Price paid: $ 29.95
Purchased from: Guitar Fetish
Sound — 9
14k, zebra bridge model. Output level is less than the JB/Distortion everyone is so familiar with, but right on par with the Duncan Custom/Custom 5/Custom Custom that I've used extensively. This pickup tonally is somewhere between the JB and Custom 5, which makes it fantastic for hard rock. Its got the spongey bottom-end that the alnico 5's are known for, but not the upper-mid grind. Its far more balanced, which is why I find it close to the Custom 5. I use high quality cables always, and with this guitar I used a Crate Blue Voodoo BV-60h (all tube, 12AX7's & 6L6GT tubes) with matching BV412s cab. Very basic pedal setup includes an Ibanez Tubescreamer, GCB-95 Wah. The pick response on this pickup is very good. With the JB I hated that you had to drop the volume pot to clean it up at the appropriate hard-rock pickup height. I thought a lot of the Custom 5 for this reason, it's massively versatile. Ease off your pick attack and you'll get pristine cleans. Savagely attack your strings and you'll get your dirt.
Overall Impression — 9
It's coil-tapped in a Xaviere XV-510, which is a Les Paul Standard copy with a maple top. It's in the bridge position and I admit that I did not like it at first. I couldn't get over the fact that playing metal on it did not sound correct. I was expecting JB tones, which I loved in an old Gibson LP STD I had about 4 years ago now. After using it extensively I'm very pleased that I kept it around long enough to get a better feel for its abilities. I love its versatility for cleans-hard rock. Does it lack the tight, crunchy low-end for metal? Yes. Its another flavor of pickup, and a great alternative to SD/Dimarzio/Gibson alnico 5 moderate-output pickups. I have really been blown away by the GFS pickup line. Exceptional quality, wide-array of options, for prices around 1/3-1/2 of normal Seymour/Dimarzio pickups. I have used the Seymour Duncan SH-1(2), SH-1PG SH-2, SH-4, TB-4, SH-5, SH-6, TB-6, SH-8, TB-11, SH-14, and SH-13; EMG 81, 50, and 85; DiMarzio Tone Zone, Super Distortion, X2N, PAF Joe, Fred, Gibson 490(2), 500T, GFS Vintage 59(2), Crunchy PAT, Dream 180, and the Fat PAT is up to par in quality to any of them. In personal satisfaction it just might be superior due to the $29.95 price tag.
Reliability & Durability — 10
There's no difference in quality I can find between GFS/Seymour Duncan/Dimarzio/Gibson. I'd rather not compare to EMG because I've never mutilated one for the purposes of inspecting material/craftsmanship quality. I opened up the pickup and found it was wax potted very well, just as advertised, wound precisely, and detect no flaws in material. Many people claim the key to quality pickups lies in the materials. If this is the case, these pickups use silver/stainless under-plate, with the typical plastic bobbins, normal winding-coil. The only quality difference I could tell was in the external wiring coating, which is slightly thinner and more flexible than I've seen from the big four manufacturers.. I'm just talking about the outside, black coat. Everything else is on par. Like SD pickups, these GFS pups are foil-shielded, coil-tappable, and easy to install with the provided wiring diagrams.