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New pickups for a '90s Les Paul Classic?


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Hi there,


this is my first post to these forums and I hope I opened this thread in the correct sub-forum.


I bought my LP Classic about 13-14 years ago and it still looks and plays like a dream

and is one of my two favourite guitars (the other being a Tele).

However, when I originally bought this guitar, my musical tastes changed from (very) heavy metal to

alternative rock / independent with other, mellower influences.

So the ceramic pups sounded great to me at first (being quite comfortable with hi-gain sounds) but now I

want something different for less distorted or even clean sounds that lets the guitar's tonal character shine through

a little more.


If you are not familiar with the "Classic" models, those were solid bodies (not chambered / weight relieved or anything) with '60s slim taper necks that were for some reason outfitted with those hot ceramic pups. The wiring is pretty straight-forward on those, 3-position switching, no push-pull functions or any other fancy stuff.


In this respect, I have a few questions:


1. Which replacement pups would you recommend to me? I definitely want humbuckers again because I don't really

want to change the looks on my LP, so P90's / pup covers / coils in any other colour than black are not on my list.

I'm really looking for something with less output than the ceramics. If anyone suggests getting PAF replicas, please also tell me about your preferences when it comes to the manufacturer.


2. I am not overly familiar with replacement pickups (that being the reason I opened this thread in the first place), so please bear with me if this is a stupid question: Would I have to change anything else besides the two pickups? Would I need to swap pots or something like that?



Any help is greatly appreciated,

so thanks in advance,



(please excuse any mistakes I made writing this, English is not my native language)

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I'm 99.5% sure your Classic is not solid...it has 9 weight-relief holes.

The only Les Pauls since the early '80s that are solid are the historic reissues, as far as I know.

Even the 11 lb Customs are weight-relieved.


Anyways, with regards to your pickup question. What type of sound are you after? I was just in the same boat you are in. I wanted to upgrade the pickups in my Custom but had no experience with any pickups other than Gibson pickups. I wasn't after any sound in particular and just wanted my guitar to sound better than the way it did. I decided to go with hand-wound pickups because they're basically the same price as Gibson pickups. I looked around on-line for a bit and asked a few other forum members who've played around with different aftermarket pickups. After that, I blindly went with Wolfetone Marshallheads and they're incredible. I can't recommend any other types because I don't have any experience with them...but from what I gather, Peter Florance Voodoo, BareKnuckle & Wolfetone pickups are all great. Another one I've heard are just incredible are Skatterbrane pickups. I don't believe those are made anymore.


You don't have to replace the pots/caps but now is a good time to do it. RS Guitar is highly praised for their pots & caps. They also sell pickups. Your LP has 500k tone pots and 300k volume pots. Now's a good time to go with four 500k pots. CTS pots are pretty cheap from RS. Caps are not. If you want to go with reproduction vintage type (paper in oil) caps, you'll pay around $40 US for them. Before you buy anything, look around eBay. You might even get real vintage caps for cheap.

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Hi there and welcome.


You could always get a pair of '57 Classics and remove the covers. They were standard (no pun intended!) issue on LP's for a long time and have a lower output than your ceramics.

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Thanks for your replies so far!


@Are Nine: Concerning the weight-relief holes: Thanks for the info, I didn't know that. I always thought that was a thing they only started doing in recent years. Guess I mixed that up with the chambering thing.


What type of sound are you after?

That's not quite easy to answer. As for the ceramics I have, their high output means that it is pretty hard to get some really mellow clean tones out of the amp. Those ceramics really shine when playing at very high overdrive / distortion levels, which I simply don't do anymore. I need a warm, singing tone more than a screaming high-power tone when using overdrive. Dynamics and clear definition of single strings would be nice as well. Maybe some vintage-style pups or PAFs. I wouldn't want to go with some Alnico V magnets like that Wolfetone pup you mentioned has, because those pups have quite a high output when compared to pups using Alnico IIs, for example. I once had a guitar fitted with Alnico V- pups and I don't think that would be the way to go for me. Thanks a lot for the hints to all the manufacturers you listed, I didn't know most of these names!


Another question concerning the pots: What can I expect sound-wise when moving from 300k to 500k pots? I really don't know the first thing about the benefits of different pots...


@pippy: Thanks, I looked at those beforehand and they would be candidates for replacement pups for sure. I'm just interested in how they compare / how well they are liked by people around here when compared to products of after-market manufacturers.

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Try lowering the pickups a bit before investing in new ones. I have a 490R/498T set in my Custom which are hotter pickups for Gibson and, like you, went from heavier tones to more mild ones over the years.


My holier-than-thou dissertation on pickup height: http://forums.gibson.com/Default.aspx?g=posts&t=11254


Here's a sound sample (well, video actually): http://www.richci.com/lpchampkot.wmv



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No problem Tsetse.


I replaced pickups, pots & caps all at once; so, I can't tell you how much of a difference replacing only the 300k pots will make.


I didn't say you should buy a pair of Marshallheads, I just said I did and I love them. I also ordered a set of his Dr. Vintage pickups for another guitar. I'm pretty sure all those pickup winders I listed make alnico II & V pickups. Actually, I think Peter Florence also makes an alnico III pickup.


Another one is WB Custom pickups. Only heard good things about them.


Try lowering the pickups a bit before investing in new ones.

...or lowering your volume/tone pots.

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I have an '89 Explorer that came with some weird, high output, ceramic magnet pickups. I replaced them with some

Seymour Duncan Antiquities. These pickups are the bomb in my opinion. They take well to effects, sound good at high volume AND low volume, real even sounding, dynamic string response, woody sounding.... I cant say enough good things about them! Highly recommended!

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57 Classics.


Classic Plus in the bridge if you still wanna cook, but not needed.


Other suggestions work well too.


I put BurstBucker Pros (very similar output) in my 2000 Classic, and feel the bridge needs a little more output.

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Hi again and sorry I didn't reply at an earlier time, but yesterday I couldn't reach these forums somehow... seems my ISP messed up something.


@RichCI: Thanks for your reply, those are great tips you gave here and in the linked thread, but I already tried lowering the pups and still feel that some pups with Alnicos would sound sweeter on my LP. The ceramics still have a lot more output than some PAF replicas, after all. You still have a beauty of a guitar (visually and sound-wise) there :-.


@Are Nine: Thanks again and no, I didn't understand it that way that you suggested buying those Marshallheads, sorry if it came across that way. Those Dr. Vintage pups look really nice, btw. You say you ordered those for another guitar, can you share some experience of how they sound / perform?

About the pots: Can you / someone hint me to some general information about different pots and what they do? Tbh, the reason I asked about them in my opening post is I really don't know anything about what different pots do. A few years ago I heard that when changing from passive to active pickups, one would have to swap pots etc. as well, so I thought I better asked for this to be safe.


@mrktwn: Ah, yes, I stumbled upon the SD Antiquities as well... the only problem being that I think they exclusively come with covers and are additionally artificially aged to resemble old pups. I'd prefer two simple, new-looking black coils because I don't really want to change the looks on my LP. Look-wise it's already (and always has been) perfect to me [-(.


@NeoConMan: Thanks, already the second vote for the 57 Classics.

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