It's ABOUT the pickups! For me, it all started with my December 1950 Broadcaster. The elusive tone. The magic. How did that happen? How did Fender do it? It took me years to figure it out. It is a combination of things; materials, windings, hand assembly; and with a little help from Nacho Banos and his Black Guard book. That was the first time the details of the pickups were published. That all led me down the proverbial rabbit hole. So 17 years later I have succeeded in duplicating this set of so called "Black Guard" pickups. So many pickup builders offer a Broadcaster or Black Guard set of pickups that are made with the correct materials, etc. I have bought and tried most every set and something was missing. It's been a very frustrating endeavor purchasing all these so-called imitations because they all fall short. And these people actually claim they use the correct materials. I bought one set from a very acclaimed builder and the magnets weren't even the correct ones. I mean really? So that's what got me to go at it on my own. Even after you source all of the period correct materials they have to be properly prepared and then that leads to the winding of the pickup. This is where the real magic is found. Yes you have to hand wind and use the proper amount of windings but...there is the "scatter wind", the "uniform wind" and other patterns that need to be employed . Somewhere in the middle of all of that is the pattern that I found that makes that elusive tone come back from 1950 and jump right out. The bridge pickup is the most elusive. The 1950 Broadcaster/Black Guard bridge pickup tone has many complex things going on but most importantly is that it stays chimey when clean and retains the chime even in heavy overdrive and or distortion. It does not get harsh like a Tele bridge pickup. Its a sweeter top end, has a vocal quality to it and incredible sustain. It's most important than when under serious overdrive that when you get to the top of the volume control that the high end falls of just a bit, therefor it doesn't tear your ear off like a Tele. But when you roll the volume back off just a hair, the sweet high end comes right back into the fold. There is a reason people pay big bucks for Broadcasters and Nocasters as those instruments own that tone.
Now you too can own that tone, it's just a bit cheaper....
Now...let's get to PAF humbucker land...
Like you, I have tried most every brand of PAF replica out there. I believe that some builders have come close to making a pickup that sounds like a PAF but always some how miss the mark. There are many builders out there that I respect like Tom Holmes, Lindy Fralin, Thro Bak, Dave Stephens, etc. but some say they still don't sound or perform exactly like an original PAF pickup. Now you say which PAF?, a '57 a '58, a '59 or a '60? My goal here was to make a PAF clone behave, respond and sound like a late '59 with A5 magnets. These are the most desirable out there. The Zebra's and double Creme's or double Whites. There is a myth with these and mostly the double whites that they sound better: the pigment or lack there of in the white bobbins. Who knows? It's not something I believe. Yes, once again, you have to have the proper period correct materials but I have found that the magic lies in the wind and or the pattern of the wind. I can build a PAF clone has transparency, clarity, that is very touch sensitive so when you play it lightly even under distortion it plays clear or cleanly and when you attack the strings hard it barks like a hotter wound late 50's P-90, and, that it stays clear on the individual note and the top end still exists under distortion. In other words, you still can hear each individual note and the don't get lost or muddy. When played clean through the amp it should be articulate and full and have character. This is what a original PAF does and in most cases cannot be duplicated. Until now.
I would not even try to enter this market as it's already saturated enough if I didn't think I had actually been able to achieve these goals in duplicating the PAF tone and response. I have had many original pickups at my disposal to compare with during my many years of stumbling down the rabbit hole. I have many friends and clients that have Bursts, Gold Tops, ES-335's, Les Paul SG's, etc. that have original PAF's in them and they have simply been caught speechless when they hear my pickups saying they've never heard a clone sound just like an original. So I believe I have a clone that actually replicates the original. It is easier to clone the A2, A3 and A4 magnet loaded PAF's than the mystical A5 power house. So yes, I build all the flavors. One last thing; there has alway been a debate about whether the nickel or a gold cover affects the tone of a PAF. The answer is yes it does. A cover does squelch some the high end and or treble/clarity of the pickup. I had many players ears in the room when I tried all the covers on the same pickup and it was remarkable the changes that we all heard. More the gold because it requires more plating than a nickel or chrome so it takes more high end off than any other cover. So I don't just always go with or trust my ears, I always bring many other peoples ears into the fold when I do such experiments. This has all been a tremendous amount of time, work and effort to do this but it has been just as much fun all the same. Life is short, get ya' some tone! Pete Flynn
I'm also a musician; drummer, guitar, bass, vocals. So I've taken my pickups out on the stage making sure they perform in real life settings and including the studio. I have played on the world stages as back up support/opener or with the likes of Lonnie Brooks, Luther Allison, Albert King, Buddy Guy, Wayne Baker Brooks, Allman Brothers, Deep Purple, Molley Hatchet, Robin Trower, Dixie Dregs, Steve Morse Band, Montrose, Grand Funk, PF and the Flatheads, Flynn Brothers Blues Band, Wishbone Ash, Mother Root, Dinosaur Exhibit, Bo Diddley, Ten Years After, Rory Gallagher, Marshall Tucker, CCR, Joe Walsh, John Entwistle, Foghat, Ernie Isley, and many, many more!
You can see and hear my story in the Guitar Gavel video below!