My Observations: I have explored differences in my old pickups compared to new and my old amplifiers and my old synthesizers and have determined that they have different components--some no longer available--that contribute to a DIFFERENCE in sonic qualities (Not necessarily "Superior" which is subjective). One significant difference is in the WIRE. Pickups (and transformers) were wound with commercially available wire used for many applications far beyond pickups and transformers. This wire was coated with material that was changed ("improved" "cost-effective" "environmentally prohibited") by the wire manufacturer. I have noticed a significant difference in my vintage P90 pickups compared to modern. I have NOT noticed the same difference in a single pair of early '60's patent number pickups (which have the same wire as vintage PAF's) compared to boutique pickups. My vintage amplifiers sound very different from modern "reverse engineered" tweed/plexi/jmi versions, but that is also due to the fact that modern electronically "equivalent" components are simply not the same. Just because you cover an amplifier in tweed and use modern "equivalent" parts doesn't make it a vintage tweed amplifier. They simply aren't the same. One isn't necessarily "Better," but there is no question that THEY ARE DIFFERENT.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.