GFS Pickups.... How do they compare with boutique?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by standard24, Mar 24, 2015.

  1. standard24

    standard24 Member

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    I've heard two different stories about GFS pickups....

    1) They're a very good value pickup to upgrade a budget guitar.

    2) They're very good pickups, worthy of any guitar...


    So, for those that are familiar with very high quality pickups and with the GFS line.... How do they compare?

    I have become fond of Rio Grande Strat pickups for their good tone with higher output. I've also used Kinman's, Seymore Duncan, G&L, and Lollar.

    Can GFS stand toe-to-toe with the high dollar stuff, and if not, why can't they?

    What would be the difference in the construction between the best GFS and a really good boutique pickup?
     
  2. smiert spionam

    smiert spionam Member

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    The GFS interpretations of more distinctive designs (filter'trons, gold foils, etc.) don't generally impress those who have used either the originals or high quality reproductions/interpretations (Lollar, TV Jones, etc.). In those cases, you get what you pay for.

    Their more basic single coils have a better reputation.
     
  3. peskypesky

    peskypesky Member

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  4. bgmacaw

    bgmacaw Member

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    They're very good for the money, as good as any other factory made aftermarket pickups. As with any pickup, the performance depends a lot on the guitar it's installed in and how good a wiring job is done.

    I've bought 10 pickups from them over the past few years and I've been happy with them all.
     
  5. T Dizz

    T Dizz Member

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    I've bought a bunch from GFS too. The Dream 180 neck pup has been my fave so far. The VEH series are worth looking into as well.
     
  6. Ron Kirn

    Ron Kirn Gold Supporting Member

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    Comparing a made "over there", machine made pup with those from the many fine boutique builders is much like comparing a Porsche with a Miata...

    Both do what they are supposed to do... i.e. keep your butt from getting all scuffed up as ya scoot around... but... you're never gonna confuse the two in a head to head comparison...

    but the real test, do ya like what ya hear.... if ya like a pup made from a handful of toy magnets wrapped with wire ya scarfed from some transformer somewhere.. that's all ya need...

    With pickups it should be how they sound in YOUR application that makes the determination not some supposed pedigree.

    Ron Kirn
     
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  7. standard24

    standard24 Member

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    This was the answer I was looking for. That you do get what you pay for. Many posts have led me to believe they were every bit as good as the high dollar ones.

    I'm of the opinion, that the difference in the best GFS, and a set of boutique Strat pickups is $140 - $175 more if bought new.

    For someone's #1 guitar, that price difference would be forgotten over time, as the guitar was enjoyed.

    But for a guitar that may be played only twice a year, the GFS are a better value.
     
  8. c_mac

    c_mac Member

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    I've had great luck with GFS pickups. I'd put their Strat pickups, primarily the Premium Alnicos and 1959 Professional series (I'm most familiar with those), up against anything. I like some of their other designs as well. The Surf 90 is great and even their RedActive pickups are pretty good.

    I understand the idea of why a "handwound" boutique pickup is better and I've played a handful. I just have never found that the extra money was really worth it. Truthfully, I have a nice amp and some nice pedals but more important, I play the guitar well. At that point, if you have a great sounding guitar and rig coupled with the ability to play well, I find the differences in similarly spec'd pickups to not be as big.

    Anecdote - I played my first rehearsal with a country singer a few summers ago right before we played to a crowd of 20,000 people. I literally turned the bands heads with my guitar tone on this one particular song. It was a Strat with GFS pickups which I played in front of that huge crowd a few weeks later. I've played several more since. No Ron Ellis required!
     
  9. Ron Kirn

    Ron Kirn Gold Supporting Member

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    Check out Bill Lawrence's Pickups.. all are exceptional,. and only a few dollars more than the GFS... and that's like comparing a Ferrari, and a little red wagon...

    a number of years ago I was with Bill in Nashville and we were talking about the GFS and boutique pups in general... he would get furious when he would speak of the unconscionable prices asked for the boutique stuff... he pointed out the the real cost for the components when bought in the kind of volumes a top drawer maker has to, is only a few bux a pop..

    that's why his are so reasonable priced... And Becky is carrying the torch for him in similar manner.

    rk
     
  10. kludge

    kludge The droid you're looking for

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    Some GFS are just ok, some are really exceptional. The Dream 90/180 are highly regarded, as is the Fatbody Tele neck pickup.

    In my own experience, I replaced a Duncan P90 with a GFS P90 and it was a noticeable step in the wrong direction - not "bad", just not as good as the really great SD. On the other hand, I had a Bigmouth in the bridge of a Squier 51 and it was awesome, a huge upgrade for that guitar.
     
  11. standard24

    standard24 Member

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    I tend to buy my pickups used... and this could make GFS even more of a bargain. There's really no reason to keep the OEM pickups in a MIM Strat or Tele, unless you just like them.

    For $20-$50, you could really improve an MIM Fender with GFS off of Ebay.

    The Lollars, Rio Grande's, Seymore Duncans, can be found for maybe twice that amount.
     
  12. Perchman

    Perchman Member

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    I have Retrotron Liverpools in my Gretsch 5120, coil-tapped. Couldn't be happier. Disagree with the prior post about their Retrotron line. Many who put them in their Gretsch's are very pleased. They are highly recommended on Gretsch forums. Don't know if they compare to TV Jones or real Filtertrons and probably never will because they are staying.
     
  13. Funkwire

    Funkwire Member

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    They are definitely good pickups for the money. As far as comparing them to boutique, Ron Kirn has already addressed that far more eloquently than I could.

    I would also keep an eye on CL and eBay for used pickups. I wanted to replace the ceramic pickups in my 1996 Epiphone T-310 (Tele copy). I went to the GFS website and listened to the sound clips of their Tele sets and didn't think they really got the sound I wanted. I found a set of Fender USA Tele pickups on eBay for $21.50.
     
  14. fretless

    fretless Silver Supporting Member

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    Agreed. I have a set of the Memphis Retrotrons in a guitar and it sounds awesome. Bought them used in the emporium here for $25. Crazy good bargain.
     
  15. Gevalt

    Gevalt Supporting Member

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    I've owned two GFS lipstick pickups and they don't compare to the Duncans.
     
  16. Chicago Slim

    Chicago Slim Member

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    My favorite pickups are PRS Starla's or TV Jones Classic's. Do I need them in every guitar that I own? No! I've been very happy with GFS Dream 180's and Memphis Retrotrons. It's a little different, but in the same ballpark. Not quite as bright, not quite as clear, but they still sound better to me than most original equipment pickups. They are my go to pickups, when I don't like the way that a guitar sounds. Besides, I like to have each guitar have a little of it's own personality.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2015
  17. Doctor Morbius

    Doctor Morbius Member

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    I sold my Fralin Vintage Hots when I heard some GFS pickups! And yes, I'm totally lying my butt off. :D
     
  18. Dubious

    Dubious Member

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    Pine parts tele - gfs retrotron in the neck, fatbody in the bridge (the one with pbass poles)

    Parts strat - dream 180 bridge, loudmouth / big mouth in the neck

    Yamaha SGB - VEH set

    I always buy the hottest version they offer and all the buckers are set to do paralell / series and single coil

    I like em all
     
  19. TheoDog

    TheoDog Silver Supporting Member

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    I have only used one GFS in a Bass application. Worked well as a P replacement. Solid upgrade.

    My philosophy is any aftermarket replacement on a budget rack build will be a big improvement. Like 8 out of 10 on the improvement per dollar scale. After that, the improvement per dollar curve flattens out.
     
  20. amstrtatnut

    amstrtatnut Member

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    Ive owned a bunch of gfs strat pickups. Ive also owned d allen, van zandt, various fender, dimarzio, and lace.

    The gfs may or may not stack up dependingvon your needs. I found them to be very good.
     

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