Vintage Pickups Vs Modern Pickups….
Many times the word “vintage” shows up in the ever elusive quest for tone. What is it that makes people want old stuff so bad? we will talk about the changes in materials and if they affect tone in another post….
Today, we want to understand what questions we should be asking when purchasing pickups. Many people will call a pickup company and say, “I want a vintage spec pickup”. What does that mean?
What is a “Vintage” Pickup?
It is an old pickup…. plain and simple. Usually what people really are requesting is a new pickup made to the specs of a pickup made many years ago. This can mean many different things. Some pickups are made from New Old Stock parts from the period when they were originally made. This is pretty rare and very expensive. Most “Vintage spec” pickups are (to varying degrees) made to the specs of older pickups using new parts. Many times, the maker tries to emulate the winding method, materials, wind count, and “age” of the magnets. These pickups can be pretty close, but lets face it…. They aren’t old… you cant duplicate age… unless the thing is… old.
Other than the wire type and wind count, the other big factor when a pickup builder is building to “Vintage Spec” is the magnets. This is because the Alnico magnets that were (and still are) commonly used, tend to lose strength over time. This has a definite affect on the tone. All of these factors put together can give you a fairly accurate to the period sound. No matter how accurate to the “Vintage” pickup you get, Is it what you are looking for?
People often buy from a label. This happens a lot in guitar land. “Because it’s vintage, it’s better”…
Not always. A lot of the older guitars have some VERY desirable traits, but they also have some bad ones. Old unpotted pickups are often jangly and bright. They often feedback very easily and can be noisy. Some people like that stuff and even use those “faults” in their tone.
Instead of buying from a spec sheet or a label, ask some questions.
- What kind of music do I play
- What effects do I use
- How do I set My EQ
- What “faults” in my tone am I trying to correct
There are a myriad other questions to ask. The point is, ask a lot of questions before you purchase or before you set your heart on that “vintage” set of pickups.