#1
What pickups would you have to get for them to be considered an upgrade over what's already in a Gibson guitar?

I realize a lot comes down to the interaction between guitar and pickup, what kind of tone you're looking for, etc., but I'm asking the question as a general one.
#2
Its really an opinion man. Some say Seymour, some say Dimarzio, and some people even say boutique brands like BKP.

Not ALL the gibson pups are bad. But they are definitely over priced if you buy them OTC.
#3
It's all personal preference. What is your playing style, do you play metal, rock, jazz, blues? They're hundreds upon hundreds of pickups available dude.
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#4
My style is a hybrid of post-punk and goth country (with a dab of Neil Young and shoegazer for good measure). As a result, I like a clear, jagged, mids- and treble-heavy sound that's full of fuzzed-up chords.

The reason I ask is that I'm looking to modify my Epiphone Les Paul. I know it's never going to be a Gibson, so I'm not going to try to make my Epiphone sound like a Gibson; instead, I want to take it in a different direction that plays to my guitar's natural strengths and establishes it as a unique instrument in its own right.

It seems like the most common way to mod an Epiphone is to throw in a bunch of Gibson electronics, hardware, pickups, etc., but I want to see if I can find something that's both different from and better than Gibson in the pickups department - or, at least, different from and better than stock Gibson p/u's.

I think I'm looking for a P90 to go in the neck, and a coil-tapped ("coil split," whatever) humbucker in the bridge.
#5
Look into seymour duncans Prails. I think thats what theyre called. I played a set, and they are some damn nice pick ups.

I have a 490r and a 500T in my Epi les paul, I got used for 70 bucks. I personally love both of them. Theyre definitely an upgrade from the stock Eip pups
#6
Gibson pickups are on par with any other western world or Japanese production brand. The only problems with Gibson pickups are 1) they don't do any really off-the-wall designs so if you want something very specific you're better off looking elsewhere and 2) they're more expensive than other production brands.

Pickups are, at their core, some wire and a few magnets. You don't get free range organic pickups, or premium triple-filtered Russian vodkapickups. When pickups cost more it's basically a question of quality control and R&D. Pickups from companies like Bare Knuckle, Wizard, The Creamery, Bill Lawrence or the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop cost an awful lot because they're scatterwound, made to order and a lot of time and care goes into both the initial design of the pickup and making sure each unit of that model comes out right. They're not actually higher quality per se, there's just next to no chance of getting one that strays far from its intended sound and they can be tailored to the specific player's needs (apart from Bare Knuckle, who I believe have stopped taking total custom orders. Could be wrong on that).
Then you have your pickups like the regular Seymour Duncans, Dimarzios, Gibsons and the American-made Fender pickups. These are cranked out in larger numbers and are made to slightly more general specifications. If you buy a pickup from the Seymour Duncn Custom Shop, you might get Seymour Duncan himself winding it; if you buy a standard Seymour Duncan pickup then you're getting one wound by 'some guy'. There's still much stricter quality control and more R&D put into them than the random pickups you get coming out of Korea and China, and the people making them are going to be better trained and using better equipment, but don't think you're getting a hand-scatterwound masterpiece. Do they sound worse than the more expensive pickups? No, at least not objectively.

It's like the difference between a Gibson Les Paul Standard and a Gibson Custom Shop Historic Reissue. The Reissues are nicer guitars, sure enough, fitted and finished by hand and using only the best woods. But you could still record an album and tour the world with a regular Gibson Standard. Nobody is going to listen to your album and complain that you were using a production guitar. Nobody who goes to your gigs will notice that your guitar is 'just' the £2,000 one and not the £4,000 one. The difference is really only for your benefit.

In other words, don't worry about it. Change pickups if you want to tweak your tone; otherwise, leave 'em. You could very easily spend a couple of hundred on a new set of boutique pickups and not notice the slightest change in your sound.


Edit: huh, and now I read the replies that came in while I was typing. And the whole point about Gibson's stock pickups becomes moot.

Well, I can't say I'm familiar with "post-punk" or "goth country", but I am familar with punk, alternative and pop-punk and I play plain ol' goth rock myself.

If a P-90 type tone is what you want for the neck, the obvious thing to go for is a Seymour Duncan Phat Cat. It's a slightly warmer-than-average P-90 in a humbucker size, so it'll fit a standard Epiphone no problem. The DiMarzio Bluesbucker is a nice alternative as its tone is halfway between humbucker and P-90, and it's hum-cancelling of course.

For the bridge, I'd suggest you don't worry about a coil split. Split humbuckers rarely sound good, usually resulting in a sound like a cheap Squier Strat's pickups. It's generally wiser to simply get a humbucker that has a very bright tone anyway; you can always roll the tone knob down to get a warmer and darker tone when you need it. To that end, try a Seymour Duncan JB (lots of upper-mids) or even a Jazz (loads of treble). You could also try using 1meg pots instead of the usual 500k controls, which will brighten the tone a lot. It can be surprising how bright and clear humbuckers like that can get. If you do really want a single coil tone in the bridge then have a look at the SD Stag Mag (or if you have money to burn, a Creamery 12 Pole Humbucker or standard humbucker-size Wide Range pickup. These pickups all use separate magnets (like Fender single coils) rather than bar magnets (other humbuckers), but still sue two coils. So they're hum-cancelling and can have a lot of power and more midrange than a single coil sound would usually have but they stay much, much clearer than a regular humbucker. Plus if you split them you get a true Fender-style single ocil tone instead of the usual crap split tone.
I'll also just quickly mention the DiMarzio Evo 2. It's essentially a shred pickup modified to be more versatile. I use it for post-grunge, pop-punk and goth metal, as well as a bit of everything else; its tone is kind of like if you got two Telecaster bridge pickups and wired them like one big humbucker, then smoothed out a little bit.
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Last edited by MrFlibble at Jun 14, 2012,
#7
That's a really cool suggestion with the 1meg pots - I just did some more reading and have learned a lot about treble bleed in the last thirty minutes. That's very useful, too, as I was also eventually going to look at switching out my electronics.

I think you're right about the coil tap - I can get all the thinness I want, when I want, out of the bridge humbucker simply by strumming with my nails right next to the bridge (yay for playing mechanics!), AND I'm not finding any push-pull 1meg pots out there anywhere.

EDIT: And to make the genre tags mean something...post-punk and goth country. Basically, punk and country + minor keys + dour cynicism.
Last edited by kindadumb at Jun 15, 2012,
#8
i like the pickups in my Gibsons overall. IMO they make the best stock pickup that is versatile enough to keep most people satisfied. i play metal in mine with a 498t and 490r and it sounds good, but i use it for blues equally. i like the 500t best thouogh. burstbuckers are pretty nice too. dirtyfingers have hella output and sound good, '57 classics are legendary.

what is better or worse is soley the owners preference. i will likley leave four of my seven gibsons stock. i have an SG with EMG's, and will be getting BG pickups for both LP;s.
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#9
Gibson pickups are generally very good. They're generally versatile and have quality construction. The Bursbuckers, 490's and Classic 57's are great for blues and classic rock while the 500T's and Dirtyfingers are awesome for high gain. They're just very expensive.
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#10
Quote by kindadumb

EDIT: And to make the genre tags mean something...post-punk and goth country. Basically, punk and country + minor keys + dour cynicism.
Both sound to me like 80s new wave/alternative, but the tone is what I was expecting so that's the important part here. Sounds like both could be using either very bright humbuckers or very warm and overwound single coils. Maybe even Jazzmaster pickups. So, if I were you, I would stick with the bright humbucker plan. You can always add a coil split switch later if you find you really miss the single coil tone (again, bearing in mind that a split humbucker never sounds quite like a proper single coil).
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#11
Has anyone here had Ibanez super 70 pups in their LP and what did they sound like?
#12
Although the pickups in most of my Gibson guitars are fine I would say I do like Lollar pickups.
#14
Quote by cemges
hand wound ones can only be considered as upgrade.
I'm not aware of any companies, large or small, making actually handwound pickups. And if you mean scatterwinding, companies like Seymour Duncan, Fender, DiMarzio and, yes, Gibson, do that too anyway.

Quote by dazza027
Has anyone here had Ibanez super 70 pups in their LP and what did they sound like?
I've not owned such a guitar myself, but I've played one. I can't recall being particularly amazed. Sounded like a standard PAF copy, as I recall, with just a little more treble than usual. Stick a SD '59 in and you'll get the same results.
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#15
Quote by cemges
hand wound ones can only be considered as upgrade.

There is no advantage in winding a pickup by hand over a machine. Arguably, machine wound is better because it can be done a lot more efficiently and accurately.

And besides, there is no such thing as a 'better' pickup aside from things such as microphonic feedback and noise. Assuming that those variables are the same with any decent quality pickup, there is no such thing as better. Its all about the personal taste of the player.
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Last edited by T00DEEPBLUE at Jun 16, 2012,
#16
Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
There is no advantage in winding a pickup by hand over a machine. Arguably, machine wound is better because it can be done a lot more efficiently and accurately.

And besides, there is no such thing as a 'better' pickup aside from things such as microphonic feedback and noise. Assuming that those variables are the same with any decent quality pickup, there is no such thing as better. Its all about the personal taste of the player.


Hand wound ones, can have more accurate tones, and more quality, with more options. You can select the wire type, magnet type, magnet and wire thickness, times of wounds, etc. Custom shop kind of pickups. But they cost something like 1000$ ( pickup set) , which is unbelivable. There are also silver and gold wound ones. But I mean, as i knoe seth lover original humbuckers were handwound, and they were excellent, also highly demanded.
#17
Quote by cemges
Hand wound ones, can have more accurate tones, and more quality, with more options. You can select the wire type, magnet type, magnet and wire thickness, times of wounds, etc. Custom shop kind of pickups. But they cost something like 1000$ ( pickup set) , which is unbelivable. There are also silver and gold wound ones. But I mean, as i knoe seth lover original humbuckers were handwound, and they were excellent, also highly demanded.
Those words don't mean what you think they mean.

Hand winding pickups simply means someone watched the machine while the pickup was wound and started it and shut it off manually, rather than having everything fully automated. I'm not aware of any pickups being wound truly only by hand in the last couple of decades, other than a few complete lunatics trying it because they really fancy having RSI, I guess. There's just no point in doing it. Scatterwinding can be done by machine just as well as it can be done by hand.

Second point is that scatterwinding, however it is done, is not necessarily better. It's harder when scatterwinding to get an accurate turn count, meaning the pickup may stray from its intended spec more. The randomised wiring can bring out overtones better, but A) that is not always a good thing and B) it can reduce them too. You'll often hear people saying the early PAF pickups were the best ever made, but truth be told they were just the result of sloppy quality control; there are just as many that sound terrible as there are that sound good. Same goes for original Wide Range pickups. Some sound great, some no better than a modern reproduction. You need to bear in mind too that the quality of the wood and construction, as well as the age of the instrument, all play a huge part in the tone.

I'm also not aware of any large company custom shop or boutique winder who will make a pickup entirely to customer spec as you suggest. Very, very few customers will know enough about wire, magnets and turns to just dictate their pickup. It's also going to slow down business. I know of a few very small companies who will take on totally custom orders and even those more just ask you what kind of tone you want and they go off and make you something to match that.

I say this as someone who's had the privilege to play some real 50s instruments as well as many modern copies at all quality levels; my guitars use a mixture of Seymour Duncan, Gibson, DiMarzio, Fender, boutique and real vintage pickups. And I am buggered if there is an actual difference in objective quality between the boutique pickups, the ones salvaged from old guitars and the regular production pickups. Do they sound different? Yes. Do the old ones and boutique ones sound better? In terms of fitting the purpose for which they are needed, yes. Are they objectively, factually better? Not in the slightest.
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#18
Quote by cemges
Hand wound ones, can have more accurate tones, and more quality, with more options. You can select the wire type, magnet type, magnet and wire thickness, times of wounds, etc. Custom shop kind of pickups. But they cost something like 1000$ ( pickup set) , which is unbelivable. There are also silver and gold wound ones. But I mean, as i knoe seth lover original humbuckers were handwound, and they were excellent, also highly demanded.

A lot of nonsense there. I can wind pickups myself for $30. I can choose my magnets, wire gauge, and amount of winds. That doesn't make them better, that just makes them custom.