Rethinking Hotter Humbuckers

c_mac

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,729
I've bought into the conventional wisdom for the last several years that PAF style humbuckers are the only way to go outside of my usual world of single coils. If you want any extra push from them use pedals but don't go with hotter pickups because they get muddy, etc. I gotta say, I recently got a Reverend Bayonet with a Railhammer Anvil/Chisel set and it's making me rethink the idea that PAF style humbuckers are the only way to go.

I should state that when I was a teenager and playing more hard rock and metal that I used hot humbuckers all of the time. Several years ago when I started playing more country and low to medium gain rock, I made a point to move away from higher output pickups because it seemed like the right thing to do since I wasn't playing heavier gain music much anymore. After playing a gig with that Bayonet, all I can say is "wow". That guitar sounded incredible. Even the guys in my band commented about how great that guitar sounded. Again, no heavy gain or anything like, more low gain Vox-y kind of tones, but this guitar sounded massive with a crisp low end and ridiculous sustain.

Granted, maybe this has more to do with the Railhammer design than anything else but I've tried the Railhammer Hyper Vintage as well and didn't like them near as much as the Chisel set in my old Sensei or Anvil/Chisel set in my current Bayonet.

Maybe hot humbuckers aren't so bad after all!
 

mikef09

Member
Messages
538
I'm actually thinking the same thing. I recently got a Suhr Modern with Aldrich Pickups in it. I thought about getting Thornbuckers for it, but I actually like how "full" and "hifi" the Aldrich pickups are (although I love me some Thornbuckers).
 

pitbull45

Member
Messages
746
Recently loaded a Duncan Antiquity JB/Jazz set in my Les Paul. Mainly pushing low watt non-master volume amps and I find I prefer the way the JB hits the front of the amp harder than a vintage style PAF, cleans up pretty nice rolling back the voume too. Johnny Hickman of Cracker gets some stellar tones from his JB loaded Les Paul.
 

PatriotBadger

Member
Messages
1,808
I personally don't mess with pickups all that much, but don't overlook the obvious - a good clean boost before the amp will usually get you all the 'hotter' you need while still retaining (and often improving) the perceived character of your pickups. You can always make a cool pickup hotter, but you can't make a hot pickup cooler.
 

thebowl

Member
Messages
784
I have a Les Paul with Duncan Antiquities; the ES-335 to the left has Seth Lovers in it,and I have a Prestige semi-hollow with Duncans, a 59 and a JB, so I have some degree of variation, in the Duncan world, at least. I play blues, R&B, some country, nothing super high gain, although I have my moments, now and then. My take is that the PAF-type pickups will give you a clean tone that just can't be obtained with the hotter pups. You can drive the PAFs with your knobs, but you can't go in the other direction, with a really hot pup. I will cheerfully admit that the music I play is inspired by stuff played using PAFs.

Edit - simultaneous post with Patriot above. Great minds think alike!
 

jcarpenter

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,854
BG HellaBucker is my favorite 17k Alnico V I compared it to a JB that came with a guitar I bought used and the Hella is just better sounding clearer with harmonics that just seem easier to get. Also compared the Hella to a Bill Lawrence 500xl and It's good but I prefer Alnico vs. ceramic.
 

jay_red

Member
Messages
24
I have a guitar with a Gibson dirty fingers in it (about as hot as you can get from Gibby) and it doesn't have any mud at all, it is surprising how clear the notes can stay at high gain. On the other hand I have a guitar with a Duncan Invader, and that thing is mud city, mid to high gain is ok, but try a clean tone and its just mush.
 

TrevorW

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
469
I'm actually thinking the same thing. I recently got a Suhr Modern with Aldrich Pickups in it. I thought about getting Thornbuckers for it, but I actually like how "full" and "hifi" the Aldrich pickups are (although I love me some Thornbuckers).

The Doug Aldrich are great pickups no doubt.
 
Messages
7,943
I love Railhammers- a HyperVintage set, a Chisel bridge, and an Alnico Grande. In general I prefer low to medium output humbuckers so I don't need to make changes when switching guitars. But do I have a couple of JBs and one Rio Grande that reads a whopping 21.4K (that one's wound with thinner wire, but it's powerful).
 

mrpinter

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
9,605
I personally don't mess with pickups all that much, but don't overlook the obvious - a good clean boost before the amp will usually get you all the 'hotter' you need while still retaining (and often improving) the perceived character of your pickups. You can always make a cool pickup hotter, but you can't make a hot pickup cooler.

A good "hot" pickup isn't just a vintage style pickup with more output, it has a different character to the sound. In my guitars I use low gain PAF style pickups in some and more "modern" medium and high gain pickups in others. The lower gain ones have what I hear as a "woody" sound, while the higher output ones are "horn-like"; and I don't think even with pedals you can get that exact tone out of the lower gain ones. It all depends on what you like. The answer? More guitars of course :)
 

somecafone

Member
Messages
4,783
I have a guitar with a Gibson dirty fingers in it (about as hot as you can get from Gibby) and it doesn't have any mud at all, it is surprising how clear the notes can stay at high gain. On the other hand I have a guitar with a Duncan Invader, and that thing is mud city, mid to high gain is ok, but try a clean tone and its just mush.

Back in my youth when it was all high-gain all the time for me and my buddies, a friend put an Invader in a Kramer.
Even then, long before I ever saw or considered a tweed or BF or clone thereof, and sought out only maximum munch, I thought that pup sounded like ass.
 

David Garner

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,613
I love them too, but for most of what I play, I need vintage. The hotter pickups just don't do that 70s rock thing as well as the lower winds.

I guess what I'm saying is I need another Les Paul :dude
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
38,086
I think nobody but me believes me, but I think a DiM X2N (bridge pup) into a Fender sort of amp, revoices your sound heavily in the Marshall direction. AND they split very well.
All hi-output pups do not sound the same and generalizations may not apply.
 

David Garner

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,613
I think nobody but me believes me, but I think a DiM X2N (bridge pup) into a Fender sort of amp, revoices your sound heavily in the Marshall direction. AND they split very well.
All hi-output pups do not sound the same and generalizations may not apply.

I don't believe you.

Okay, just kidding :D
 

sedawkgrep

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,613
There's a reason why the JB, L500XL, Super Distortion, etc. have a lot of fans! :)

Personally I prefer lower output pickups but get along just fine with higher as long as they don't compress much.
 

David Garner

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,613
Wasn't a lot of 70's rock recorded with Dimarzio Super Distortions? Seems like you see a lot of players from that era with double cream pickups.

I'm sure a lot was. Like Kiss, etc. I suppose it depends on which 70s rock you're talking about. I think of that spongy bottom, soft clipping like on "Mama Kin" by Aerosmith, or basically anything by ZZ Top, but especially the first few albums. Free, early Zeppelin, etc. And even then it's kind of up in the air -- I found this picture of Aerosmith in 1978. Joe has a Les Paul with what appears to be normal covered pickups (could be double blacks uncovered -- it's hard to tell). Brad has a BC Rich with what appears to be Super Distortions.

aero-calijam.jpg
 




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