I have a nearly 40 years old Yamaha SA-1200S. Its stock pickups sounded fine, but they had a distinct imbalance to their tones. The bridge humbucker had a whole lot of midrange honk to it which meant that if you dialed it out with amp EQ the neck pickup was too thin sounding. I explained my issue to Vintage Vibe and they recommended one of their models with Alnico 2 magnets. The magnets on their pickups are super easy to change as you just screw out the bottom plate of the pickup and throw in new magnets. I got some Alnico V magnets installed on the pickups I bought, with Alnico 2 spares shipped with it. Well, the Alnico Vs were the total wrong magnet for the guitar. It sounded bright and harsh but at least the midrange honk was gone. But it made me want to sell the guitar. Then I remembered the Alnico 2 magnets and slapped those in. Now it's one of my favorite sounding guitars and that simple magnet swap made it sound exactly right. There's a good amount you can do with just messing with pickup height. I'd say there are a lot of subtleties that will not be apparent if you just hear a recording of someone else playing. Pickups definitely matter, but once you get to the quality level of Seymour Duncans and DiMarzios it's just variety of different flavors rather than better or worse. I currently own guitars with Duncan, Fender, Suhr, G&L, Vintage Vibe, Kiesel, BKP, Mastertone and Wolfetone pickups. They are all good. You take a gamble on a pickup and hope it is a good match for your guitar.