Why vintage pickups are generally (considered) better?

Jahn

Listens to Johnny Marr, plays like John Denver
Silver Supporting Member
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My faves aren’t always vintage.

Best humbucker for me- the Pat # sticker Gibson humbucker. I’ve got an embossed version from 1971 in the neck position of my Tele that is perfecto. Like a brash angry garagey PAF.


A very close second are the Shaw humbuckers in my 80s ES-335. Yes they are dark and menacing and nothing like a PAF should sound like- which is why it’s perfect for certain applications.

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!

 
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dazco

Member
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14,400
100% kool-aid drinking right here.
110% wrong right there. U don't know me and if you did you would know i'm the last person on earth u would accuse of that. I'm the last person to follow the crowd or believe everything i hear. What i read and hear only help to guide me to try things, but ALL my opinions on gear unless i specify otherwise are due to MY own experimenting with gear. ALL of it. Nothing gets repeated unless i tried it myself and came to my own conclusions. And unlike most people when i try anything, pickups, saddles, etc, they always get swapped back and fourth with the previous part many times till i hear the difference clear enough to the point there is no longer any doubt. So please with the koolaid BS. It's just that.
 

musekatcher

Member
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2,481
I considered it superstition. But, I've got a 1965 with original untouched pickups and electronics, and I'm a believer. I haven't tried to isolate why this setup is so nice, but if I had to guess, I'd say it started off nice, and improved as the original caps have drifted after 55 years of materials changes, and now naturally roll off those nasty spikey highs, and result in a really smooth, flattering EQ. If so, someone could look at how to accelerate the aging of caps? Caps are the first things replaced in aged loudspeakers and electronics because of "degradation".
 

SFW

Member
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1,402
I think it comes from the fact that most older pickups were lower output and in a lot of cases were more harmonically interesting due to no potting, etc. In the 70's and 80's there was a ton of new overwound pickups meant to drive an amp real hard, but these are often darker, muddier, and harsher than something like a PAF. There's so many options now for amps, overdrives, attenuators, etc that you really don't need high output pickups anymore unless you like the tone specifically.
I love PAF type pickups. I currently rock a set of Duncan Antiquities and a set of Lollar Imperials (Damn, I love the Lollars!). There is something about hitting the front end of an amp with a high output pickup that cannot be accomplished with a boost pedal. They react differently. I have a set of Suhr Aldrich pickups in my main Les Paul. The way it hits my Spawn Quickrod is very different from when I used a clean boost with my Lollars or Ants. Both are good tones, but the Aldrich set just has a different feel under the fingers. They are all tools. Use the one that gets you where you want to be. :)
 

justonwo

Platinum Supporting Member
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3,342
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.
I think the pickups made today are fantastic. I think mostly people are just fetishizing the old stuff.
 

JDthaddeus

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
41
IMHO vintage pickups "sound better" to some people because old pickups are inefficient and DON'T pick up small mistakes players make, and they sound "warm". I get the same effect by turning down the volume knob on my new pickups.
 

Gclef

Member
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2,697
This may be an unpopular opinion that offends alot of guys here, but whatever.

Pickups are magnets, wire, and metal built to a certain spec.

They can be built to spec by gfs or tonerider for 40 bucks or throwback for 400. If the components are the same, you will get roughly the same tone at a different price point. Close enough that a small tweak of eq is all that is needed to make them indistinguishable.

But, the psychological aspect dictates the expensive one sounds better........

That's ok, those if us that know better can continue working the pickup poles and overall heights to get what we want.

Usually, only one pickup swap is necessary when you know what to look for.
 
Messages
11
True...they probably smoked on the winder.
I was still young in the 60s, but people smoked in supermarkets, shopping malls, restaurants, and bowling alleys.

In our elementary school art classes, they taught us how to make ceramic ashtrays.

There were several popular candy "cigarettes" for kids that had powdered sugar in them so kids could blow "smoke" out of the cigarette.

TV news anchors would smoke on air while doing the news, talk shows and variety shows always had ashtrays for their guests, sit-coms commonly had smoking, and so on.

The idea of someone in the 1960s going outside to smoke just sounds ridiculous.

.
 

ant_riv

Silver Supporting Member
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5,453
We live in a time where there are so many incredible choices for gear.

‘Vintage’ gear is from a time when there were not many choices.

Great gear then really stood out and our memories recall the great, and not so much the average.

Add in how many great guitar-based songs were written then, as it was the age of discovery for technique as much as technology, and that drives the pursuit for many.

For me, it has always been about ‘close enough’ because that was how we did it ‘back then.’ We would get as close as we could with gear and learn to work the gear to bridge the gap.

Now, it seems there is less perspective to work for it and more towards acquiring it, through gear.

I continue to be satisfied with gear that is close enough because I enjoy working for it! I have had sufficient support from others saying I ‘nailed it’ when I knew there was still more to get there and that convinces me that my approach isn’t entirely off-base.

Of course, IMO and YMMV.
 

dazco

Member
Messages
14,400
I think the pickups made today are fantastic. I think mostly people are just fetishizing the old stuff.
Same here. I believe there IS sometimes so real magic in vintage guitars but IMO it's the wood having aged. But pickups IMO are not responsible for why some vintage guitars sound amazing. There was a boutique winder who gets a ton of respect who shall go nameless and swore he figured out the reason old pickups sound so good. I got one and it just sounded almost as good as what was in it before. I liked it less due to preferring a bit different EQ curve. Certainly no magic there, not even close. On the other hand when i have had exceptional guitars i can put any pickup in them and they remain exceptional, while dogs won't sound good with a set of Ellis in them. And to me thats a hard fast rule to which i have literally never experienced a single exception.
 

justonwo

Platinum Supporting Member
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3,342
Same here. I believe there IS sometimes so real magic in vintage guitars but IMO it's the wood having aged. But pickups IMO are not responsible for why some vintage guitars sound amazing. There was a boutique winder who gets a ton of respect who shall go nameless and swore he figured out the reason old pickups sound so good. I got one and it just sounded almost as good as what was in it before. I liked it less due to preferring a bit different EQ curve. Certainly no magic there, not even close. On the other hand when i have had exceptional guitars i can put any pickup in them and they remain exceptional, while dogs won't sound good with a set of Ellis in them. And to me thats a hard fast rule to which i have literally never experienced a single exception.
I've found myself fairly agnostic to all the boutique winder minutia. I generally prefer low output pickups, but most of the quality winders are able to produce something I've very happy with (including Gibson, Fender, etc). I love the pickups in my Fender and Gibsons. They're all stock. I also love my Ron Ellis pickups in my Brondel. I think people romanticize the idea of old-world artisans agonizing over every detail of the pickup, but I think the reality is that those old Fender/Gibson employees just wound them up without a ton of thought and threw them in the bin. I think the guitar world went through a super high-impedance pickup phase and then in the early 2000s we saw a return to the low impedance, vintage-style pickups. The stuff being made now is just as good (if not better) than what was made in the 60s, but that idea isn't as romantic. Then again, maybe I'm easy to please.
 




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