Jason Lollar is one of the undisputed kings
of aftermarket pickups. In his workshop
not far from Seattle, he crafts some of the
finest, handmade Gibson- and Fender-style
pickups in the business, along with top-notch
versions of more specialized pickups like
Charlie Christian-style and Rickenbacker
Toaster Top-style units. His newest humbucker
offering, the El Rayo, reveals a lot
that we already know (that Lollar can make
a wicked humbucker), and offers a few surprises
about how clear a humbucker can be.
Indeed, the El Rayo was designed with the
intent of merging the bright and snappy topend
of a single-coil with the punchy prowess
of a traditional, PAF-type humbucker.
Behind the Chrome
There are some very unique design aspects
behind the traditional-looking chrome
cover of each El Rayo. Resistance-wise, they
come in at 3.5k Ω for the neck and 4.0k Ω
for the bridge. Don’t let the ratings fool you
though—the El Rayos are capable of dishing
some serious growl.
Each pickup is wound with specially formulated
copper wire and alnico magnets—
an alnico 5 in the neck and an alnico 8 in
the bridge—which adds up to a beautiful,
wide-spectrum tone-palate that effectively
bridges single-coil and humbucker voices.
In fact, Lollar suggests mixing them with
traditional single-coils to help beef up your
When wiring El Rayos for multiple
switching options, phasing, and coil-tapping,
the standard single-conductor leads
can be replaced with 4-conductor wire at
no additional charge. The company also
offers a myriad of cover options—ranging
from chrome, gold, and nickel, to aged,
heavily aged, pearl, and more.
Thunder and Lightning
If you like the fat sound of a good set of
P-90s, but have a humbucker-sized hole in
your guitar to fill, the El Rayos are a musttry.
The upper-mid presence is strong, but
not so much that it overpowers the rest of the
spectrum. And when they’re running through
a good amp that’s wide-open, the output
from these El Rayos becomes a syrupy blanket
of vintage rock and blues goodness.
The El Rayo offered up an
almost night and day difference
from a PAF-style pickup
in terms of bite, touch sensitivity,
and overall character. With
a 65amps Empire set up clean,
our El Rayo-powered Les Paul
used for the test bed took on a
much throatier character than
it did with the stock PAF-style
pickups. Mids and lows were
positively lush. And there’s a
beautiful, ever-present clarity
in the high end that’s not
piercing at all, but smooth and
rounded off just a touch.
The responsiveness of the
El Rayos is nothing short of exceptional.
Depending on the forcefulness of your
approach, there’s also a pronounced volume
difference that might even find you working
with the volume control a lot less. Another
of the El Rayo’s real strengths shined bright
when dropping the Les Paul’s tone controls.
Here, the El Rayos retained their capacity for
producing clear highs, tight lows, and that
beautiful touch-sensitivity without losing the
wooly and warm qualities that good PAFs
impart to bluesy riff work and melodic leads.
Opening up the Empire and kicking
in the first overdrive-stage highlighted the
ability of Lollar’s new creations to breathe,
purr, and roar in higher-gain environments.
And here again, the El Rayo’s ability to
retain clarity is dazzling. Individual notes
remain discernable, present, and full of
detail and body. Compared to overdriven
tones you’ll typically hear from a PAF-style
humbucker, the El Rayos really occupy a
sonic space that is gloriously all their own.
The El Rayo’s tones are a stellar blend of
the tight and full lows of a great PAF, with
the bubbly mids and smooth highs of a
killer P-90—all with a unique snap in the
high end that affirms Jason Lollar’s other-worldy
knack for squeezing sonic detail out
of magnets and wire. And for players who
love to just sit and marvel at how full of
body and detail a single note can be, these
pickups are to die for.