Pros: This is a great sounding guitar pickup.
GIBSON 500T SUPER CERAMIC HUMBUCKING GUITAR PICKUP
If you are looking for a guitar pickup that is so hot it can melt the paint off your walls, then you need to check out the Gibson 500T Super Ceramic Guitar Pickup. The Gibson 500T Humbucking Pickup comes in two varieties, one with Zebra Coils (one creme colored coil and one black coil) and Double Black Coils. Both models are the same electronically, and their only difference is in their cosmetic appearance. The Gibson 500T Humbucking Pickup retails for $135.08, but it can be had from most musical instrument chain stores or reliable Internet merchants for as little as $79.95. Read on and see if the Gibson 500T Super Ceramic Humbucking Pickup is the pickup with the certain sonic something that you have been looking for.
The Gibson 500T is Gibsons hottest output pickup, and it is tied for output with the Gibson Dirty Fingers Humbucking Pickup. The Gibson 500T can be found in the bridge position on the current incarnation of the Gibson Les Paul Classic Guitar. It is a very powerful pickup, and it is even hotter and louder than the Gibson Angus Young Signature Humbucking pickup, as well as also being hotter and louder than the Gibson Toni Iommi Signature Pickup, and the Gibson 498 Hot Alnico Pickup. The Gibson 500T is made with a multi-ceramic magnet design. It is wax potted to reduce microphonic squeals and unwanted feedback.
The Gibson 500T has 4 conductor wiring, which allows one to have the option of wiring this pickup for coil splits, as well as for series and/or parallel operation. The Gibson Website has a host of wiring diagrams for wiring different types of pickups in different ways to achieve different types of sounds. Typically, most humbucking pickups have their coils wired in series. However, having 4-conductor wiring permits one to also have the option of wiring the coils in parallel, which produces a brighter tone, and still maintains the humbucking features of the pickup. However, one sacrifices volume and power in this case. Another more popular wiring option is the use of a coil cut or split. A humbucking pickup like the Gibson 500T with 4-conductor wiring can easily be wired to have a coil cut option. This option would permit you to use only half of the humbucking pickups two coils, thus in effect rendering it a single coil. This would make the sound very bright and crisp, but it also would disable the hum canceling effect of the second coil. The use of a coil cut switch would of course also be required, but this would allow a guitarist to have the option of switching from a humbucking sound to a single coil sound with the mere flip of a switch. One could also employ a three-way switch, which would allow one to go from series, to parallel to a single coil.
What makes the Gibson 500T Humbucking Pickup so much hotter than many other humbucking pickups? This answer requires a multi-response. It is the combination of relatively strong Ceramic Magnets, special gauge wiring, and many extra windings of wire on the pickup bobbins that makes the Gibson 500T such a powerful pickup, that Gibson has dubbed it a Super Ceramic Humbucking Pickup. Although it is billed as being a bridge pickup replacement, like any other humbucking pickup, it can also be placed in the neck position as well.
Because its wiring is so highly over wound, the Gibson 500T Humbucker is a very powerful pickup. There are pro and cons to this however, as the amount of windings on a pickup will effect not only its power, but also its tone. A good rule of thumb to remember is that the more windings a pickup has, the more power it will have. Conversely, the more windings a pickup has, the less high end or treble response it will have. In order to compensate for this loss of high frequency response, Gibson has chosen to use Ceramic Magnets in the design of the 500T Humbucking Pickup instead of the traditional Alnico Magnets typically used to construct a humbucking pickup.
Why, use Ceramic Magnets you might ask? The answer is because Ceramic Magnets tend to boost treble response. Traditional humbucking pickups made with Alnico Magnets will tend to have a silky smooth, creamy distortion when they are cranked up and overdriving an amp. Alnico Magnets in general, will also effect the tone of a pickup to a greater degree than do Ceramic Magnets. For example, an Alnico II Magnet is sometimes referred to as a singing magnet, because of the warm singing sustain that it helps a pickup to produce. On the other hand, pickups made with Ceramic Magnets will, in general, tend to have greater clarity when they distort and they will sound brighter, and crisper than pickups made with Alnico Magnets. I hope that the reader has noticed that I have used the phrase in general when discussing certain differences between Alnico and Ceramic Magnets and their sonic properties, as these points are in general true, bit there are always exceptions with different pickup designs.
Another thing to consider regarding the Gibson 500T is that it has no pickup covers, and is an open coil Humbucker. Well what does that mean, and how does it effect the sound of a pickup? Perhaps the earliest uncovered or open coil Humbuckers were the ones that Jeff Beck had on his 1950s Les Paul. Beck removed the covers because it was believed that this would make the pickup sound hotter and brighter. He was correct, but that was because the older pickups he was using were not wax potted. Removing the covers from older vintage pickups does make them sound brighter and hotter, but they are also more prone to microphonic feedback, as well as increased hum and other noise, and they also expose the delicate inner workings of a vintage pickup to unwanted moisture, humidity, and even sweat from the players body. However, modern pickups, like the Gibson 500T are designed to be open coil pickups, and thus they do not suffer from the problems that older pickups would experience when their coils were exposed or open. Another advantage of open coil pickups is that they can be raised higher and thus closer to the strings, which can also make them sound hotter and brighter. However, it is also important to keep in mind that if one raises the pickup too close to the strings, it can result in string dampening and drag due to the effect of the magnetic field on the vibrations of the string, which means less sustain.
Well how does the Gibson 500T Super Ceramic Humbucking Pickup sound? As I mentioned earlier, the Gibson 500T can be found in the bridge position on the current incarnation of the Gibson Les Paul Classic Guitar, and that is the guitar that I test drove in order to get a first hand impression of the Gibson 500T. This is a fabulous guitar by the way, but Ill save my comments on the guitar for another review. This pickup was really commanding. It was as hot as one can get and still maintain a passive pickup design. The sound was really clear, strong, and pronounced. When it was cranked, this pickup could easily overdrive the preamp section of just about any amp that I could think of. It sounded excellent for heavy metal, especially modern metal or nu-metal styles. It was great for power chords, had real crunch, and it could produce searingly hot overdriven leads. Getting high harmonics was also easy, and making this pickup scream was an easy feat, and lots of fun.
But what about TONE? That is where I ran into a bit of a problem. Yes, rolling back the volume did take the vicious snarl out of this pickups sound, but there was a problem to my ear, and that was that there was not much tonal complexity or subtlety, as I attempted to get different sounds out of this pickup. Some of you who are reading this may know that tone purists often refer to ceramic magnets as being toneless and consequently they view pickups made with ceramic magnets as being toneless as well. Personally, I did not find that to be the case with the Gibson 500T. It had tone, but it was limited in his tonal palate, or to put it more simply, it did not have the variety of tonal capabilities that can be found with some other Gibson Humbucking pickups that have less hot output.
Well who is the Gibson 500T Super Ceramic Humbucking Pickup best suited for? If you are looking for a pickup with that vintage, warm, Patent Applied For sound that one typically associates with Gibson Humbucking Pickups, and if you want a pickup that can generate silky warm or soothing tones, I am afraid that you must look elsewhere, because you will be disappointed. There are better pickup choices if you are interested in classic rock, traditional blues, warm jazz, or country music.
On the other hand, if you are looking for an incredibly hot, vicious, pickup with a domineering and commanding sound, look no further. If you want a very heavy nu-metal sound, and you want to play solos that have a cutting razor sharp bite to them, look no further. The Gibson 500T may be just the pickup for you. Any one who is looking for that type of sound will be more than satisfied with the Gibson 500T Super Ceramic Humbucking Pickup. If you are looking for a pickup that turns up the heat in a room, and makes everyone take notice with the first few notes that you play, then this is the pickup for you.
I would like to thank you for taking the time to read my review. But now, if you will excuse me, I must get back to my practicing.