Replacing Les Paul 490/498 stock pickups

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GooberNumber9
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Post by GooberNumber9 » Fri Jun 13, 2008 8:59 am

Yeah, I'd actually like some really low output vintage-sounding pickups. I've been saving up for Burstbuckers, but I wonder about the '59s and Fralins and all kinds of stuff. There's too many options. I figured I would just get the BBs and then possibly sell them and get something else if I didn't like them. That seems like what a lot of people do with pickup swaps.

Personally, I want a pickup that forces me into a box because of a spike in the EQ curve, I just want it to be the right box! I've always been a fan of the one-trick-pony over the this-one-does-a-little-of-everything.

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Post by Tears of Rage » Sat Jun 14, 2008 12:40 am

The Duncan JBs (SH-4) has always worked well for me (in the bridge). It has just enough gain and bite to it so that it won't muddy up if you're using a fair amount of overdrive on your amp....but it also cleans up nicely as well. Whether you are playing fairly clean or overdriven, you can still hear all of the notes when you play full chords....and don't get that nasty, sonic distortion that a lot of the really hot humbuckers produce.

Another favorite for the neck position is the Duncan Jazz (SH-2). It's got slightly more gain than the Duncan 59 (which is another great pickup)...and is very articulate.

Also, this is just a cosmetic thing -- but if you like the way the chrome covers look on humbuckers, you can get the Duncans with the covers and they are potted (sealed) very well. No air gets trapped between the pickup and cover, so there's no microphonic squeals.

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Post by Vogon » Sat Jun 14, 2008 7:23 am

FWIW...
I went "off" the hot pickups a good while back. Modern Gibson's generally don't have the lively midrange of the very old ones (they have used different wood since the ~'70's), and I found while the hot pickups counter the overall midrange *content* issue, they tend to lose the dynamic and character of the instrument.
The complex, peaky mids generated by the resonant qualities of the body and construction to me, are the things I want to preserve and compliment.
That said, there are many "non-stock" pickups that work very well in the *right* instrument.
One thing bear in mind about the '59, is it uses Alnico V magnets, which are stronger than the II's found in traditional PAF designs - it's a different animal, though cool in it's own way IMHO.
All I can suggest, as implied by others here, is to try a number of pickups in the guitar.
Personally though, for great classic rock-tones, if a good stock PAF type or P-90, or mini doesn't work, I'd be looking at finding a "good" guitar (!) an extension of the garbage in - garbage out theory, which seems to be actively ignored in the electric-instrument field at the moment (much to the delight of the manufacturers...).

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Post by Chris_Meck » Sat Jun 14, 2008 12:20 pm

sorry I was busy for a couple of days and didn't answer your questions about the '59's.

I'm a fender guy, it's my wife that plays a Les Paul. She's got a standard from about the same era as yours. We play rootsy/rock/alt/country stuff. Classic tones is the idea, not hot/hyped whatever.

Neither one of us liked the 490/498 pickups at all. I remember thinking what an engineering marvel it was to make pickups that sounded muddy, yet harsh. That's quite a trick. She's not really a gearhead, but I am. she wasn't sure exactly what she wanted, so I ordered a pair of the 59's, figuring they'd be in the ballpark.

I put them in, and put it through the paces. I found them to be warm, articulate, and have some dimension. Neck pickup and an old Deluxe, and you can totally do that Knopfler 'Brothers in Arms' thing. On the bridge pickup, it's just sweet, classic Les Paul. Depending on how much gain you use you can do anything from 50's rock to Petty-ish classic rock to Slash. Just a nice, warm, well balanced pick-up.

Some people like real hot pickups, but I prefer just a well balanced pickup and let the pedals/amp do the boost work. Sounds more believable to me that way. Plus, your guitar is less of a one-trick pony this way, and more of a well-rounded, versatile instrument. Just my .02

good luck!
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Post by Rolsen » Mon Jun 16, 2008 2:00 pm

cmez wrote:sorry I was busy for a couple of days and didn't answer your questions about the '59's.

I'm a fender guy, it's my wife that plays a Les Paul. She's got a standard from about the same era as yours. We play rootsy/rock/alt/country stuff. Classic tones is the idea, not hot/hyped whatever.

Neither one of us liked the 490/498 pickups at all. I remember thinking what an engineering marvel it was to make pickups that sounded muddy, yet harsh. That's quite a trick. She's not really a gearhead, but I am. she wasn't sure exactly what she wanted, so I ordered a pair of the 59's, figuring they'd be in the ballpark.

I put them in, and put it through the paces. I found them to be warm, articulate, and have some dimension. Neck pickup and an old Deluxe, and you can totally do that Knopfler 'Brothers in Arms' thing. On the bridge pickup, it's just sweet, classic Les Paul. Depending on how much gain you use you can do anything from 50's rock to Petty-ish classic rock to Slash. Just a nice, warm, well balanced pick-up.

Some people like real hot pickups, but I prefer just a well balanced pickup and let the pedals/amp do the boost work. Sounds more believable to me that way. Plus, your guitar is less of a one-trick pony this way, and more of a well-rounded, versatile instrument. Just my .02

good luck!
Thank you! You know, I think I'm going to try out something in that ballpark but different: the duncan Seth Lover PAF clone. I'm going for less 'well-rounded' and more 'individual' in tone. I think I need to completely transform it from it's modern persona to something really vintagey and vibey in order for me to re-kindle my romance with it. Seems like I can't find a poor review on the Seth Lover either. If anyone is interested, I'll report back.

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Post by rodabod » Mon Jun 16, 2008 2:33 pm

Try the Kent Armstrong humbucker-sized P90s. They are great. Somewhere like a cross between a single coil and a humbucker.

It won't sound much like a Fender no matter what pickups you put in it. Another option would be coil taps on the humbuckers like you find on the older Yamahas which use push/pull pots to switch.
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Post by Tears of Rage » Mon Jun 16, 2008 6:16 pm

rodabod wrote:Another option would be coil taps on the humbuckers like you find on the older Yamahas which use push/pull pots to switch.
+1

I coil tapped my humbuckers on one of my Pauls...500K push/pull pots. The Duncan JB sounds great coil tapped.

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Post by trodden » Mon Jun 16, 2008 8:48 pm

Tears of Rage wrote:The Duncan JBs (SH-4) has always worked well for me (in the bridge). It has just enough gain and bite to it so that it won't muddy up if you're using a fair amount of overdrive on your amp....but it also cleans up nicely as well. Whether you are playing fairly clean or overdriven, you can still hear all of the notes when you play full chords....and don't get that nasty, sonic distortion that a lot of the really hot humbuckers produce.

Another favorite for the neck position is the Duncan Jazz (SH-2). It's got slightly more gain than the Duncan 59 (which is another great pickup)...and is very articulate.

Also, this is just a cosmetic thing -- but if you like the way the chrome covers look on humbuckers, you can get the Duncans with the covers and they are potted (sealed) very well. No air gets trapped between the pickup and cover, so there's no microphonic squeals.
I had a similar post awhile back... And decided i'm going with the JB in the bridge and the Jazz in the neck for my 335 studio, hopefully next paycheck. Both pickups around the $70 range isn't bad at all, and very versatile.

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Post by RefD » Tue Jun 17, 2008 5:54 am

actually, the Jazz is slightly LESS hot than the 59.

yes, i have used them both.
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Post by Tears of Rage » Tue Jun 17, 2008 11:12 am

The neck version of the 59 has slightly more bass than the neck version of the Jazz.

The neck version of the Jazz has slightly more treble than the neck version of the 59.

Both of them have the same rating in the midrange.

DC Resistance: 59 neck = 7.43 k -- Jazz neck = 7.72 k
Resonant peak: 59 neck = 6.8 KHz -- Jazz neck = 8 KHz

Both are great pickups....hope any of this info helps....

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Post by GLEA » Wed Jun 18, 2008 7:12 pm

I've found this discussion very helpful. I have this 1973 SG that someone decided to "customize". Image

You can't really see the micro switches under the Bigsby arm. The wooden hippie pickguard is a hoot too. I put the Bigsby on it a few years ago. They had removed the original one along the way.

So I decided to take it apart and put it into some reasonable shape. Not much I can do about the hole they knocked into it for the tap switches. (I hate coil taps, just a pain in the axe) I do have a replacement pick guard. The PU's are DiMarzios. They don't sound bad, but I know I can do better. I thought maybe I'd put covers on them, and they'd look better, but the DiMarzio covers I bought wouldn't fit! When I went back to our local shop all they could offer was a few DiMarzio PUs and some Gibson odds and sods. Not even on the shelf, just tossed in a box in the back room. Not even a PAF, just some HM jobs. Lame.

After reading your thoughts, I searched out a set of Duncan's: JB and Jazz, with covers. Seems like the price is pretty standard, so I didn't get too fussy about who I bought them from. I have a JB on a homemade Tele, and that sounds just fine.

The kicker is this guitar cost me $5. A former band mate was feeling guilty about some bad behavior that broke up the band. He was working at the shop, and doing some serious deals, and I guess this was something he acquired. All he asked was to get back a beater copy of a Sonics lp I'd bought from him years before, for that same $5.

I expect this guitar will sound a lot better next week when I get it back together. When I cracked it open, I found some pretty hack soldiering had been part of the deal. It's been a while since I've done any guitar mods, so I'm looking forward to this project.
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Post by lancebug » Wed Jun 18, 2008 7:38 pm

Tears of Rage wrote:
rodabod wrote:Another option would be coil taps on the humbuckers like you find on the older Yamahas which use push/pull pots to switch.
+1

I coil tapped my humbuckers on one of my Pauls...500K push/pull pots. The Duncan JB sounds great coil tapped.
I've had a pair of those in my flying v fro a couple years. What do you like about them? I think they do what they do well, but I am taking them out to go back to humbuckers (GFS Fat Pafs to be specific). Have had the pickups for 5 months but haven't gotten around to doing the work. For me, I feel like they have a good amount of bite, but get a little harsh when heavily overdriven. I probably like them better for leads than for chunky chord stuff. Been playing more heavy style stuff lately which is why I'm moving back to a more traditional set-up.

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Post by trodden » Thu Jun 19, 2008 8:57 am

GLEA wrote: I expect this guitar will sound a lot better next week when I get it back together. When I cracked it open, I found some pretty hack soldiering had been part of the deal. It's been a while since I've done any guitar mods, so I'm looking forward to this project.
Yeah!, keep us in touch and tell us what you think.

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Post by calaverasgrandes » Sun Jun 22, 2008 3:21 pm

Duncans a great. Got a George Lynch in my cheapy Peavey that sounds grrrrreat. But then I'm all palm mute crazy.
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Post by Tears of Rage » Sun Jun 22, 2008 4:30 pm

GLEA wrote:Image
Nice record collection. I see two copies of "Axis: Bold as Love"....think I see JA's "After Bathing at Baxter's" too.....

(hardcore vinyl jukie here...)

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