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Opinons on replacement Gibson pickup options


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I recently bought a used '09 ES-137 off of eBay, and wow... just wow. I am soooo in love with this guitar (attention Gibson: please put these back in production and I'll be first in line for one with a natural maple flamed/quilted finish). The only complaint I have is while the 490R/498T pickups sound good, they don't sound excellent. To my ears, they are "almost there." I'm mostly a Music Man/DiMarzio guy, so I'm not as versed in Gibson products as I'm sure you guys are. I'd like to get your opinion on better Gibson pickup options. Here are the kind of tones I'm looking for:


Bridge: Hot, sizzling, harmonically rich, sustainy (hey, I just made up a word!). I'm looking for a smokey bite when I kick in the gain/overdrive. A sound similar to slightly more aggressive blues-rock, sort of like Great White... not heavy metal, but a bit more aggressive than regular rock or blues.


Neck: Articulation, massive sustain, and a vocal, almost "singing" quality. I want solos using overdrive to really reach out and each individual note to have character. Chords should not be muddy. I will also use the neck for a lot of clean tones for jazz with the tone knob rolled back about halfway, so it needs to be very capable of producing rounded, full-bodied and sustainy (natch!) tones for this genre.


Thanks in advance for your advice.

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Hi Greg...


All kidding aside, I'd suggest you first mess with how you're playing/adjusting pots first.


I've always said that an electric guitar is an instrument of two parts - the human interface "neck and box" and the pups/pots/boxes/amp.


I've always backed into that by messing with the settings on the pups and "guitar controls" first, then with the amp. Only later on a "new" guitar would I think of other stuff. Strings and pup height adjustments will make a huge difference too.


Seriously, I think that a year's worth of picking, string changes, adjustment changes on what you have is probably required to know where you are with the equipment you have. I've found that even theoretical "identical" guitars will respond somewhat differently with technically "identical" setups.



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Hi Greg


I have an ES-135 which the ES-137 replaced. Mine came with Classic 57s (essentially PAF pickups) and they are really sweet sounding. So if you had to go someplace else, maybe that's a place to look. The current run of Classic 57 / Classic 57+ pairing are awesome pickups!


but - get ready with the check book, that swap out is going to run you close to 4 bills!


On the other hand the 490R/498T combo (which I have in one of my LP Stnds) I happen to think are fantastic pickups. I can't totally get why you would, (just after making the purchase anyway) pull those pickups out of there and replace them. IMO they are quite versatile. (the major sonic differences in the LP to the ES aside)


But yet if that's your aim, then who am I to tell ya what to not spend money on!!!




but before you whip out the credit card and start to punch up an order, consider just what Milod has replied with (I agree with him 100%): Adjusting the distance of the PUPs to the strings, as well as setting the poles in the PUPS to match the neck radius can make some subtle but yet very noticeable changes in dynamics. It doesn't take a lot of tweaking to make a big difference here, also there's the idea of trying out (for example) some Coblat strings which really do about every thing they are hyped to do (I'm not a big fan of the feel which I did get used to over time, but they definitely have more output, touch dynamics and clarity)




if at the end of the day the stock pickups just aren't cutting it for you, well you'll have loads of options, and probably no shortage of people who will buy the stock PUPs you're pulling out of there.


(aside from the a fore mentioned 57 combo) I would be looking towards Seymour Duncans. The 59 and Jeff Beck are fantastic pairings, and will be a lighter on the wallet, (not a lot, but maybe enough to help.) Got a pair of these in another one of my LP Stnds, they smoke!


Good luck! Keep us posted!

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