Why vintage pickups are generally (considered) better?

Messages
994
...The reason potting pickups became common place was because they can squeal at high volumes...
Rhetorical question - why does the solid body electric guitar even exist?


...There are a lot more people playing in their bedrooms than arenas these days...
True.


...I think most people would prefer a more complex sound if they can get away with it like you can in your bedroom...
Completely disagree on so many levels, pickup microphony is a niche interest, like moustache grooming or fixed gear bicycles. "Complex" is not a synonym for "preferable", particularly in context of electric guitar. I'm gonna go full Floyd ethics thread - microphonic pickups should never be sold to the unsuspecting.

Plus I genuinely can't get away with it, it will squeal in my lounge.



...And you can remove a ton of wax from potted pickups enough to get them into the ballpark of unpotted...
You've actually done the experiment, so I salute you! Did they become microphonic afterwards? If the cover went back on again, you may have acquired some cover based microphony.

As I'm only interested in saturating coils with wax, never removal, I rely on second-hand accounts, thus suspect your coil is still permeated with wax unless you used heated solvents.
 

xmd5a

Member
Messages
2,407
I have a thought experiment I like to play, and it works for me, I can't say it will work for others:

Take a cheap guitar you have with stock pickups, play it, pretend someone handed you this guitar and said "those pickups were created by the grand master pickup maker, revered by all the best studio musicians", and then see if you can believe it. When I try it, I can believe it. I love electric guitars in general, I can like what I hear, I can think of dozens of good things to say about what I'm hearing. The neck pickup is rich, chimy and punchy. If God has a speaking voice, it undoubtedly sounds like this neck pickup. The bridge pickup is 60's rock'n'roll, it's not too bright and not too dark, how did they make a pickup that slots so well down the middle!? This imaginary grand master pickup maker truly is a legend.

Even if a pickup sounds terrible, it has a tone, tone is tone, you can find something good to say about it. If you're well versed in the mythology of guitar pickups, you can say many good things about it. It's just a matter of will.

Conversely, if you decide that these pickup are the worst thing ever, then there's a language for that too. They're anemic, boomy, boring, boxy, bright, characterless, cheap, cold, compressed, dark, flat, glassy, good-for-the-money, ice pick, lifeless, mid-heavy, modern, muddy, muffled, one-dimensional, shrill, sterile, stiff, thin, tinny, unforgiving, weak and wimpy. There's no shortage of possibilities, a gust of wind blows your whims one way or another, and then your subconscious goes to work.
 

Dave1

Member
Messages
420
I owned a 59 Les Paul burst, and have a different set of stickered 59 Les Paul pickups in a more modern guitar. Both sets sound nothing like the reproductions, even the best of them. They sound bright and clear and almost like single coils without the twang on the low E string. You sometimes hear “Tele on steroids” and that is close.

I own a 56 strat, and it does not have the air that the 56 reproductions have. I prefer some of the modern versions for playing clean. By the early 60s the sound had shifted to what we think of as a great strat sound, but every mid 50s strat I’ve ever played had more fundamentals and less sheen than the modern winders versions. Maybe someone is winding an accurate version, but I’ve never heard one.

Tele pickups are really close. I don’t know why, but I think they can nail the tone pretty close.
 

korus

Member
Messages
1,276
I owned a 59 Les Paul burst, and have a different set of stickered 59 Les Paul pickups in a more modern guitar. Both sets sound nothing like the reproductions, even the best of them. They sound bright and clear and almost like single coils without the twang on the low E string. You sometimes hear “Tele on steroids” and that is close.

I own a 56 strat, and it does not have the air that the 56 reproductions have. I prefer some of the modern versions for playing clean. By the early 60s the sound had shifted to what we think of as a great strat sound, but every mid 50s strat I’ve ever played had more fundamentals and less sheen than the modern winders versions. Maybe someone is winding an accurate version, but I’ve never heard one.

Tele pickups are really close. I don’t know why, but I think they can nail the tone pretty close.
You did not try repro PAFs in 59 original Burst.
You did not try repro Strat pickups in 56 Strat.

Modern repro pickups are only slightly brighter than originals.
Modern replica guitars are MUCH brighter than originals.

What you call 'sheen' are HIGH OVERTONES of string vibrations. You hear them more because of MUCH HARDER HARDWARE on modern guitars. It is called mechanical resonance.

Wood and pickups are close. It is modern hardware that SOUNDS nothing like hardware on originals. It only looks like hardware on originals.

That is because general public buying guitars are mostly tone deaf. They hear treble poorly. That is why modern guitars are much brighter sounding than originals. They give them more treble cause they hear it poorly. That is why general public prefers tone of modern guitars to pre mid '60s factory originals. That is why industry changed tone of guitars to brighter for 90-95% of customers since mid '60s. Because free market.

Guitars are brighter due to harder hardware, not pickups. You will know it once you exchange pickups of originals and modern ones. On Strat you can exchange whole pickguards. You just un-sloder the jack socket. 2 wires.

Does resoldered jack socket bring value of vintage guitar down? That is why people never do that. And then believe they cancompare tone of pickups while they are in different guitars. Which is funny/sad lack of competence that results in incorrect conclusions.

For 50+ years already.

Specs define tone. We do not know specs of any original hardware, only color of plating. Mechanical resonance makes sure that we cannot get original tone while hardware is not made of exactly equal compositions as on original. Get the specs and you will get the tone. Dead simple.
 
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BEACHBUM

Member
Messages
3,162
I've got a 2006 pick up truck that I'd like to believe runs better than a new one but for some reason I just can't get there. I think it's for the same reason that some folks believe unfounded gossip. It's comfort food for wishful thinkers.
 
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K-Line

Vendor
Messages
8,225
I owned a 59 Les Paul burst, and have a different set of stickered 59 Les Paul pickups in a more modern guitar. Both sets sound nothing like the reproductions, even the best of them. They sound bright and clear and almost like single coils without the twang on the low E string. You sometimes hear “Tele on steroids” and that is close.

I own a 56 strat, and it does not have the air that the 56 reproductions have. I prefer some of the modern versions for playing clean. By the early 60s the sound had shifted to what we think of as a great strat sound, but every mid 50s strat I’ve ever played had more fundamentals and less sheen than the modern winders versions. Maybe someone is winding an accurate version, but I’ve never heard one.

Tele pickups are really close. I don’t know why, but I think they can nail the tone pretty close.
My belief is that some winders think there is a magical wind pattern. I Believe a good sounding pickup has no pattern at all. Back in the day they were getting paid peanuts to put a certain number of turns on a pickup. They sat at table chatting all day. The counters were not really up to spec, etc, etc. When I wind my pickups, I try to envision them back in the day and get as random as I can. Varying tension along the way. But a big factor is the perceived tone that one hears based on reputation or nostalgia.
 

txrsm

Member
Messages
193
I'd love original vintage pickups but I think there are so many modern winders doing great work at good prices. At the end of the day, it is just one piece of the puzzle and I would rather spend my money on getting a solid rig than just a vintage set of pickups. I think Seymour Duncan's Antiquities and Fender Pure Vintage series are awesome alternatives for that vintage tone today. Then you have small winders like Rose, Auburn Electric, and others winding there own for the budget players.

At the end of the day, it's all a matter of the player's ability. I've seen amazing players sound equally amazing through crap gear. Alternatively, I've seen subpar players playing through super expensive amps and guitars only to sound like...well like subpar playing. The gear didn't make them any better.
 

suparsonic

Member
Messages
3,007
Like anything that is vintage or collectable, the original version is preferred to a reproduction.
“The Real McCoy”
 

76standard

Member
Messages
80
Nobody went outside to smoke in the 50s and 60s.

.
That’s the magic fairy dust that makes them sound awesome. A little cig ash and slow smoked like a nice rack of baby backs.

Seriously folks, find what your ears tell you is your sound. You only have to satisfy yourself. Besides, it’s your cash that you are spending, right? I have Duncan Seth Lovers in my ‘76 Les Paul and they deliver for my needs.
 

76standard

Member
Messages
80
Same so
Consider that while Fender and Gibson may have been using cheap, off the shelf materials in the '50s and '60s, those cheap components of yesteryear were of much higher quality than even premium components of today. I mean, that's what started the boutique market, because the off the shelf stuff wasn't up to snuff. Hold a Gibson tailpiece from the '50s in one hand and compare it to a stock Gibson tailpiece from 2020, it's going to feel completely different in terms of weight, density, finish, etc. People tend to think these metal parts don't matter as much as the wood (let's not even get started on old growth mahogany) but I actually think they matter more, and a pickup is made mostly of metal. The magnets have been mentioned already but even the wire, it was of much higher quality back then. And it all adds up, sum of the parts being greater than the whole and all that.

My point is; what was a cheap part in 1959 was of much higher quality materials than even some of the premium parts being made today. They don't make 'em like they used to....
same with the components used in vacuum tubes of old. Good post and like your assessment.
 

macmax77

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
12,786
I have seen people playing vintage guitars that sound like Dogs, yes, awful, lifeless, still the player thought he was hearing the best guitar ever just because it was old. I guess some people also do the same with pups.
 

korus

Member
Messages
1,276
I have seen people playing vintage guitars that sound like Dogs, yes, awful, lifeless, still the player thought he was hearing the best guitar ever just because it was old. I guess some people also do the same with pups.
SAME PLAYER. SAME AMP.

Original tone. The best guitars ever. AKA Dogs, awful, lifeless.

 

korus

Member
Messages
1,276
SAME PLAYER. SAME AMP. SAME as post in above this one.

NOT an original tone. The guitar which is NOT Dog, awful, lifeless.


 
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xmd5a

Member
Messages
2,407
Like anything that is vintage or collectable, the original version is preferred to a reproduction.
“The Real McCoy”
They're not reproductions, they're actually what they purport to be. The exception would be Chinese knock-offs, they're actual copies, and in many cases, counterfeits.
 

dangtr

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
22
My faves aren’t always vintage.



A very close second are the Shaw humbuckers in my 80s ES-335.

For single coils a very unlikely pickup is now in the forefront for me. 1998 custom shop Jazzmaster prototype pickup in the neck position. Just the best single coil I’ve had the pleasure of owning. Of course the guitar wrapped around it isn’t half bad, ha! It’s clear without sounding like a PA system, it has character but it’s not goopy. It’s strong without sounding dark. It’s better than any of the strat neck pickups I’ve tried before which is saying something since those held the #1 position before this. Super great.



Just look at that pre-production wind job!



I agree about the Shaw humbuckers in an 80s ES-335.
I have a 1983 ES-335 that hands down has the SWEETEST sounding set of pups I've ever heard.
 




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