Lindy Fralin talks pickups and gives us some tips for our P-90s.
Last month we discussed some things to think about if you’re considering a pickup replacement. I alluded to some conversations I’ve had with Lindy Fralin, and thought you’d like to get his perspective. In case you don’t know, Lindy is widely regarded as one of the most knowledgeable pickup guys on the planet. Countless heavyweights have turned to him for tonal assistance over the years.
So I asked Lindy about this guitar in his shop that had these pickups in all three positions, and he commented that they had tried many different pickups in that guitar, and that it was so inherently bright that it needed the output of the Steel-Pole pickups in order to warm it up tonally. It was too “brittle” sounding with the lower output pickups they had tried.
This is an interesting consideration. What Lindy didn’t say was, “We wanted that guitar to shred, so we put hot pickups in it,” or “We use that guitar to play loud, obnoxious rock n’ roll, and needed it to pummel the front of that Dual Rectifier over in the corner.”
A lot of customers that we speak with get caught up with the names of pickups or their “output” (which I’ve put in quotes since DC resistance is usually the only measurement considered), and I think this is unfortunate. For instance, the word “blues” in the name of a pickup can lead to misperceptions such as, “This pickup would be inappropriate for me, because I don’t play the blues.” Similarly, the words “high-output” in the name will often lead to comments such as, “Not for me; I don’t play heavy metal.” The concept being adhered to here is that more output is more appropriate only for heavier types of music, where more gain and volume are desired. But the new paradigm that Lindy has introduced is that pickup selection is often more about choosing a set of pickups whose output will work with the inherent tonality of the guitar (and other factors such as the amp and the player’s ears) in order to arrive at the desired tonal destination.
I think any pickup manufacturer will tell you that a situation they encounter daily is that people call them looking for pickup recommendations. It probably seems to the consumer that no one would be better equipped to do this, since the manufacturer has more experience with their own product line than anyone else, and of course there’s some truth to that. What’s probably less apparent to the consumer, however, is that the pickup manufacturer is missing a lot of the information needed to make a reliable recommendation. The manufacturer has no knowledge of the guitar’s inherent tonality, and while the consumer will often be asked questions about what kind of gear they’re using and what type of music they primarily play, the person conducting the interview will still be left with only a cursory grasp of the situation.
Then there’s the plethora of ambiguous terms used to define tone – words like “chime,” “quack,” “smooth,” “hair” and “creamy.” I think it’s safe to assume these words mean different things to different people. Customers also use terms like “lowmids” and “highs” to define what they’re looking for, but what frequency ranges are these, exactly? In any case, suffice it to say that, again, these terms mean different things to different people.
So what’s a manufacturer to do? Take a stab at it. The manufacturer listens to the customer and makes an educated guess, but in the end, it’s only a guess. And of course it’s also only a guess when consumers arrive at their own decision, and for this reason many manufacturers have a replacement policy. Many, for instance, give the customer a period of time to try a set of pickups, with the option of exchanging them if they haven’t taken the customer to his desired tonal destination.
Of course, at this point the manufacturer will have an advantage that they didn’t have before: they have a frame of reference. Once a set of their pickups is in a particular guitar, being influenced by that guitar’s inherent tonality, played by the customer through his gear, with his hands, and being listened to with his ears, subsequent input from the customer becomes much more meaningful. Since they now have a baseline, the manufacturer can home in on an appropriate choice.
Next month: more about the differences in pickups and how these differences affect a pickup’s output and tone.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
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Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.