Premier Guitar features affiliate links to help support our content. We may earn a commission on any affiliated purchases.

Tools for the Task: PAF-Style Pickups

Ten PAF-style options to freshen your tone.

Gibson’s early “Patent Applied For” humbuckers are the stuff of legend, and Seth Lover’s pickup creation is widely regarded as one of the most important advances in the electric guitar’s evolution. If you’re chasing the holy grail vintage-PAF sound but find yourself a few a thousand short of the price of an original mint set, you may want to check out some of these modern—and affordable—alternatives.

SEYMOUR DUNCAN SH-18 Whole Lotta Humbucker

Wound with 42-gauge plain-enamel wire and housing rough-cast alnico 5 magnets, these humbuckers are exact replicas of the custom pickups Seymour Duncan made for the likes of Clapton, Beck, and Page in the early ’70s.
$189 street (set)
seymourduncan.com

LOLLAR Imperial

The unbalanced-coil Imperials were designed to provide airy top end, tight lows, balanced midrange, and complex overtones. The alnico 2s in the neck and alnico 5s in the bridge are degaussed to specific levels unique to each position.
$350 street (set)
lollarguitars.com

DYLAN PICKUPS DAF

“Dylan Applied For” humbuckers are available in both alnico 3 and alnico 5 versions. They’re wax-potted and feature 4-conductor wiring for coil-splitting and phasing options. They come in a variety of finishes. (Toaster-top and clear bobbin models shown.)
$299 street (set)
dylanpickups.com

GIBSON BurstBuckers

Designed to recapture the tonal magic of the original PAF humbuckers, BurstBuckers are not potted. They boast vintage-style 2-conductor wiring, unmatched bobbin windings, and alnico 2 magnets. The Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3 models offer varying output levels.
$176 street (single)
gibson.com

BARE KNUCKLE PG Blues

Designed to replicate the famous out-of-phase mid-position sound of Peter Green’s ’59 Les Paul, this pair features sand-cast alnico 2 magnets, scatterwound bridge coils of plain-enamel 42AWG wire, and Formvar-coated wire in the neck coils.
$289 street (set)
bareknucklepickups.co.uk

DIMARZIO PAF Masters

The PAF Master Bridge pickup employs alnico 4 magnets for their high iron content, while the Master Neck pickup houses alnico 5s. Both feature 4-conductor wire. Several patented DiMarzio techniques contribute to their quiet, bright, and dynamic performance.
$149 street (set)
dimarzio.com

RIO GRANDE Buffalo Texas Set

This set consists of a Genuine Texas bridge pickup and a Buffalo Bucker for the neck. Available with 2- or 4-conductor wiring and in a variety of colors/covers ($50 less for standard nickel covers), these alnico 5 pickups are wound to 8k for the neck and 9k for the bridge.
$296 street (set as shown)
riograndepickups.com

LINDY FRALIN Pure PAF

Wound at 7.5k-7.8k in the neck and 8k-8.4k in the bridge, these humbuckers use alnico 2 magnets to soften the treble and smooth the grind. Pure PAFs are built to look like the real deal. A partial-tap kit is available separately.
$260 street (set)
fralinpickups.com

SUHR Thornbucker

Created to have all the best attributes of ’50s PAF-style pickups without the downsides, these humbuckers are available in a range of colors. They feature such modern touches as 4-conductor wiring and a variety of spacings. The neck pickup houses an alnico 5 magnet while the bridge holds an alnico 4.
$119 street (per pickup)
suhr.com

LACE Big Block

This barium-ferrite set offers tones reminiscent of classic twin-humbucker guitars from the ’50s and ’60s, but with the modern features of a Lace humbucker: low magnetic string pull, low noise, and coil-splitting capability.
$195 street (set)
lacemusic.com

While Annie Clark was named the 26th greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone in 2023, she couldn’t care less about impressing an athletic stamp on either her sound or her image.


Photo by Alex Da Corte

On her eighth studio release, the electroacoustic art-rock guitarist and producer animates an extension of the strange and singular voice she’s been honing since her debut in 2007.

“Did you grow up Unitarian?” Annie Clark asks me. We’re sitting in a control room at Electric Lady Studios in New York’s West Village, and I’ve just explained my personal belief system to her, to see if Clark, aka St. Vincent, might relate and return the favor. After all, does she not possess a kind of sainthood worth inquiring about?

Read MoreShow less

The GibsonES Supreme Collection (L-R) in Seafoam Green, Bourbon Burst, and Blueberry Burst.

The new Gibson ES Supreme offers AAA-grade figured maple tops, Super Split Block inlays, push/pull volume controls, and Burstbucker pickups.

Read MoreShow less

Mdou Moctar has led his Tuareg crew around the world, but their hometown performances in Agadez, Niger, last year were their most treasured.

Photo by Ebru Yildiz

On the Tuareg band’s Funeral for Justice, they light a fiery, mournful pyre of razor-sharp desert-blues riffs and political calls to arms.

Mdou Moctar, the performing moniker of Tuareg guitar icon Mahamadou “Mdou” Souleymane, has played some pretty big gigs. Alongside guitarist Ahmoudou Madassane, drummer Souleymane Ibrahim, and bassist Mikey Coltun, Moctar has led his band’s kinetic blend of rock, psych, and Tuareg cultural traditions like assouf and takamba to Newport Folk Festival, Pitchfork Music Festival, and, just this past April, to the luxe fields of Indio, California, for Coachella. Off-kilter indie-rock darlings Parquet Courts brought them across the United States in 2022, after which they hit Europe for a run of headline dates.

Read MoreShow less

How do you capture what is so special about Bill Frisell’s guitar playing in one episode? Is it his melodies, his unique chord voicings, his rhythmic concept, his revolutionary approach to pedals and sounds…? It’s all of that and much more.

Read MoreShow less