Don Mare vs Klein vs ???

shakti

Member
Messages
1,313
Yet another Strat pickup thread...bear with me.

I'm trying to finalize two different Strats. The first one has a '64 neck that's medium thick. It sounds very warm yet balanced. The other one has a '69 neck which is thicker and a touch gutsier sounding.

With those two planks of wood as a starting point, I am trying to tweak them towards two different sounding guitars, and I have a sort of tone ideal for each of them.

For the '64, I am looking to get a tone similar to this Mark Knopfler one:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JyZ81XAYTA

For the '69, I am going for early (66-68) Hendrix sounds.


Now on to my questions. In my arsenal, I currently have a set of CS69s in the 69 guitar. Too bright, thin, not enough depth, slightly piercing and harsh. In the 64, I have Don Mare Josie/Vaughn pickups. I really like those pickups, they have deep and very tight bass, some wonderful swirl going on, but they sound slightly veiled and very round, and they easily turn dark with overdrive (especially the #2 and #4 positions). All the good vintage Strats I have tried/liked, do this thing where they have tremendous *presence*, are quite open and bright sounding, but without harshness and with lots of depth.

So bearing in mind my preferences, what type of pickups do you recommend for my guitars? I have narrowed the field down somewhat to Don Mare and Klein, for no other reasons that they have good reputation, are available and not too expensive, and the Don Mares I have do something that I really like (though not to perfection).

Some thoughts on each guitar and pickup choice:

64: I think what I want is a pickup in the low 6k range (6.1-6.3k). Probably Formvar wire. I want something that is slightly glassy and gritty with some compression, open but not too bright, and not plinky. From soundclips, the Klein '63s appear to sound quite close to what I want. Those of you with experience with Kleins, does that sound like a description that fits the 63s?


69: I think what I want is something in the 5.9k range, with Plain Enamel wire. I am looking for deep, tight, clear bass ("piano tones"), uncompressed but siwrly mids and open highs. However, I don't want the somewhat sterile sound that many late 60s replica pickups seem to have. I think I am close with the Don Mare Josie/Vaughn pickups I already have, but I am concerned with their slightly veiled and somewhat dark sound. Maybe it's the recordings, but most of the Don Mare Strat clips I've heard seem to share this trait. They *never* sound harsh, but the attack is always very round. Anyone else feel this way? OTOH, the clips of Klein 65s (which would probably be a good choice for early Hendrix) haven't knocked me out either. I think the Don Mare Josie/Vaughns are in the 6.4-.6.5k range. Would getting a custom set in the 5.9k range be sufficient to deal with the issues I have with them?
 

cap217

Member
Messages
3,271
Don't overthink it. There is no magic recipe and this search never ever ever ever ever ends! I really like the bare knuckle stuff and some don mare stuff. The Klien sounds unorganic to me but I have used their stuff in the past.
 

rummy

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,567
I had the CS69 in one of my Strats, and my impression was about the same. I swapped them for Fralin Vintage Hots and now they satisfy me.
 

Ape Factory

Member
Messages
2,504
I have the Klein 69's in a freshly-built thick-necked Strat as well as the CS69's waiting to go into another guitar that'll have a slightly thinner neck. I can only reference to EJ pickups but the Klein 69's are really there for the Hendrix thing. I personally don't find them too bright and I much prefer them to the EJ's pickups, which, in isolation, were awesome IMO. Playing through a Plexi with a Klon and a heap of delay is pretty epic.

I won't have time to swap in the CS69's into my strat until next week, which, given this is on TGP, will be too late :) But I'm really looking forward to comparing the two. Ironically, I'm headed to Seattle, the land of Hendrix and coffee. The Hendrix Experience is my first planned stop!
 

shakti

Member
Messages
1,313
Don't overthink it. There is no magic recipe and this search never ever ever ever ever ends! I really like the bare knuckle stuff and some don mare stuff. The Klien sounds unorganic to me but I have used their stuff in the past.
I am not looking for a "magic recipe". I have two very good guitars here where I want to find the pickup that best compliments the wood and gives me the tone I am looking for. Most of the magic is in the neck anyway, IMHO. But pickups certainly matter.

As for the never ending search...well, that's halfway true. In my Les Paul, the search ended with Throbak SLE101+. 6 or 7 years later, I have not even thought once about changing them. Hoping to achieve the same with these two Strats.

I actually have a third Strat as well, a 69 Custom Shop with maple fretboard, for the late period Hendrix sounds. This one also has CS69s, and will either keep those pickups (which sound decent, though not amazing, in that particular guitar) or similar late 60s clones. You know, the low output, fairly straight ahead sounding type...thinking about Slider 69s, but we'll see. I want the other two pickups/guitars to be clearly different from this one.
 

Deed_Poll

Member
Messages
3,088
I can vouch for the Bareknuckle stuff. I can get close to early Jimi sounds with my Apache set and I think they sell a '63 set as well which I'd look into.
 

Brian G

Member
Messages
121
I have a set of Mare Josie/Vaughans in an alder / maple Strat, and they're anything but what you attribute to them, excep that they do seem to have some harmonic complexity going on in the mids.

Set quite low, perhaps about 1/8" above the pickguard. Should add, though, that this guitar also has a .015mfd cap, and wiring is '50's style. I tend to keep the tone controls around 6-7.

Brian
 

cap217

Member
Messages
3,271
The CS69 are very bright and thin but you know that. I really like Rocketfire 60s. These pickups have made me stop looking for strat pickups. I have tried:

-CS60 good sounding but lacked touch
-CS65 good sounding and authentic, I kept these in my guitar
-EJ thin but punchy, but that's the point
-Klein 56 epic good sounding but were stiff and lacked feel, hard to explain
-Klein Jazzy cat good but I swapped them
-Klein R&B custom wound good and I liked them a lot. Klein didn't like them for some reason
-Bareknuckle slab good sounding and had some feel to them and life
-Voodoo 60 good sounding and live but a bit bright. Worth a shot
-Rocketfire 60 the best I found so far....
 

zztomato

Senior Member
Messages
11,394
If you are after that Knopfler sound you might want to check out a set of Rocketfire pickups.
 

Judas68fr

Member
Messages
1,302
you should consider Seymour Duncan Antiquities too... (I or II, depending on your tastes, but I would suggest the IIs).

I've been looking for the perfect pick up in my strat for a while, and had them custom made by JS Moore (neck/middle), but I've never parted with my SD Antiquity II custom in bridge position. SD high end pick ups are in the same category as fancy boutique handmade ones, not the same price range though.
 

shakti

Member
Messages
1,313
From my point of view only, you have named two of the most over rated pickup makers out there. Lackluster customer service in my experience also. Especially Klein.
Please tell me more. Just curious why you think they are overrated. I am completely open to other suggestions. The Rocketfire Total 60s sounded pretty good, but in many of the demos people were going for very clean, almost plinky Strat sounds, which is not my cup of tea.
 

shakti

Member
Messages
1,313
I have a set of Mare Josie/Vaughans in an alder / maple Strat, and they're anything but what you attribute to them, excep that they do seem to have some harmonic complexity going on in the mids.

Set quite low, perhaps about 1/8" above the pickguard. Should add, though, that this guitar also has a .015mfd cap, and wiring is '50's style. I tend to keep the tone controls around 6-7.

Brian
I suppose our tastes are different then...I've had the pickups in two different guitars, with 4 different necks, and one thing remains constant; I can't get quite the open brightness that I crave for early Hendrix sounds. I love love love the bass and the harmonic swirl, but they turn dark under gain.
 

Jazzandmore

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
11,811
Definitely check out D Allen Pickups. I have a set of his Fury pickups in my Knaggs and they are outstanding.
 

shakti

Member
Messages
1,313
I suppose our tastes are different then...I've had the pickups in two different guitars, with 4 different necks, and one thing remains constant; I can't get quite the open brightness that I crave for early Hendrix sounds. I love love love the bass and the harmonic swirl, but they turn dark under gain.
Well, I'll poke a hole in my own argument here...I finally put these pickups (Don Mare Josie/VaughnC) in the Strat with the '69 neck. MJT Olympic white body, '69 rosewood vintage neck...everything else is the same as the other guitars/necks I've tried them in: Callahm trem with Raw Vintage springs and saddles.

Suddenly the clarity, openness and authority I had been missing was there! I was able to adjust them lower without losing punch and presence, so I could get that clean, open, swirly sound I had been craving all along! Still need some more fine-tuning to see if they are 100% right, but it means I won't be looking for pickups for this guitar at this time. :rockin

It also confirmed what I had already said: most of the sound and the magic is in the neck! The thicker '69 neck with the large headstock simply lends itself better to that big, clear sound...at least this particular neck. Whereas the '64 neck has a warmer, almost fuzzier sound. Now, to find the right pickups for that particular neck/guitar...
 

Brian G

Member
Messages
121
Well, I'll poke a hole in my own argument here...I finally put these pickups (Don Mare Josie/VaughnC) in the Strat with the '69 neck. MJT Olympic white body, '69 rosewood vintage neck...everything else is the same as the other guitars/necks I've tried them in: Callahm trem with Raw Vintage springs and saddles.

Suddenly the clarity, openness and authority I had been missing was there! I was able to adjust them lower without losing punch and presence, so I could get that clean, open, swirly sound I had been craving all along! Still need some more fine-tuning to see if they are 100% right, but it means I won't be looking for pickups for this guitar at this time. :rockin

It also confirmed what I had already said: most of the sound and the magic is in the neck! The thicker '69 neck with the large headstock simply lends itself better to that big, clear sound...at least this particular neck. Whereas the '64 neck has a warmer, almost fuzzier sound. Now, to find the right pickups for that particular neck/guitar...
Good to hear something is working out for you!

Brian
 

shakti

Member
Messages
1,313
Thanks!

So for the 64 guitar...which is on the balanced, but warm, fuzzy side..aiming for Knopfler tones...wich one is it? I actually thought that guitar had more "mojo" than the 69 one, there's more interesting stuff happening with each note than with the 69, which is more "what you hear is what you get". Apparently that tighter, more straight-ahead sound and feel works extremely well for the early Hendrix sounds - never had so much fun with the trem bar before either! It really sounds authoritative with a fuzz. I suppose a more "interesting" base tone can be "too much" in certain settings.

But I have a feeling the 64, with the right pickups, could be eerily close to that Knopfler clip. That guitar tone just oozes mojo...there's like a rainbow of harmonics swirling around each note, the attack is just beautiful, it sounds clear yet interesting and not piercing at all.
I am loking really hard at those Rocketfire Total 60s right now...
 

zztomato

Senior Member
Messages
11,394
From my point of view only, you have named two of the most over rated pickup makers out there. Lackluster customer service in my experience also. Especially Klein.
That is lightyears from the truth in my experience when it comes to Don Mare. I've had a pile of his pickups and they've all been great- among the best I've ever used. The man has a gift IMO. He's also a great guy to work with. He is a one man operation so you have to be a bit patient when ordering.
I've dealt less with Klein but he is also a one man operation and does have a reputation for poor communication but does deliver in the end.
 

Ciroxin

Member
Messages
478
Rocketfire Total 60s are anything but plinky. They are incredibly alive and organic and can definitely recreate that Knopflerian vibe through the right amp. Absolutely recommended.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

shakti

Member
Messages
1,313
For the record;

I ended up with a set of Rocketfire Total 60s in the 64 neck guitar, and they are everything I ever wanted a Strat pickup to be (well, at least pre-CBS style). Stunning, alive, vibrant, present, organic sounding pickups that I would put side by side with any vintage Strat I've tried. Glassy, chimey, touch sensitive, slight compression that makes the tone bloom and Breathe...I just can't say enough good things about them!

Furthermore, I sold the 69 neck and replaced it with a 65 Jazzmaster neck that I also really like, but the Don Mares are still a touch veiled sounding. Just placed an order for a new Rocketfire set, a new/custom set with mid-60s CBS specs. They are wound similar to the Total 60s, around 5.8k but with greybottom bobbins and plain enamel wire. Hoping that these will be "it" - if they are even half as alive sounding as the Total 60s, but with more of that mid-60s big, piano-like Strat sound, then I will be in Strat heaven pretty soon... Reports to follow.
 






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