GIBSON '57 CLASSIC HUMBUCKER PICKUP
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It used to be that if you were unhappy with the sound of your guitar, then you would have to sell your current guitar and purchase a new one that had the sound you were looking for. Fortunately that is not the case today, as many manufacturers make replacement pickups. Although there are many things that go into making the sound of a guitar, clearly the type of pickups that a guitar has are one of the most important contributing factors in shaping the sound of the guitar. If you have an old guitar that you like the feel of, but you are just not happy with the sound it is producing, one of the easiest ways to upgrade to the sound you are looking for is to replace one or more of the pickups on your guitar. If you are looking for a pickup with a vintage 1950's sound, you might want to consider looking into a Gibson '57 Classic Humbucking Pickup as a replacement for one or more of the pickups on your current guitar. Read on and see if this pickup might have the sound that you have been looking for.
Before I get into a description if the modern Gibson '57 Classic Humbucking Pickup, I would like to speak a little bit about the background and history that led to the creation of this pickup. The Humbucking pickup was invented in the 1950's by a Gibson employee named Set Lover. At the time, the design of the Humbucking pickup was so new and so radical, that Gibson applied for, and eventually received, a patent on the new design and technology. These early Humbucking pickups came to be called PAF pickups because on the back of the original pickups, was a small decal that read Patent Applied For (PAF), accompanied by a number. Humbucking pickups are also sometimes commonly referred to today as dual coil pickups because they have two single coils side by side (in most but not all cases, as some humbucking pickup coils are stacked) with opposing magnetic polarity. Unwanted electronic "noise" from florescent lights, computer screens, televisions screens, light bulbs, and the like, is picked up by all guitar pickups, and gets magnified, resulting in a noticeable, and definitely unwanted 60 cycle hum. When this unwanted 60-cycle noise is picked up by both coils of the humbucking pickup, the unwanted hum is cancelled out to a great extent by the difference in polarity as the offending signal travels through both coils with reversed magnetic fields. Single coil pickups are noisy, but they are also bright, crisp, and clear. On the other hand, because humbucking pickups have two side by side coils, each coil is therefore situated at a slightly different position along the string length of the guitar, and the result is that there is a mild diminishing of the higher frequency harmonic overtones, as they too can be somewhat cancelled or at least diminished to an extent. Thus, Humbucking pickups are noted for their accentuation of the mid-range, and lower end, and thus they render a sound that is somewhat fatter and darker in tone. This gave the original 1957 PAF Humbucker its classic warm, silky sustain, and also a vicious growl when needed.
But enough of the history lesson, allow me to proceed with the review of the current incarnation of the Gibson '57 Classic Humbucking Pickup. The Gibson '57 Classic Humbucker is currently available in three varieties. There is one with Gold Covers, which lists for $199.76, and which can be had a most musical instrument chain stores for $129.95. Another variety comes with Nickel Covers, and this model lists for $192.83, and can be had at a discount for $129.95. Finally, there is an open coil or coverless model called the Double Black, and this pickup lists for $183.59, and can be had at a discount for about $119.99. All three of these models of the Gibson 㥁 Classic Humbucker are actually the same pickup electronically, and they only vary in their outward cosmetic appearance.
The sound of a guitar pickup is determined by many different things, such as the type of magnets it is made from, the number of coils it has, the number of wiring windings on the coils, its output, the directionality of its electromagnetic field of the magnets, its inductance, resistance, and overall output, whether it has covers or not, and so on and so on. This is important to understand, as different types of Humbucking pickups are made to different specifications, and thus they will sound differently.
Gibson '57 Classic Humbucking Pickups are made with the finest materials possible. Like the original pickups that they were modeled after, the Gibson '57 Classic Pickups have vintage style enamel-coated wires, nickel-platted pole pieces, Maple spacers, and vintage style two-conductor braided wiring, and Alnico II Magnets, and they even have a "Patent Applied For" decal on the back of the pickup, just like the originals did. Alnico II Magnets are felt to give a warm, rich, round, and full bodied tone to a pickup, and they produce a very vintage or classic sound. They are lower in output than some other types of Alnico magnets, and as such they are less likely to have a strong string pull. It is a myth that the stronger the magnetic pull a pickup has, the greater will be the sustain of the notes that are played. In many cases this is not only not true, but in fact the reverse may actually be the case. A pickup with a strong string pull can actually diminish the sustain of a note that is being held because the effect of the pickup's magnetic field can "drag" on the ability of the string to keep vibrating, which results in less sustain. That is not a problem that one will be likely to encounter with a Gibson '57 Classic Humbucking Pickup.
Another important construction feature of the Gibson '57 Classic Humbucker is that both of its bobbins have an equal number of wire windings on each of their coils. A pickup that has an equal number of windings of wire on its coil bobbins will produce a very fat, rich, warm, smooth, and creamy sound. A pickup with an unequal number of windings of wire on its two coils will yield a sound that is more biting and less creamy, which is the case with the Gibson BurstBucker series of Humbuckers. Which is better? The answer to that questions of course depends on the type of sound that you may be looking for.
A Gibson '57 Classic Humbucker has a lot in common with a Gibson '57 Classic Plus Pickup, and they share many of the same construction materials and procedures. However, the '57 Classic Plus has a few more wire windings on its coils, and this causes it to be slightly "hotter" than a '57 Classic Pickup. Bearing this in mind, if you are considering replacing both pickups on your guitar, and you are looking for a vintage sound, a good choice would be to consider a Gibson '57 Classic Plus Pickup in the bridge position, and a Gibson '57 Classic in the neck position.
If you would like to hear the sound of a Gibson '57 Classic Humbucker, I would suggest going to your local musical instrument chain store and trying out a guitar that comes with this pickup as standard equipment. A couple of guitars that have '57 Classic Humbucking Pickups at the Gibson ES-335 and the Gibson '61 SG Reissue.
In closing, I hope that this review was helpful to you in deciding on what pickups to use to replace those on your current guitar. But now, if you will excuse me, I must get back to my practicing.