Aficionados of the P.A.F.pickup, the original humbucker, often say that vintage models are like snowflakes — no two are identical, due chiefly to the the pre-digital inconsistencies of their windings.
One particularly memorable pair of snowflakes resides in Joe Bonamassa’s 1959 Les Paul, the crown jewel of Joe’s insanely huge guitar collection. Joe and Seymour Duncan teamed up to duplicate their sound, and have released the results as the Joe Bonamassa Signature Pickup Set. As a rabid fan of Seymour P.A.F.-inspired Seth Lover and Antiquity Humbucker models, I couldn’t wait to smear greasy fingerprints all over the new set.
I got to hang out in the studio with Joe a few years ago during a project I was working on for Apple. He’s a phenomenal player, a nice guy, and a walking encyclopedia of guitar gear. There aren’t many players who better understand the glory of a great P.A.F. — and how to make the most of it.
As promised, these pickups provide superb P.A.F. tones, and they have a sonic personality quite distinct from Duncan’s other P.A.F. models. Check out this little demo I recorded:
What do I hear (besides some really sketchy playing)?
These pickups sound exceptionally warm and smooth. The bridge pickup is never shrill or thin — in fact, if you tend to moderate your bridge-pickup attack to avoid nasty highs, you may find yourself wanting to dig in more than usual. There’s a touch less twang overall compared to, say, a Seth Lover bridge pickup, and you can really whack the thing without it getting nasty.
Meanwhile, the relatively low-output neck pickup couldn’t be silkier. (Seymour refers to these lower-output pickups as “weakies.”) But there’s nothing timid about the tone — I love its fatness and flattering natural compression. And I’ve never encountered anything better for that dark, high-gain neck-pickup sound occasionally (and annoyingly, IMHO) referred to as “woman tone.”
This set sounds great overdriven. It sounds great clean. And it sound great in- between, especially through a nice old combo amp and a good overdrive pedal. I really enjoyed finding the sweet spot where I could control the distortion entirely from the guitar’s volume pot.
Conclusion: These pickups are staying in this guitar!
Any other P.A.F.-ophiles out there? Tell us about your favorites!