neck humbucker (or BB) to complement PAF type bridge HB

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Offline headcrash

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neck humbucker (or BB) to complement PAF type bridge HB
« on: September 20, 2023, 06:39:13 AM »
I play Music Man Axis (Super) Sport guitars since like forever, and haven't played other guitars and/or pickups since. I am all into tight chuggy 90s/00s rock/metal sounds, with not too much gain (play a Fryette Deliverance clone, 60% in More mode, 40 % in Less mode). But I also like to roll back the guitar volume in Less mode to get a clean-ish sound.
The pickups work exceptionally well with the Deliverance.

I really like the Custom Dimarzios and consider them to be THE best medium to hot rock/metal pickups known to mankind (well, to me ...).
Especially the bass balance between the neck and bridge pickup is phenomenal: despite being quite beefy and warm, the neck pickup's bass balances so well with the bridge pickup's bass.

Now I recently got ahold of a Virtual Hot PAF, which I put in one of my Axis Sport guitars and kinda like it (also fancy a Fortitude for this guitar...). Now the stock Axis neck pickup is a little too hot, and so... why not try something different just for the fun of it.

Which Dimarzio (or Suhr -> triangular mounting lugs !) neck humbuckers would you recommend? It should be quite tight or even thin on bass, just to have a good bass balance with the VHPAF or Fortitude. I seldomly us the neck pickup or middle position for distortion.

Just the other day, I played a Gibson Les Paul Gary Moore, the cheap one with fake binding, no finish and P90 in the neck position. The P90 should be stock (whatever they came stock with), and in the bridge position it had a Duncan SH-1.
I really liked the P90 sound by itself, and also the middle position, but switching to the bridge SH-1, the latter got too thin in bass for my taste.
So although seriously considering a Bluesbucker as companion either to the VHPAF or Fortidue, I'm afraid that it might be too bass heavy, just going by the Tone Guide numbers for bass:
Fortitude 4.0
Bluesbucker: 4.5
(The VHPAF had bass = 6.5 with the old Tone Guide system. The PAF 36th bridge had 6.0 in the old system. PAF 36th has 4.0 in the NEW system. So I think it might be legitimate to assume, that the VHPAF would be 4-ish in the new system).
Maybe someone can share his experiences with the BB in a similar application.

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Offline gregr

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Re: neck humbucker (or BB) to complement PAF type bridge HB
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2023, 06:00:21 PM »
I prefer lower output bridge pickups and match them with neck pickups that balance in output and tone. Other than the EJ Customs which aren’t medium output I’m not aware of a DiMarzio Custom model pickup.

I recently pulled a Humbucker from Hell in my main 2-humbucker guitar and replaced it with a Duncan SH-1N loaded with an A3 magnet. I also run it with a pot that controls a passive bass shelf, which, along with a treble bleed on my volume control allows the middle and neck positions to clean up really well with a crunchy amp. I would have gone with a Full Shred but decided I wanted a bit more beef on tap for bigger clean tones. I realize that you want a baseplate with triangular tabs, so this was mainly meant to say that the HFH is not all that lean of a pickup. A stock Duncan 59 certainly has more bass than an HFH, but not with an A3. I also like that the SH-1 has more bite in the upper mids, allowing it to drive the amp a bit harder.

Anyway, I digress. I recently installed an EJ Custom Neck in the neck position of my Tele with and Area Hot T in the bridge. It works really well. I think it would be a bit weak with a bridge humbucker, but I think the EJ Custom Bridge might fit the bill.

When checking specs it can be useful to sort by output as well as treble when choosing a pickup that won’t generate too much bass.
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Offline darkbluemurder

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Re: neck humbucker (or BB) to complement PAF type bridge HB
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2023, 02:38:44 AM »
At least to my ears the Bluesbucker does not sound like a P90. To me it sounds like a PAF type pickup on the lower end of the output scale. I have two guitars with it, in one guitar with a Transition bridge in the bridge and in the other with a Duncan Custom 5, and it balances well with both tone (in particular in the bass range) and output wise. PAF types in the bridge typically have less bass than either of my bridge pickups so I doubt that you will get the bass balance you are looking for with the BB. A mini humbucker would balance better but the fit into this guitar might be difficult.

The Humbucker from Hell does not have the low bass level as the new rating (1.5) suggests - at least not to my ears.

No experience with any of the EJ models but those could also work.

Cheers Stephan
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Offline headcrash

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Re: neck humbucker (or BB) to complement PAF type bridge HB
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2023, 04:07:43 AM »
Thanks guys for your advice, especially regarding the hints on the BB.

@gregr: the custom Dimarzio's I was writing about are the ones that Music Man puts into their EvH, Axis, Axis Sport, Super Sport (and some more) guitars. They are not available as aftermarket pickups. They developped them together with Eddie van Halen.

I was just considering the BB, because in that Les Paul that P90 alone and together with that SH-1 had a certain something in the tone, which I really like. It has that vowel type quality like a German "ü", like in Mötley Crüe. It is pronounced like in "you", with an accent I hear from many British or Australians, for a lack of a better description.
In my mind I have always linked this vowel quality to a good PAF tone, both neck alone, or neck+bridge (parallel).
So it's not that I necessarily want to have a P90 (have had zero experience with P90s up to now...), but rather would like a more chimey "ü-vowel" quality in a neck pickup.
I don't know how this would translate in Dimarzio's Tone Guide: do they regard this more as "treble" or "high mid"?
I remember years ago I had an Air Classic neck and put it in one of the Axisses. I didn't like it very much, and in my mind I stored its sound as bland. Its Tone Guide high mid number is 3.5, which is rather low, compared to all other classic PAF type neck humbuckers on the Dimarzio roster. It's treble number is 6.5. In comparison, the 36th neck (DP103) has high mid 5.0 and treble 5.0....
If the high mid number would indicate that "ü-vowel" character, the 36th neck could be my choice, but its output is quite high,. which kinda makes me shy away from it (although these mV ratings should be taken with a grain of salt...).
Nevertheless, anyone has had any experiences with the DP103 in the neck together with a low output bridge humbucker?

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Offline gregr

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Re: neck humbucker (or BB) to complement PAF type bridge HB
« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2023, 05:24:25 PM »
I don’t find the output specifications to be any less reliable than the others. They all need to be taken together as a whole. While it is largely reflected by the numbers, the magnet makes a difference. I don’t know if DiMarzio makes any humbuckers with a A2 magnet, but it helps in getting a more pronounced flutey vowel sound in the neck position. It provides considerably less output than an A5, though beyond that it isn’t going to tame the bottom end in terms of EQ.

P90s and other single coils have the advantage of the tonal purity which balanced humbuckers lack due to phase cancellations. I imagine the BB also has an advantage over a regular humbucker as well. The HFH has more purity but it’s also scooped, and as such it doesn’t provide much benefit. At this point I’m wondering if it would benefit from a mag-swap, but that might not be as easily achieved, let alone successful since many DiMarzio designs aren’t traditional.

While it doesn’t sound like a single coil or a P90, the EJ Custom sounds more focused than a humbucker; not quite as much as a minibucker, but it’s more dynamic and detailed. It’s meant to sound like a Filtertron, but I have no personal experience with them. I do know that it has a narrower aperture than a humbucker which is consistent with what I experience with the sound of the EJ. The neck version really excels at giving me a bright flutey character in the neck position in my Tele. I can’t imagine the bridge version wouldn’t work well in the neck position with a PAF style pickup in the bridge. But because I haven’t tried it, this is left for speculation, unfortunately.

I’m impressed with what I’ve heard of the 36th. I don’t care for what I’ve heard of the PAF Master, but I don’t care for the tone of an A4. This leaves the PAF 59 as the remaining DiMarzio which is weaker than the 36th. I don’t think I’ve ever heard one so I can’t be of any help there.
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Offline headcrash

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Re: neck humbucker (or BB) to complement PAF type bridge HB
« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2023, 12:18:34 PM »
hey gregr, regarding output specs, here is how I meant my remark. I wanted to point out, that a difference von, say, 200mV to 250mV is quite small, expressed in dB. Doubling the voltage would be an increase of 6dB. Which would be for example a Super Distortion vs a PAF type pickup. Given that many of us won't notice much of a difference in a level increase of 1 dB, an increase of 1.93dB (which would correspond to the increase from 200mV to 250mV) ins't too much. So this is, what I meant. And I have no idea, how Dimarzio measure the voltage. They must have some apparatus which induces some voltage in the pickup...
However, 1 or 2 dB, how does this translate to the feel and sound while playing...anyway, I digress :-)

You gave me some interesting hints, when using the expression flutey vowel. When you say, the EJ neck gives you a flutey sound in the neck of a Tele (to which a Axis Sport isn't too far away construction-wise), that might be one to put on the list as well. And maybe a higher treble value of the Tone Guide may well translate into chime and flutey-ness. Which doesn't make things easier :-)

Also I may take an A2 humbucker into account, but I think you are right, Dimarzio doesn't make any, and Suhr only seems to do so with the Woodbucker (which tbh I haven't heard of before).

In the end I will have to go down the rabbit hole and just try some.

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Offline headcrash

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Re: neck humbucker (or BB) to complement PAF type bridge HB
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2023, 01:28:35 PM »
To continue story: This is the sound I'm after. With ne VHPAF (which I like more and more), I am quite there as far as the bridge pickup is concerned.
https://youtu.be/bwQiaPAVr2M?feature=shared

Meanwhile I found a Duncan Designed HB-101n for cheap, which is supposed to be Duncan's far east clone of a SH-1n.
It sounded quite bland, but not bad or muddy at all, just not like  similar to the sound in that video clip. So on with the search, and recently I got a PAF 36th neck (DP103).
Tbh, it doesn't sound too much different from the Duncan Designed HB-101n. Of course I don't have the direct AB comparison, but at least it is still nowhere near that quack (or bell-like tone, as I like to call it), that I hear from that video, ALBEIT I now have almost the exact same pickups in my guitar.

Funny enough, in my other Axis Super Sport, still the stock pickups in it, I definitely hear a lot more of that quack in the middle position.
Even more funny enough, the stock pickups in the "experimental guitar" by far do not sound as quacky like in that Axis Super Sport.
I even compared and setup both guitars as close to each other as possible (same string gauge, type, manufacturer, same distance pickups to strings, even set distance of bridge saddles to bridge humbuckers the same). No success.
Of course the stock pickups vary a little concer.ing DC resistance (don't have a LCR meter...), but I don't even get the problem child in the ballpark!

I mean, the problem child dies not sound bad, it's just not got that quack.

So I am running out of ideas...

One really positive thing I have to admit: I really start to dig that slightly-hotter-than-vintage-PAF bridge humbucker. It's really that awesome. I understand that the VHPAF is sought after.
And I am one of the biggest defenders of these stock EvH custom DiMarzios!

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Offline LPBII

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Re: neck humbucker (or BB) to complement PAF type bridge HB
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2023, 12:12:12 PM »
Spend some time experiementing with the height of the 36thN in the neck position.  Also experiement with the height of the screws.  Lowrering the pickup itself and then raising the screws can help getting that bell like tone in the neck position. The 36th N can get bell tones.

I don't know if your guitar is 24 frets or 22 frets, but the position of the screw coil in relation to the scale length matters as far as getting a bell like chime out of the neck position pickup, in my experience.  Ideally, you want one of the coils under where the 24th fret harmonic would be. If its a 24 fret guitar, maybe try putting the pickup in backwards to move the screw coil closer to the bridge after the screws are adjusted higher than the slugs.

With the Duncan Designed, or even the 36thN, you could try an A3 magnet. A3 bar magnets under humbuckers give more chime. I actually learned that from somebody here.  A3 is low output but that's not really a concern in the neck position. Just adjust height to balance the bridge position, and then tweak the screw adjustement.

Did you try a BB? The BB in the neck with a Tone Zone in the bridge really worked for me on a bright superstrat. I think the screw coil is the  active coil on it. Be aware that the BB plays like it has more output than listed, at least in my experience. In parallel, it can sound almost Fender SC like.

I also built a mahogany guitar for somebody a few years ago and used the 36th N in the bridge with an Air Classic N in the neck. I was surpized how chimey the neck postion sounded. That set was perfect for that guitar

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Offline darkbluemurder

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Re: neck humbucker (or BB) to complement PAF type bridge HB
« Reply #8 on: November 16, 2023, 03:57:20 AM »
Did you try a BB? The BB in the neck with a Tone Zone in the bridge really worked for me on a bright superstrat. I think the screw coil is the  active coil on it. Be aware that the BB plays like it has more output than listed, at least in my experience. In parallel, it can sound almost Fender SC like.

Correct, the screw coil is the active coil.
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Offline headcrash

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Re: neck humbucker (or BB) to complement PAF type bridge HB
« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2023, 04:32:26 PM »
Spend some time experiementing with the height of the 36thN in the neck position.  Also experiement with the height of the screws.  Lowrering the pickup itself and then raising the screws can help getting that bell like tone in the neck position. The 36th N can get bell tones.

I don't know if your guitar is 24 frets or 22 frets, but the position of the screw coil in relation to the scale length matters as far as getting a bell like chime out of the neck position pickup, in my experience.  Ideally, you want one of the coils under where the 24th fret harmonic would be. If its a 24 fret guitar, maybe try putting the pickup in backwards to move the screw coil closer to the bridge after the screws are adjusted higher than the slugs.

With the Duncan Designed, or even the 36thN, you could try an A3 magnet. A3 bar magnets under humbuckers give more chime. I actually learned that from somebody here.  A3 is low output but that's not really a concern in the neck position. Just adjust height to balance the bridge position, and then tweak the screw adjustement.

Did you try a BB? The BB in the neck with a Tone Zone in the bridge really worked for me on a bright superstrat. I think the screw coil is the  active coil on it. Be aware that the BB plays like it has more output than listed, at least in my experience. In parallel, it can sound almost Fender SC like.

I also built a mahogany guitar for somebody a few years ago and used the 36th N in the bridge with an Air Classic N in the neck. I was surpized how chimey the neck postion sounded. That set was perfect for that guitar

Thanks for your input!

These guitars have their pickups mounted directly to the wood, so experimenting with height is way more difficult and only possible with some restraints.
I did put some washers to get the PAF-ey pickups closer to the strings, which would push the mids a little (apart from raising the level...). But the quack just does not happen.

I figured that the frequency of the quacky ü-vowel should be somewhere around 2kHz ...2.5kHz.
So SC chime is not what I'm after and is not what I hear from that link I posted.
I think it depends from the resonant peaks of the pickups to some extent. For most SC's that peak should be in the 3kHz to 3.5kHz area.

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Offline gregr

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Re: neck humbucker (or BB) to complement PAF type bridge HB
« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2023, 12:06:40 PM »
A3 magnets allow you to keep the pickup close to the strings without generating as much bass as an A2. To my ears the quality in the top end is more like an A5 which I believe has a higher Q factor than that of an A2.

I’m contrasting the A3 with the A2 because the A2 is commonly attributed to enhancing the flute-like tone of the neck position. Between the two I prefer the A3 because I can increase the gain in order to get more saturation and retain clarity without the added flub on the low strings. In terms of quack I think it largely depends on treble response which also favors the A3. The treble response also allows the A3 to clean up really well. You still get the flutey character of the neck position, but whether it is flutey enough is subjective.

I’ve also tailored my tone control to keep from gobbling up everything but the bass when it’s rolled all the way back. The top end is softened but still retains note definition but the main cap is still 22nF so there still is some a drop in midrange as opposed to using something like 1nF. This works really well for warm jazz tones; not so much for the woman tone, however.

Regarding the frequency of the resonant peak, please correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t it just depend on the coil?
« Last Edit: November 19, 2023, 01:04:00 PM by gregr »
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Offline LPBII

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Re: neck humbucker (or BB) to complement PAF type bridge HB
« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2023, 10:25:28 PM »
OP: thanks for the clarifications.  If I am understanding correctly the concern is the middle position quack sound of both pickups together. I thought of something but googled the Axis Super Sport first.  The current controls features are a master volume, a master tone, and five way super switch. So that kind of shot down my line of investigation.

My idea was based on that I noticed on Les Pauls with a volume and tone for each pickup that you can enhance the middle position quack sound by tweaking the volume and tone control of each pickup, essentially making the bridge pickup brighter and louder than the neck pickup.  With master volume and master tone I have found it more difficult to get that to happen, although it's more ergonomic while playing live.

Maybe your other guitar gets this naturally or accidently? The ESP Les Paul in the video has a master volume but tone controls for each pickup, and I noticed that the demonstrator adjusted the tone controls when changing from both pickups together to one or the other indvidually.

But it might just be that it's two different guitars and therefore different pieces of wood from different trees.

Does yours have a super switch? I get the idea that it doesn't and your using a three way switch. But of course by splitting you can get more of those types of quack tones more easily.  I built an HH guitar once with a five way super switch. The positions were if I recall correctly:
Bridge Hber, coils in series.
Outside coils of both pickups in parallel. Rather Tele middle position like.
Both full pickups in parallel. Not that much quack with master volume and master tone.
Inside coils of both pickups in parallel. Sorta Strat notch position like.
Neck pickup, coils in series.

Maybe install a concentric tone pot so each pickup can have it's own tone control, if limited to two knobs, and see what happens?



 

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Offline headcrash

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Re: neck humbucker (or BB) to complement PAF type bridge HB
« Reply #12 on: November 20, 2023, 02:38:24 PM »
Thanks LPBII an Gregor for the input!

My guitars do have the 5way switches, and the wiring is outer coils in parallel in Pos. 4, and inner coils in parallel in Pos. 2.
With that "reference guitar" these sounds do quack way more, than in my problem child.

I have seen or listened to quite a few Les Paul Standard video clips. The standard pickups are 490R and 498T, which are relatively high output, especially the 498T.
These will have a significantly lower resonant peak than a PAF, which to my ears may contribute quite a lot to that 2..2.5kHz quack. This would also underline what I hear in the reference guitar with its high impedance and lower resonanz peak pickups.
It does not underline, that the problem child does not quick like the reference guitar, when I install its original high impedance lower resonant peak pickups.

I also stumbled upon that fact, that in the middle position, in a Les Paul, the paralleled pickups effectively see the load of the two volume pots paralleled, which results in a 250k load. This might lower the resonant peak a little.
So I just soldered a 470k resistor into that problem child's electronic compartment, so that there is a ~250k load for all sounds except bridge humbucker alone.
Although I have no direkt AB comparison, I think I hear a tiiiiinnyy little more quack, in all positions (except bridge humbucker of course).
But I might be biased.

Still I'm kinda stuck. I'm still waiting for a used Air Norton or Norton to come up in classified ads here, which I assume are lower resonant peak, but still PAF-ey enough...

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Offline darkbluemurder

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Re: neck humbucker (or BB) to complement PAF type bridge HB
« Reply #13 on: November 21, 2023, 04:09:54 AM »
The classifieds on this Forum are very quiet so I would not place a bet on anything coming up there soon.

In the most popular German classifieds portal, Air Nortons come up consistently (regular and F-spaced, mostly black but sometimes zebra or double cream) but Nortons have become scarce for no obvious reasons.
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Offline headcrash

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Re: neck humbucker (or BB) to complement PAF type bridge HB
« Reply #14 on: November 22, 2023, 06:19:41 AM »
The classifieds on this Forum are very quiet so I would not place a bet on anything coming up there soon.

In the most popular German classifieds portal, Air Nortons come up consistently (regular and F-spaced, mostly black but sometimes zebra or double cream) but Nortons have become scarce for no obvious reasons.

With "here" I meant German "Kleinanzeigen" formerly run by ebay.  ;D
At the moment there are a few, but I really like the look of that double cream neck humbucker on that specific guitar, so I hope for a double cream Air Norton F-spaced to come up.
I think I could more easily make a Norton out of an Air Norton, if I needed to, than the other way round.