School me on humbuckers for my first "gibson" style guitar.

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School me on humbuckers for my first "gibson" style guitar.

Post by surfin_bird » Thu May 07, 2020 3:41 am

Okay this is very generic and I guess I can just google for hours but I realized I never really got into anything with humbuckers or p90's,
assuming that people are as obsessed with Gibsons as I am with single coils I assume someone can point me into the direction of something fun.

When it comes down to anything with humbuckers I tend to stay away from it.
My humbucker and P90's experience consisted of the following:
-Duesenberg outlaw with a Humbucker and P90
-FMT HH telecaster with the standard humbuckers it came with. Pearly gates?

I just really hated the sound. Way too loud, muddy and angry sounding. That's why I always played Fenders and 60's Japanese guitars.

I do love that sound that I would describe as a late 60's - woodstock sound up to a early Black Sabbath sound.
Santana, Canned heat, Alvin Lee but also Jimi on his Gibsons. (Not woodstock, but still cool.)
So my guess is that i'm after a PAF or p90 sound but I don't know anything about humbuckers or P90's. Dynamic, thick and warm but not muddy or too overdriven. But my experiences with humbuckers were so unsatisfactory that I didn't touch any humbuckers or played anything that came closer to that sound than my own guitars until the past month.

So two weeks ago I picked up a heavily modified Epiphone SC-550 scroll (without the scroll) and I love the neck. It has just a bridge humbucker and it sounds already pretty nice, but I think it's a cheap humbucker. But it sounds Clean and warm and even a bit trebly. I want to try to restore it as much as possible but turn it a bit more like an 25.5 SG. (Maybe a custom with 3 pickups)
This gave me the incentive to put together the '00 sparkle jagmaster that I had in storage, which was ready to be converted into a jazzmaster just before squier started selling jazzmasters. It has an unknown humbucker in the bridge replaced by the original owner that again, isn't to crazy overdriven and is just warm and a tiny but gritty.

So I guess after 15 years I realise I do like humbuckers but what kind? These two humbuckers are unknown, unbranded cheapish humbuckers. I assume there must be something better without sounding like I should be playing Nu-metal. :ph34r:

I'm currently thinking the following for my Epi scroll: Looking at the SG's of big artists in the late 60's I start think I should get a Maestro Vibrola or a wrap around bridge. It seems like bridge wise there are already so many opinions with Gibsons, but the general opinion on forums that I've been looking at it seems that a wraparound or maestro gives more that trebly 60's sound - if I'm correct. I guess a vibrato "kills" sustain but having a maple solid body I'm not too worried about that.

So humbuckers and p90's? What should I be looking for when I don't want to sound to distorted and muddy. I probably won't play any Van Halen or metal (unless the occasional Sabbath for fun) and I guess I just want to be bending notes and get a sound that is a bit closer to nail those 60's rock classics and some freddie King-ish blues without getting a "Stadium Rock" sound.

Any recommendations that don't break the bank?

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Re: School me on humbuckers for my first "gibson" style guitar.

Post by Danley » Thu May 07, 2020 5:17 am

Try a Seymour Duncan Jazz or Screamin’ Demon (despite the names, these are both relatively clear/bright humbuckers.)
King Buzzo: I love when people come up to me and say “Your guitar sound was better on Stoner Witch, when you used a Les Paul. “...I used a Fender Mustang reissue on that, dumbass!

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Re: School me on humbuckers for my first "gibson" style guitar.

Post by Pepe Silvia » Thu May 07, 2020 5:21 am

I hated humbuckers for years. The humbuckers that won me over though were Lollar Imperials, which unfortunately break the bank.

As far as non-muddy P90s, I have had good luck with Lindy Fralins... which are a bit more reasonable at $100 a piece, but not cheap. I had pole magnets in the neck pickup so it was very clean and articulate and the bridge pickup was under wound. That was a versatile setup.

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Re: School me on humbuckers for my first "gibson" style guitar.

Post by mbene085 » Thu May 07, 2020 5:49 am

I'm the wrong guy to ask for a Gibson tone endorsement, but as someone with similar preferences, the type of humbucker that instantly resonated with me when I played it was the filtertron. It has all the familiar qualities I loved about my Fenders (chime, sparkle, string definition) but with its own totally unique thing going on, too. You should check out a Gretsch (a real one, not the ones with PAF "gretschbuckers") or Cabronita sometime to see if you're into them. The closest to a PAF tone I currently own is a set of TV Jones Powertron pickups, which are overspend filters meant to sound "partway to PAFs" and they're pretty sweet.

For PAFs, the nicest tones (to my ears) have come from ones with unbalanced coils. They have an openness that most PAFs lack, to my ears.

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Re: School me on humbuckers for my first "gibson" style guitar.

Post by Larry Mal » Thu May 07, 2020 6:07 am

So, I have always avoided humbuckers because they can sound muddy, way too strong and I remember telling someone once after I got a Les Paul that it made me sound like Bad Company. There is nothing I hate more than Bad Company.

Over the years I came to find out, though, that this is a modern twist on humbuckers and that modern day Gibson thinks that people expect an overdriven sound out of them, so they offer that.

But back in the day, humbuckers were designed to sound good clean. What you'll want to look for is something kind of underwound and that makes claims to vintage specs. With Gibson, you'll want to look for the '57 Classic, also the Burstbuckers could be low wind pickups (don't purchase blindly, some are hotter than others).

With Lollar, you've heard about the Imperials. They make a Low Wind Imperial:

Based on lower output PAFs often found in vintage 335s, this pickup boasts a brighter overall tone compared with the standard Lollar Imperial®. This results in exceptional definition for any chord voicing and overall great presence for cutting through the mix. You'll also find the bottom strings hold together noticeably longer without distorting than most humbuckers. The low wind is ideal for the occasional Les Paul that sounds darker in the neck position, or for guitars with darker tones in general. This pickup is also a good match for amps that are heavy in the mid-range, or if you're seeking a clear and tight bass tone. Made with Alnico 2 magnets in the neck and Alnico 5 magnets in the bridge that are degaussed to specific levels unique to the neck and bridge positions.

And the regular, higher wind Imperial:

The Imperial® Humbucker captures the airy top end, balanced mid-range, tight lows, and complex overtones of the classic original PAF pickups. We then improved on the design to give you a more balanced frequency response. Its medium output is in the vintage range with a hotter wound bridge pickup compared with a typical vintage set. Our unbalanced coils produce a tight bottom end that complements the pickup's fullness and causes overtones to build after each note is played. Overall, it has a fuller bridge tone and a cleaner and brighter middle position. The neck is hot enough to play on the edge of amp distortion, or you can adjust your picking pressure to achieve a cleaner or dirtier sound as desired. Made with Alnico 2 magnets in the neck and Alnico 5 magnets in the bridge that are degaussed to specific levels unique to the neck and bridge positions.

And there is a higher wind.

The point is, humbuckers can get muddy and compressed very easily. And that can be a cool sound! But the thing is, if you want good and versatile PAF humbuckers you'll want to look for things like "low wind" and "50's" because back then there was no blooze or heavy metal so they made the PAF able to handle everything.

I'll say this, if I every buy another PAF type guitar that is a keeper I will put in Lollar's El Rayos. I played those a bit and they just blew me away, super low wind, with great, crystalline high end and clarity. Frankly, they sounded a lot more like a Strat type pickup than anything else:

This isn't your typical humbucker. So if you think you don't like humbuckers, the El Rayo will change your tune. Tight and punchy with a high end that opens up when pushed, its lows remain fat and well-defined and capable of a meaty growl. It's also clear and articulate and extremely responsive to volume control and subjective picking dynamics so you can capture your own unique sound. And don't be fooled by the DC numbers — the El Rayo has a strong output without the heavy mid-range bump of typical humbuckers. Plus, it has less ohms than the Lollartron, giving you something closer to a single coil tone. That makes it superb for high gain amp playing because it doesn't compress when you beat on it. Instead, you get a pleasing and distinct distortion sound when pushed. Try it in a 335 with a Super Reverb for extra cut. Or mix with a traditional single coil to expand your sonic range. Made with Alnico 5 magnets in the neck and Alnico 8 magnets in the bridge.

Still... in the Les Paul that I actually have, I'll be keeping the Gibson 498t stuff in there. It's hot, thick and compressed, very high wound especially in the bridge, and they actually sound decent clean but when they distort they just throb and pump like nothing else. One trick ponies, maybe, but they do the trick.
Back in those days, everyone knew that if you were talking about Destiny's Child, you were talking about Beyonce, LaTavia, LeToya, and Larry.

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Re: School me on humbuckers for my first "gibson" style guitar.

Post by Ceylon » Thu May 07, 2020 6:12 am

I don't know much about this at all, just as a caveat. But if I remember it correctly Gibson switched between using predominantly Alnico 2 (but a bit of whichever Alnico they could get their hands on) to mostly using Alnico 5 magnets at a pretty early stage in the development of PAFs. 1960 maybe?

Which pretty much means that when the SG comes on the scene, it has Alnico 5 magnets.

But since your guitar is going to be in 25,5" and with a maple body, you might either way get a bit more definition and clarity while using an Alnico 2. This might even be preferable for getting a bit of the dark, woody, mellow tone back into the sound.

If you'd want to go the other way around, the T-Top pickups introduced as the new standard in the 1970s are generally regarded as a bit clearer and livelier than PAFs and were less popular among many Gibson players for that specific reason I think.

For Sabbath, Tony Iommi's SG was a 1965 SG Special with P90s. Later on he got those custom made pickups made for it but whatever came on those guitars out of the factory is what made the early Sabbath-sound.

But again, since your guitar's basic construction is apt to make for a brighter tone than your average SG would have, you might want to consider a darker-voiced pickup.
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Re: School me on humbuckers for my first "gibson" style guitar.

Post by Danley » Thu May 07, 2020 6:22 am

Larry Mal wrote:
Thu May 07, 2020 6:07 am
So, I have always avoided humbuckers because they can sound muddy, way too strong and I remember telling someone once after I got a Les Paul that it made me sound like Bad Company. There is nothing I hate more than Bad Company.
Disgusting - and that’s pretty much the reason I hated humbuckers for years; that honky, nasal yet muddy & indistinct stereotypical ‘blues rock’ tone that I can’t believe anyone actually likes yet humbuckers seem natural to produce. The humbuckers I mentioned earlier revealed to me that humbuckers didn’t need to embody their worst traits.
King Buzzo: I love when people come up to me and say “Your guitar sound was better on Stoner Witch, when you used a Les Paul. “...I used a Fender Mustang reissue on that, dumbass!

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Re: School me on humbuckers for my first "gibson" style guitar.

Post by Pepe Silvia » Thu May 07, 2020 6:26 am

Before I put Lollar Imperials into my Tweedy SG (to get back closer to the sound of the stock burstbucker 1s, but with wax potting) the guitar had the Seymour Duncan Whole lot of Bucker set. It is a copy of the rewind of Jimmy Page's Les Paul pickups. Hotter than a PAF but not muddy https://youtu.be/cb2X0GB6Cog

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Re: School me on humbuckers for my first "gibson" style guitar.

Post by fuzzjunkie » Thu May 07, 2020 12:48 pm

I have 3 guitars with a humbucker pickup.

A 1961 Telecaster with a mid-60s Gibson Patent Number humbucker in the neck. It matches really well with the Telecaster bridge pickup volume wise and I use the middle position a lot because they complement nicely. On it’s own it’s clear, and round sounding, but not muddy, at least compared to the Tele pickup and the next 2 guitars.

A 1976 Gibson Explorer. This has the Gibson T-Top humbuckers. They sound thicker than the Patent Number, but also have a brighter top end. Not round or mellow sounding. The bridge cuts and has some grit to it.

A 2010 Gretsch Falcon. This has standard Gretsch Filtertron humbuckers, and are my favorite pickup. Big, clear, with some chime, and plays nice with fuzz. Like a big, bold, Telecaster.

I have never tried Fralin’s Big Single humbucker, but it sounds real nice in sound clips. Not cheap, but very single coil sounding. Somewhere between a Jazzmaster and Filtertron. Maybe.

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Re: School me on humbuckers for my first "gibson" style guitar.

Post by somanytoys » Thu May 07, 2020 12:52 pm

One thing I will add here is that you may want to think about having coil taps, to be able to kick the pickups over to single coil. It’s kind of the best of both worlds - as long as you like the sound of the pickups tapped.

I actually keep the neck pickup on one guitar always tapped, to kick over into the oldschool single coil sound when I switch pickups. Some people don’t like the sound of tapped humbuckers, but all I have are guitars with humbuckers and I’m okay with the tapped sound.

I’ve always liked humbuckers more, but some are just over the top too much, or puts you right in that one vein, and doesn’t do anything else worth a shit. If it does anything else.

And I bet if we really dig around into some of the bins at a classic rock radio station, we could find something even more offensive to Larry than Bad Company. There’s some really shitty stuff out there...
-David

It's a boost booster, to boost your boost - it makes your tone much muchier.

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Re: School me on humbuckers for my first "gibson" style guitar.

Post by Pepe Silvia » Thu May 07, 2020 1:01 pm

Larry hates nothing more than a band whose lead singer died this week...

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Re: School me on humbuckers for my first "gibson" style guitar.

Post by Larry Mal » Thu May 07, 2020 1:46 pm

Paul Rodgers is still alive.
Back in those days, everyone knew that if you were talking about Destiny's Child, you were talking about Beyonce, LaTavia, LeToya, and Larry.

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Re: School me on humbuckers for my first "gibson" style guitar.

Post by Pepe Silvia » Thu May 07, 2020 1:51 pm

Larry Mal wrote:
Thu May 07, 2020 1:46 pm
Paul Rodgers is still alive.
Brian Howe died

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Re: School me on humbuckers for my first "gibson" style guitar.

Post by somanytoys » Thu May 07, 2020 1:52 pm

I didn’t hear about that, damn. I am living under a rock.

I liked Paul Rodgers, more in Free than in Bad Company, and loved him with The Firm. It doesn’t help that they jackhammered Bad Company to death on the rock stations over the decades.

I kind of winced when I heard he’d be singing a show with Queen, but it turned out much better than I thought it would.

We’ve been losing some good musicians lately.
-David

It's a boost booster, to boost your boost - it makes your tone much muchier.

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Re: School me on humbuckers for my first "gibson" style guitar.

Post by surfin_bird » Fri May 08, 2020 1:40 pm

Wow so many replies, it's good to see I'm not alone in my humbucker fear. But better there seems humbucked light at the end of the tunnel.
This is al super great information.
I definitely get excited from Larry Mal's quote:
But back in the day, humbuckers were designed to sound good clean. What you'll want to look for is something kind of underwound and that makes claims to vintage specs. With Gibson, you'll want to look for the '57 Classic, also the Burstbuckers could be low wind pickups (don't purchase blindly, some are hotter than others).

TO be fair I didn't even think about the guitar being all maple and the effects of that, I'm so used to my guitars being alder or something similar. Ceylon thanks for the advice considering the scale and the wood of the scroll. Good tip on the Alnico 2's

I do feel I should give my FMT HH tele another chance, it's been living in a case for a long time it being the first "good" guitar I got, 2nd hand.
This was almost 15 years ago - I'm amazed to see they still make them. But it standard came with a Seymour Duncan SHPGP-1B Pearly Gates Plus in the bridge and a Seymour Duncan SH-1N RP '59 reverse polarity in the neck, with split coils. So it sounds like that originally should cover some ground, especially the neck which is '59 spec :whistle: .

I didn't seem a big fan of split coils sound on the FMT and since I don't gig I don't need that much versatility. I can just grab any of my other guitars if I need some single coil action and if the FMT HH sounds better to me than 10 years ago I could always use the split coils on that one.

I am getting really interested in trying out some Imperials, El Rayo's and Tv Jones. The whole reason I wanted the Duesenberg is because back than it was sold to me as a Gretsch that is build better than a gretsch, so I guess filtertrons should be put in the option.
I actually don't mind expensive pickups if I get them from the big boutique pickup guys, I guess they should hold their value relatively...
Especially if I get them for a good price in the 2nd hand market, so maybe I should just make the jump in boutique pickup land.
I never owned any boutique pickups, until now I've been more on the cheap guitars and lots of 'em camp to the dislike of basically everyone around me. Maybe time to sell a good part of the "collection" and invest in some good pickups.

I actually do see some a Tv Jones super'tron neck with a tv classic plus bridge for sale locally that I'm tempted by just because I feel that this would be different enough to a PAF set and maybe good to see if I'm after a PAF sound or maybe it's just always been a secret love for Gretsch or most likely both! :fp:

(sorry not a Bad Company fan and don't know enough about them to chip in. I'm sad about Kraftwerks Florian Schneider's death but I'm pretty sure his knowledge about humbuckers is worse than mine.)

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