|Why do some pickups sound better
than others? What is the difference? I decided to find out by rebuilding a set
of Epiphone pickups for installation on my new mahogany FM. I didn't know exactly
what to expect -- sort of the same thing I felt when I built the first FM. The
photos below show the pickups and the guitar - you'll have to trust me on the tone!
|The victim...er, donor. A recent Epiphone
humbucker. After disassembly I found a few interesting things:
1. No spacers under the coils. Unlike a PAF, the coils were supported by the slugs, which sat on the base of the pickup.
2. There was some very strong glue used in this pickups' construction. The tape was ultra gooey also.
3. The magnet was interesting to measure. I am not sure what material it was, but it was pretty inconsistent.
Disassembly can be difficult primarily because of the glue.
After some work, this is what the pickup looked like.
1. I rewound the coils.
2. I inserted two maple spacers under the coils.
3. I installed a new Alnico 5 magnet.
4. I installed a braided, cloth-covered lead.
5. Wax potted the pickup with a wax/beeswax formulation.
I wound the neck pickup to 7.8k ohms, and the bridge pickup to 8.5k ohms.
|A full portrait next to the POD. This shows the
braided cable attached. I'm not sure if it makes a difference in tone, but the
cable, available from AllParts, sure is more
By the way -- I had to crush the screw holes to get the base to take Stew-Mac pickup height-adjustment screws. I believe the Epi screws were metric. It was simple -- wire pliers and one big squeeze per hole.
|A photo of the pickups in the new guitar.
The moment of truth was when I plugged it in. Before I installed these pickups I played several chords and leads into my multitrack with the original PAFs installed. I then played the same chords with the same POD presets and compared the two recordings.
In my opinion the new pickups sounded every bit as good as the Gibson PAFs installed. As a matter of fact, I preferred the sound of the bridge pickup over the PAF.
Thanks for checking this out, and keep checking back for more pickup work!