Price paid: $ 26
Purchased from: GFS' Website
Sound: The manufacturer's description of the Crunchy PAT humbucker claims that "these have all the fat round bottom of the GFS Vintage humbuckers, but TONS of output. DC resistance is 14K, and these just SCREAM. Unlike so many "super distortion" pickups these are very well potted, using real paraffin wax and vacuum impregnating the wax into the coils."
Many users online have compared the Crunchy PAT to Gibson's 500T, which I have used more than a few times over the years.
Does the Crunchy PAT hold up to these claims? After getting the Crunchy PAT installed in the bridge slot of my Epiphone Les Paul Custom, my first impression was "ehhh... It's decent". The Crunchy PAT seemed to be a bit brighter than the stock Alnico Classic humbucker it replaced, which was a relief at first since Epiphone pickups sound like mud. Output was only slightly increased over the stock.
After a few days, the pickup began to fatigue my ears badly. The sound was very hard and somewhat shrill while lacking bass. It was almost like someone put a cheap TS-9 copy in my signal chain; all upper mids and highs, no guts. The warm creaminess of even the stock humbucker was nowhere to be found.
I like to rock out with the classics when playing my Les Paul; Led Zeppelin, Rush, Judas Priest, Metallica, etc. The Crunchy PAT's stiff tone sounded awful on the Zepp-ish stuff, while the output was still too anemic to really satisfy on the heavier stuff.
The pickup did not have "tons of output" or a "fat bottom" like GFS claims, nor did it remind me at all of a 500T. It was minimally hotter than the stock pickup, whereas a 500T blows stock Epi pickups out of the water output-wise. 500T also brings the beef in addition to the sharp highs, while the Crunchy PAT was all sizzle and no steak.
(As I mentioned above, I ordered my Crunchy PAT with the gold cover. While this shouldn't have had a huge impact on the tone, it may have lowered the output slightly.)
Within a few days, I had an open-coil set of Seymour Duncan humbuckers in hand (JB/Jazz combo), which ended up smoking both the stock pickups and the Crunchy PAT. I haven't looked back. // 3
Reliability & Durability: Covered humbuckers should be very reliable as long as there are no manufacturing defects, as the cover protects the pickup from foreign object damage. The potting seemed effective, as it was quiet even with higher gain settings. I can't say for sure long-term how this thing would hold up, as I sold it not long after ripping it out in favor of the Duncan set. // 8
Impression: What did I love about this pickup? Not much. The gold cover looked nice, I guess. I won't say I hated the tone; strongly disliked seems appropriate.
I figured a bright crunchy tone would match up well with the Epi LP Custom's all-mahogany construction, and that the supposed high-output would yield better heavy metal sounds versus the Alnico Classics.
The fact that the DC resistance specified on GFS' website was only 14k worried me a little, as the stock pickup was 13k, meaning the Crunchy PAT did not represent a huge increase on paper. However, with so many online comparing it to the 500T as well as the DiMarzio Super Distortion, not to mention the price ($26 bucks for a gold covered & wax potted humbucker?), I had to try it.
Accompanying the PU change were upgraded pots and jacks, so the cruddy Epiphone electronics aren't to blame for the poor sound. The boost in output I desired was simply not there (confirming my fears regarding the spec'd DC resistance), nor was the tone. Compared to the more expensive Duncan JB, the latter came out head and shoulders above the Crunchy PAT. The JB has the bite and output for metal, while retaining enough creamy warmth for classic rock and even some decent clean tones.
GFS has a reputation for quality customer service. I could have contacted them to either get a replacement (perhaps mine was defective?) or try a different model. I chose instead to cut my losses with the Crunchy PAT and go with the much more expensive sure thing (the JB was already one of my favorite pickups).
I guess you really DO get what you pay for sometimes. // 4