Mini humbuckers, what's the history?

Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by PlexiBreath, Oct 28, 2005.

  1. PlexiBreath

    PlexiBreath Member

    Messages:
    1,202
    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2002
    Location:
    La Quinta, California
    I always have liked the tone of mini humbuckers, from the old Firebirds to the Les Paul Deluxe. I know a lot of history behind the normal humbucker, but these little guys are a mystery to me. Anyone know more?

    As far as I know they first appear on Firebirds but without adjustable screw poles. Then you see them on some mid '60s Epiphones, then the Les Paul Deluxes and somewhere along the way the six adjustable pole on one bobbin appear. There's also the Epiphone pickups of the '50's that look sort of like mini humbuckers but with cream ends, I don't know if there is a connection or even if these are humbucking.

    Is there a difference between the Firebird mini 'buckers and the ones with the screws? Are they just small versions of the bigger humbuckers made in the same way, or are they constructed very differently? Enquiring swines want to know.
     
  2. EL 34 X2

    EL 34 X2 Member

    Messages:
    1,183
    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2004
    Location:
    Southern Indiana
    I also like the sound of the mini humbuckers, especially the Firebird pickups. I had the pleasure of playing a friends 1964 Firebird III about twenty years ago, and fell in love with the sound. To my ears it's somewhere between a good Fender single coil and a P 90; bright with balls.

    I installed a neck pickup from a trashed '63 Firebird in the neck position of a Telecaster and have gotten a fantastic sound.

    I don't know much of the technical stuff or history, other than the Firebird pickups have a bar magnet rather than polepeices, and DO sound a little different from the other model. Both seem to be often overlooked in pickup discussions. I would also be interested in a little more information on the subject.

    Ed
     
  3. JingleJungle

    JingleJungle Member

    Messages:
    1,401
    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2004
    Location:
    GroOveland
    From my point of view (see my footer) I can only say that they're a P.I.T.A to build... so says my "boss", alias Harry Häussel.
    So I guess that if you find some good 'uns somewhere just take 'em home and find a deserving guittie to put them in.

    Best,

    JJ
     
  4. michael30

    michael30 Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    2,716
    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2005
    Location:
    Veikkola, Finland
    This guitar (Silvertone 1446) from the early 60's has Gibson-made mini-humbuckers. I've never seen this particular PU model on any other guitar (Gibson or Silvertone). They sound great.

    [​IMG]

    Michael
     
  5. Vince

    Vince Member

    Messages:
    1,551
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2004
    Location:
    St. Louis
    Plex,
    There's not a lot more "history" than the models you mentioned except for a couple of jazzers here or there.

    We use both the "solid" Firebird variety and the pole piece version that Jason Lollar builds for us. Both have different characteristics, but both sound great. I like them in the neck and middle positions of the Legato because they retain a tighter more defined tone (like a juiced up Fender single coil) but with a much smoother and fuller lower mids and bass, but not mushy.
     
  6. LTE

    LTE Member

    Messages:
    1,630
    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2004
    Location:
    In my own little world of destruction
    Vintage Guitar magizine just did a feature on the Epiphone Casino and said that Gibson wanted to make the Epiphone a cheaper version of Gibson so they developed the mini bucker for the Epiphone line.
     
  7. tommc

    tommc Member

    Messages:
    1,570
    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2004
    In fact there is more to the story of the mini-hums according to the book "The Gibson Les Paul Book" bt Tony Bacon and Paul Day, pages 40 - 41. Seems Gibson bought Epiphone about 1957. According to Ted McCarty, they thought they were buying just the string bass part, but ended owing the whole company. Amongst the parts purchased were some of the Epiphone mini-hums which were fitted into the Les Paul Deluxes beginning in 1969. Gibson had LP bodies already routed for P-90s but there was a desire to have a humbucker that didn't change the look of the LP. There's more info in the book. Since the book is only about LPs, there is no mention whether the same minis were used in the Firebirds, but it seems likely they are the same. Could be the same pickups with different covers since the LPs had screw holes and the Firebirds did not.
     
  8. PlexiBreath

    PlexiBreath Member

    Messages:
    1,202
    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2002
    Location:
    La Quinta, California
    I posted a thread like this in the Ampage pickup winder's forum and recieved some interesting information.

    The mini-hum in the Firebird is different than the ones with screws coming through the cover, The Firebird mini-hum has a blade per coil where as the others have individual pole pieces. The Firebird mini-hum is brighter and more Strat like than the other as Gibson was hunting for Strat market share.

    The Epiphone pickups that have always looked to me like mini-hums, the one's refered to as "New York", identifiable by the cream pieces on the ends and the pole screws along the edge, are not humbuckers at all, but are something called a "Sidewinder" design, the pole screw are not surrounded by coil, but the coils lay on their side, from what I understand, are wound around a plate, the end of this plate is where the pole screws screw into.

    Apparently mini-hums are a real bytch to work on as the covers are the only thing holding them together and apparently removing the cover yields unpleasant consequences.

    Anyway, all very interesting stuff, but I would like to know more, like who designed the mini-hum and why. Possibly the original design was strictly for the Firebird to sound more like a Strat, but without the hum, then was used for Epiphone and later Les Paul Deluxe? Did Seth Lover design it?
     
  9. erksin

    erksin Member

    Messages:
    21,491
    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2004
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    I believe Epiphone initially developed the minis (the ones with screws) for use in the late '50s - those pups were produced in a fairly large quantity and the left overs were used in the Gibson LP Deluxes later on. I'm not completely sure, but I believe when Epi used them in their guitars, they are refered to as 'New York' pickups. The Firebird pups are completely different (other than physical size), as has been stated before.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. PlexiBreath

    PlexiBreath Member

    Messages:
    1,202
    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2002
    Location:
    La Quinta, California
    Apparently these "New York" pickups, though they look like mini-hums, are not, instead they are what some refer to as a "Sidewinder" style of single coil.

    Here's what Jason Lollar said about them:
    "Lets see if I can explain it clearly Its just a bar magnet app.2-1/4 X 3/4 X 1/4 or 5/16
    magged through the 3/4" dimension. So one of the 5/16" face is north and the other 5/16" face is south
    The coil is wound around the magnet (the 2-1/4 X 3/4 direction) and one of the 5/16" faces butt up against the screws (the 3/4" face is parallel with the strings as is the coil).
    Its very simple and has no other parts, it is what some would call a "sidewinder" and may mistakenly attribute its design to bill L."
     
  11. Marty Horne

    Marty Horne Guest

    I've had 2 early 70s Pauls with minis, a Firebird with minis, and an Anderson Hollow Cobra with 3 minis and they all sounded different but all sounded very good. In general to me they seemed fatter and darker than a Fender single coil but thinner and brighter than a regular humbucker or P-90.
     
  12. 2x6L6

    2x6L6 Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    467
    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2004
    Location:
    Talkeetna Mtns.
    Unfortunately when I bought my '63 Firebird III it had Dimarzio Super Distortions in it (sweet! (not.....) :( ). In the case was what I have always assumed to be one of the original mini hums - no cover, just the coils/magnet/bobbin assembly and the mounting plate thingy (the coils would be glued I believe into the "tray" pictured here) - looks thusly:
    [​IMG]
    and close up
    [​IMG]
    and the back
    [​IMG]
    The wood on the back is a thin layer - almost like balsa wood.

    About 20 years ago I put some Duncan mini-humbuckers in the guitar, and they sound really great. These are the medium output of the three flavors of minis Duncan made at the time - vintage, slightly hot and real hot. They've aged with the guitar very well, so they are almost vintage themselves!
    This was my main axe back in the day, I played it with a 50w Marshall 1-12 combo - a most wonderful rig if I do say so myself. The minis and all that Firebird mahogany did great things with/through that Marshall - things my Strats could never quite achieve with that same amp.
     
  13. Vince

    Vince Member

    Messages:
    1,551
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2004
    Location:
    St. Louis
    So there you have it!
     
  14. johnmfer

    johnmfer Member

    Messages:
    1,056
    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2005
    Location:
    Phoenix
    I've seen these pickups on ebay by themselves a couple times over the last few years when I've been looking. They always go for insane amounts of money. I've never seen these on a guitar before this thread, very interesting.

    Also, I have a Deluxe style patent sticker gibby mini-hum in the neck of my Japanese Jazzmaster, it's my absolute favorite neck pickup of all time. Nobody here has mentioned the patent sticker/stamp and whether or not the vintage Firebird models have different patent numbers on them than the ones found in a LP Deluxe.
     
  15. infiniteposse

    infiniteposse Member

    Messages:
    1,613
    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2006
    Location:
    PDX
    I'm resurrecting this old thread as I'm very interested in the topic.

    Also, is there a width difference in a Firebird pup and a mini-hum? I'd like to install some Firebird pups in an old Epi solidbody I just got, but don't want to do any routing.
     
  16. amc

    amc Member

    Messages:
    3,145
    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2003
    I switched the Lollar P90's(excellent pu's btw) that came in my Collings 290
    to a set of Lollar minihums. I couldn't be happier. Push-pull switching tone pots
    give me split-coil tones that are excellent as well.

    [​IMG]
     
  17. bforest4

    bforest4 Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,341
    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2006
    Location:
    los angeles
    I also switched out the Lollar P90's in my Thorn with IRW neck to Lollar minihums and am really happy with the switch, wanted something different because I already had a few P90 guitars.
     
  18. dodgeone

    dodgeone Senior Member

    Messages:
    351
    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2008
    Location:
    NY
    They were/are an essential sound component for Johnny winter's slide stuff on his firebird, Allen Collins during Lynryd skynrd mounted in an old explorer, and Niel young's "old black".
     
  19. mark norwine

    mark norwine Member

    Messages:
    16,132
    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2005
    Location:
    NJ...GSP135
    But you have to be careful with the "broad statements about minis"...as has been already said, a LP Deluxe mini is a totally different pickup, compared to a firebird mini.

    Different animal altogether. Different construction, different tone. Different.

    There are several pickup people making "firebird pickups" that are, in fact, constructed like LP Deluxe Minis...
     
  20. Jason Lollar

    Jason Lollar Member

    Messages:
    92
    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2004
    Location:
    Vashon WA
    "There are several pickup people making "firebird pickups" that are, in fact, constructed like LP Deluxe Minis... "

    Really- where have you seen that?
     

Share This Page