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Oh, no you don't! You're not gonna trap me into an argument about which pickups are the best! I've been building guitars too long and have spent too much time listening to literally hundreds of guitar players ranting and raving about what they consider to be "THE BEST!" Fact is, it's really a matter of taste. . . or a matter of the tone that appeals to you. In the old days (way back in 1969) the only way to acquire custom pickups is to make them myself. I spent HOURS custom winding old bobbins to approximate the vintage sound I was seeking (In fact, it is exactly this type of hand layering that gives vintage pickups their unique character, hand winding results in irregularities in the layering, the tension, and the total length of the winding that can be applied to a bobbin. these variables are great enough to result in a difference in tonal character. Any time I needed to tap a coil, hum cancel a coil, reverse the phase of two coils, etc. I had to manually splice the leads and build up the pickup from the bobbin up.) That was then, this is now. There must be more than 100 pickup manufacturers striving to produce a pickup with universal appeal. Most are similar in design; some use exotic alloys for the magnets, some use ceramic magnets, some use special sensors, some have single coils (and thus plenty of "hum") and some have two coils, one a dummy to provide hum cancelling. . . and some have three coils. . . sheesh! it seems that the search for the ultimate tone in pickups is never ending.

So, let's be practical here. . . MOST pickups are manufactured in the same way. They use a pole piece traditionally a magnet of an alnico alloy (Be careful here, there are several recipes used to create these alloys. . . all impart different characteristics to the sound.) These pole pieces are inserted in a bobbin to ensure exact center to center spacing of the pole pieces and proper alignment with the strings. Around this bobbin is wrapped a tiny copper wire approximately the thickness of a human hair. Usually from 40 to 44 gauge wire is used. The wire is coated with varnish to prevent it from grounding itself out during the winding process. The thinner the wire gauge used the greater the number of turns around the bobbin that can be effected. . . resulting typically in a higher output, but yielding a muddier sound. If thicker wire is used less windings are possible but the pickup will have a brighter sound. Also the distance between pickups (aperture) and the exact position of the pole relative to the string length also effects tone (You know. . . if you strum near the neck you get one sort of sound. . . and picking in close proximity to the bridge yields a brighter, more brittle sound, right?). This is perhaps an oversimplification, but I suspect you're getting the point, that is, that wire gauge, magnet alloy, number of windings, shape of the polepiece, pick up aperture and focal point . . . all of these things must work together to create a great sounding pickup.

Today's pickup manufacturers have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on research and development to achieve the "perfect" guitar pickup. They come in different sizes, colors, outputs, there are passive ones and active ones (An active pickup means that the device carries an onboard amplifier typically powered by an external power source such as a 9 volt battery. They typically exhibit a higher signal to noise ratio and allow better control over some areas of frequency response . . . some players like 'em some don't.) The bottom line is this -- I can help you choose a pickup for a given type of tonality. . . I can help you select a pickup that is capable of selectable coil switching. I can provide active tone circuits, or passive ones. I can even help you select a pickup that will compliment the color of your guitar strap (sheesh!). But, please do not ask me to tell you which pickup is the absolute perfect pickup. It's a matter of taste after all. . . thus, I offer pickups from several major manufacturers in my instruments. Some of the better known manufacturers are:

Actodyne Lace Sensors
Seymour Duncan

These manufacturers produce an unbelieveable range of pickups. It is likely that you can you find a tone that pleases you. . . but , if not. . . I also offer the option of custom pickups wound to your exact specifications. I will use the wire type, the alloy, the bobbin shape and the size, I can provide any output level you desire and even use the lead wires that you specify (vintage waxed cotton, or high tech coaxial) all you need to do is ask. However, I might point out that if it's vintage replacement pickups you are seeking, there are at least two manufacturers in the USA that specialize in these custom reproductions. One is Joe Barden of Vienna, Virginia, the other, Lindy Fralin of Richmond, Virginia. Both are well known and have excellent reputations for quality and tone. Here are their addresses:

Joe Barden Pickups
PO Box 1254
Vienna, Virginia 22183
(703) 938-8638
Joe builds some of the highest output, quietest Tele and Strat style pickups available

Lindy Fralin Pickups
3415 Floyd Avenue
Richmond, Virginia 23220
(804) 358-2699
Lindy is a personal friend of mine; he specializes in vintage reproduction pickups, single coils, and humbuckers. He also has a custom pickup rewinding service to resurrect dead or faulty pickups from vintage guitars. Give him a call.

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