Meet the Resistocaster!

Here’s a new guitar I put together using Warmoth parts and Lollar Gold Foil pickups.

Around the time I started assembling the Resistocaster, I reviewed the cool new Supro Westbury — another guitar with gold-foil pickups — for Premier Guitar. It was an interesting juxtaposition, because the Lollar pickups are cloned from the models in vintage Teisco guitars from Japan, while the nouveau Supro pickups are based on the gold foils made in the ’50s and ’60s by Chicago-based Valco and used in several of the brands the company produced.

While the two sets don’t sound identical, they have much in common. Both provide full-frequency tones, with warm, cushy bass and open-sounding highs. Like vintage lipstick tube pickups, they have an attractively “hollow” character that always reminds me of an acoustic guitar. Gold foils are gorgeous for clean sounds, while overdriven tones are big and buttery, albeit it rather loose-sounding. (Though adding a bass-cut circuit to this guitar let me dial in tighter sounds.)

Another odd property: With almost all pickups, pulling back the guitar’s level cleans up tones on overdriven amps and dynamically responsive distortion pedals. (That behavior is pretty much the entire premise of my Cult pedal demo.)

But with gold foils, that just doesn’t work! As you lower the guitar volume when playing through distortion-producing gear, tones don’t clean up — they get a little quieter, then sputter out in the pot’s lower range. This isn’t intrinsically a good or bad thing, but as a player who tries to exploit the tonal shifts produced by varied guitar output, I was startled by this property.

At NAMM, I mentioned this behavior to Ken Calvet of Roadhouse Pickups, who created the Valco-style gold foils for the new Supros. He nodded in acknowledgement, and said it was due to the idiosyncrasies of the rubber magnets used in gold foils. (I probably wouldn’t understand the science even if he’d had time to explain it to me.)

But while it took me a while to get comfortable with the gold foils’ unusual dynamic behavior, I needed zero time to fall in love with their warm, character-rich tones. (This, by the way, is the same set of gold foils I recently demoed in my alternative Strat pickups video.

I love how this guitar turned out, and I expect to use it a lot this year. 🙂

9 comments to Meet the Resistocaster!

  • Oinkus

    That is pretty damn cool Joe ! Why not 3 pups in it , space requirements or money ? Been fixing my Fluence Strat because it was screwy and forgot how wonderful the Moses Graphite Neck is to play. What I do playing is just the complete opposite of what you do but I really like how you put things together and demo them. Just got done watching the NAMM interview and those are some wonderful new pedals ! Stay safe and have fun always good to see your new gear !

  • My very first guitar(electric) was built from parts acquired in a shady trade for my broken down 95′ Audi Quattro. Norther ash body (HEAVY!) custom tele neck of unknown origin, a mid 70’s fender tremolo bridge but the secret ingredient that put it over the top was two De’Armond gold foil mustache pickups. Wired in the way they would have been on a 65′ harmony rocket. It sounds like no other guitar Ive ever played. Living in the rural world-(Anaconda Mt) I don’t get out much but it doesn’t compare to anything I’ve ever played and set the standard for tone as Ive shopped around for other tools. It has a similar tonal vibe of your new Resitocaster and is unbeatable playing clean-RnB, reggae, soul stirring. Has this glass like airy vibe that verges on a 3-D soundscape. I didn’t have the covers for the pickups so I to mount them in the pickgaurd with two screws. It works though. It was difficult to line them up with the strings but work well enough as you can adjust the pole pieces. I have very much enjoyed your playing and blog amongst all the chaotic noise-Scott

  • Henry

    Just found your site after reading your tutorial for making a PG pedal on PremiereGuitar.
    THANK YOU SO MUCH :]
    Tomorrow i’m going out and collecting some materials, i’m hoping to make some schematics / also work on trying to put together a drum pad.
    Honestly I am so grateful, hope you are having a great day.

  • earwaxpaper

    This sounds great. I am thinking about getting new pickups for my Parker Nitefly. Perhaps some gold foils might be the answer?

  • Digital Larry

    Science! Please see if you can get an explanation or what and why.

  • Petr

    Hi, Joe! It’s weird what you describe with the gold foils’ cleanability. I have the exact set of Lollars in my Reverend Club King and they clean nicely – especially with Jam Pedals Fuzz Phrase (too bad it wasn’t included in the recently reviewed multiboard; I bet you’d love it being a sucker for germanium drives yourself!). Maybe it’s my ears deceiving me but I’m certainly happy with the sounds I get. I switched to gold foils from P-90s and I couldn’t hear much difference cleanability-wise. Maybe it’s different with single coils, I dunno. Anyway, I wouldn’t go back, the Lollar GFs are just stellar!

    • joe

      I love how the Lollars sound, and I’ve been recording with them a lot. But the cleanup properties I describe (or rather, lack thereof) are different from on any other pickups I’ve tried. For me, they absolutely require modified technique, though I probably rely more on small volume-knob adjustments more than most players. Glad you got pickups you love, at any rate! 🙂

      • Hi Joe,

        I’ve been wracking my brains over this and I can’t see any explanation for this apparent behavior of gold foil pickups. In any case the clean-up characteristics of Fuzz Face related circuits are to do with the guitar electronics being included in the negative feedback system. The first transistor has no input resistor so the impedance of the guitar electronics acts as that input resistor. And most of that is down to the guitars volume control (in normally configured passive guitar circuits). With the volume and tone at max the impedance is mostly determined by the pickup (it’ll be a few thousand ohms over most of the frequency range). Then as the volume is turned down the impedance becomes mostly resistive and rises to a maximum of either 62.5K for a 250K volume pot or 125K for a 500K when the pot is at around 70% of its rotation. After that as you turn down it gradually falls to zero. I guess if the gold foil pickups themselves had strange impedance characteristics that might have something to do with it, but I don’t think they do.
        The other pickup range that uses rubber magnets is the Lace Sensor range. Do they have odd clean up characteristics too?
        Is there anything odd about your volume and tone wiring?

  • Mark Hammer

    What IS it about gold foils that makes them sound so good with tremolo?

    I have an old Teisco PU with a busted coil that I keep meaning to remind. The secret to them seems to be the soft iron that forms the base. My guess is that it raises the inductance, even though the coil itself is a fairly modest DCR. So it ends up bright and ballsy.

    The old Epiphone New Yorker pickups were a similar sort of design ( http://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/ntUAAOSwEK9T-7rV/s-l300.jpg ). I used to have a late 50’s Epi Windsor that had a single New Yorker PU by the neck. For reasons I can only attribute to youthful naivete, I removed the pickup, cut some holes, and installed a pair of humbuckers I wound (the guitar was later stolen, so I guess that’ll learn me to cut holes in a vintage piece!). I gave the New Yorker to Mark Knopfler, of all people, but not before opening it up to take a gander at the underlying magic.

    Apart from the actual ivory binding on these things, they are similar in concept to the gold foils. The “adjustable pole pieces” are simply screws inserted into the bent base. Just like the gold foils that initially look like they ought to be humbucking, you realize “Hey, wait, those screws are WAY too close to the edge to have a coil under them!”. The New Yorkers were also single coils underneath, with the redirected magnetic field that brought the other pole up from the bottom to the side, via the bent base, making the sensing area between those adjustable screws, and the top of the magnet you couldn’t see.

    Y’know, now that I think of it, there’s got to be somebody out there making replacement bases for Tele bridge, and similar pickups, that allow one to try different soft irons and thicknesses to vary the pickup inductance.

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