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Looking For Some Pickup Suggestions


fookgub
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Hello all,

I'm looking for some suggestions to replace my neck pickup. I know that everyone's ideal is different, and tone is subjective, but I'm just looking for some ideas to get me pointed in the right direction.

Right now, I have a DiMarzio PAF Pro in the neck position of my Ibanez RG520 (mahogany bolt-on). I find it lacking in several areas. For clean tones, it's just too dark for me, and has too much midrange. With distortion, I find it to be muddy and without definition. One of the things I like to do is fret power chords in drop-d while I play leads on top. With the PAF, the leads get lost in the muck, and I have to attack them really hard vs. the chords to bring them out. Also, I find the single coil sound lacking in "punch" (too much midrange, again), and the bass is flabby while the treble is muted.

With those complaints in mind, I'm looking for a pickup that can do the following things. I realize there is some give and take here where improving the pickup in one area will detract from another, but hopefully you can at least see what I'm going for.

1. A nice, thick distortion tone. Enough mids to cut, but not to overpower the sound, and tighter bass. Think "grindy" like "Siamese Dream" era Smashing Pumpkins and "cutty" like Chris Haskett with Rollins Band.

2. A more even clean tone. Less mids, more treble. Something that would be good for chord comping and could be rolled off to get a decent jazz tone. I'm struggling to find an example here... Freddie Stone nails it on a couple tracks ("Stand" sticks in my head the most.)

3. A more strat-like single coil sound. You know, tight bass, sparkling treble, kind of on the bright side.

Anyway, if you've read this far, and it actually made sense, I'd really appreciate some ideas. I know gear and technique and all sorts of things figure into the final sound, but I'm pretty happy with the rest of my rig, and I really think it's the pickup that's holding my sound back. Right now I'm leaning towards a DiMarzio Air Norton, and thinking about an Evolution. I have no real reason to stick with DiMarzio (I know as well as anyone that there's nothing special about their pickups over other manufacturers), but I still feel an urge to stick with them. It must be marketing... :D Actually, it's probably because I know DiMarzio's product line better than anyone else's (which, again, is probably due to marketing :D)

Also, I'm using a Tone Zone at the bridge. I think of it as a one-trick-pony. It's too raunchy and peaky in the upper mids for clean tones, but cuts really well and has good definition with my distortion setup. I doubt I'll be getting rid of it anytime soon because I like the distortion sound too much.

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Hello all,

I'm looking for some suggestions to replace my neck pickup. I know that everyone's ideal is different, and tone is subjective, but I'm just looking for some ideas to get me pointed in the right direction.

Right now, I have a DiMarzio PAF Pro in the neck position of my Ibanez RG520 (mahogany bolt-on). I find it lacking in several areas. For clean tones, it's just too dark for me, and has too much midrange. With distortion, I find it to be muddy and without definition. One of the things I like to do is fret power chords in drop-d while I play leads on top. With the PAF, the leads get lost in the muck, and I have to attack them really hard vs. the chords to bring them out. Also, I find the single coil sound lacking in "punch" (too much midrange, again), and the bass is flabby while the treble is muted.

With those complaints in mind, I'm looking for a pickup that can do the following things. I realize there is some give and take here where improving the pickup in one area will detract from another, but hopefully you can at least see what I'm going for.

1. A nice, thick distortion tone. Enough mids to cut, but not to overpower the sound, and tighter bass. Think "grindy" like "Siamese Dream" era Smashing Pumpkins and "cutty" like Chris Haskett with Rollins Band.

2. A more even clean tone. Less mids, more treble. Something that would be good for chord comping and could be rolled off to get a decent jazz tone. I'm struggling to find an example here...  Freddie Stone nails it on a couple tracks ("Stand" sticks in my head the most.)

3. A more strat-like single coil sound. You know, tight bass, sparkling treble, kind of on the bright side.

Anyway, if you've read this far, and it actually made sense, I'd really appreciate some ideas. I know gear and technique and all sorts of things figure into the final sound, but I'm pretty happy with the rest of my rig, and I really think it's the pickup that's holding my sound back. Right now I'm leaning towards a DiMarzio Air Norton, and thinking about an Evolution. I have no real reason to stick with DiMarzio (I know as well as anyone that there's nothing special about their pickups over other manufacturers), but I still feel an urge to stick with them. It must be marketing... :D Actually, it's probably because I know DiMarzio's product line better than anyone else's (which, again, is probably due to marketing B))

Also, I'm using a Tone Zone at the bridge. I think of it as a one-trick-pony. It's too raunchy and peaky in the upper mids for clean tones, but cuts really well and has good definition with my distortion setup. I doubt I'll be getting rid of it anytime soon because I like the distortion sound too much.

Well, you could try a Carvin M22N, or a M22V Both hotter pickups. Around $50 delivered. And the killer part about Carvin, If you dont like it, return it in 10 days for a full refund. American made too. :D

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Well, you could try a Carvin M22N, or a M22V Both hotter pickups. Around $50 delivered. And the killer part about Carvin, If you dont like it, return it in 10 days for a full refund. American made too. :D

This is a good pick. Carvin doesn't get a lot of credit in this department, but their electronics are pretty good. You could also check out their H-22 p'ups. Alan Holdsworth models. I have personal experience with these in a Carvin AE185 and they are sweet!

L8R,

Matt D.

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Ok. The Siamese Dream era equipment is as follows:

Billy used his Hi Mom strat, which is a 1957 Fender Strat Japanese Reissue with lace sensor pickups. Bridge is Red, Middle is Silver, Neck is Blue. He was also using a 1984 JCM 800 with KT88 tubes instead of EL-84's. He also used the "Pumpkin Trick," which was to plug into the low sensitivity input of the JCM 800, then crank the Master Volume. Then you use the pre-amp gain as your effective master volume. You also need a Big Muff before the amp for that sustained/layered fuzz/distortion sound. He also used a JMP-1 and Mesa Strategy 500 power amp on occasion.

At the same time, James Iha was using a couple of Gibsons (Les Paul Black Beauty, another Les Paul, and a couple of SG's) with stock pickups and the same amp setup as Billy (JCM 800 with KT-88's, the Pumpkin Trick, and a JMP-1 with Mesa Strategy 500 power amp).

Honestly, I think the majority of the Pumpkins SD sound is in the amplification considering how different the guitars Billy Corgan and James Iha were using between recording and performing are. I saw the Pumpkins a lot back then, and I saw them perform the same songs with different guitars. James played a cherryburst Tele sometimes instead of his Les Pauls and the sound wasn't dissimilar enough to notice.

As far as your clean requirements, might a P90 provide the compromise you're looking for? Seymour Duncan makes a P90 Phat Cat that will fit in a humbucker slot.

Remember the Alamo, and God Bless Texas...

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Thanks for the ideas, everyone.

Bluetic & AnthemBassMan, I'll be sure to check out those Carvins. I don't know why it didn't occur to me to do it before. I liked the Carvin Stingray pickup I had in my old bass, though it was slightly microphonic. Any idea if the Carvins would match my Tone Zone for output? I know a guy that's got a pretty sweet Carvin. I'll ask him what kind of pickups he has.

Marzocchi705, I have researched what these guys use, but, as GodBlessTexas illustrates, it can get pretty specific. I'm not looking to copy anyone's tone. I'm trying to find a pickup that will work better in my rig, and I'm using examples to help illustrate what I'm going for.

GodBlessTexas, that was illuminating. I have to admit, I felt a little foolish referencing them when I knew Billy Corgan played a strat. But as you said, their sound probably has a lot to do with the amplification. I think a more balanced sounding pickup and a little amp tweaking would let me capture the essence of what I'm looking for here.

I have thought about a P-90, but not for this project. I'd like to stick with two humbuckers for my main axe. I'd like to try a P-90 for my backup, though. I'll probably put the PAF in the bridge of my backup, and see if that cleans it up any. I've heard a few people who thought the PAF was a muddy neck pickup say that it's much better in the bridge.

You guys didn't have much to say about the DiMarzios. Are they at all in line with what I'm looking for, or is it just marketing hype?

btw, if anyone's interested, I use a Line 6 Spider II (on loan from a friend... I sold all my guitar amps) through a DIY 4x12" open back cabinet.

EDIT: More thoughts on P90's:

I think you were pretty much right on with the P90 suggestion. That's the overall tonality I'm going for, but humbuckers impart a certain character that I like. It has to do with the comb filtering effect of sensing the string's vibration at two different locations. So here is, perhaps, a better explanation of what I'm going for: a P90-ish humbucker tone, but with more "lushness" (ugh... so subjective) in the treble, and a strat-like single coil sound.

Edited by fookgub
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Sorry, I personally don't have much experience or knowledge of DiMarzzio's. But I think what you are looking for you would find in a hotter Carvin or maybe a SD George Lynch Screamin Deamon ( a bit more pricy) And as I said earlier if you don't like the carvin you can return it for a refund minus shipping. And I know I personally dont have money to burn on Pickups experimentally. So thats a pretty good deal. I also think alot of PU sites have sound bites to listen to. Maybe that will help out as well. Good luck :D:D

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From what you're saying, the Dimarzio Super 2 should be exactly right. The Air Norton will be too wooly and tubby in the bass IF you're already having those kinds of complaints about the PAF Pro.  The Duncan Jazz would be good too, as would the Duncan Full Shred neck.

Thanks for the input. The Duncan Jazz does indeed look tempting, and it seems popular enough that one of my gearhead friends might have one I could check out. The clips on the SD website aren't really that helpful. At least they have clips, but I wish they were longer. It's tough to hear much of a difference between many of the pickups.

As far as the DiMarzios go, I see your point with the Air Norton. After all, it is based on the Noton, which is supposedly PAF-like. The Super 2 looks good, but I'm a little wary of really high output humbuckers. I like the Tone Zone for what is is, but I don't need two of 'em :D. I'm still thinking about the Evolution, and the Air Classic and Bluesbucker both look like they might work. I heard some clips of a semi-hollow with an Air Classic, and it was pretty smooth. The Bluesbucker is DiMarzio's version of a humbucking P-90, so I'd like to give that a try, too.

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Doh! Stupid me :D

I ment Jazz. Not Jazz II which doesnt exist as you probably know...

I probably got confused with the alnico II pro. I knew I should have checked it before I posted! :D

Sorry to get your hopes up with the Jazz II (Which would be really cool) B)

as would the Duncan Full Shred neck.

I have that in the wenge guitar and I think it's everything he was looking to avoid.

High mids, high bass, muddy character when chorded with drop d chords and prety darn hot.

It's tough to hear much of a difference between many of the pickups.

Try using a really good pair of headphones. Your not going to hear much diffrence on your computer speakers. I have a 10 band eq on my computer and I plug it directly into a -really- nice sony sound system so my computer sounds great. But nothing beats the definition of good headphones for comparing sound clips.

Edited by Godin SD
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Try using a really good pair of headphones.  Your not going to hear much diffrence on your computer speakers.  I have a 10 band eq on my computer and I plug it directly into a -really- nice sony sound system so my computer sounds great.  But nothing beats the definition of good headphones for comparing sound clips.

The fidelity isn't a problem. I have my computer hooked up to a nice set of hi-fi speakers through a studio-quality reference amp. The timbre differences are noticable, but 5 seconds of open chords just isn't enough to tell you what a pickup is all about. Also, in checking out the Jazz (SH-2... that's probably where the "Jazz 2" confusion is coming from), I noticed they all seem to have "Seymour Duncan" stamped on them. I know it's a minor complaint, but I don't like it. Is it possible to get a blank one? Maybe buy one with a cover and remove it?

On another note, does anyone have an opinoin on PRS pickups? From the recordings I've heard, they seem meaty but clear. Would that be an accurate description?

I probably should have mentioned this earlier, but this guitar is getting a set of piezos in the very near future (probably before I swap the neck pickup out). I'll know more when it's done, but I'm thinking this might allow me to use a slightly chunkier pickup, and blend in a bit of piezo to clean it up. I'll be going for a strictly mono setup here. I don't need fully acoustic sounds or doubled guitar parts... just looking to add some more variety to my sound. Now I'm starting to stray pretty far from the original question, but does anyone have any comments about this type of setup? I've already settled on the Graphtech pickups and preamp, in case anyone is interested.

EDIT: I know it must seem like I have ADD or something and I'm just throwing out random ideas, but that's not the case. I just like to do as much research on as many options as possible. You guys have been really helpful so far, and I've taken everyone's ideas into consideration. :D

Edited by fookgub
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