Help me pick pickups, exploring options for my Explorer

Discussion in 'Pickups, Electronics & General Tech' started by TedEH, May 2, 2018.

  1. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Dumb thread title is dumb. :lol: Also, a bit sorry for posting more "what pickups should I buy" threads without actually buying any pickups.

    Anyway, I have an Explorer I picked up a while ago because Explorers are awesome, and this one was a strange white one with a maple board (some kind of L&M "exclusive"). I like (almost) everything about it- it looks cool, my hands get along really well with the neck, etc. But, it has Blackouts in it that were added by a previous owner. While I don't "need" to change them, they're good enough, I'm just not really getting along with the Blackouts, and I think this presents an opportunity to experiment with pickups. I find though that I don't have a lot of experience with a variety of pickups, and don't have much of an idea of what lends itself to certain sounds, so much as I just know what I like or don't like with what I've tried so far. I could optionally go for a set that I've tried and know that I'll like it, or go completely different. Who knows.

    I don't reaaally want the "active" sound, or the EMG sound, cause I've got EMGs already. Blackouts are way too far into the way-too-hot-active-sound territory. I also don't tend to go for "chainsaw" or overly aggressive sounds either. I like some smoothness. I like to play clean as often as with gain. More splits/switches/options/etc are bonus points in my book.

    These are what I've been thinking of trying, maybe someone can steer me in the right direction.

    Option A) Fluence Classic
    I like the idea of trying something entirely new. I tried a guitar in store that had moderns in it (I couldn't find one with classics) and was pretty impressed with the sound even though I'm not aiming for an "active" sound. All the wiring and switching options are really appealing. I like the idea of having a whole ton of options in one guitar, and I'm bound to find a voicing a like in there. I plugged in a guitar not knowing what set was in it and my reaction was "if these are the moderns, I'm impressed, they sound more organic than a lot of actives I've tried, but if these are classics, I'm dissappointed cause they still do sound like actives". Does that make some sense? I think that makes sense.

    Option B) Crunch Lab + Liquifire
    This is my sort of "I already know what I like" option. I have the CL/LF 7 string set in another guitar and really like that setup. The LF has been my favorite neck pickup by far. I also have an Air Norton 7 and it's almost as good. I figure the 6 string set should be close enough to what I liked in the 7s that I can't really go wrong.

    Option C) JB + 59
    I've been using Dimarzios in pretty much everything when I have the option, so I'm entirely new to the world of Duncans. I have a strat with a Pearly Gates in it.... and I'm not very impressed by it. And the Blackouts are also not my cup of tea. But this combo seems to be a really common "upgrade", is well received, the descriptions of them sound like I would like them, and it's likely a big departure from all the other pickups I already have, which is a plus in terms of having a variety of sounds at my disposal. This is another "lets take a risk and try something I don't know" option, I guess.

    Option D) Something else? Something random?
    So far I have CL/LF that I like, Evo + Air Norton that I like, Pearly Gates that I don't like, Blackouts I don't like, EMGs I like sometimes but they only do their one trick.... recommend me something entirely different from all those things maybe?

    Pickup experts -> point me in a new and exciting direction :lol:
     
  2. JustinRhoads1980

    JustinRhoads1980 SS.org Regular

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    I would maybe take a look into the CL/LF. If you plan on playing thrash metal, I would not go with a JB/59' combo IMO. Maybe get an SD custom or Distortion in the bridge and a jazz

    I am kind of in the same dilema with my Jackson Soloist. I have a view options. I sometimes play clean, but I am primarily a hard rock and metal player so the only times when I am playing clean is when there is a dark or gloomy passage within a song like 'this love' by pantera kind of thing. For me it is different since my specs are different such as

    - alder body

    - Maple neck through

    -Ebony fingerboard

    Yours most likely is

    - Mahogany Body

    - Set in Mahogany neck

    - Maple fingerboard.

    Very different. I have a strat like Jackson and yours is a different shape. I have a dif neck construction and completely different body and neck woods. I also have a recessed floyd rose, you prob have a 2 piece bridge system.

    All of those factors have some kind of affect when screwing around with pickups. Personally it depends what you want. If you want to be able to play clean and have really good modern distortion sounds, the fishmans might work.

    If you want a more proggy kind of sound and stuff, the CL/LF could work.

    For a more vintage or older kind of tone I would maybe look into the SD distortion or custom in the bridge or maybe a dimarzio super distortion?

    I have learned the hard way that the only way to really know what works for you is by swapping out the pickups and analyzing what you like/don't like about the pickup and maybe call the manufacturer tell them this is what you have, your rig, the pickup, what you like and don't like and they can usually direct you to a more fine tuned product.

    I really don't have much experience with pickups other than the JB/59 and Emg 57/66 set.

    Hope this helps.

    Also Soldering the new pickups in are just the ground and hot wire which is fairly simple, unless you are doing splits, taps, or other accessories.
     
  3. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I'm not worried about the wiring at all, I can handle that. Reasonable amount of wiring/soldering/etc experience.

    I agree, the CL/LF sounds like the "safe" option, but this is a guitar that just sort of exists to be noodled with, which is why part of me wants to try something completely different- I have other guitars for live and recording, so there's room to experiment and it's not the end of the world if I don't like the result. I think it would be hard to find something I like less than the blackouts :lol:.

    I don't think the "thrash" sound is necessarily what I'm aiming for either. I've got guitars that handle that really well already. I've got an EMG equipped guitar and a Mark series amp, so I can do thrashy stuff all day with that already. And I'm absolutely not aiming for "modern" in the sense of what that normally means on this site. I'm not gonna be djenting through an AxeFX any time soon.
     
  4. Edika

    Edika SS.org Regular

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    The JB/59 combo is a safe bet but a lot of people seem to not like the midrange spike the JB has. I have it in two guitars and had it in another one. The two guitars it's currently in are both neckthrough alder maple guitars with ebony fretboards one in E standard and the other in D. The guitar I had it in amd changed it was an alder body maple bolt on neck with a maple fretboard.

    In the bolt on it sounded a bit too hairy. It was nice but the midrange got annoying after a while. It was quite a mid focuses guitar so it didn't need more.

    The guitar in E sounds the best. The one in D is ok and I had tried in C on the nolt on which was uninspiring. The JB has a relatively loose bottom so it doesn't require too much bass on the EQ and this is why I feel it doesn't play nice with low tunings. But it does sound great and I can get a variety of tones from it. From rock/hard rock up to Death metal. In lower tunings though it gets muddy.

    Two really clear and articulate pickups I tried lately that were balanced in the EQ (so no djent machines) are the Omega pickups Cerberus bridge and a set of Mojotone Tomahawk's that are Dusty Waring's signature set. The Cerberus is I would say medium-high output. You think it doesn't have enough power but it does. But it's super clear and stays clear with lots of gain. The same with the Mojotone pickups but they are quite a bit hotter. Still though not muddy, bass response is tight but there so these aren't screechy pickups.
     
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  5. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    For reference, if it helps, this guitar is likely to stay in E standard, with 10s on it. Cleans and mid-gain are as important as high gain, so I care more about versatility (and maybe smoothness?) than whether or not it just does THE BROOTS. The blackouts do THE BROOTS, kind of. And I have EMGs elsewhere for that.
     
  6. Strobe

    Strobe SS.org Regular

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    The Fluence Classic set is my all time favorite set of pickups. They have an awesome PAF voicing, and what I would call a better JB / Jazz voicing in voice 2. Not a perfect comparison, but close. I own 5 different sets of the Fishmans and like them all. The classics are my favorites of the bunch.
     
  7. Edika

    Edika SS.org Regular

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    For E standard the JB/59 would be a good set then. It's hit but not over the top even though the 59 is quite hot for a neck pickup. Cleans are good but the JB is a bit thin. It us a versatile set that's for sure.

    The other two suggestions I gave are really versatile too. The Mojotone bridge pickup is so balanced that I find the neck pickup sounding somewhat thin. But they are expensive pickups. The Omega Cerberus would be maybe a better choice as it doesn't slam the front end of the amp as hard. Both these bridge pickups have an Alnico magnet with Ceramic flanks and they do give you the best of both worlds. The warmth of Alnico with the tightness of the Ceramics.
     
  8. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I've been trying to find some reviews of these and there's not much out there, so it's cool to hear some feedback. It's awfully tempting to just cave and try those.

    Thanks for other recommendations as well. I'll take a look into the cerberus ones. And your JB/59 description also sounds kind of appealing. :lol: Too many options.

    I have noticed a pattern that all the pickups I've liked so far have been hot-but-not-too-hot ceramic pickups, I think.
     
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  9. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    Huuumm, I'm pointing you out in a totally different direction, sorry, I won't name brands nor models, more what to look for, based on what I know your amps are (Mesa Boogie Marks...?) and in my experience with the boogie mark tones (from a Triaxis point of view).

    So, the directions is... why not trying for some medium output pickups like some PAFs? I've recently acquired (back in February?) a pair of custom wound medium-high output pickups loaded with AlNiCo5 magnets for my main guitar (mahogany body, maple neck, rosewood fingerboard, floyd rose, 7 stringer) and got blown away by their clarity and definition. So much that I've just received a second batch slightly differently voiced.

    These pickups have so far given EXCELLENT cleans, super definition with high gain and lots of pleasure to play with. They really changed my view over pickups. Today's amps have enough gain to demolish skyscrapers, let's lower the pickups' output a little and we find a whole new realm of dirt grain within our amps. With the Triaxis, I've found FULLER crystal clean tones within the LEAD modes, being able to raise the input gain way over than previously possible with ceramic pickups (DiMarzio) and still get away with super clean tones. Complex chords with crunch and dirtier sounds also sound clear and defined, and I don't really miss the "extra" gain attack of the ceramic ones (one can always compensate with more dirt in the amp). My reference tones were DiMarzio Blaze Neck + Custom, or AirNorton7 + Evo7 or D-Sonic7 and I've completely changed my opinion over these sets, now I find them muddier, go figure. These new pickups deliver a more interesting amp compression with the input gain at higher levels, either with clean, crunch or really dirt tones.

    So, search for some AlNICo loaded medium-high passive Pickups, that's my suggestion.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2018
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  10. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I had considered grabbing some PAF 7s last time I was looking into pickups. I'll definitely add some of those kinds of pickups to the list of stuff to look out for.

    Edit: Correct me if I'm wrong (and I very well might be) but the SD 59s are supposed to be PAF-styled, right? Could count that as another vote for trying a JB/59 combo.

    I honestly am really bad at interpreting pickup descriptions. I don't have a reference point for what "PAF" is supposed to sound like in my head.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2018
  11. buriedoutback

    buriedoutback SS.org Regular

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    I have a blk '96 esp explorer that I love (has EMG 85/bridge and 60/neck).
    If I were to ever change the pickups I'd go for D Activators or Black Winters.
    I have the D Activator 8 in my RGA8 and I love it. Also way back, I put a black winter into a MMM1 that I sold shortly after, but it sounded awesome.
     
  12. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I dunno if it's counter-intuitive to start with a pointy guitar and put non-metal oriented pickups in it, but I think it's safe to say I'm not looking for metal-centric pickups primarily. D-Activators I think I would rule out for that reason. Same with the Winters. The sound like the kind of thing that would do one or two things really well, but maybe not much else.
     
  13. buriedoutback

    buriedoutback SS.org Regular

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    fair enough. i read somewhere (might have been the black winter thread actually) that the black winters clean up really well and can do any level of gain nicely. I managed some decent cleans from my d activator but i'm in no way a "clean aficionado".
    as an aside, I have paf7s in my 7 and they can definitely do clean better than my dactivator 8. i'm sure there are a ton of factors involved, but the pafs do anything well afaic.
     
  14. luislais

    luislais nothing ever happens

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    I would tryed a Bareknuckle, perhaps the Blackdog, this are awesome!
     
  15. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    That seems to be the thing I'm hearing pretty often. Versatility = PAFs I guess?
     
  16. buriedoutback

    buriedoutback SS.org Regular

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    ya, looks that way.
     
  17. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    To be fair, I tend to think of cleans as being more of a neck pickup thing. A really nice clean neck pickup paired with a bridge that could do the broots and maybe dial it back for some midgain smoothness would do the trick.

    My main sticking point with "metal" pickups is that some of them take it too far. The Blackouts I've got try so hard to be as metal as possible that they don't do anything else. Same with the EMGs I've used so far. They're good for when you need that sound, but I don't often need that sound.

    To me, playing with actives, or super-hot metal-oriented pickups feels like I'm playing with a boost pedal that I can't turn off. Sometimes you want the boost, but sometimes you don't.
     
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  18. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    The thing about modern pickups is that they are overwound 99% of the time (ok, just messing here) and get a super strong magnet (like ceramic or sometimes Neodimium). I was doing the test drive to my newest pickups (got them this Wednesday) and oh my... the tones I'm getting with them are just delicious.

    What I associate with "PAF" is a not overwound pickup, AlNiCo magnet (most often 5), and then the core wire may change to taste or needs (most often a bigger gauge than modern pickups).

    I also gravitate to the neck pickup for clean tones, but sometimes the bridge also sounds nice, and when it happens it's magical.

    I'm a metal guy, I've grown listening to some 90's heavy stuff, mostly thrash, but also progressive and math and stuff like that, so when it comes to playing, I need that kind of dirt under my fingers for whenever the urge comes. However, as for lately (lets say last 10/15 years) I've been more into a fusion kind of sound, searching for that classic clean jazz to add to my dirty tones and all that comes in between. These are the kind of pickups for me, everything else is just... meh now...

    I'll measure them for the DC resistance so you can have a reference point and post back as soon as possible. I also want to now what's going on here...:D
     
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  19. KailM

    KailM SS.org Regular

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    Black Winters are actually versatile as hell. Roll the volume off and get great rock tones -- in fact, with the neck BW I can get a convincing Slash lead tone. Cleans are great out of either the neck, bridge, or both. I run them with a push/pull tone pot for coil split options.

    Ever since I put them in one of my guitars I haven't thought about pickups.
     
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  20. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Ended up in a music shop this weekend and they (unsurprisingly) had some JB/59 in stock. No CL/LF sets though. And no fishman stuff. I didn't feel like waiting for an order to show up, so I grabbed the duncans and managed to get them installed the next day.

    First attempt at installing them went moooostly ok, but I tried to take a shortcut and the tone knob didn't work the way it was supposed to (it acted like a volume), so I went back and re-did the tone pot, and everything seems to function as it's supposed to now. I managed to do everything pretty cleanly up until the point of grounding everything to the back of the pots - that step always ends up being kind of a mess :lol:. (I'd welcome any tips on how to do that part cleanly next time.) I'm not 100% sure the grounds are solid, since there's the tiniest bit of buzzing that goes away when I touch the pickups, so I'll probably revisit that. It's subtle though, you'd have to be looking for it, and you only hear it under high gain.

    Since it's going from actives to passives, I basically ripped everything out and did everything from scratch with new components. Two volumes and a tone with a push/pull to split the JB (the 59 doesn't split, or at least this one doesn't). Took the stereo jack out and put a mono one in.

    Some initial impressions:
    I like the 59. It has a lot of character. It's bright enough for me without being shrill. Lots of low end as well. Sounds kinda scoopy to my ears? In terms of personal taste, I don't think it beats the Liquifire so far, but I'm not disappointed by any stretch. Definitely a huge improvement. The JB is very... standard sounding? It's immediate and up front, but doesn't strike me as having much of its own character. I'm not a huge fan of it when it's clean so far, but under gain it does a good job of representing what I'm playing without flubbing out or getting in the way. The split sound on the other hand, does sound really nice clean. Suuuuuper twangy. Moreso than I expected. And brightness for days.

    In summary. 59 = :yesway:, JB clean is meh. JB with gain is not mind blowing but still :yesway:. JB with the split is :yesway:.
     

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