  6. Liked by: wazkelly

  7. #6
    GAStronomist wazkelly's Avatar
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    JB4 standard kit pickups review

    For someone thinking of a good starter Bass kit I highly recommend this one, and particularly with an Ash body one for not much extra coin. With the synthetic Blackwood Fretboards now replacing Rosewood suggest trying Maple even if you have never considered it before as it suits the sound of a Jazzy by providing a bit more brightness when compared to an unsealed fret board.

    Standard kit PUP's ohm readings from memory may have been in the range of 6k to maybe 7k'ish which seems about right for single coils. They were adequate but lacked punch and output and sounded a little bit dull.

    Looking at some PBG forum threads a lot of people had used Toneriders but at the time they were a bit more than I was prepared to spend and ended up choosing ENTWISTLE JBXNB BRIDGE & NECK PICKUPs FOR JB STYLE BASSES based purely on their specs as I could not find any sound demos anywhere on the internet.

    Specs: Neck 6.0k ohms, Bridge 6.3k ohms, but fitted with Neodymium Magnets that were wax potted....currently $47.95 ea

    The JBX's have same ohm readings but come with Ceramic Magnets....currently $29.95 ea

    These are both available from PBG store..... https://www.pitbullguitars.com/entwistle-pickups/

    When upgrading J Bass pickups it would appear that a common problem is the location of PUP screw mounting lugs being in a slightly different position which requires a small amount of wordworking to reshape the PUP routs and also the pick guard too.

    Also have a couple of before & after sound demo videos done a while ago that can be found on this page of the build diary: http://www.buildyourownguitar.com.au...?t=4813&page=9

    I have recently added in a push/pull switch to convert from parallel to series and highly recommend this relatively cheap modification as it provides a level boost as well as a thicker and meatier sound. Again, I will have to find time to do another sound demo video.

    Not having tried Tonerider J Bass pickups I personally cannot compare and the price gap has since narrowed to $96 for these Entwistles to $110 for Toneriders. They were only $30'ish each when I bought them a couple of years ago and given that TR's have higher ohm readings and now just $14 difference I could be tempted.
    Last edited by wazkelly; 29-09-2018 at 09:25 PM.
    # 1 - EX-5 https://goo.gl/fQJMqh
    # 2 - EX-1 https://goo.gl/KSY9W9
    # 3 - Non PBG Tele https://goo.gl/W14G5g
    # 4 - Non PBG J Bass https://goo.gl/FbBaFy
    # 5 - TL-1AR GOTM Aug 2017 https://goo.gl/sUh14s
    # 6 - MMB-4 Runner-up GOTM Oct 2018https://goo.gl/gvrPkp
    # 7 - ES-1 Runner-up GOTM Aug 2018https://goo.gl/T9BEY8

  8. #7
    Overlord of Music Sonic Mountain's Avatar
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    I'll throw my 2 cents in here - still consider myself a bit of an amateur really.

    Really hoping to get some decent demos up at some point, but I haven't got an ideal environment for recording sound at the moment.

    As has been mentioned, the kit pickups are surprisingly good, at least in my experience. The Shoegazer and Rellicaster both just use the standard kits stuff and both sound great. The spacing is a bit of an issue on the Shoegazer as they are a bit bunched up.

    My biggest experiment with pickups was refurbishing my Washburn Super Strat. 2 Vintage Bensons and the Entwistle HDN Zebra Humbucker. This is a pretty schizophrenic guitar now. The neck and middle Bensons are really lovely. Warm and mellow, but with great clarity. The middle pickup really 'poinks', it sounds great for surf stuff. The Entwistle is a high output monster. It absolutely rips, even clean it just sounds growly, but put it through some distortion and it howls. Absolutely my favourite pick-up upgrade. This is a pretty cheap guitar so its only a ply body, but it really sustains well. For most of the stuff I play (rock/grunge/indie) it's perfect.

    Second major departure from the kit is the LACE Alumintones in the Black Cherry. To be honest, I just can't get into this guitar. The setup is good, it plays fine, it's nice and light, looks unreal and has some cool electronics mods, but every time I pick it up I just can't get inspired and I'm pretty sure it's the pick-ups. They are very clear and bright, with pretty high output compared to most of my guitars. But there is something that just sounds artificial or processed. It's really hard to put my finger on, but there is no soul in the sound. This guitar has coil splits and while it does change the tone, it doesn't make it better. Rolling some tone off helps - I have 500k post in here at the moment and supposedly using 250ks helps - but even rolling back past halfway doesn't inject any soul (for lack of a better word). I'm going to revisit it and put a different bridge on it at some point, so I might put the kit humbuckers I have spare in and see if that helps.

    Finally, the only other aftermarket pick up I've used is the Classic Vintage Tonerider in the bridge of the Sonicaster. I really like the sound of it and on it's own I reckon it'd be great for country style finger picking (which I don't really do) I also have a stock PBG neck humbucker in this guitar, which on its own is deep and warm and I would call 'Jazzy' sounding. Put the switch in the middle and it's incredible. The combination works so well together, huge depth with ring on the top strings and grumble on the lower ones. Add some distortion and its a real classic rock sound. I play a lot differently on this guitar, it loves chords and riffs as opposed to walking around the fret board soloing. In complete opposition to the cherry, when I pick this up, the improv just comes. I'm probably a more confident rhythm player anyway and this is just perfect for it.
    Last edited by Sonic Mountain; 30-09-2018 at 08:03 AM.
    Build 1 - Shoegazer MK1 JMA-1
    Build 2 - The Relliecaster TL-1
    Build 3 - The Black Cherry SG AG-1
    Build 4 - The Sonicaster TL-1ish
    Build 5 - The Steampunker Bass YB-4
    Build 6 - The Howling Gowing ST-1

    "What I lack in talent I make up for with enthusiasm"

  9. #8
    Mentor Marcel's Avatar
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    My interest in PUP's really started way back in the early '80's when I obtained a late '70's Dimarzio HB to shoehorn into my '70's start copy all in the hunt to get "better" tones from my abysmal rig of the time, and also to learn a little about what my musician friends were all waffling on about when discussing guitars and tones over a few Bundy's, Jack's or Wild Turkeys.

    For years my poor Strat copy suffered the indignity and abuse of living in my repair workshop as a research test bed, a half dozen toggle switches mounted on the pick guard and only 3 or 4 screws holding it in place, played by any and every who'd wander among the shelves of broken Fender combo amps to see what 'reverse phase' and 'series/parallel' actually sounded like. At the time there was a huge lack of knowledge and a surprising amount of rumour and interest so it got played lots very loud much to the dismay of the guitar store down stairs.

    For the life of me I can't remember what sort of Dimarzio it was/is and I'd appreciate if anyone could advise on cream coloured Dimarzio HB's of the late '70's. I still have the guard with the four white wire HB 'fitted' though the Strat copy guitar itself has since been restored with a new neck and a MIM loaded SC guard for a more traditional tone along with its teenage inspired "Al-kabong" relicing.

    Since then on all my guitars its been a journey of 'what's next that's different?' Every one of my guitars be it a build I did or a real Fender or Gibson or PRS offers something unique, something that others in my collection doesn't have. Be it SC or HB, Rails or P90, A2 or A5 or Ceramic I think I have most of them covered.... so choosing the next unique Axe to join the herd is becoming increasingly difficult....
    Builds-
    #16 PBG IB-1Q http://www.buildyourownguitar.com.au...ead.php?t=8754
    #15 PBG TLA-12 http://www.buildyourownguitar.com.au...ead.php?t=8444
    #14 PBG PRS-1H http://www.buildyourownguitar.com.au...ead.php?t=8021
    #13 PBG SGM-1 http://www.buildyourownguitar.com.au...ead.php?t=7771
    #12 PBG JK-2
    #11 Scratch build AC15 clone head
    #10 PBG RCM-4F
    #09 PBG ES-1TL
    #07 partscaster Alder Denim Tele.

  10. #9
    GAStronomist wazkelly's Avatar
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    Great stuff Sonic, just the sort of contribution I was hoping for.
    Really appreciate your honesty too regarding Alumitones.
    When considering upgrades we all hope to achieve an improvement but sometimes the end result can be quite different to what was intended or expected. This is true for any upgrade, not just pickups.
    It poses the question as to whether cheaper replacement pickups may end up just as good, or sometimes better.
    If building another G style solid body I would seriously consider using pair of Artist Bullbuckers that cost around $70 for a set delivered.
    Bought one of their guitars fitted with Wilkinson P90's and really falling in love with the whole P90 sound. Less complicated setup with loads of warmth to their sound. Will have to find time to do a separate review and sound demo on it too.


    Sent from my SM-A520F using Tapatalk
    # 1 - EX-5 https://goo.gl/fQJMqh
    # 2 - EX-1 https://goo.gl/KSY9W9
    # 3 - Non PBG Tele https://goo.gl/W14G5g
    # 4 - Non PBG J Bass https://goo.gl/FbBaFy
    # 5 - TL-1AR GOTM Aug 2017 https://goo.gl/sUh14s
    # 6 - MMB-4 Runner-up GOTM Oct 2018https://goo.gl/gvrPkp
    # 7 - ES-1 Runner-up GOTM Aug 2018https://goo.gl/T9BEY8

  11. Liked by: OliSam

  12. #10
    Mentor Andyxlh's Avatar
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    Wow this is an interesting read! So much knowledge about this topic.
    I'd love to hear a 'professional' view of tHe stock pbg pickups. By professional I really just mean someone with less of a tin ear than me. Sonic has already started with some good comments. My view is the humbuckers seem a lot better sounding than the pbg stock single coils. Also the humbuckers seem to be quite underwound sounding but they don't sound bad with a fair bit of drive. It's low down the overdrive, in the just breaking up phase, where they don't seem as great as some other pickups.
    I also find the neck pbg humbucker pickup generally sounds better then a the bridge one, might be because the bass frequencies are higher there?
    Made a guitar with my friend and he damaged the neck tonerider hot classic pickup, so he ended up with a Tele with a tonerider bridge and stock neck for a while. It wasn't a good match, the bridge pickup was very wooden sounding compared with the tonerider, when he replaced it there was a big step up in tone quality.
    Love to read some more comments on this...
    Also, has anyone else tried the Artist Bullbucker I mentioned in an earlier post? Again, to my wooden ears it sounds fantastic, especially for how very cheap it is. It also seems to be made nicely. The Artist logo on it can be scraped off with a sharp blade..........!

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