Boutique PAF Clones...Worth it? Comparisons?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by shred for sale, Apr 18, 2016.

  1. shred for sale

    shred for sale Member

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    I'm sure there have been threads close to this, but after prowling the search history for a while I think this may be unique enough to warrant it's own thread:

    It seems like more and more companies are putting out some excessively high dollar PAF replicas these days. Sometimes they are clones, sometimes they are true exact material replicas, Sometimes they are even just PAF influenced or nods to the past.

    What sparked this question was OX4 pickups - the amount of Les Paul users I've seen putting them in their R's lately. Now I have heard nothing but incredible things about these pickups, but it has opened me up to this world of $500 replacement PAFs that I didn't know existed?! Throbaks, Doyle's Coils, etc.

    Let's bring it back to the unofficial boss of incredible boutique PAF style pickups, Mr. Lollar. Now I'm pretty confident that this guy has wound, researched, and experimented with more PAF type things than 9 out of 10 people making these.

    My questions to you guys are these: how do all of these stack up against each other? On one hand you have the imperials, very highly regarded and respected PAF style pick ups from an industry veteran and a guy that literally wrote a book on making them, then you have OX4s which seem to be from a somewhat newcomer by Lollars comparison, they are more expensive, made by a smaller operation, seem to be getting absolutely rave reviews, but at the end of the day don't necessarily have as much R and D and experience behind them? Keep in mind, in no way am I knocking this guy and mean no disrespect, I've been very interested in buying myself a set I'm just curious, did this guy just decide to make some PAF's and absolutely knocked it out of the park from the first shot?

    As far as R and D and having the backing and scale to do whatever the heck they want, you would imagine that PRS and Gibson were at the top of the heap with their PAF re-creations? They are making more pick up than anyone out there and they're not even just to pick up company, not to mention have access to the original machines, wire, materials etc.

    Are guys like Duncan and Dimarzio that were the original aftermarket pickup options and superstars behind their smaller competitors or are they making a quality product option at a fraction of the price? Feel free to leave comments and opinions below. Sorry for the dictionary length post
     
  2. Tim Plains

    Tim Plains Supporting Member

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    Gibson is a huge company and cuts corners where it can such as pickups.

    I have OX4s in one guitar. I love them but they aren't my favorite set of all the ones I have/had, but then again, I also have not A/Bed them in the same guitar.

    Lollar has been around for a long time. I think part of it comes from people always looking for the next best thing, hence the flavor of the month comment you often see when it comes to boutique pickups/pedals/amps.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2016
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  3. shred for sale

    shred for sale Member

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    Sure, I know what you mean. It's almost a little refreshing to hear someone say that it's not the best thing they've ever heard in their life for the first time. What are your other favorite pickup sets? And what are those in?

    It's just absurd to me that a company like Gibson is not making the best pick ups themselves sometimes you know? Taylor bought all of the necessary things to make their own expression systems and pick ups in house!? I have watched them wind them myself and they did it to ensure that they have the best quality parts Best suited for their instruments going into their guitars and they are made right there in house, so they know. PRS has essentially tried to do the same thing, and their 5708, DGT's, and new 5815's are all extremely highly regarded pick ups, Even if people seem to have a love hate relationship with their guitars or pick ups.
     
  4. Sean French

    Sean French Supporting Member

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    Duncan Seth Lovers and Antiquities are among the best PAF clones. Regardless of cost.
    I've owned many top boutique winds that were great too.
    It boils down to what one wants from the pickup.
     
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  5. Papanate

    Papanate Gold Supporting Member

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    I wouldn't use the term excessively when describing true PAF replicas.
    It's neither inexpensive nor quick to clone a genuine PAF Pickup.

    IMO the most difficult aspect is determine which PAF sound to go after.
    There is a enough variance between PUPs in 50s Gibsons to make the task
    mind boggling.

    But in the scheme of things I love that so many PUP makers are
    putting out the older style Gibsons. It makes modifying guitars
    super fun for me. Especially when you hit the perfect PUP that
    helps a guitar 'come alive'. Mr Lollar is one of those builders
    that seem to have touched the true mojo with his PAF Pickups.

    To my ears his are one of the few that are exactly right. That said
    Seymour Duncan has a few models out that are very very good too.
    And are at a much different price point.

    A side question for you - how do you know when a PAF replication
    sounds like a true PAF? Do you have access to the genuine article?
    And are you switching them out between the original and newly minted
    in the same guitars?
     
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  6. BMX

    BMX Member

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    I would agree that there will be small differences in how various PAFs sound, but it would be hard for someone to convince me that a $500 set always sounded better than a $200 set. I currently have Duncan 59s and Lollar Imperials and have a set of 36th anniversaries on the way. Yes, the Lollars are my favorites so far, but the duncans and dimarzios are also great. I guess for me the price for lollars ($350 I think) is as high as I'd be willing to go. Anything more than that is just marketing imho.

    Also, remember to compare apples to apples. For example, would you rather have a set of $500 pickups OR a set of 36th anniversary Dimarzios, ($150) a Klon KTR ($270) and 5 Fulltone Patch Cables ($15.95)?
     
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  7. 71strat

    71strat Member

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    #1 I don't want to start a 1 is better than other.

    There are many flavors, and I like a bunch of them, but do have my preferences. We are lucky to have so many choices, and most are so good, that if a good sound isn't to be had, it might not be the gear.

    I mainly like Low Output Alnico II. 7.6k-8.3k are what the 1s I use measure.

    But as far as research, and taking them apart, Tom Holmes is the undisputed King of 59 PAFs... And yes I know they did vary, as did the magnets. But Toms are Only 59 PAF Recreations.

    #2. Tom was Gruhns Repairman.... For 20 YEARS. We all know who Gruhn is Right ??? If not do some research. Hes probably had more 59s, and old guitars period, than anyone else, and is the king of authentication, appraisals.

    Tom started his research on 59 PAFs in 1971, and was already building both guitars, and pups for Bo Diddly, Billy Gibbons, EVH, Lenny Breau, Tom Cotton, and others.

    He first sent magnet samples to the original manufacturer. In 1971 !!! And originally used Alnico IV magnets.

    #3 Later on in the 90s, Tom, and Bill Lawrence were hired by Gibson, and Tom Designed the NEW 57 PAF that Gibson would be coming out with, and Tom also Designed the Machines to Wind the new pickups for Gibson.

    At this time Tom got to see all of the Original Order Sheets for Every Year from Gibson, from the Early 50s, all the way into the early 60s for their Magnet Orders.

    At this point he switched over to Alnico II Magnets, and they were the most ordered/used magnet of 59, going by the Gibson Order Sheets, and Tom, and others also determined they preferred the sound of the Alnico II vs IV. This was also with input from pros like Billy Gibbons, among others.

    Tom also requested that he stop being associated from the new 57 PAF, because they deviated to much from his original design, as to expensive.

    Tom also turned Gibson on as to where to acquire magnets, and wire.

    If I didn't get the Holmes... I would go for the Throbak.

    For 100% Brand New Vintage Sounding Pups.... I like Throbak, and they offer many, many great winds, and also use the best materials available, and like Holmes, went to every possible trouble to make the pups right.

    After those I would go with Fralin Pure PAFs.

    Also 1 reason the Holmes are so expensive is because he is a 1 Man Operation.

    He molds/stamps his own Base Plates, Bobbins, does all the electroplating himself, all hand polishing.

    He had to learn to be both a Tool, and Dye Maker, and also learn Electroplating.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2016
  8. TheWayfarer84

    TheWayfarer84 Silver Supporting Member

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    Diminished Marginal Returns: as total investment increases, the total return on investment as a proportion of the total investment (the average product or return) decreases.

    Do $500 PAF clones sound better? Probably. Do they sound $2-300 better than a set of Manlius, Lollar, Zhangbuckers, etc. Probably not. But, as this site proves, there are people with the means and willingness to pay a premium to milk every ounce of tone out of their guitars, amps and pedal chains. More power to them. For us more mortal beings, I think the "Standard" boutiques more than adequately suffice.
     
  9. cugel

    cugel Member

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    I do like the sounds I get from unpotted Alnico IVs. Not to say that other combos would sound as good. IMHO the Imperials are on the hotter end of the paf spectrum and potted. That said they sound great but clearly different than Ox4s in the same guitar. I have set of JS Moore v59s that are pretty inexpensive but sound great with alnico IVs. Still the best neck pickup i have is an old Wagner Goodwood which is probably a V magnet. just sounds sweet. Bottom line: I love all cool pickups; they are all my children.
     
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  10. rummy

    rummy Member

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    Seth Lover pickups are my reference pickups that I compare all PAFs to. I don't think they're better than others, but I think they're every bit as good as other boutiques I own.
     
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  11. louis

    louis Supporting Member

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    Did anyone ever reverse engineer the ones from The Beast ?............or have a close suggestion.

     
  12. sws1

    sws1 Member

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    If this doesn't read like a plug for Lollar pickups, I don't know what does. Particularly, since while you pretend not to understand the PAF marketplace, you are pretty sure Lollar is the boss, and wound more pickups than 9 out of 10.
     
  13. dlguitar64

    dlguitar64 Member

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    I just put a set of GFS PAF style pickups in my SG and they sound fantastic and cost me $70
    for the set. I have owned lots of Gibson humbuckers and a set of lollar low wind imperials
    and these sound better than the Gibsons and totally comparable to the lollars.
     
  14. Darkburst

    Darkburst Member

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    Only you can decide whether pricey PAF replicas are worth it to you. Mainstream pickups will get you 90% or more there. Throbak, OX4 and Wizz go the extra mile on construction, and materials, which isn't cheap. That extra cost is passed on to the consumer. I've personally enjoyed both Throbak and Wizz pickups. I haven't tried the OX4.
     
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  15. Tim Plains

    Tim Plains Supporting Member

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    The link in my sig has my guitars and what pickups are in each. Just easier this way. :rotflmao

    My favorite set, as in how the guitar sounded before and after the swap, Dave Stephens 61HDs but I really like all of the ones I have.
     
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  16. shred for sale

    shred for sale Member

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    I don't even own a set of Lollars buddy. 9 out of 10 people you ask know who he is, whereas I didn't know who any of these other builders were until last week when I started looking them up. If you type PAF clones into Google right now you will go through pages before you see or read about Doyle and his coils or OX4
     
  17. neils

    neils Supporting Member

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    With the exchange rate what it is between the States and Canada check out Sanford Magnetics.
    His P90's are really great. I just got some. He only does HB's and P90's.
    He's got some nice magnet/wind variations and $500 would just about get you two sets.

    Neil
     
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  18. jcs

    jcs Member

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    I've used Highorder humbuckers for years....its a one man operation by Jeff Gay who has a military electronics background.

    Outstanding build quality.......btw, Jeff only does humbuckers.
     
  19. cugel

    cugel Member

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    Good to hear Jeff is still winding. I have one of his in a tele neck.
     
  20. Tony Bones

    Tony Bones Member

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    I don't know what the best PAF clone is, but I know it doesn't have any wax potting. Not a single drop.

    I can't answer the original question of whether or not $500 pickups are worth it because I haven't spent enough time with any.
     
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