Recently togps sent me two sets of humbuckers to test them, one being the rather new Tokai PAF-Vintage MK2 made by Keiyo (not Gotoh), and the other one made by AGS which I haven't heard of yet. This was a good opportunity to continue from the first review about the three LS60s that I wrote some months ago. There you can find some more infos about my LS120 as well, e.g. the specs etc.
I had to tinker with my PC oldies in order to record some samples this time, because I wanted to use the open source WAV editor Audacity for this which is a bit demanding on available system resources. It does run on my Cyrix 6x86/P166+ with Win98SE, but not perfect which means there will be a few glitches in the samples resulting from missed bits during disk writing.
When exporting the uncompressed samples to MP3, I noticed an unexpected flaw in the LAME encoder 3.96 (latest version is 3.97b) which has difficulties encoding single instruments with sharp attacks and parallel sustained notes like an electric guitar or a harpsichord. Using 64 kbps/mono which equals the standard bitrate 128 kbps/stereo resulted in obvious rough fluttering sounds like an old tape recorder with a dirty or defective capstan wheel. So I had to raise the bitrate to 96 kbps/mono (= 192 kbps/stereo) which eliminated these flaws. If someone wants to listen to a 64 kbps sample, I can upload it to my homepage, too. The file size of each sample is somewhere between 360 and 720 KB depending on the length.
Another imperfection is the old sound card with its noisy microphone input producing a nice "analog" background hiss. But all in all I'm quite pleased with the results, because they nevertheless represent the sound I'm hearing when sitting on the couch playing guitar over my Mesa Boogie MK IIB 60w head at bedroom level. It is connected to a self-built vented Thiele cab with one EV-12L, and the settings are:
Volume 1 at 8, Treble at 7, Bass at 3, Middle at 7, Master 1 somewhere above 2 (not important as long as it's not lower than that dampening the lead output as well), Lead Drive at 5.5, Lead Master at 0.8 and Presence at 7. I should mention that I tuned its tone circuit some years ago, because it wasn't possible to get good results when alternating between rhythm and lead channel (too boomy with distortion most of the time).
The omnidirectional electret condenser microphone is located 24 cm away from the cab, pointing upwards to the ceiling and 42 cm from the ground, i.e. not a typical close-up miking with a vocal mic pointed towards the speaker cone. There are no effects used, although Audacity offers a lot of them, and the guitar is directly connected to the amp. I only use the lead channel at a medium gain setting, because that's how I play most of the time (e.g. on the gig last week), so no switching to the rhythm channel is involved here.
The guitar controls are always fully open except for one sample intended to show the sound with the bridge volume knob at 6 which I use quite often, also with my Fender Bassman head and Marshall cab or the Marshall combo in the rehearsal room. The individual pickup height of the bridge humbuckers will be adjusted to balance the output of the Gibson P-94 neck pickup that functions as a reference point during the test. I'm mainly interested in the different bridge humbuckers, because I like the sound of that P-94 single coil pickup in humbucker size very much and will probably not change it. It has an Alnico V magnet and a resistance of 7.4 kOhm, so its output is quite similar to a normal PAF humbucker.
Thinking about what clips to play I came up with five different excerpts, one with the neck pickup ("El Diablo" by ZZ Top), one with both pickups ("Black Dog" by Led Zeppelin), and three with the bridge pickup: one playing a chord based riff ("Alright now" by Free), one with mainly single bass notes ("Waitin' for the bus" by ZZ Top) and one with some typical blues phrasing ("Brown Sugar" by ZZ Top). I hope these will be able to show the differences in the bridge humbuckers concerning dynamics, frequency characteristics and desirable extras like "bloom" and you-know-what... I won't change anything in this setup during the test except for the pickup height to adjust the output which is rather a "real life" approach vs. a scientific one, but hey, it's my party!
So I started with the pickup combination that is installed at the moment, the Gibson P-94 at the neck and an unidentified Super Distortion clone at the bridge looking like a DiMarzio with 12 hexagonal pole pieces and no cover, but without that stamp on the brass base plate. Its resistance is 11.9 kOhm which also resembles the DiMarzio, but as far as I know the magnet construction is different, because instead of the normal wooden or plastic spacers under the bobbins there are two additional small magnet bars on each side. Anyhow, it rocks...
- Gibson P-94 neck
Super Distortion clone bridge, chords
Super Distortion clone bridge, bass notes
Super Distortion clone bridge, blues phrase, vol. at 6
End of Part I
Here are the direct links to the other parts of the review, because this thread became rather long and hard to overlook, sorry for that.
- PART II: Tokai PAF-Vintage MK2
PART III: AGS TRH1B
PART IV: Tokai '57 PAF model
PART V: DiMarzio PAF
PART VI: Gibson P-94 bridge
PART VII: Winners and losers...
PART VIII: Not competing... (Gibson Shaw PAFs in my 1984 LS60)
http://home.arcor.de/hans-juergen.barde ... medley.mp3 (from a mono video track, ~8MB file size)