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  1. #1

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    Anyone have a rundown on all the various Alnico numbered magnets, and their tonal characteristics vis a vis jazz? It seems jazz players use 2 and 5, is that correct?

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  3. #2

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    I have pickups from Pete Biltoft - they have interchangeable magnets, Alnico 2, 3, 4, and 5, and ceramic. With Alnico the higher the number the better the pickup's high frequency response (it's a slight difference but still very noticeable), and ceramic is the brightest of all. I use Alnico 2 for the neck pickup and Alnico 5 for the bridge pickup. In my guitar the ceramic is just over the line into stridency.

  4. #3

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    I had a little dustup with Patrick a couple of years ago about Alnicos. His basic premise was that there was very little difference among the different magnets, and any perceived difference was colored by marketing hype. Wish he were around to explain further.

    Everything I have read says that Alnico 2's have lower output and are mellower, therefore more appropriate for jazz. That's what I have in my Tele in the neck position.

    However, I have never found any empiric analysis of the different magnets--frequency response curves, etc.--to back this up, and I did quite a bit of research trying to come back at Patrick with an argument.

    If anyone has come across a good description of the different characteristics of the magnets, I'd love to see it.

    BTW, visiting Pete Bilcroft's website, I see that his family was from Beaver Crossing, NE, just west of Lincoln. My fiancee's daughter and son-in-law just moved into a house in Beaver Crossing, a tiny farming community. Pretty area if you like farms and prairie.

  5. #4

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    I think things are further complicated by whether the pup uses a bar magnet or magnetic polepieces. I understand the higher the number, the more powerful the magnetic properties, hotter = brighter tonewise.

    My stock tele single coils and Sorrento w/mini humbuckers both use alnico II magnets, while my strat came stock with ceramic pups.
    Last edited by cosmic gumbo; 06-17-2017 at 02:42 AM.

  6. #5

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    The language surrounding these magnets can be confusing and misleading. I came across one self-declared expert saying that Alnico 8 had a fat bass and warm mids, making it ideal for jazz, yet judging by the oft-mentioned fact that the higher the number the hotter the pickup, I'd imagine 8 as being far too hot for classic jazz. Perhaps he was thinking fusion.

    The reason in asking about all this is my contemplation of changing the neck pickup on my Black Beauty. Front runners include a Classic 57 (Alnico 2), or a single-coil in a humbucker housing (Alnico 3, perhaps).

  7. #6

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    I've read in a few places that alnico 3 is actually a weaker magnet type than alnico 2. And also that alnico 3 tends to have a bit more of the upper frequency zing or chime than 2. Fairly unscientific, but I do have two guitars, both the same model, one with a 7K-ish A3 neck humbucker, the other with a 7K-ish A2 neck 'bucker. And my experience would tend to bear what I've read out - the A2 guitar is a bit stronger in the mids, and a touch smoother-sounding maybe. The A3 just a bit more open and chime-y, and with a touch less mids emphasis. Both nice though, and really quite similar overall, perhaps not surprisingly.

  8. #7

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    Interesting, Meggy. The mention of chimey chimes with my liking for single-coil neck pickups for classic jazz. Decisions, decisions - based on half-understood science and a big doze of subjectivity.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop
    Interesting, Meggy. The mention of chimey chimes with my liking for single-coil neck pickups for classic jazz. Decisions, decisions - based on half-understood science and a big doze of subjectivity.
    I could add that I had a set made for my recently acquired Ibanez AS103 semi-acoustic, that has a low-wind i.e. 6.7K-ish alnico 3 bucker in the neck, seeking to really bring out the woody, acoustic aspect of the guitar's tone. I guess it does work also - it's a very articulate kind of tone. But I also have found myself wanting to adjust the pickup a bit closer to the strings than I normally would - a matter of taste of course, but I think low wind A3 could be viewed as a bit under-powered and thin in tone, and the closer pickup position does help counter this for me. I think if I was trying again with the pickups on that guitar, I might go for something at least 7K, and probably A2, as it's quite a bright-sounding guitar acoustically. The guitar itself does have a huge influence on tone of course. And just my view, but I think if what you really like is a single coil kind of tone, get something single coil, like a hum-size P90 or whatever. Just adding this for what it may be worth anyhow.

  10. #9

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    I am pretty unknowledgeable about things like pickup characteristics.

    Interesting observation though--I have a Gibson ES-135 with Gibson Classic 57's (Alnico 2) and a Peerless Sunset with Epiphone Classic 57's (Alnico 5). The ES-135 has higher output and is more articulate and brighter in the neck position, while the Sunset is mellower and (for want of a better word) muddier. (I realize sound depends on a lot of things like strings, pickup height, caps, etc., but I'm just comparing one factory setup to the other with similar strings.)

    Not that I dislike the Sunset tone at all, in fact it is great for a nice 50's or even a 70's Benson jazz tone. To get that tone on the Gibson, I have to dial down the tone a bit.

    I also replaced the stock Epi Classic 57 pickups on my Epi JP with Stew Mac Parsons St. Alnico 2 HB's, again with the same effect on output and tone--a tad brighter, more articulate, wider range of sounds.

  11. #10

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    "For a sweeter and cleaner tone with no loss of highs" Bill Lawrence recommended lowering the pickup and raising the polepieces. I suspect a little trial and error, combined with a little patience (and heavier, perhaps flat/or/half-round strings) may yield a sweet spot (in a couple of senses - sonic and spatial) that will tide you over until you make an ultimate decision. Caveat - manufacturers rarely make the mounting screws long enough on humbuckers. I've spent many an unhappy hours fishing the blessed things from the depths. The sacrifices we make for Art! Good luck!

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by robertm2000
    I use Alnico 2 for the neck pickup and Alnico 5 for the bridge pickup. In my guitar the ceramic is just over the line into stridency.
    That's interesting. Most people do the opposite, 2 to warm up the bridge, and 5 to bring out the clarity in the neck.

    Those Biltoft's with the swappable magnets are the PERFECT way to compare these things.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop
    I came across one self-declared expert saying that Alnico 8 had a fat bass and warm mids, making it ideal for jazz
    Even though the description sounds more and less accurate, as a rule of thumb, the A8 mag is too powerful to be used in the neck position. There are much more suitable mags for the neck position in a HB, and I'm assuming you're looking for a PAF-like p'up for your recently-acquired BB, isn't it?

    Well, depending on the degree of articulation, the most suitable candidates are A2, A3 and A4. I don't like the inherent tone-footprint produced by the A5 mag. It's been used in all the cheapest asian p'ups because it produces a lot of output, it's the cheapest to produce and buy in bulk and it's the most forgiving to less-than-optimal winding.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop
    Front runners include a Classic 57 (Alnico 2), or a single-coil in a humbucker housing (Alnico 3, perhaps).
    If you already have the p'up, I'd suggest to put an A3 into that '57 Classic. I personally don't like'em, but this mod has worked quite well for several people I know and respect, hence the suggestion.

    And, if you need magnets, PM me. I have'em all.

    HTH,

  14. #13

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    Yes, the neck pup of the BB. I like a bit of spank (so to speak) found in single-coil pups, and was therefore also contemplating the Harmonic Design Z-90, which I've had before for an Ibanez PM2 (a guitar I no longer have), which is a large single-coil in a humbucker housing. I don't know what magnet they put in those Gibson Type Pickups Page - scroll down for the Z-90.

  15. #14

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    rob, there are many many choices these days for a humbucker sized p-90 pickup... (harmonic designs would probably not be my go to at this point for a vintage/jazzy pickup)...here's a good comparison on a few...(note the article is 2013, so there are even more choices in 2017!!!)

    Humbucker-Sized P-90 Review Roundup | Premier Guitar

    (just be aware that a single coil pickup is going to bring hum into the equation)


    the type of magnet used is just one tiny part of the whole picture...the metallic composition of the strings you are using, and the positioning and tweaking of the pickup height (and polepiece height) are just as important

    the type of magnets in guitar pickups always followed whatever was available cheaply....not tone mojo....same with speakers...

    it's only fairly recently that the nuances have come to light..

    the move to ferrite/ceramic mags in the mid 60's was about the price of alnico skyrocketing...not tone!

    having said all that, i'd change out the strings and tweak the pickups before i thought of any replacing..chances are you will be able to get to "your" tone regardless...never discount the power of the player!!! haha

    cheers
    Last edited by neatomic; 06-17-2017 at 04:00 PM.

  16. #15

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    Neatomic - many thanks, as usual, for your input. That review was very interesting. I found myself going to Lindy Fralin's website, and am now interested in the Pure PAFs there.

    Pepe - yes, flatwounds. I'm going to start with tapewound strings from La Bella, as black strings on a black guitar just have to be tried...but my favourite flats are by Thomastik, so I'll try them if the tapes don't work out. Is the A3-modded '57 Classic your own modification?

    Feet - I'm trying to decipher your post. You mean you prefer Alnico 4? What make do you have?

  17. #16

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    fralin's a cut above...(longtime) lone wolf very seriously involved in all aspects of tone..and getting to it...(like elferink)

    tell him what you are looking for..and send him a clip..he'll be interested

    cheers

  18. #17

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    All I know is that Gibson 57 classics and Duncan Seth Lover uses A2 magnets. No reason for me to further investigate.

  19. #18

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    As an electrical engineer it seems odd to me to talk about magnet types as having different tones. The tone is the result of the integrated design, string materials, and adjustments. The magnet's just part of that equation. If you have a pickup designed around a certain material and substitute something else, you're changing the strength and shape of the magnetic field. That's the source of the change in tone.

  20. #19

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    A while ago I asked Lindy Fralin for a pickup with a "Fat Wes tone". He suggested: "Either a P-92 with 8500 turns or a regular humbucker with A3 mag wound to 8.2".
    I opted for the regular humbucker with A3 magnets wound to 8.2 Kohms. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to tell it apart from a Pure PAF with A2 magnets wound to the typical 7.8Kohms (which I have in another guitar) especially if compensatory EQ tweaking were done.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Jeff
    I am pretty unknowledgeable about things like pickup characteristics.

    Interesting observation though--I have a Gibson ES-135 with Gibson Classic 57's (Alnico 2) and a Peerless Sunset with Epiphone Classic 57's (Alnico 5). The ES-135 has higher output and is more articulate and brighter in the neck position, while the Sunset is mellower and (for want of a better word) muddier. (I realize sound depends on a lot of things like strings, pickup height, caps, etc., but I'm just comparing one factory setup to the other with similar strings.)

    Not that I dislike the Sunset tone at all, in fact it is great for a nice 50's or even a 70's Benson jazz tone. To get that tone on the Gibson, I have to dial down the tone a bit.

    I also replaced the stock Epi Classic 57 pickups on my Epi JP with Stew Mac Parsons St. Alnico 2 HB's, again with the same effect on output and tone--a tad brighter, more articulate, wider range of sounds.
    I had once a LP Std where all the pickups sounded muddy. Then I realised it had 300ohm potentiometres. Changed them to 500 and A LOT OF MORE everything stated to be heard.

    Alnico type is only a part of the pickup, just like yhe DC or Henries etc. Some manufacturers use degaussed mags to get a bit untypical results with their mags.

    A2 is very often used in the neck although it gets often muddy. No wonder that Gibson's most praised new humbuckers, the MHS's have A4's in them.

    If You start swapping, Lt Pepe is a great resource of mags in Europe. And remember to let the magnet 'get acclimated' in Your pu and guitar for days or even weaks before final judgement.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by LtKojak
    I did and I didn't, that's why I asked you.

    What p'up exactly are you talking about? Not a humbucker, right?
    IDK about all his pups, but the P90s and CCs specifically, because those are the ones I was looking at...

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by whiskey02
    All I know is that Gibson 57 classics and Duncan Seth Lover uses A2 magnets. No reason for me to further investigate.
    Hard to argue with that! Ditto my PRS DGTs (which were copied PAFs), which are the greatest PAFs I have yet heard/owned. So much so that, while I'll probably sell the PRS they are in someday, I won't sell the DGT pickups- I'll save them for some future 335 or something...

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by KirkP
    As an electrical engineer it seems odd to me to talk about magnet types as having different tones. The tone is the result of the integrated design, string materials, and adjustments. The magnet's just part of that equation. If you have a pickup designed around a certain material and substitute something else, you're changing the strength and shape of the magnetic field. That's the source of the change in tone.
    Well, of course. BUT: all else being equal, the different magnet types DO have slightly different tonal characteristics.

    And before someone says "yes, but all else is not equal".... come on, guys. We're on a GUITAR forum in a GEAR subforum. We want to talk about these things. Pete Biltoft's swappable mags are a perfect example of "all else being equal." I can't tell you how many guys over on Seymour Duncan forums swap mags- especially in humbuckers- to tailor for the tone they want.
    Last edited by ruger9; 06-17-2017 at 11:15 PM.

  25. #24

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    Bill Lawrence had a lot of interesting things to say about pickups as well as magnet types. This is a good link. Bill Lawrence Website

    In general, I prefer alnico 5 in semi hollow guitars and alnico 2 or 4 in solid bodies. It depends on the wood. Brighter woods like ash and maple need darker sounding magnets like alnico 2 IMHO.

    In my Teles, I'm very fond of Fender Nocaster pickups. They use alnico 3 magnets. It's all a matter of taste.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop
    Is the A3-modded '57 Classic your own modification?
    Rob, I've been moonlighting as a guitar tech for over fifteen years.

    I also deal bar magnets for HB p'ups. Let's say that I've tried pretty close to every single possible mag swap known to mankind. After you first hundred mag swaps, you tend to have rough ideas of what mag/p'up combos would work "better" in different circumstances and different instruments and music styles.

    Make that over ten times over and that's where I find myself now.

    I'm a classical guitar, conservatory trained player as well, so I loved everything you played from the Spanish authors and I particularly appreciated the Scottish music from past centuries played on past centuries instruments. Hat off, Rob!

    BTW, I haven't been able to find any Jazz recordings on your Soundcloud account, so I don't have anything to go on about how you play, just that you tube sample, which wasn't that helpful.

    OTOH, I've heard some your live Blues recordings... most of them songs I've played with many groups, so that was really helpful to have a gist of you as an electric player.

    Was a telecaster you've used?

  27. #26

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    Those blues recordings are quite old now. Yes, either a Fender 52 reissue, or an amazing Squire Vintage Vibe with a Creamery Wide-Range neck pup, and a Seymore Duncan hot bridge pup, I forget the name of it. I've been playing blues since I was 14, with Johnny Winter and Roy Buchanan as early influences. But headed off down the classical route in my very late twenties, early thirties. Now at 57 I do a bit of everything in my own way, for better or worse, and I've always loved jazz, though I don't regard myself as a jazz guitarist - but jazz guitar is becoming more and more what I enjoy exploring. I suppose the classical education gave me a love of good composition, and that is coming out in my videos of the music of Gilbert Isbin (see ArchtopGuitar.net – …jazz…classical…folk…plectrum…fingerstyle… ). I see myself as mainly an acoustic player, and my forthcoming 18" acoustic archtop from Frans Elferink won't even have a floater. The recent acquisition of an Epiphone Black Beauty was a piece of low-cost indulgence, and I'm really enjoying how easy it is to get around it, a bit of fun. But it could sound better...hence my desire to learn more about pickups. You could send me magnets, but I wouldn't know what to do with them, so will be looking for a complete pickup to take to the local guitar tech to install.

  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by KirkP
    As an electrical engineer it seems odd to me to talk about magnet types as having different tones. The tone is the result of the integrated design, string materials, and adjustments. The magnet's just part of that equation. If you have a pickup designed around a certain material and substitute something else, you're changing the strength and shape of the magnetic field. That's the source of the change in tone.
    Yeah, but that's not all there is.

    By the way a HB is designed, all metal parts around the coils have an influence, including the magnet itself. Different alnico grades have different alloys, all bringing its own magnetic field shape and projection, plus itself acting as a comb filter, altering also the final frequency curve's outcome.

    HTH,

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop
    You could send me magnets, but I wouldn't know what to do with them, so will be looking for a complete pickup to take to the local guitar tech to install.
    So, you don't actually have a p'up to mod, is that what you're saying, Rob?

  30. #29

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    Well, there are three on the guitar...

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop
    Feet - I'm trying to decipher your post. You mean you prefer Alnico 4? What make do you have?
    ha, yes. i'm not sure i prefer alnico 4 per se, i just happened to end up with it all the way around on my humbuckered guitars (that i actually like). i've heard it described as the midpoint between a2 and a5. can't say how accurate it is, only that i like the results.

    mojotone 59 clones are what i'm generally using. a low wind neck and a high wind bridge in my byrdland and a regular one in my les paul neck. i don't remember the exact specs as far as resistance goes, but i still the boxes somewhere. i also have a bg pups smokestack in the bridge of the les paul, which is a sort of slightly hotter, more aggressive paf. its a little rock for most things, but it sounds massive.

    i have a pair of duncan alnico 2 pros in a mystery meat epi les paul special ii (which sound pretty great in full, series or parallel, but its still a crappy guitar) and a duncan 59/custom custom combo in a schecter tempest, which is a huge one trick pony. great trick, but it sucks at everything else. can't get a decent clean from that neck 59 at all, not even split.

  32. #31

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    I recently found time to install a newly ordered custom-handwound Kent Armstrong 6 pole Johnny Smith floater on my Vestax D'A. Upon asking him what magnet he used for this PU, Kent replied: "Alnico 5 is the only way to go!!!!!!!!!!!"

  33. #32

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    Well, my pickup choice has been chosen for me. Today I was moving books from one bookcase to another, when I found a cased Gibson 57 Classic, Alnico II, which I can't for the life of me remember buying. Very odd. But there it is. Unused. I must have had plans for it at one stage, but never got around to it, literally shelving it.

    So, I might as well try it out on my Epiphone Black Beauty, in the neck position. If not perfect, I'm sure it will be an improvement on the stock pickup.

  34. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop
    I found a cased Gibson 57 Classic, I might as well try it out on my Epiphone Black Beauty, in the neck position. If not perfect, I'm sure it will be an improvement on the stock pickup.
    Rob, even no p'up in the neck would an improvement with those stock p'ups...

    I kid, I kid... well, actually, not that much, really...

  35. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop
    Well, my pickup choice has been chosen for me. Today I was moving books from one bookcase to another, when I found a cased Gibson 57 Classic, Alnico II, which I can't for the life of me remember buying. Very odd. But there it is. Unused. I must have had plans for it at one stage, but never got around to it, literally shelving it.

    So, I might as well try it out on my Epiphone Black Beauty, in the neck position. If not perfect, I'm sure it will be an improvement on the stock pickup.
    nice..definitely a change in the tonal direction...the weaker alnico II magnet..gives you more room to play with pickup height in relation to string magnetism...

    wouldnt use alnico II with your bosset 80/20 stings as the low magnetics of pickup and string would be troublesome..

    but alnico II, with a nice pure nickel string, will give you vintagey warm tone..further pickup height adjustments will dial in your tone more precisely



    luck

    cheers

  36. #35

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    Currently I have La Bella tape wound strings on the Les Paul, and love them. I'm sure the 57 Classic pup will love them too :-)

  37. #36

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    Hi guys,

    What's the cheapest way to get a decent alnico
    Humbucker for the neck position of my single
    PU ibanez af81 ?

    I need a warmish clean jazz sound (without the hum !)
    (I bought the guitar used with some kind of HB size single coil
    P90 type in it ...)

    The wiring/pots hardware etc have already been upgraded

    I'm UK based
    Many thanks
    Pingu

  38. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by pingu
    What's the cheapest way to get a decent alnico
    Humbucker for the neck position of my single
    PU ibanez af81 ?
    Get a second-hand '59n and change the magnet with an A3 and you're set.

  39. #38

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    I've been very pleased with the warmth and clarity from the Tonerider Alnico II (AC2) that I fitted in my Hollow Vox Archtop so much that the new build I am starting soon will also have one. Not sure where you are in the UK but if Hampshire is not too far for you, a chance to try is open to you.

  40. #39

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    I'm the patient sort and being older need to find deals. So I will do my research to find what I want, will usually a main choice and a second choice. Then I just start looking for used and if looking for popular item usually doesn't take to long. About a year ago I wanted to replace the humbuckers in my 175 and decided on SD Seth Lovers as first choice. Did take on and found someone ( a forum member actually) who had a set and hated them and was selling the pair dirty cheap. I bought the PUPs and put them in my 175 and with a few weeks keeping a screwdriver handy and tweaking the pickup height I got the sound I really like. So patience paid off.

    Through the years I've bought other gear I didn't think I'd be able to afford by being patient, so figure out what your want and keep your eyes and ears open. If in a hurry SD 59's are a good pickup for little money and even Heritage uses them in some models.

  41. #40

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    in the uk...on the cheap...trev wilkinson asian made paf style...neck pup is 7.1k, #42 wire, alnico v

    Wilkinson Guitar Components, Hardware and Accessories

    cheers
    Last edited by neatomic; 01-14-2018 at 07:09 PM.

  42. #41

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  43. #42

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    +1 on the StewMacs, they're surprisingly good. I put one of these (the 5400 with F spacing and no cover; I don't see the F spicing as an option now) in the neck position on a Fender plank and it sounded quite good.

  44. #43

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    At a bit higher price, you could try Ben Fletcher - that gets you into the hand wound, made to spec territory. I've got a couple of guitars with his pickups in, including an alnico 3 humbucker in my Ibanez JP20, and they are certainly excellent. He's happy to discuss individual requirements via email.

    Custom Pickups | UK | Fletcher Pickups

    Other suggestions on here all seem worthy of consideration though.

  45. #44

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    DiMarzio 36th or SD APH-1l

  46. #45

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    The Stewart-MacDonald humbucker line has some nice pickups. Their Parson Street is, according to them, tries to duplicate the PAF pickup of yore.

  47. #46

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    I’ve not tried the Parson Street Pick ups from stew Mac but their golden age pick ups were pretty flaccid.
    What do you consider cheap? If I want a good pick up that I want to keep I’ll either go used or new I would get something from Craig Vineham. Note that those prices on his site or in Canadian dollars third knock off 20% or so.

  48. #47

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    Quote Originally Posted by LtKojak
    Get a second-hand '59n and change the magnet with an A3 and you're set.
    I second this. Saving a couple cents more is not really worth it IME.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

  49. #48

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    I have a pair of the StewMac Golden Age Parson Streets in my '97 Epi Sheraton. Very good pickups for very affordable price.

  50. #49

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    Pingu, Glad you found what you're looking for. For others that are on the same search, I've had good luck with these guys:
    Welcome to Guitarfetish

    In particular I tried out these retrotron puckups and they have a Gretch like sound that I've fallen in love for as a bridge pickup.
    GFS Retrotron Series

    And they're really nice sounding. I tried their PAF type pickups and they were OK but I've since decided to look out for Gibson or Duncan pickups and watch for used ones on Ebay. I've got to live with that sound so I'll be patient and buy cheap by watching and waiting.

    David

  51. #50

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    I don't think they're still available, but the EMG Select pickups are pretty good. StewMac used to sell them, but stopped, and I bought one during their clearance sale although I didn't really need it, because I like them. I started using them long ago, when I was building instruments with odd string numbers and spacing, and they use blades, not individual polepieces, so they work great for that. They have a rather smooth sound, not the overdrive that some people seem to like, and maybe that's why they were abandoned. They sound very good if you can stand a plain black pickup without adjustable polepieces. And they were very reasonably priced. I'm bummed that they're no longer available.