Harmonic Designs — the "forgotten" amazing pickups

mountain blues

Gold Supporting Member
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5,276
With all the info going around about the great current pickup makers like Lollar, Rolphs, Wagner and others, I thought it might be worthwhile to report on someone who's been making pickups for 23 years and occasionally gets recognition here — Scott Petersen of Harmonic Designs.

I put a set of HD '54 Special Strat pickups in a '94 Strat yesterday, and I could not be happier. Brilliant, clear, piano-like response with fantastic harmonics and benchmark tone in every position.

The HD '54's are to 50's vintage tone what the Wagner SR's are to 60's Hendrix/SRV tone. Simply incredible pickups, and much better in every position — to my taste — than the Fralin 3% Underwounds I took out of my Callaham (and replaced with Wagners) when it comes to 50's vintage tone.

HD's are a little bit more "present", with a very distinct quality of projection, than most other pickups I've played. In a way, they are like Scott Lentz's pickups in that regard.

Harmonic Designs simply makes great pickups. Worth keeping in mind...
 

Dave Orban

Platinum Supporting Member
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16,866
I love 'em...! :dude

They're probably a little too "contemporary" sounding for some folks, but I like them just fine!
 

ccteleman

Member
Messages
573
:AOK

+ 1 on the HD's.

I put one in my fav Tele a few years ago and it is really the best all around pickup for me.
I can't recall the name of it, it's like a P90 but tele sized. It sounds as much like a tele as I need and can get up and get after it when called on.

I have a strat w/Clamam/Fralins in it, I really like them for clean stuff, a bit dark maybe. The bridge is bit under powerd, every time I play that tele I think of getting the HD strat bridge pickup.

Good stuff, and remember he has not heard of you either!

Craig
 

straticus

Member
Messages
3,101
Very interesting.

I've been a Fralin guy for the past 5 or 6 years. I have Fralin Vintage Hots in both of my strats. One strat has a Steel Pole 43 Fralin in the bridge position. I'm still not sure what I think about that one. The guitar came with it and I've only had it for a few weeks.

Maybe it's time to check out some other p/u makers. Your comment about the Wagner's makes me want to try some. Can you compare the Wagner's to the Fralin Vintage Hots?

Thanks.
 

sanhozay

klon free since 2009
Gold Supporting Member
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11,865
For a few years, I used an HD mini-strat that was a very nice pickup. Throaty, chimey and punchy, just like a real Strat. I switched it out for a set Fralin Blues Specials that match really well together. I did have a good experience with the mini-strat and Scott was very gracious and easy to deal with. I'd go back and patronize his wares again without a second thought. Great products.
 

mountain blues

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
5,276
Here's the website:

Harmonic Designs

HD Strat and Tele pickups come in two basic flavors: '54 Specials and Vintage Plus. The '54's use AlNiCo magnets, the Vintage Plus use ceramics. There are other very cool pickups that Scott makes on his site.

I had the Vintage Plus Strat Set in one Strat that I sold, and currently have the '54 Special Teles in a '76 Tele, the Vintage Plus Tele/Strat/Tele pickups in a Nashville Deluxe Tele, and now the '54 Special Strats. Nothing but positives about all of them.

As Dave said, they may sound a bit contemporary for some folks — the Vintage Plus more so, to me, than the '54 Specials, though all of Scott's pickups have a little extra richness to them.
 

mountain blues

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
5,276
Originally posted by ccteleman
I have a strat w/Clamam/Fralins in it, I really like them for clean stuff, a bit dark maybe. The bridge is bit under powerd, every time I play that tele I think of getting the HD strat bridge pickup.

Craig
I agree — the Fralins had a beautiful clean tone, but a tad dark. Also, I found position #4 too muddy for my tastes. The HD's are the right amount of brightness for me, a tad richer, and overall much better balanced — "optimized" is a word that comes to mind.

Both great pickups — I still have the Fralins — but I just love the slightly more efficient nature of the HD's while capturing wonderful vintage tone. The neck alone is exceptional. Scott Petersen really knows how to make great neck pickups...
 

Mark Robinson

Platinum Supporting Member
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8,742
I have two guitars with Harmonic Design pickups. Both sets are great and aren't going to be changed, at least while I use the guitars. I've waxed here a lot about the Z-90, a great original pickup, which reminds me of the best qualities of some P-90 pickups, but with extended frequency response and lower noise floor. I also hold in high regard a set of Tele pickups, the S-90 and vintage plus? neck pickup. Again the S-90 is a big sound, much louder than a vintage spec Tele bridge pickup, less noise, large soundstage. The neck pickup is many degrees clearer and larger sounding than a stock chrome covered Tele neck pickup. The cosmetics are spartan, but the sound is not.


If I might be so presumptuous as to define something I'd call a "Harmonic Design Sound" I would declare it to be an ability to make a pickup that sounds "BIG". When going from vintage pickups to an HD equipped guitar, the HD's sound big, large, full, wide, I'm not sure how to describe it. I suppose it's extended frequency response, and a sort of even sound, not peaky or notchy. I haven't tried the humbuckers to date, but given the right deal, I'll try to snag a set one of these days.
 
H

hemlock

How about the P90s. I love my Slingshot the with the stock Reverend pickups but your descriptions sound pretty intriguing!
 

Pedro58

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,994
+1
Scott's p'ups are great. I've got two Teles with them. One hot/fat and one Bakersfield-style. They are wonderful. If you want that angry Roy Buchanan thing, seek elsewhere... HD's are smooth.
His tele p-90 thing, I forget what its called, is awesome as well. I have that in a third Tele in the bridge and it is a blast to play.
I had a humbucker, too. It was smooth like all HD's and I switched it for some WCR's... Nothing wrong, just a taste thing.
Harmonic Design pickups are worth the $ and the wait. Can't go wrong.
 

mountain blues

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
5,276
Originally posted by Mark Robinson
If I might be so presumptuous as to define something I'd call a "Harmonic Design Sound" I would declare it to be an ability to make a pickup that sounds "BIG". When going from vintage pickups to an HD equipped guitar, the HD's sound big, large, full, wide, I'm not sure how to describe it. I suppose it's extended frequency response, and a sort of even sound, not peaky or notchy.

Works for me — great description!
 

erksin

Senior Member
Messages
23,127
Originally posted by Mark Robinson
If I might be so presumptuous as to define something I'd call a "Harmonic Design Sound" I would declare it to be an ability to make a pickup that sounds "BIG". When going from vintage pickups to an HD equipped guitar, the HD's sound big, large, full, wide, I'm not sure how to describe it. I suppose it's extended frequency response, and a sort of even sound, not peaky or notchy. I haven't tried the humbuckers to date, but given the right deal, I'll try to snag a set one of these days.
Perfect description...

I've got a set of the Z-90s in a Tele - they're easily the best pups I've ever owned, for all the reasons you describe.

I was so impressed with them, I bought a STP and Vintage Plus neck/middle for my Strat - also amazing pups. The STP is full-on Tele, and the Vintage Pluses sound very Blackmore to my ears - full and rich with a great vocal quality.

I wish he'd make a Mini-humbucker - I'd buy a set in a nano-second.

The Z-90 is *THE* HD pup, IMO - killer punch, harmonics, clarity, richness, feel. That pup just makes me want to play more - which is the whole point, right..?
 

illinimax

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
1,594
Hello, my name is Bob and I'm a pickup swapping addict. I love the smell of solder in the morning :D . I've tried virtually all the major and boutique brands of pickups over the last 10 years, Barden, WCR, Bill Lawrence, RIO, Fralin, Duncan, etc ...

I agree with all the HD enthusiasm expressed here. I just replaced a set of WCR Darkbursts with the HD humbuckers and the HDs are staying in for good. Other guitars of mine sport VP90s, Z90s and his V+ tele pickups along with the Super 90 tele bridge. Clear, big and smooth are words I use to describe the HD house sound, if you will. Great stuff that works for me.

Anybody try the new Chromotone tele neck pickup?
 

fatback

Member
Messages
3,693
I threw a Z90 and a super90 into my parts tele and the guitar was instantly tranformed into a tone monster. Great pickups!

Now, will the real Scott Peterson please stand up...;) :p :D
 

cnardone

Member
Messages
2,100
Hemlock,

If you do a search on P-90s you'll find that the two brands of P-90s that always come to the top are HD and Lollar. The Lollars being a bit more vintage. I have not played them but I trust the people that love them. I've got a HD bucker in the neck of my Chapin Fatline. It sounds incredible. That neck pickup is not going anyway. I've got a McRosie I've been dieing to drop a pair of z-90s into. I've heard they are a great match for the rosewood neck as well.

cmn
 

CarlWerkmeister

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
511
After putting a set in a guitar I later sold I knew I would always have 1 guitar with Z-90s in it....currently a RW neck Cu22. Several sets of Z-90s have been ordered after other people played these guitars... :D
 

Shemp

Member
Messages
981
I've had the S90 Bridge/Vintage Plus neck combination in my 52 RI tele for about 4 years now. It's the only reason I haven't sold the guitar. I have a hard time with a tele, we just don'yt bond naturally or something, but everytime I pop a new set of strings on it and plug it in I'm blown away. Powerful, harmonically rich tele tone without the ice pick. All three positions sound great.

The bridge gets growly and nasty when you play it hard, cleans up and is just plain powerful when you ease up. The neck is loud and smokey, but not muddy. Great for comping or blues soloing and well matched to the bridge output. The middle position is very rich sounding, hum gone, and really pushes my amps.
 




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