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merciful-evans

Unpotted Picups on Gibsons

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What is Wax Potting? (for those not aware)

 

Answer: When a coil has been wound it is immersed in a mixture of paraffin and bees wax to solidify the coils and help guard against microphonic feedback.

 

 

 

unpotted-

Old vintage sound as original 50′s PAF pickups. Partially microphonic (like a microphone). Expect squeals at higher volumes or higher gain.

 

potted-

A controlled narrower band tone. Should handle high volume/gain without squealing feedback.

 

 

This short demo demonstrates unpotted well:

 

 

Up until the 70’s guitar pickups were mostly unpotted. Potted pickups represented progress. So then pretty much everyone made them that way.

 

Ok. Unpotted Pickups haven’t been produced since the 70’s right?

 

 

 

No. Some cheaper pick-up were perhaps unpotted to save money, but more importantly some makers produce unpotted pickups as a design choice. This is at least true in later years. For example ‘Bare Knuckle’ make an unpotted pickup called ‘the Mule’.

 

 

 

Gibson also are putting unpotted pickups on more of their guitars again. Now this may be expected for ‘historically accurate re-issues’. But Gibson are putting these on new model (variants) also.

 

At least one identifier (I think!) is the description ‘MHS’ (Memphis Historic Spec) Humbuckers.

 

 

 

The new Gibson SE-Les Paul (including a Bigsby version) hollow body. The Overview says:’ It sports a modified 1959 profile, one-piece mahogany neck and MHS unpotted alnico humbuckers.’

 

 

 

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/guitars/gibson-es-les-paul-semi-hollow-electric-guitar#productDetail

 

 

 

A quick check revealed these guitars shipped with unpotted pickups too:

 

 

 

Dethklok Explorer

 

Gary Moore BFG Les Paul

 

50th Ann 1960 Les Paul Custom

 

Custom 1959 Les Paul Standard

 

Dicky Betts SG

 

Nighthawk Standard 2010

 

Memphis Luther Dickenson ES-335

 

Memphis 1963 ES-335

 

Memphis 1959 ES-335

 

 

 

It’s especially interesting that ES examples are hollow body electrics which have a greater propensity to feedback.

 

 

 

I would love to hear (or even better to conduct) a straightforward comparison test. I haven’t found one yet.

 

(Written descriptions of tone are about as useful as a rocking horse on a stud farm.)

 

 

Anyone her got unpotted pups on their guitars? Be interested to hear some views on this.

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There is a world of difference between the feedback caused by the interaction of the guitar and the sound coming out of the amp, harmonic feedback from very high frequency internal component (typically pickup cover) vibrations amplified in the absence of signal from the guitar, and microphonic feedback caused by vibrations in the coils of a pickup. Wax potting addresses the latter, but the benefits are obviated by a tightly and securely wound pickup coil... or tape. Harmonic feedback is reduced by ensuring that mechanical components do not vibrate - typically by ensuring a very tight fit between cover and pickup and/or the use of dampening materials (such as the Epiphone method of filling every cavity in a cover with wax).

 

The first is going to go away the second you mute your strings. The other two will become egregiously loud the second you mute your strings. A-ha.

 

Hollowbodies don't feed back nearly as much as people would have you believe. The amount of gain and/or volume required to get the thing (in my case, an old ES-125) to feed back would cause a solidbody to feed back, too, the difference is that the feedback on a hollowbody is more predictable, and, I find, easier to control to your advantage. It's just another guitar myth, like the long tenon, PIO caps, 'tremolo' (actually vibrato), or 'out of phase' (actually inverted polarity) wiring. The PIO deal is particularly egregious in the special case of 1959 Les Pauls, which did, in fact use bumblebee caps - mylar bumblebee caps.

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My Jazz archtop feeds back quite easily. It a big box with only a neck mini humbucker.

 

If I were silly enough to use gain or anything approaching 'rock' volume, I doubt it would be usable in the same room as the speaker. That guitar has a potted pickup. Its not a guitar I anticipate gigging. If I did it would be at 'lounge volume' somewhere.

 

 

The sort of feedback coming from a microphonic pickup is shrill and not at all appealing to listen to. I would happily try these guitars out, but I would be wary of buying one using one for recording.

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I have a jazz guitar with microphonic - presumably unpotted - Schaller golden 50 pickups.

With tapewounds at a sensible volume through a Fender valve amp, it sounds exactly like an enormous acoustic guitar.

Fantastic....love it.

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If you want a vintage tone, potting is a no no. Hi-gain, you'll need potting. But for most music, it's just not necessary. Even my Strat and Tele pickups are extremely lightly potted, and with lacquer, not wax. I'm getting some lower-output P90s made by Ron Ellis (who's made the pickups in all my other guitars) for my SG Special '61 Tribute guitar. Stock pickups are too hot and too potted.

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I use pickups of both types. My preference is low output, (from 7 K ohm to maybe 8.4 K ohm DC resistance for humbuckers), un-potted pickups because they have a more open airy voice. Cleans are perfection and jazz comes alive. Blues and Blues Rock sounds, to my ears, properly voiced. That said ...... I play a wide range of musical styles and some sound better with higher output pups. There's some middle ground but, from around 10 K ohm on up wax potting is pretty much a given for me.

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Potting a pickup makes no difference in the tone of the guitar. Either the coils move and produce microphonics or they don't.

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I have to respectfully disagree. I hear a difference. I prefer un-potted whenever the pickups output allows for the option. Then again I also hear the difference between covered and uncovered pickups and AlNiCo IIs, III,s or V's. Ceramics stand out like headlights in a swap and active pickups, well ..... a hum. Sorry. Over a guitarists very long lifetime the tiniest thing becomes as apparent as an elephant farting in a circus tent with all of it's flaps closed. Quickly now !!!..... Bring in the clowns!!!

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Lot's of people have convinced themselves that they can hear all sorts of things. Some even claim they can hear paint... But if I offered up a recording of 5 different sound clips they wouldn't be able to tell which had the unpotted pickup or which had a ceramic magnet from an alnico. They usually have really great excuses as to why the test is not valid. It's all very scientific. [thumbup]

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A friend of mine (Mike) provided this link as an example on the subject. Mike himself made the comment below.

 

 

Notice all the fret noise in his playing? The squeakiness of the strings. that's not simply the strings it's the microphonics of the pickups. The pickups pick up all sorts of sounds (even those not coming from the guitar) when you are playing even at moderate levels and other sounds are happening in the room. (: - Tapper Mike)

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A friend of mine (Mike) provided this link as an example on the subject. Mike himself made the comment below.

 

 

 

Your friend Mike is mistaken. The strings act in the same way that the diaphragm in a microphone does. So if you touch the strings it will make a vibration in the magnetic field of the pickup which will be picked up by the coil and transmitted to the amp. Potted and unpotted pickups alike do this.

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Your friend Mike is mistaken. The strings act in the same way that the diaphragm in a microphone does. So if you touch the strings it will make a vibration in the magnetic field of the pickup which will be picked up by the coil and transmitted to the amp. Potted and unpotted pickups alike do this.

 

That is not disputed. But its not the point he is making either. The unpotted pickups are picking up sounds not confined to the vibration of the strings, but in addition to them. This produces in this example a characteristic sound that is unmistakenly unpotted. I realise the difference is not always obvious in other recordings. That isnt disputed either. However this is an example where it certainly is.

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Niel Young reckons his Rust tones come ( at least in part) from an extremely microphonic Firebird? Pickup in 'Ol Black (his battered old LP) which he says is so microphonic you can talk into it!

Ps is there any way of reasonably un- potting a potted pu? I've got a couple of Epi HBs I wouldn't mind experimenting with just for a bit of fun.

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No matter the guitar, I insist on unpotted or minimally-potted pickups.

 

No microphonics = no tone.

 

I'm the same way about "noiseless single coils," (a misnomer) as well. I want the microphonics. I want the hum. Tone comes with those things and I can live with the flaws.

 

Noiseless = toneless.

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Niel Young reckons his Rust tones come ( at least in part) from an extremely microphonic Firebird? Pickup in 'Ol Black (his battered old LP) which he says is so microphonic you can talk into it!

Ps is there any way of reasonably un- potting a potted pu? I've got a couple of Epi HBs I wouldn't mind experimenting with just for a bit of fun.

 

I suppose you could remove the pups just heat them with a hair drier? catch the wax in something though. You wouldnt want it on your carpet :)

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A quick check revealed these guitars shipped with unpotted pickups too:

 

 

 

Dethklok Explorer

 

Gary Moore BFG Les Paul

 

50th Ann 1960 Les Paul Custom

 

Custom 1959 Les Paul Standard

 

Dicky Betts SG

 

Nighthawk Standard 2010

 

Memphis Luther Dickenson ES-335

 

Memphis 1963 ES-335

 

Memphis 1959 ES-335

 

 

 

It’s especially interesting that ES examples are hollow body electrics which have a greater propensity to feedback.

 

 

The ES 335's are not really hollowbodies. The pickups are housed in a large, full-length solid wood centerblock which is routed out for the pickups. It is my understanding that this was done to make the ES 335's behave more like a solid body guitar, and allow you to drive the pickups a lot harder without feedback (unless you wanted it).

 

Certainly Clapton had no unwanted feedback issues on his ES 335, which would have had (at least originally) unpotted pickups.

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The ES 335's are not really hollowbodies. The pickups are housed in a large, full-length solid wood centerblock which is routed out for the pickups. It is my understanding that this was done to make the ES 335's behave more like a solid body guitar, and allow you to drive the pickups a lot harder without feedback (unless you wanted it).

 

Certainly Clapton had no unwanted feedback issues on his ES 335, which would have had (at least originally) unpotted pickups.

 

They are variously describes as semi-acoustic, hollowbody, semi-hollowbody. We know they have the centreblock (as does my ES-339) expressly to minimise feedback, but any electric guitar can feedback.

 

They are not full hollowbodies, but it remains true that they still have a greater propensity to feedback than a solid.

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Another question regarding potting. Does it darken the pickup tone. I have a set of 59 Tributes in my 2014 Traditonal. I do like them and am still not sure if they are not potted lightly potted and or potted with the covers on or off.

 

Not much info on the real specs and no one at Gibson can answer my questions on them.

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I have spent some weeks in a hospital when this topic came up, so please excuse my belated reply.

 

...

This short demo demonstrates unpotted well:

...

The video demonstration is not valid in every respect. Checking pickups for microphonics through tapping on them calls for removing strings first. The squeal heard from the bridge pickup is caused by magnetic feedback, not microphonics. Any single-coil pickup will do this when close to the speaker voice coil's magnetic field.

 

 

Potting a pickup makes no difference in the tone of the guitar. Either the coils move and produce microphonics or they don't.

[thumbup]

 

 

... I also hear the difference between covered and uncovered pickups and AlNiCo IIs, III,s or V's. Ceramics stand out like headlights in a swap and active pickups, well ..... a hum. Sorry. ...

Sorry for you, but it all is due to other influences, not those you are claiming here.

 

 

Lot's of people have convinced themselves that they can hear all sorts of things. Some even claim they can hear paint... But if I offered up a recording of 5 different sound clips they wouldn't be able to tell which had the unpotted pickup or which had a ceramic magnet from an alnico. They usually have really great excuses as to why the test is not valid. It's all very scientific. [thumbup]

[thumbup]

 

 

No microphonics = no tone.

 

I'm the same way about "noiseless single coils," (a misnomer) as well.

...

Noiseless = toneless.

Nonsense.

 

 

Another question regarding potting. Does it darken the pickup tone. I have a set of 59 Tributes in my 2014 Traditonal. I do like them and am still not sure if they are not potted lightly potted and or potted with the covers on or off.

 

Not much info on the real specs and no one at Gibson can answer my questions on them.

Sadly I couldn't find any reliable statements on specifications of the 59 Tribute pickups. Wax potted wire is used for most contemporary serialized Gibson humbuckers, the BurstBuckers 1/2/3 are exceptions.

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Another question regarding potting. Does it darken the pickup tone. I have a set of 59 Tributes in my 2014 Traditonal. I do like them and am still not sure if they are not potted lightly potted and or potted with the covers on or off.

 

Not much info on the real specs and no one at Gibson can answer my questions on them.

 

It has been claimed here that it does affect tone. I'm unsure but think it can negatively impact on tone. This fellow goes into the subject more deeply. He suggests potting the bobbin is good, but that some motion within the pickup can be beneficial to the sound.

 

Humbucker covers: I was looking into adding covers (nickel) to a set of mine, but the thought of having to wax them has made me unsure whether I really want to go through with it. I had thought that the spaces within the pickup (air) was what caused the shrill feedback (not Hendrix type 'nice' feedback), but he says its movement within the pickup. It likely that the air that permits the movement anyway. The common way to remove all air is vacuum potting. This video is long at 17.5 minutes, but its interesting nonetheless.

 

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Does anyone know if the standard pickups, which I believe are Custom Buckers, in my 2009 Reissue Les Paul are un-potted?

 

I've ordered a set of Seymour Duncan Joe Bonamassa pickups to replace them, these will definitely be un-potted, to adhere to original specifications, but I wont be able to compare them because of course they are different pickups, so it wouldn't be like for like.

 

I'm quite open on this subject, some may just be suspicious that potting isn't a step forward because the original PAF's were un-potted... however some say that potting does affect tone in a negative way!

 

There are some who claim that if you want that PAF sound, it has to be un-potted.

 

After reading the posts on this thread I'm still unsure if potted or un-potted is the way to go.

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Does anyone know if the standard pickups, which I believe are Custom Buckers, in my 2009 Reissue Les Paul are un-potted?

 

I've ordered a set of Seymour Duncan Joe Bonamassa pickups to replace them, these will definitely be un-potted, to adhere to original specifications, but I wont be able to compare them because of course they are different pickups, so it wouldn't be like for like.

 

I'm quite open on this subject, some may just be suspicious that potting isn't a step forward because the original PAF's were un-potted... however some say that potting does affect tone in a negative way!

 

There are some who claim that if you want that PAF sound, it has to be un-potted.

 

After reading the posts on this thread I'm still unsure if potted or un-potted is the way to go.

 

Sorry to be so long responding here. I was hoping someone else would have something to add. There are those who favour both unpotted & potted, and can give you reasons why, as they have here.

 

I've already made my points earlier in the thread. I think unpotted pups are a retrogressive step.

 

You really need to use your ears from here on in. Spend a couple of months playing guitars at your local shop. Research the pickups beforehand. You own ears are always the best guide.

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Sorry to be so long responding here. I was hoping someone else would have something to add. There are those who favour both unpotted & potted, and can give you reasons why, as they have here.

 

I've already made my points earlier in the thread. I think unpotted pups are a retrogressive step.

 

You really need to use your ears from here on in. Spend a couple of months playing guitars at your local shop. Research the pickups beforehand. You own ears are always the best guide.

 

I agree with you completely, but I'm quite cut off here, here in Africa very few people change anything on a guitar except strings.... the guitars in the music shop tend to be at the bottom of the market, an Epiphone Les Paul would viewed a bit like first world countries see a Gibson True Historic... when I visit London I feel quite overwhelmed by the stock of even a small guitar shop.... but even there, the secondhand guitars on sale are almost always original. I do compare brands, their pickups, neck profiles etc.... I think without exception, all of the guitars I've tried had potted pickups.

 

Sadly, I have to rely upon Youtube and forums, not ideal because we all have our own preferences.... and the same pickups can sound different in different guitars.... I did a lot of research on the Joe Bonamassa pickups, I couldn't find a negative review, the only negative remark from one person was that they are very transparent, revealing mistakes, but that to me sounds like the highest praise for pickups; sadly, it will only be sometime in April when I get to hear them in my Les Paul, on my next visit to London.

 

I wish we could just take our guitar along to a shop and try different pickups until we find a pair we connect with... :)

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I agree with you completely, but I'm quite cut off here, here in Africa very few people change anything on a guitar except strings...

...

I wish we could just take our guitar along to a shop and try different pickups until you find a pair you connect with... :)

Basically I think it's best to find a guitar or some guitars of which you love the entire package. Except for the otherwise great EB 2013 basses with the lousy DeCola humbuckers I replaced with Hi-Z EMGs, this was the case with all the Gibsons of mine. However, most of my Fenders were subjects to modifications from before the buys on, mainly about switching to Fender noiseless pickups not available stock in the related instruments. So Fender earned money twice... [rolleyes]

 

Tightly wound coils won't cause any problems even if unpotted. The unpotted BurstBuckers of mine work flawlessly with extreme high-gain settings, too. If an unpotted pickup exposed problems or a different sound than a potted one of basically same make, and given the mechanical assemblies are fine, it just means the coil is bad. [thumbdn]

 

Changing just strings on guitars and basses is the very ideal in my opinion. Apart from my hybrid guitars needing a new battery once in a while, I widely accomplished that. [biggrin]

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