Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Number8, Feb 9, 2008.
Why? Do all of the stock guitars suck? Can good tone be bought?
No. Many guitars come with Seymour Duncan pickups standard. You can't go wrong there. It could be that it is the wrong 'flavour' for you but they are high quality. Many pickup companies have had to 'up' their quality in the competitive guitar market.
Sure. Look around.
I find that a really big issue is that people think that they have to change their pickups because so many other people do. I bet pickup makers LOVE that mentality. I know a few players that make cheap old guitars with crappy pickups sing compared to other players with fancy guitars with fancy after market pickups in them. I think practice is more important than pickup replacement.
I've just learned the hard way that pickups alone are not the answer. I just built a Strat HH and ordered a set of Rio Grande pickups for it. About 200.00 worth. Installed them and........................... not impressed at all. Tried a set of Seymour Duncans and they worked well but nothing special. Disappointed, I ended up putting a set of 40.00 (delivered) Dragonfire humbuckers in it and ............. man, do they sound great in that guitar.
Extemely disappointed in the Rio's, I was going to sell them on Ebay but I thought that before I did, I would give them a try in my Telecaster HH which was loaded with a set of custom blend SD's... WOW! I sold the SD's instead...
Pickups can make a big difference but it's a trial and error thing most of the time. You can eliminate some of that by talking with the guys on this board who've had similiar experiences and seeing what they did. That will save you some grief but that's what looking for a 'custom tone' is about, trial and error.
Some stock pickups are very good. I've liked a lot of the stock humbuckers made by Gibson. But aftermarket pickups are a matter of changing your sound to suit your needs.
I started using DiMarzio pickups around 1975. Got me Larry's "Pre-BS" Tele pickup as soon as I found out it existed. I'm getting ready to bring a DiMarzio Super-2 humbucker that I bought in the late '70s back out of retirement. I think it'll be the ideal neck pickup for my next humbucker Tele.
There's a vast array of aftermarket pickups available these days. Back when I started using them, there were almost no choices at all. Any time a music store came up with something new, I almost automatically bought it! Now it takes some careful consideration because there're just so many choices.
I think people overlook stock pickups not giving them a chance. Gibson and Fender don't try to make bad pickups, there's just so many combinations of wire, magnets, layering and tension of coils that it's impossible to build "The" pickup for everyone.
Definitely - and how they interact with the different woods are important, too. Of course, it's also important to consider the type of amp you are using - if you install very bright pickups into an already bright guitar and then plug it into a bright amp, you are going to get icepicks in your ears.
Rosewood nailed it right on the head.
I have a wonderful Ed Reynolds LP-style instrument that originally had some nice Bartolini custom-wound HB-stylers. Almost 20 years later he installed a pair of Lollar Imperials that had a bit more 'sibilance'. They just have a bit more sizzle to 'em and a slightly different character (to me). A funny bass player I know always says: "Bobby, the only thing etched in stone is Mount Rushmore". Amen. It was time for a change.
I forgot how good the old DiMarzio's sounded until not long ago. I got a 1980 Westbury Standard not too long ago with the stock SD and PAF's and boy they sound beautiful in that hunk of mahogany.
I pulled an old set from the 70's out of the drawer a few weeks ago and stuck them in a Les Paul and they were terrific as well.
I like some stock PU's. I like Gibson 57's and I like the PU's in my custom shop 56 strat.
Main reason why I change.............I like to fine tune my guitar by changing the PU's.
Dimarzios are my usual go to pickup, not because I dislike Duncans or stock pickups, but because I know I can order a Superdistorsion and know what I'm getting.
I have a BC Rich with stock pickups that sounded good enough to leave alone. My Hamer came with Dimarzios that sound great. My Ibanez stock pickups are just ok, so those with get swapped out.
I love the pickups on my '62 American Vintage strat! They sound fantastic!!! My '07 LP standard also sounds awesome with the burstbuckers. Believe it or not my '82 Japanese Squier's pups sound pretty dang good as well.
Hmmm... maybe it's my amp!
I wonder how many people could tell the difference between stock and aftermarket pickups in a blind test. With the volume a lot of guys play at I doubt there is enough sensitivity left in their hearing to tell the difference.
I'd agree to a certain extent but off the top of my head, here's four guitars with really good sounding pickups (played more than one of each):
Eric Johnson Strat
Joe Strummer Tele
ESP LTD (Duncans)
Bill Lawrence Swampcaster
The problem being that I feel it's almost becoming the exception and not the rule. Obviously though, the stock pickups work for most people. Just not for me (and you either, it sounds like).
Of the four guitars you just listed, I've only played the EJ Strat, several of them actually, and they all played and sounded incredible. EJ's obsessive attention to detail paid off in that guitar.
I have owned 57/62's, Samarium Cobalts, and Tex-Mexes from Fender. All of them sounded pretty good but I can't seem to leave things at "pretty good." So I've found Fralins to be more of what I want to hear. I've also got a Strat with Duncan Neck and Middle and a Chandler P-90 in the Bridge.
That being said, I'm also realizing how much tone can be found in your fingers and technique. Practice and developing touch is a lot cheaper than new pickups.
Great initial thread question. Good going. Good comments.
Personally I think it's best to get the measure of a guitar and what it is lacking before buying replacement pickups. When you hear guys saying they've already picked the replacement pups before buying the gutair, or hearing it, or having used those pups before I tend to think the internet hype machine has done it's work. Realistically there aren't an infinite number of improvements you can make to a guitar - the wood and craftsmanship can't suddenly improve. The pups make a huge difference but once you've got pretty near to what you want I think it stops being cost effective to keep upgrading. - then get it all in a band setting and see how many of those subtle nuances you cn actaully hear.
...I played a gig last friday night, during the week I had a try out of my guitars to see which I'd play - I picked my Hamer with Fralin 92s - sounded awesome. Went to a jam night on wednesday to play with the guys as a warm up/practice - I was 'guesting' with a two guitar band. excellent as the hamer was I felt my tele would cut through in that set up more easily so I switched on the gig night. - california fat tele one stock tex/mex bucker and a SD lil 59. sounded great, cut right through and a much 'lesser' set up than the hamer and fralins. But was the right guitar in the right setting.
I usually gut any guitar I get because I have found my "sound". For me it`s Wolfetone. For you it may be WCR. Or Rio Grande. Or Lollar. Or ?. None of them are "right" or "wrong". It`s all a matter of your taste.Of all the guitars I own, 2 have non Wolf pups. One has Duncans because they were in it when I got it. It belonged to a now deceased friend and I want to leave it as he had it. And it sounds fantastic. The other I got recently and I`m not sure what`s in it. I haven`t opened it up yet but I also will not be changing them. They sound great.
There is a lot of chemistry in any given guitar, and especially once you veer from the best known axes (Tele, Strat, LP, SG, 335, etc.) Then, as UMT says, trial and error becomes necessary. I had a similar experience when I decided to make a two-humbucker Tele with a Hipshot Hardtail bridge. Once you taje away the mahogny/mahogany set-neck formula, the humbucker becomes unpredictable. I tried some awesome humbuckers in that guitar, including a Tom Holmes set, some Wagner Fillmores and a Harmonic design set, all of which are wonderful in a Les Paul and an SG. The set that finally sounded best was a $50 set from eBay with rosewood bobbins, not Dragonfire, but a similar seller. I wish I still had a line on those pickups, but haven't been able to find them again.
Trial-and-error doesn't have to be costly, since the boutique pickups have pretty good resale velue. Hell, last time I looked, Ed Roman was selling Tom Holmes's pickups for 3x what I paid Tom for my set!