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Help understanding pickup types...


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As someone who is new to guitar, I am interested in developing my knowledge of the instrument itself. Can anyone offer some insight as to the differences in humbucker pickups? For instance, what do things like PAF (Fat PAF, Crunchy PAF), high output, etc. mean? I just got rid of a Squier Strat in favor of an Ibanez RG. So far, it seems to suit me better than the Squier did and I would like to learn more about it. Thanks very much.
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You might also want to look at Seymour Duncan's website and read through their forums. They have a lot of good sound clips, descriptions, etc.
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Great suggestion from caprae. I'm quite sure SD has a LOT more information than we could ever provide.


But as for PAF's, you can find plenty of information on them at the www.gibson.com website as well.


Seth Lover, a Gibson engineer in the 1950's, designed and built the first humbucking pickups. By nature p'ups not only sense string vibrations but also a wide range of radio frequency noise from electrical wiring and other sources. By connecting two coils side by side and reversing polarity on one, most induced electrical noise (hum) is eliminated.


As Vince mentioned, Gibson put "Patent Applied For" on the first humbucking p'ups and kept doing it for several years after the patent was approved and registered to Gibson. Even then, when they finally began labeling p'ups with a patent number in place of PAF, Gibson deliberately or accidentally (nobody seems to know for certain) put the incorrect patent number on the labels. The number printed on those labels was for a tail piece also patented by Gibson. Those who believe it was deliberate think Gibson intended to make it more difficult for other manufacturers to get specifications to reverse engineer the humbucker to make their own version.


So any PAF model is intended, to some degree, to emulate those late 50's Gibson humbucking pickups. The problem is that Gibson's p'up manufacturing was far from consistant. Different magnet material was used at various times. (Alnico, Aluminum-Nickel-Cobalt was available in 5 different types of different strengths.) P'ups were wound with inconsistant numbers of windings, not only between p'ups but often between bobbins on a single p'up. In fact, after examining several vintage p'ups in the mid 1990's, Gibson decided on a particular mix of these attributes and designed the Burstbucker p'ups around them. It wasn't until the early 1960's that Gibson began standardizing the magnets to the strongest Alnico type, Alnico 5. At this time they cut down the length of the magnets to make up for the increased overall strength. If you find a long magnet, vintage p'up from Gibson it is assuredly a 1950's or 1960-2 p'up.


Prior to Seth Lover's invention, Gibson p'ups were universally the single coil, P-90. These have regained favor in the past 15 years and are available on a wide variety of Gibson products and as aftermarket p'ups. Gibson also markets the P-94 as a humbucker sized replacement with P-90 design inside, for those who want a P-90 sound without altering the p'up holes in their guitar. Other p'up manufacturers make a wide variety of p'ups intended to immitate or improve on these designs.


In addition to those I've expounded on, Epiphone developed the mini-bucker which is oft used on Epi products of the past and present, and which Norlin (parent company of Gibson and Epi in the 1970's and early 80's) brought to the Gibson LP to create the LP Deluxe. It's also used on many jazz boxes.


You'll have to go to someone else for authoritative information about Fender, Gretsch and Ric p'ups.

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