Help! woofy/muddy neck 'buckers in Es-335s plague me

saltbird

Member
Messages
1,689
I've gone through 4 different Es-335s after ordering and returning various models and the neck humbuckers all seem muddy while lacking focus and clarity, especially on the low strings. 2 models had 57 Classics, one had MHS II humbuckers, & the one I currently just received has MHS humbuckers. They all sound pretty similar to me, although I think I like these MHS ones the most if I had to pick a favorite. The one big problem is they all have this muddy neck pickup issue. It doesn't really matter where you set the amp EQs because you can hear the problem coming upstream from the guitar.

Acoustically, the notes ring out clearly with plenty of treble, but when plugged in it's a different story.

Normally I would think this is inherent to 335s and accept that it just won't work for me and move on, but I can find youtube videos of people playing them and they have this crystal clear neck p/u tone with no note smearing and wompyness on the bass notes. The whole reason I was inspired to get one in the first place is because I'm often wowed whenever I hear one in a recording or video.

I'm confounded as to what I'm doing wrong. Please help!
 

saltbird

Member
Messages
1,689
Start by lowering the neck pickup. You can also raise the pole pieces to compensate. Works wonders!
This is always one of the first things I start messing with.

Even when I drop the pickup, it still has the same muddy/woofy sound, just quieter and weaker.

My experiences with lowering the pickups is that it decreases bass, yes, but it also dulls the treble and focus, so it solves one issue by creating another. I've actually found I get brighter and clearer humbucker tone setting them close to the strings. Single coils are the opposite where they'll sometimes get too harsh and ice-picky set close to the strings, so they often sound better backed off.
 

jpagey

Member
Messages
4,185
Seymour Duncan ‘59 with an Alnico 2, 3, 4 Or UOA5 magnet in the neck of my Tokai Love Rock did the trick.
Also set your amp tone so you like the neck pickup’s tone. Then, lower the bridge pickup tone control to about 7.
 
Last edited:

Pedro58

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,851
As others have mentioned, p'up height is something to look into, but in my experience, it only gets you part of the way there. Try backing the tone off on your bridge pickup to about 7.5-8.5. Leave the tone and volume wide open on your neck pickup. Set the amp to give you all the treble you want on the neck setting. That's crucial on twin humbucking guitars. Plenty of folks set the amp to their bridge pickup. It should be the other way around. Another solution is to run a capacitor on the lead from your neck pickup, but that requires a little more work than learning to work the knobs.
 

stagolee

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,517
Interesting. I have the opposite experience. My 335 is one of the guitars that cuts the best on the neck pickup, next to the firebird probably. Mine is an early 80’s model.
 

saltbird

Member
Messages
1,689
A good set of aftermarket PAFs :)
Why is it though that all of Gibson's low output humbuckers, like the ones I've tried, are all designed after specific "great examples" of vintage PAFs? Wouldn't Gibson of all companies know how to properly do that? It just seems strange to me that boutique PAFs would have the secret missing ingredient(s) that the Gibsons don't when the original PAFs were wired up by Gibson.
 

lefort_1

Nuzzled Firmly Betwixt
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
15,280
What amp are you playing thru, and is the 335 sharing duties with another guitar?.. if 'yes', what type and what sound are you after with that other guitar?

Sometimes, it can be an amp set up for 'something else' that can be part of the issue.
 

saltbird

Member
Messages
1,689
What amp are you playing thru, and is the 335 sharing duties with another guitar?.. if 'yes', what type and what sound are you after with that other guitar?

Sometimes, it can be an amp set up for 'something else' that can be part of the issue.
I didn't want my initial post to be too verbose as to not bore people away from reading it, but I probably should have just added a TLDR section.

I've definitely adjusted the knobs on my amps every which way, like I said, you can tell the muddy neck pickup is coming upstream and not from the amp. I can turn the bass off and dime the treble and even though the tone will be brighter, you can hear the woofiness and lack of note definition on the neck pickup. The low notes particularly sound smeared and bloated. I'm trying to use all the relevant descriptor words to hopefully get my point across.

I've mainly used a Strymon Iridium which is good for trying out all kinds of amp and cab settings at any gain level, but I've also plugged into my Vibro Champs, DRRI, and 68 Custom Vibrolux Reverb all with their volumes set very low since I'm playing at home and can't really turn up.
 

Tabor

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,533
Have you tried running into the 2nd input on the right channel of the DRRI (assuming its bright cap hasn’t been clipped)?

I went though a similar pattern with Gibson & Epiphone PAFs in 335 types and LPs.

Fralin’s hum cancelling P90s are another possible solution. They’re humbucker sized... maybe steel saddles for the low strings...

I’ve moved on to Gretsch guitars since I seem to like their stock pickups more.
 

LikeAMotherF

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
2,861
Have you compared it to other guitars with HB's? In other words, what's your baseline?

Neck pickups are always going to be a little more bassy and muddy, and that distinction is more obvious with HBs as opposed to single coils. Have you played a HB guitar that had the sound you're looking for in the neck position? Or are you judging against YouTube videos or clips? Because the difference between a nice PAF-type pickup through an AC-30 or a Super Distortion through a Reverb Rocket are going to be night and day. The pickup is only one part of the equation. You may be comparing to amps/pedals/EQ in the signal that you are not using.

From my experience, the MHS pickups are one of the more "clear" sounding for the neck position. I'm sure there are plenty of candidates that can do that sound as well or better, but they're in the top tier. From my experience, anyways. If they're still too muddy or woofy for you, then it just may come down to the fact that you're not a HB player at heart?

I wouldn't throw a ton of money at the situation, however. Maybe try some Antiquities, Seth Lovers, maybe Imperial? But if something low wind and low output doesn't scratch that itch, you may want to move on.

Good luck!
 

lefort_1

Nuzzled Firmly Betwixt
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
15,280
I didn't want my initial post to be too verbose as to not bore people away from reading it, but I probably should have just added a TLDR section.

I've definitely adjusted the knobs on my amps every which way, like I said, you can tell the muddy neck pickup is coming upstream and not from the amp. I can turn the bass off and dime the treble and even though the tone will be brighter, you can hear the woofiness and lack of note definition on the neck pickup. The low notes particularly sound smeared and bloated. I'm trying to use all the relevant descriptor words to hopefully get my point across.

I've mainly used a Strymon Iridium which is good for trying out all kinds of amp and cab settings at any gain level, but I've also plugged into my Vibro Champs, DRRI, and 68 Custom Vibrolux Reverb all with their volumes set very low since I'm playing at home and can't really turn up.
Short of belaboring the 'setup' issues,
have you considered a mini-humbucker wind in a standard humbucker housing?
 

jujube

Member
Messages
2,032
I've gone through 4 different Es-335s after ordering and returning various models and the neck humbuckers all seem muddy while lacking focus and clarity, especially on the low strings. 2 models had 57 Classics, one had MHS II humbuckers, & the one I currently just received has MHS humbuckers. They all sound pretty similar to me, although I think I like these MHS ones the most if I had to pick a favorite. The one big problem is they all have this muddy neck pickup issue. It doesn't really matter where you set the amp EQs because you can hear the problem coming upstream from the guitar.

Acoustically, the notes ring out clearly with plenty of treble, but when plugged in it's a different story.

Normally I would think this is inherent to 335s and accept that it just won't work for me and move on, but I can find youtube videos of people playing them and they have this crystal clear neck p/u tone with no note smearing and wompyness on the bass notes. The whole reason I was inspired to get one in the first place is because I'm often wowed whenever I hear one in a recording or video.

I'm confounded as to what I'm doing wrong. Please help!
MHS is very clear and not all muddy. Try adjusting the pickups downwards.
 

saltbird

Member
Messages
1,689
Short of belaboring the 'setup' issues,
have you considered a mini-humbucker wind in a standard humbucker housing?
See the thing about that is, I know I can put in P90s or mini-humbuckers to brighten things up, hell, in that case I can just use my strat and forget about the 335 altogether. The frustrating thing for me is that I've absolutely heard neck humbuckers in 335s sound clear and articulate, so I know it can be had, and that's the sound I'm hoping to get. I just didn't anticipate it would be such an elusive thing. Based on my experience, it seems like none of the stock Gibson humbuckers have this going on, except I'll watch some youtube vids and then they do. It leaves me scratching my head like "Am I just ending up with every 335 with muddy neck pups by crazy coincidence?" I figured by the 4th example I would have come across one without this problem.

I'm realizing that I think making a video might be in order.
 

saltbird

Member
Messages
1,689
MHS is very clear and not all muddy. Try adjusting the pickups downwards.
Everybody says this but lowering the pickups just makes them quieter and maybe a little less bassy, but still muddy smeared low notes. If anything, raising the pickups made them brighter, not the other way around.
 

-Hawk-

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
736
EQ pedal will work for this. It’s like magic.

Or get rid of those turd HB’s in favor of some P90’s.
 




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