Boutique 'buckers worth the bucks?

Benz2112

Memba?
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
7,695
Duncan makes pickups as good as anyone, and has all the years of economies of scale which have kept the costs down, while also being aggressive on price. Wolfetone is also a relative bargain, and I can name several winders that don't charge a ton. In the inverse, there are plenty of winders who charge top dollar. It is their prerogative in terms of how they price, but it doesn't necessarily mean the pickup is better, or for that matter worse. Also, there really isn't better or worse, just the gap between what the guitar sounds like, and how you want it to sound.
 

Presc

Member
Messages
1,567
I think Gibson makes perfectly good pickups. I like the Custombuckers in my R8 just as much as the OX4s I installed in my Heritage. That said, I can see swapping the 490/498 if you're looking for something a bit more PAF-like since that's a more modern set. But within the PAF world...everything more or less a variation on a theme. And this is coming from someone who has guitars with Throbaks and OX4s.

Pots and caps on the other hand - a good set is a world of difference.
 

MBT74

Member
Messages
2,955
Not where I live.

I have OX4s and Wolfetones and both cost me less than what Seth Lovers cost here.

Yeah, I got a bit surprised when I recently went looking for low wind PAFs. The SD pickups that get listed as the cheaper option cost the same here as the boutique winders. More expensive in some cases.

Ended up going with a low wind set from this place. Looking forward to hearing them when they arrive.

https://www.martinasmith.com.au/
 

Jim85IROC

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,143
I think Gibson makes perfectly good pickups. I like the Custombuckers in my R8 just as much as the OX4s I installed in my Heritage. That said, I can see swapping the 490/498 if you're looking for something a bit more PAF-like since that's a more modern set. But within the PAF world...everything more or less a variation on a theme. And this is coming from someone who has guitars with Throbaks and OX4s.

Pots and caps on the other hand - a good set is a world of difference.
The 498 is definitely a more modern (read: hot) sounding pickup, but not the 490. That's a low output, nice, bright sounding PAF-style pickup, very similar to the Jazz.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Roe

aynirar27

Meka Hiney Ho
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
33,447
490s are my favorite Gibson buckers for sure. If there is an exact sound you are after, boutique may be the way to go, but they aren’t always “better sounding”
They aren’t always more expensive either. Companies like Manlius put out wonderful pickups for “non boutique” prices
 

seward

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,874
I love 490s in the neck position. I bought a Gibson LP Studio to get a 498 in the bridge. 490 is great with lo/mid-gain; 498 is great with lo/mid/high-gain, and has more of a punch. The Gibson 498 is the only pickup I've "replaced" a 490 with.
 

jimlp

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
641
I have not heard a pickup much clearer the the Fralin Pure PAF, a nice option in the PAF market. Seth lovers are very similar though, it all varies from guitar to guitar anyway. As someone else stated previously, pots can make a different as well
 

Lkdog

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
480
I would agree with most people here that the smaller Mfr boutique PAF range pickups are not substantially different than larger Mfr brands like SD and Gibson.
The differences I can actually hear are magnet types (A2 vs A5 is noticeable) and how hot they are wound (7.5 ohm vs 9.5 ohm is noticeable), and if they are wax potted (potted vs unpotted is noticeable).

Get what you like in those parameters. Everybody is different. If it makes you happy buy the boutique ones. It's your money.
 

Bill Dennis

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,005
Are we calling Dimarzio and Duncan Boutique?

It also depends. Are the Dimarzio Titans I put in my Jackson JS32T better than the stock pickups? I would have to say yes. Are the Broadcasters I put in my Player Tele better than the stock pickups? In the sense that I wanted something hotter and fatter, yes they are.

Am I ever going to drop 5 bills on a set of pickups? No. In fact I am sort of going the other way. I have Bootstrap pickups in 3 guitars now and I am still under the cost of a set of SSL-1's and less than half the cost of Fender Custom shop pickups.
 

jiml

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
11,998
I'm a strong believer in "fitting" pickups to a guitar. Spent a lot of time researching pickups, buying pickups that I thought would work for a particular guitar that ended up not really working.

I have a pile of PAF types at home, from boutique "unobtanium" to run of the mill Duncans. I have rotated sets in/out of specific guitars, some stick, others don't.

I do have a set of Throbak MXV101s in my goldtop now. They sound magical in that guitar, but didn't sound great in the SG or my other Les Paul. I have a set of Tom Holmes in a sunburst Les Paul now, not really liking the tones I am getting with them.

So I don't think there is a certain formula or mix, I really think you need to know your gear, know what you want, invest in what you think might fit, but be ready to flip sets until you find a match.

I did spend a lot of time picking vintage winder's brains on these things, @cooljuk from Rewind has been very helpful over the years..
 

wraub

Member
Messages
2,030
I like the ones I have. :) Worth the price? One was bought used and one was gotten for free. The one I bought is quite good, and works perfectly for my needs, so yes. The one I got for free is astoundingly good, but the retail price seems a little silly. I wouldn't have paid that, but knowing how good they are I'd be looking for a used set when I want another.
Value is relative, but expensive is expensive.
 

eigentone

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
9,075
I probably wouldn't buy a $500 set of pickups for a $500 Epiphone but I don't mind paying that when it comes to a guitar that costs several thousand dollars, provided it is the right pickup for the guitar. It takes some time and first hand experience to get to know guitars, amps, winders, pickups and other variables in order to choose the right pickup for the guitar if the stock pickup is not to your liking. Personally, I do not mind buying a guitar and eventually swapping the pickup if its acoustic properties, feel, etc are all good. Pickup swaps are easy and I feel lucky if that is all I need to change for it to be "just right." It's a bit like choosing the right amp for the guitar.

Buying several nice pickups and comparing them doesn't cost a lot if you buy used. In the end, you are left with the set that worked for the guitar. I've replaced pickups in about half of my guitars. ThroBak, BareKnuckle, Gibson, Novak, SD are mostly what the replacements are. Some boutique. Some not. You just have to find what works for you and what will get you there.

To answer the question: Yes, sometimes. But there is no guarantee that a small winder's pickup will sound better than a big winder's pickup in your guitar for the sound you want. Likewise, there is no guarantee that a more expensive pickup will work better in your guitar for the sound you want. But it does not hurt to consider the small winders and expensive pickups and there are some nice surprises when you give them a try.
 
Last edited:

FlyingVBlues

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
5,306
My top five.....

The late Peter Florance's Voodoo 59's
J.M. Rolph '59 Pretenders
Tom Holmes H450 / H455
Wolfetone Dr. Vintage
Rewind 1959 PAF-1

All of them are great sounding pickups. The Wolfetone Dr. Vintage pickups are by far the least expensive of the five, plus Wolfe Macleod is currently offering a 25% discount on all of his pickups due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wolfe is very easy to work with, and his turn around time for pickups is quite fast. I have Dr. Vintage pickups in two Custom Shop Les Paul's and Wolfe’s Marshallhead pickups in three C.P. Thornton guitars. The Dr. Vintage pickups were a significant improvement in tone, neck pickup clarity, string-to-string balance and sustain compared to the stock ’57 Classic’s in my 2001 R9 and the Custombuckers in my 2014 R8.
 

EndGame00

Member
Messages
512
Been rocking SD Sat Night Specials in my LP Classic, DiM 36th in my Ibby RG, Suhr SSV/SSV+ in the LP Tribute.
 




Trending Topics

Top Bottom