Why vintage pickups are generally (considered) better?

Average Joe

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11,723
If people made the music that inspired us with those parts in golden age electrics you may be right. It's not about conditioning, it's about chasing the tone of the music that inspired you.
The two can't be seperated imo. It's not like the things play themselves, so the sounds that we are conditioned to think of as benchmarks are the ones we are used to hearing on classic recordings - that's the mode of conditioning so to speak.
 

xmd5a

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2,412
That's how I felt when I got a Deluxe Reverb; my first though "this sounds amazing", my second thought "this is that sound I've heard forever, and never quite got from any other amp." It's a ubiquitous tone, and therefore a very tone. I wish this wasn't how it was, but it's out of my hands.
 

rockabilly69

Silver Supporting Member
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1,907
The two can't be seperated imo. It's not like the things play themselves, so the sounds that we are conditioned to think of as benchmarks are the ones we are used to hearing on classic recordings - that's the mode of conditioning so to speak.
I knew what you meant, in my reply to you, I said you may be right. But you'd only be right if I enjoyed the tones of the music being made with that gear (EMGs etc), and I don't. Maybe collectors would chase that gear if that's what their heroes used. But not me. For me, it's more about appreciating the tones of vintage PAF pickups and some modern clones that bring that tone. That's what started this, are these boutique pickups worth the extra cash. And to me, they are, if they bring the tone.

I like a lot of music but the stuff I really like was made with the pickups that we are discussing. Me ears still perk up when I hear great examples of that style tone. And very rarely is is made with modern gear. That is not conditioning. No one conditioned me to like it. It's just resonates with me on a musical level!
 

Bonesaw

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52
They are considered better for the same reason that the '59 Les Paul is so coveted: nonsensical mumbo jumbo
 

suparsonic

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3,007
Nobody needs vintage gear to get that, though. A Strat or a Les Paul are already vintage instruments. People get so wrapped up in the minutia that they overlook the fact that there's no meaningful difference between an American Standard and an actual vintage Strat.

In the quest to make sure the value of vintage gear remains high, it's an ever moving goal post. No matter how true they stay to vintage spec, someone will come along an complain that the new one has a different decay rate in the nuclear isotopes, and assure us that this decay rate does something special for the sound, something you can't hear unless you yourself gamble some of your money on overpriced, outdated crap.
Just wondering how extensive, or hands on your experiences have been?
I have a 2019 Am Pro and a ‘65 Strat. there are a lot of differences, in tone and feel.
 

andare

Member
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102
They allow the best dynamics and a more neutral EQ curve and are more open/airy sounding. The former being the most important thing IMO. Maybe not optimal if all you do is high gain solos, but for a versatile do it all sound they're they're bees knees.
Are you talking about actual old pickups, which don't sound like they used to anymore, or new pickups that are low output? Sort of like having pickups in a Stray really low?
 

David Garner

Platinum Supporting Member
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6,202
The most "vintage" pickups I have are the stock ones in my 93 Les Paul. They're in a drawer right now.

I do prefer vintage toned pickups, but that's not the same thing. Basically, I'm after a certain tone and feel -- the way the pickup reacts with the amp. It took me a long time to get there, but Duncan CS Pearly Gates sets in my LPs and a Duncan CS Psychedelic set in my Strat have done it. Right now my Tele has CS Texas Specials, but I might swap those out down the line. I'd rather just upgrade the Tele to a 52 RI and then find the pickups if they need upgrading. The truth is, I don't play the Tele much anyway.

At any rate, I don't care when they were made. I want a certain sound, and I am utterly unconvinced that a set of $6000 real PAFs that will probably need a rewind soon are going to give it to me.
 

Voxshall

Member
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1,201
The first time I heard PAF's was on a 59 ES335 I didn't hear anything particularly special, then tried three original pickups in an early 60's SG custom again they sounded good but nothing to write home about, then I tried a 1960 Les Paul custom with three PAF's and the bridge PAF on that guitar was just incredible, especially turning the tone knob down a tiny bit, I prefer the sound of Stephen Design repros over the Throbaks but none of the repros had the fat clear high-end of that bridge PAF, that's the tone that inspires me, but it's all subjective. As for an American Standard sounding the same as a Vintage Strat that completely boggles my mind, it's so funny how we all hear things so differently. I don't think vintage sounds better for everything though, I think some music or a different band context suits modern guitars, others sound better with the vintage stuff. But I can definitely hear a distinct difference playing it in the room, it's easier to hear it if you have owned vintage guitars over a long period of time and that stuff matters to you, we all train ourselves to hear things in a particular way.
 

K-Line

Vendor
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8,229
I have heard hundreds of old guitars as I am friends with the fine folks at Killer Vintage in STL. Strats, teles, PAFs, patents, T-Tops, etc.....Some sound grea,t some sound bad, and most sound good. To me, modern pickups are more consistent. So when you get quality, consistent material to produce them and repeat the process consistently, you do not have to hunt around as much. Snake oil salesmen make a great living off of this idea.
 

bluesbreaker

Member
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127
I gotta say, I’m 100% not a “close/good enough” or “in the ballpark” guy.

I say that because starting from birth, there are many things we don’t get a choice about. And that goes on throughout life. But with gear, there are so many choices across all price ranges, I see no reason not to get the pickups that sound great to you. That doesn’t necessarily mean one wants the sound of a vintage pickup though. It just means that we can get pickups that are right on the nose for the sound we want, unless we are looking for some completely abnormal sound.
What you said is not that different from my words, actually.
When I said "in the ballpark", I meant that if the pickups in question give me what I'm looking for, without hunting for the "real deal", then I am good. In this case, the PAF tones.

Thus, I see no reason to spend big bucks to get those vintage pickups, if I can get those tones with buckers such as DImarzio's Air Classics or SD's Seth Lover at rather reasonable prices. I'd rather spend that money on a nice camera.
 

R.T.

Member
Messages
136
Design > age/mystique. A good pickup is a good pickup. It doesn't matter if it's 60 years old or if it's fresh off the winder. There might be something to AlNiCo degaussing over time but I think that is a phenomenon that is largely overemphasized. Whether or not the magnets sound better after some degaussing is subjective.
 

dazco

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14,630
Are you talking about actual old pickups, which don't sound like they used to anymore, or new pickups that are low output? Sort of like having pickups in a Stray really low?
I'm talking vintage output pickups, old or new. I don't like setting pickups really low. They lose something when set like that which i don't like. I like the find the point where they start to change like that and set them a bit higher that that.
 

dazco

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14,630
Guitar pickups don't have dynamics. Dynamic range is the loudest potential above the noise floor. It could be argued that humbuckers are more dynamic for the fact of having a lower noise floor, but the upper bound is only limited by how hard you can hit the strings.
I never said they did. They ALLOW it tho, and thats the point. When you slam an amps input thats not exactly good for getting a sound that is very dynamic, and the hotter the pickup the more that becomes an issue if u r looking for a very dynamic sound.


There is only one way for a guitar pickup to have a neutral EQ curve, and most people don't like it,. The way to do it is to have the pickup be so underwound that the resonant peak is in excess of the operational range of the speakers. Such pickups sound thin, because that's the true tone of a neutral EQ. In fact, most all pickups, including vintage ones, are set up to roll off somewhere between 2 and 4kHz, because that softens the highs and favor the lows and mids, or they say, "sounds warm". VIntage pickups are no differnt from modern pickups in this respect.
You missed a very important word...."more". I did not say they have a flat EQ curve ! They are just less colored than high output pickups IN GENERAL. You really have to read posts more carefully because a single word can completely change whats being said from what your read when you don't read every word. I'm guilty of that sometimes too so i get it. But seriously, neither point you made was accurate to what i actually said.
 

rockabilly69

Silver Supporting Member
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1,907
I don't think vintage sounds better for everything though, I think some music or a different band context suits modern guitars, others sound better with the vintage stuff.
Now this is something I agree with. It's all about context.
 

mjross

Silver Supporting Member
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2,671
Actually, it comes down to what sounds right to you! I’ve played some “vintage” pickups that frankly just sounded OK but nothing I’d write home about. Lately, I’ve purchased some Wolfetone, Throbak and Gibson MHS pickups that I just may write home about. But, that’s just me!
 

fingertip

Squier to the Grand Funk
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
585
I agree with the OP. The materials in pickups are metal and plastic, measurable and largely replaceable. I know small metal parts are now typically laser cut or cnc machined but the old shearing and stamping is hardly obsolete. Magnets are still made and can be strengthened or weakened as desired. Making up a batch of the exact phenolic or plastic might be a place of high cost for the boutique guys keeping it old school. Other than that I'm suspicious of really expensive pickups.
 

derekd

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
43,179
If I bought a vintage guitar, I'd be happy if the pickups were a modern version of the originals because A) that means the guitar is likely going to be priced closer to what I can afford since it isn't in original condition, and B) it is going to be 90%+ to where it was soundwise.

I haven't heard a vintage pickup I thought was significantly better than modern equivalents.
 

ntotoro

Member
Messages
749
People like them because they sound different and are made differently.

People like hotter pickups because they sound different and are made differently.

People like other stuff because it sounds different and is made differently.

Why the **** does it even matter? Play what you play and like what you like.
 




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