Why vintage pickups are generally (considered) better?

wingtip4

Member
Messages
143
The good ones degauss and get a distinctive hollow tone in Strats. I don’t get all the hype about humbuckers.
 

supar6

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
348
I've played a few 50's and 60's strats that were all original and I'd have a hard time discerning the differences between those and a set of Rocketfires 60's (as one example).

Now, I'm not saying others COULDN'T tell the difference... but if so, you're not playing loud enough! After a year or so of playing at loud volumes... you won't be able to hear the difference either. ;-)
 

Neverwhere

Member
Messages
659


People have to invent things, stories, perceptions to feel better about spending a lot of money on something.
 
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Neverwhere

Member
Messages
659
A microphonic pickup is a faulty pickup.. now that does not mean one cannot make great music with one... but as a flawed device, it becomes impossible to duplicate the sound from one to the next.. it is purely the luck of the draw...

and since a microphonic pup functions as a microphone, the venue and everything in it impacts the voice... it's about as random as it gets.

r
Pretty subjective thing to be labeled as "faulty." Theres no right or wrong here, IMO microphonic pickups sound better than non microphonic precisely because it's mixing basically the normal signal with a microphone rendering a more complex sound. Issues arrive when you start using higher volumes of course, but for most peoples applications they can be a benefit.
 

Ron Kirn

Member
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7,080
well a fault can be designed in, but since there is no way to pre calibrate the fault.. the results are not specific.. one would have to sample a box full of "faulty" pups to find one who's faults resulted in a sonically impure sound they preferred..

I know of no acoustic transducer that is designed to incorporate a microphonic flaw.

In critical audio, everything is engineered to reduce microphonics, and/or feedback of any kind.

and the photo Neverwhere posted is the environment I pretty much "grew up" in... Just the "shelves" the turntable and preamp are sitting on cost somewhere around $10,000.00 primarily designed to isolate the turntable's cartridge from induced feedback or "Microphonics"

while I cannot see the exact components, that "record player", including peripherals, would set ya back about $250,000.00 and that is an entry level system in that realm..

r
 
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Neverwhere

Member
Messages
659
well a fault can be designed in, but since there is no way to pre calibrate the fault.. the results are not specific.. one would have to sample a box full of "faulty" pups to find one who's faults resulted in a sonically impure sound they preferred..

I know of no acoustic transducer that is designed to incorporate a microphonic flaw.

In critical audio, everything is engineered to reduce microphonics, and/or feedback of any kind.

r
I've played a lot of Dynasonics, they were all microphonic. I could tell they were all microphonic, could I tell the difference in how microphonic they were? Nope. I don't think the majority of microphonic pickups will have such large differences between them that anyone could tell the "sonic quality"...I think people are able to perceive the overreaching sonic characteristic but nuances between each? Eh...
I'm talking about well constructed, non dipped pickups, not ones with some glaring issue. It's too subjective to call this a flaw, this is like saying distortion is a flaw, from a techinical point of view I guess it is, but that doesn't matter to people.
If someone is playing a large hollowbody at pretty low volumes, would that person more like likely desire a pickup that is straight normal pickup signal, or one that picks up on the acoustic qualities of that hollowbody through a microphone as well?
 
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Ron Kirn

Member
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7,080
this is like saying distortion is a flaw, from a techinical point of view I guess it is, but that doesn't matter to people.

well. yeah... like a completely beat-up '52 Tele is "flawed" but guys will pay an extreme premium for one...

and you're right.. I am speaking from a purely technical aspect.... and from that aspect, Picasso couldn't paint the human figure... that certainly doesn't detract from his contribution to the world of art..

r
 

ripgtr

Member
Messages
9,214
The idea of someone in the 1960s going outside to smoke just sounds ridiculous.
Off subject, but, did a tour of vandenberg, they had the old launch consoles still. With built in ash trays. Yea, not going outside during a launch. Now we need to discuss whether the winders were smoking filtered or unfiltered - never mind the menthol. ;-)

ON topic. I have an old strat. I've tried, some come pretty close (Mare and Rolph) but so far no one has nailed it. There is just something about the top end that is smoother. I don't know and and not going to speculate why.
 

Noel Holden

Member
Messages
71
Don't know that I buy the argument that 'older' pickups are considered 'better'. I haven't experienced that really. The only 'old' pickup I have in a guitar is the Ibanez V2 in my '83 Destroyer. 37 year old pickup by now. I'll actually be replacing it because in this guitar I need it to have more bite. That pickup is older than say, a PAF would have been in the 1980's.
A pickup is windings around a manet or magnets. There are so many variables.
Forgive me if someone already posted this. Didn't read through all of them.
Bottom line: Pickups have to match the characteristics of the guitar they're mounted in.
 

Dantana2

Member
Messages
85
I have never liked hot pickups. Give me a vintage type without the vintage price. I have David Allen tru 54's in my deluxe ash/maple. It sounds spot on to my vintage strat. I can make it sound hotter if I want through pedals and the right amps. But I cant get my alnico 5 overwound 70's strat to come clean at all.
 

dewey decibel

Member
Messages
10,575
This is all marketing magic.

The boutique market started with Fender et el replacing vintage spec pickups with plastic molded pickups, and pickups with ceramic bars and steel pole pieces. People with American Standards wanted vintage looking pickups, and people with MIM Fenders wanted actual AlNiCo pickups. It has nothing to do with higher quality materials, it has to the with the material itself, AlNiCo versus ceramic, fiberboard versus molded plastic. And who's to say it was about sound? People like vintage for it's own sake, they can say it sounds better, but that's not objective anyhow, it's not provable or disprovable.

In the case of Gibson and T-tops, the T-tops were consistently underwound by today's standards. That gave way to wanting high output pickups in the 80's. The love for PAF pickups, again, the idea that they sounded better is probably a myth, there's just no proof, it's something people say to justify the act of doing something that doesn't make logical sense otherwise, chasing vintage specs for the sake of it.
Well, I was kinda talking about the boutique market in general, not just the boutique pickup market. Anyway, I'm not going to argue about what's better, but I still contend that the quality of the metal was much higher than of off the shelf parts of today. I'm talking about the '50s and early '60s here, the original "vintage" era, not just anything that's "old".


This is an interesting point of view, I didn't think about that. Is it the same with pickups?
I think it is. As others have said, the pickups were much less consistent back then, but when you got a great one it really is magic. And I think the quality of the metal is a part of that.
 

Reilly87

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6
Maybe there is the same topic somewhere, but I couldn't find it.

In the old times pickups on Gibson or Fender factories were manufactured by cheap workers, who could go smoke outside in the middle of the winding process and those pickups were all over the place in terms of specs. Manufacturers chose components trying to make it as cheap as possible. And yet we hunt for those old pickups. Or there are companies like Throbak who sell their recreations of vintage pickups not for cheap at all.

So why then today only boutique winders can recreate those pickups like PAFs, P90s and others, when factories today have access to more consistent components like magnets, wire and all this stuff and also have quality control?

Probably I'm wrong, but this is the impression I have on this question.
Over the years I have chased vintage "stock" pups to replace the ones in guitars I was rescuing, refurbishing, etc. as I've bought and sold
I'm more in the camp with Relicula in that I've had originals rewound, and used newer makers
like Klein pups in a 78' Tele that gave me what I was looking for, to Porter H90s in a Gib 339.
It boils down to listening to the clips that are out there, reading, taking the plunge and hoping.
I have reached the point, after more than 50 years of playing, that I just enjoy getting the sound
out of my guitars that inspire, or make me happy. That plus never having the money to splurge.
For the big manufacturers I think they rely more on the schems and specs they have already established
as opposed to the boutique builders who not only try to replicate but find some innovation to build on.
Seaglass uses Lollar P90s that sound outstanding in one of their models. But, like Jayyj implies, there are so many variables
in the old ones that just dumb luck made it work out and there is no way to control that today. A lot of work goes
into all tone quests and I am glad to have a wide amount to educate myself about. It stinks that costs are so high
but they are in most things today.
G.A.S is an affliction most of us succumb to in varying degrees the longer we're playing. We become Strat people, Tele people
and on through the makers available, so take heart, enjoy and quest on, it beats being bored.
 

Mpcoluv

Member
Messages
3,413
For Gibsons, unpotting makes ALL the difference, especially in the neck pickup. I’ve done this with Burstbucker Pros.

It makes the pickups more open, articulate and airy. In the middle position, there’s more “quack.”

I haven’t used Throbaks. Vaughn Skow and Mojo Tone also make fantastic PAFs. Since I unpotted mine, I’m really happy with them — enough to not spend a ton of money for the incremental difference.

And if you don’t like it, you can always re-pot them.
Please describe your unpotting procedure. I believe in unpotted pickups but have never been able to remove the wax.
 

daizee

Member
Messages
42
Sampling and interpretation error, IMO:
Only the good sounds get famous and stay that way for a long time. You don't hear all the lousy vintage pickup sounds because they didn't make it. There are great sounds now too, but they're simply recent and haven't got all the time and reach behind them yet. Attributing all this to the pickups is silly, IMO. 40 years from now people will be gushing about vintage '90's "last millennium" pickups that were used to make some amazing grunge sounds, or something.
 
Messages
170
"Why vintage pickups are generally (considered) better?"

For the same reason younger women prefer older men, .. 'cause we're older and sound more experienced.
 

Tdog

Member
Messages
144
But why does it cost so much to replicate those inconsistent vintage pickups?

To me it looks like Wilkinson of GFS products should be the closest to PAFs or P90s of yesteryears, but there is Throbak with magnets gaussed to vintage specs and whatnot...
Don't get me wrong, I'm not bashing Throbak, I see a lot of happy users in the internet, so probably they know what they do. It's just the amount of resourses to get it done, that puzzles me.

I know that making something like original Fender WRHB is tough due to CuNiFe inaccessibility. There are probably some problems with recreating Tarbacks (I have two in a 70s SG by the way, and they are awesome, the bridge particularly). But talking about other pickups - it doesn't seem to be such a problem. But it is somehow.
I would imagine the replacement pickup business is low volume, high margin business. Consider your own annual wage and think of how many sets of pickups you would need to sell to make that much money, in a year, if you made $50 per set. Probably an impossible number for a small builder. Now do the math if you made $250 (fictional numbers, I dont know how much pickups are marked up, I'm just explaining a point). Although pickups are popular I dont thinking is a really high volume business. It's hard for small companies to pay their overhead. Bigger companies should have it better but then you get into all the administration costs and discounts to dealers (as opposed to small guys selling direct). There is no free lunch
 
Messages
994
...IMO microphonic pickups sound better than non microphonic... ...for most peoples applications they can be a benefit...
Picking up only on "most people" - strongly disagree microphonic pickups are beneficial for the majority - there's an excellent reason that nearly all pickups are potted these days.

Back when unpotted pickups were common, you had to keep your double boiler handy. I'll echo the other poster that microphonic pickups are faulty.

"most people" should use potted pickups. The people who want unpotted quirky pickups can get them, but default should be potted. Start from something that works, and deviate if desired. Microphonic is a bad starting place.

...I believe in unpotted pickups but have never been able to remove the wax...
It can't be done. Once it's permeated the coil, it isn't coming out again.

You can remove the excess from the cover, that's about it.
 

Neverwhere

Member
Messages
659
Picking up only on "most people" - strongly disagree microphonic pickups are beneficial for the majority - there's an excellent reason that nearly all pickups are potted these days.

Back when unpotted pickups were common, you had to keep your double boiler handy. I'll echo the other poster that microphonic pickups are faulty.

"most people" should use potted pickups. The people who want unpotted quirky pickups can get them, but default should be potted. Start from something that works, and deviate if desired. Microphonic is a bad starting place.



It can't be done. Once it's permeated the coil, it isn't coming out again.

You can remove the excess from the cover, that's about it.
The reason potting pickups became common place was because they can squeal at high volumes. There are a lot more people playing in their bedrooms than arenas these days. I think most people would prefer a more complex sound if they can get away with it like you can in your bedroom.
Wax potting became a marketing angle as much as it was a legit counter to squeal for rockstars in arenas, it has nothing to do with benefit to sound for a lot of people. One of the reasons why a lot of people go after vintage pickups or vintage correct is because they are unpotted and give you the more complex sound of a slightly microphonic pickup, its come full circle. I don't understand how a pickup which gives a more complex sound at no detriment to people playing at moderate volumes is considered "faulty." It's just a different tool for a different application.

And you can remove a ton of wax from potted pickups enough to get them into the ballpark of unpotted by using a hairdryer, I've done it 4 times. Rremove the cover, heat it up on a paper towel, you'll fill up a couple paper towels with how much wax you can remove.
 
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