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Pickups, Pickups, Pickups Stop by and pickup on the discussion here about... pickups.

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Old November 28th, 2017, 06:13 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Epi vs Gibson pickups

So, Epiphone equips some of their guitars with their "classic alnico" pickup which is supposed to be a copy of the Gibson Classic 57. Bobbins are made to the same drawing dimensionally, using the same type of plastic. Same number of windings per bobbin using the same type of wire (probably using the same type / model spool winder too). Same alnico magnet too. Essentially, it's the same pickup but it's made in China. Yet everyone says that Epi pups are muddy sounding in any reviews I've read. Is it the fact that they're made in China and people automatically associate Chinese made stuff with poor sound quality?

If this is the case, I would really like to know how many components on a Gibson guitar are actually U.S. made and how many are Chinese made. Almost all CTS pots are now made in Mexico or China. Gotoh and Grover tuners are MIC. I had gotohs on my HRF III and grovers on my ES137. Some switchcraft jacks and switches are MIC. For all we know, Gibson pups are probably being made on the same assembly line in China and all they do is put the Gibson baseplate on it.

I'm not saying this is the truth but in order to save a buck here and there, why would Henry keep buying more expensive US made parts?


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Old November 28th, 2017, 06:49 AM   #2 (permalink)
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A copy ? Ok ...
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Old December 1st, 2017, 12:08 AM   #3 (permalink)
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This is still an apple to orange comparison. Maybe apple to pear. Or orange to grapefruit. Maybe Bud Light to Miller Lite.

You have to look at the epi pickups carefully. They currently have 3 basic types in their better guitars.

First is the Alnico Classics you mentioned. These have been around for years now. Yes, they are roughly copies of the Gibson '57. But the magnet is NOT exactly the same. Gibson uses an American made Alnico II, Epi uses a Chinese made Alnico V. That makes a difference. Next, look at the baseplate material. This epi pickup does NOT use a nickel silver alloy baseplate. Also, the pickup covers are brass, NOT nickel silver. These 3 differences are primarily responsible for the lack of treble response and clarity of the epi pickup. Also, the alnico classic bridge is overwound to a whopping 14K ohms. All other things remaining constant, increased winds leads to increased output with decreased treble response and clarity.

Jump to their newer Pro series.
These have Chinese nickel silver baseplates and covers, Chinese magnets and wire. The neck version is wound to about 8K ohms, which is about right for a good bridge pickup, but their overwound bridge pickup is still wound to about 14K ohms. Again, since nothing else in the hardware changed, simply adding windings increases output at the sacrifice of clarity and top end.
The Probucker series uses Chinese Alnico II magnets, the Classic Pro uses Chinese Alnico V magnets.
The Epi Pro series can and do sound very good. I like their Probucker 1 in the neck AND bridge. This is about like having a Gibson BB3 in the neck and bridge.

Compare to the Gibson Burstbucker series...
BB1 about 7.25K ohms
BB2 about 7.75K ohms
BB3 about 8.25K ohms.

As in everything else, magnets, alloys, wires and so on made in China is not exactly the same as American products.

I am not saying one is better, just that they are different.

Even subtle differences in metal alloys will have an impact on the magnetic field and therefore the frequency response of a pickup.

Companies like DiMarzio and Duncan spend huge amounts of money to develop a high wind high output passive pickup that retains the top end. Epi does not do this. They simply add winds to gain output.

If you play through a good amp, clean, run through some jazz cords, these pickups are very different sounding.

If you play through a long chain of effects, tons of gain, so so amp, you won't hear the difference.

Also, not everyone has hearing that is able to discriminate subtle changes. Just like many of us guys suffer from varying degrees of color blindness. Our wives can tell the difference between our black, dark blue and dark brown socks while we have to strain our eyes to pair them up.

It just continues to prove the old saying that we are all different. Entirely different. In every way.

Last edited by speedy454; December 1st, 2017 at 12:20 AM. Reason: more info
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Old December 1st, 2017, 11:10 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Speedy makes some good points. All the separate ingredients, and the way they are assembled, make differences in the pickups and how they sound to the discriminating ear. I'm just an old guy but my ears are still pretty good. I am fortunate to have several sets of early Burstbuckers and '57 Classics, all of which I respect and enjoy. I have a 490R and 498T in my SG that make an excellent pair in that guitar. I also have lots of old Seymours around that I swap in and out at will. And I have several Gibsons that still have their stock pickups in them, and I haven't even disassembled them to see what's in there!

I have not made the investment or taken the time to investigate all of the new Chinese made pickups that are out there now. I do believe that a large portion of the tone comes from the player, and nothing can overcome a bad amp or signal chain!
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Old December 2nd, 2017, 04:09 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by SAguitar View Post

I have not made the investment or taken the time to investigate all of the new Chinese made pickups that are out there now. I do believe that a large portion of the tone comes from the player, and nothing can overcome a bad amp or signal chain!
Fully agree. I played a jam a couple of days ago using one of the house band amps. It was an old-ish Fender valve amp, not sure of exact model. I just plugged straight in and didn't move any of the knobs, basically because I couldn't see what they were without my specs.

The sound coming out was basically me. Ok, not the 100% I get with my amps, but probably into the mid 80s. The chap who owned it had reverb on, so if I could have turned that off, it would have been a bit closer to me.

It was close enough for my guitar playing friends to recognise my sound.

So why do people make changes to their guitars?

Best thing IMO is to find a guitar and amp you like and then work on your style of playing.
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