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61 RI: The pickup, or the guitar?


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Hey Folks!

I recently picked up a 61 RI in satin ebony. Great guitar, lightweight, looks great plays like butter. Last night I played my first gig with it, and the sound was good, but a little odd. It has the stock 57 Classic Plus pickups...figured I'd give 'em a shot before replacing them. I use a Hughes & Kettner Triamp,which is a pretty versatile amp. I noticed right off my current settings didn't have the low end that my other guitars do. (I usually use an Explorer or Les Paul Custom, different pickups in each)I also noticed that there was a funky midrange in there...I had to dial the mids back on the amp. Now, the SG is a lot less mass than an Explorer or Les Paul, so I can see a little less low end there, but would that count for the strange mids? It's almost like an upper mid spike...not ice-pick, but almost more like a P-90 than a humbucker. I love the guitar, (and my shoulder can't take an Explorer for 3 extended sets anymore!) but wanted to see if anyone else had this odd mid tone was the 57 Classic Plus pickups, or just the tone of the guitar itself. If it seems to be a pickup thing, I was thinking about dropping a 500T or Iommi in the bridge, which is what I have in my other Gibsons. Any thoughts or input would be greatly appreciated! [biggrin]

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I can't tell you, for sure, what the "odd" midrange is...other than typical of an SG.

I have 2 LP's with '57's and 2 SG's with those pickups, as well. They are more similar,

than different, BUT...the SG has a different "growling" tone, which could be considered

more "midrange" prone. I'm a bit "prejudice," as I happen to Love the Classic 57, and

'57+ pickups. So, it may just be a difference in what you expected, as opposed to what you

got? IF you play a lot of heavy distortion, '57's may not be the pickups you want?

Otherwise, I'd just experiment, a bit, with your amp settings, and even the tone and volume

knobs, on the SG. You should be able to dial in a very decent tone, either way, without

having to change pickups. Also, SG's are all mahogany, whereas most LP's have a maple cap,

which adds to their density of tone, as well.


Good Luck!



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That's for the reply CB! [smile]

It's the oddest thing...I have an early 60s SG Special that at some pint in it's life had the bridge P-90 switched to a Dimarzio Super Distortion, and I don't get that same midrange tone out of that SG. It may just be that I need a little more gain out of the bridge pickup. The clean tones were excellent! I'll try an Iommi in the bridge and see where it gets me. Thanks again for the info! O:)

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I agree with Charlie Brown, you ought to experiment more with your amp settings and the guitar before changing out the pickups. I think the '57 pickups are the best humbuckers I've ever owned.


I've got a 2010 '61 RI and I can tell you that I had to tweak my amp for that guitar, but once I got it dialed in, I absolutely love the sound of those pickups (on clean or lead channel). I can get a lot of variety out of rolling the tone controls back on the guitar, too.

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I also have a 2012 SG61 RI Satin Ebony

I am not that impressed with the Guitar as of yet since I used it maybe 30mins

while I play my 2012 Les Paul Deluxe GoldTop and 2012 Flying V.

But for the price I am sure Most are happy in getting the guitar{I know I am happy

even if its in the case lol}.....JT

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I got the same guitar but with the gloss finish. It seems that the pick ups were a little brighter than I expected. I had to turn the mid range way down on my amplifier as well. I finally got the amplifier to sound good with most of my humbucking guitars. However, the bridge pick up on the SG was still a little bright. I find that I have to roll a little treble off on the tone control for the bridge pick up and that seems to work very well. I hope that's helpful. All in all I really love the tone of this guitar. However, it does sound different then the Les Pauls and the flying Vs.

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I have a SG 61 RI in Satin Ebony and in Cherry and both have the 57's, the neck and bridge are the same 57 classic no plus. One other thing they have in common is those little blue tone caps, yuck! I like the 57 in the neck postion but do not like them in the bridge, they have that strange sound you speak of. I've replaced the blue tone caps with some orange drop caps which helped, but I still don't care for them. I have to turn down the volume to tone them down a bit. I would replace the bridge with a 498T or an Angus Young, I love the sound of the Alnico V in the bridge, they have more meat.. I have an Iommi and a BB3 and find them to be a strange beast too. If you want something with even more balls try a Dirty Finger. I love the way the Satin RI plays, it's so smooth, the baked maple board is like butter, I replaced both pickup with a pair of SD active Blackouts in chrome and the guitar smokes. I figured I already have the Cherry RI with the 57's so....


Just thinking hear, wonder if I can swap the Alnico II mag in the bridge 57 for a Alnico V, little bit of work but might try it.

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Well...I'd try adjusting the pickup height, and/or the pole piece heights

(when possible) before changing pickups...especially in cases of one being

louder, than another. Tone controls, too, are very useful, as some have

discovered, already. (Wink)


Quite a lot (if not most) of the more beloved "Classic Rock" solos, and

"Gibson" tones, from humbucker equipped guitars, were done with PAF's back

in the day, which the "Classic '57's" (and, Burstbuckers) do an excellent

job of replicating. The rest, was the amp(s), and...mostly...

the player's talent. [biggrin]


All these (often confusing) pickup choices, and wiring's, were simply not

available, then. You just found, or "lucked upon" a great sounding LP, SG,

335,45,55! Then, there were the equally great, but different souding examples

of the "Strat's, Tele's Ric's, and Gretsch sounds, from (again) mostly "stock"

pickups...at that time. Then, you coupled that, with a great sounding amp

(American or British, tone wise), and it was all there...providing the talent

was there, as well.


It's great, we have all these "Choices," now...but, personally, I think they're

often more marketing/advertising, than any real "amazing" difference...no matter

how often we use that term. LOL [biggrin]


Still, to each his/her own!



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Thanks for all the replies folks...good info there!


I took some time to work with the amp. All of my guitars (all 37 of 'em!) sound different, but I can usually have my amp set to my particular tone, and it'll take very minor adjustments to mids and presence to dial them in to "my" sound. With this new SG, it takes very radical changes to get my tone, especially to the low end. The channel that's usually way too boomy for me...and that I rarely use...is the one I HAVE to use just to get my usual amount of lows in my tone. BUT, I love this geetar...after I re-cut the nut and gave it a good set-up, it's probably one of the very best playing guitars I own.


So, the quick easy test is just to swap the bridge pickup and see if I get any real tonal difference. If I do, problem solved! If it's still a little on the thin side and the mids are still a little too biting, than I know it's the guitar itself and I'll just have to tweak accordingly. :-)

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