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Lollar Firebird pickups, first impression and videos.

Daka3

Member
Messages
2,136
So finally - FINALLY - I received my matched set of Lollar Firebird pickups. I'll spare you the details, suffice to say it took forever, and then some. Now they're installed, and I've had a chance to play on them for a while. So how do I like them? Well. I'm not sure.

They're very, very different in their response and basic sound from the stock ceramics. Much less generic 'rawk' pickups, much more, well, characteristic. That may or may not be a good thing, but the Firebird now sounds like an old guitar. Good things first: Superb response to variations in pick attack, playing position etc. These pickups are really sensitive and alive. Big ups for that.

Things I have to get used to: The neck pickup! It hasn't got the girth and warmth I was expecting. It's got top end, but when you roll back the volume, it goes to mush. Maybe my repairman botched the wiring, but it really does go to mush, already on 9. Not good. The bridge does not do this, but rolls off beautifully. Hm. Also, the Lollars don't bark and snarl the same as the stockers. On the other hand, they are in another league when it comes to details in the playing. Final verdict? I don't know. I'll gig these for a while, then make up my mind. Maybe I'll take the FB to another repairman I know, he's a wiring freak, maybe he can sort out the neck pickup mush thing.

Here's a couple of improvised videos as promised. I am sorry about the clipping, but I don't own a videocorder, so it's an ipad recording. Here goes:



 

SPROING!

Member
Messages
8,795
Hmm. I play Duncan firebird pickups, which are similar to the Lollars.
"Mush" is one thing I've never heard from them.
A good firebird pickup ought to be well balanced with big fat bass, nice high end and balanced mids. Very tight bass response on mine.
Definitely not as hot as the ceramic Gibsons.
To me, a good Firebird pickup ought to be sweet, balanced and musical.

Your iPad recording played through my iPhone sounds awful. (The recording sounds bad...can't tell what the guitar sounds like.) I can't judge anything by it.
 

Daka3

Member
Messages
2,136
Hmm. I play Duncan firebird pickups, which are similar to the Lollars.
"Mush" is one thing I've never heard from them.
A good firebird pickup ought to be well balanced with big fat bass, nice high end and balanced mids. Very tight bass response on mine.
Definitely not as hot as the ceramic Gibsons.
To me, a good Firebird pickup ought to be sweet, balanced and musical.

Your iPad recording played through my iPhone sounds awful. (The recording sounds bad...can't tell what the guitar sounds like.) I can't judge anything by it.
Not tight bass response on this neck pickup. Not a fan of treble bleeds, maybe the wiring really is faulty somehow, the cavity is kinda cramped on these things. I know the sound is crappy, but I wanted to post the videos to demo the pickups with the limited recording means available to me. On a computer, I think the sound of the pickups is reasonably well documented.
 

erksin

Senior Member
Messages
23,126
Just a thought - you said the cavity is really cramped, could it be that the volume pot is grounding out on something?
 

Keyser Soze

Member
Messages
1,472
Before digging into the wiring try adjusting the pickup height. After that check the actual (not printed) value of the volume and tone pots.

Most pots are +/- 20%. Sometimes that is enough to make a major difference in timbre.
 

SPROING!

Member
Messages
8,795
Yes. Something is amiss. Shouldn't sound like that.
Even my plain jane Duncans sound better than the recording.
 

Daka3

Member
Messages
2,136
Update: Took it to the pickup specialist guy. Turns out, it WAS 50's wiring, but changing it to modern made the volume control on the neck pickup behave the way I wanted it to. Cleans up nicely now, without sounding like someone put a padded blanket over the amp when I roll it off.

You go figure, YMMW, and all that stuff. He said the modern wiring style rolls off better with A5 magnets, and A2 magnets works sweeter with the 50's style wiring scheme. Whodathunkit. But I don't really try to understand all this, I just have to go with what my ears tell me, and they are way happier now. We'll se how it all works out in rehearsal tonight.

For all those wanting to rip the ceramics out faster than lightning I'll say this: They're not that bad. In fact, in a classic rock/blues setting, they may be just the ticket, even if they are ridiculously hot compared to the classic FB units. Corksniffers beware. I'm still on the fence about whether or not my ceramics are going back in. We'll see.
 

Daka3

Member
Messages
2,136
OK, maybe I'm talking to myself here, but for the sake of future Firebird tamers, here goes with my last update:

Forget everything I've stated earlier. These Lollar pickups are dramatically the best I've ever played. They're alive, they're musical freaking instruments. My Firebird is a whole new guitar. Here's how, and why: Took the Bird to the pickup guy once more. The neck pickup worked better after he changed the wiring, but still not clear and warm enough when rolled off.

Turns out the meter is reading in the lower 340's. There it is, the culprit. Bear in mind that my usual luthier told me he already measured the pots. all pots (CTS) should be very close to 500. Pickup guy tells me that you can hear + - 10k. Now I don't feel so dumb anymore. He changed the low-reading pot and installed me a set of Jensen PIO caps to boot. Now, my tone controls are musical instruments too! When rolled off, these tone controls are pure Cream-era Clapton city.

Now, in rehearsal yesterday, the Bird gave me tones I've never experienced before. Clean, but dirty - warm, but distinct. Heck, our bassplayer even went so far as to call the tones three-dimensional, and he's absolutely right. Magic happens now. Controlled feedback at will, responsiveness and detail city.

So: The ceramics are absolutely never, ever going near this guitar again.

Instead, let me take this opportunity to thank Jason Lollar for giving me the experience of playing a really superb set of pickups. And thanks to the pickup guy for letting these pickups work their magic. Morale: Always measure your pots, no matter what someone tells you. Get good caps, get the right wiring for your magnets. Makes as much difference as the pickups themselves.

Here's the FB cavity now:

 

marscottm

Member
Messages
340
these pickups in a Soloway Swan are one the most beautiful things I've heard. Don't know why he usually uses Dimarzios
 

pitbull45

Member
Messages
741
Cool, glad you dig the Lollars. I replaced the stock ceramics with Duncan Antiquities in my bird and very much dig it. I also replaced the heavy zinc tail with a lightweight aluminum one.
 

mudster

High Prairie Wrangler
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
3,574
To my ears (and I have owned/played the same Firebird for over 30 years) they don't sound very characteristically 'firebird.' Some pickups I'd like to try in a bird are the Don Grosh mini hums. i have a Grosh EJ with these minis and it reminds me of my Firebird.
To me, the pups in the demo don't sound very warm and firebirds are just warm guitars.
 

Daka3

Member
Messages
2,136
To my ears (and I have owned/played the same Firebird for over 30 years) they don't sound very characteristically 'firebird.' Some pickups I'd like to try in a bird are the Don Grosh mini hums. i have a Grosh EJ with these minis and it reminds me of my Firebird.
To me, the pups in the demo don't sound very warm and firebirds are just warm guitars.
You know what? I think I agree with you. These aren't particularly warm sounding units. I never played a Firebird with the originals in it, but at this point, these Lollars (with the appropriate wiring, pots and caps) give me some guitar tones I've always dreamt about, while at the same time, being something completely new that I never heard before.

That's the best way I can put it. Also, with the PIO caps, I can now actually use the tone controls to add more body and shave off some of those highs.
 






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