Aug 10, 2015
So I got a new Les Paul! A new-ish one, for once. Please meet my 2012 Gibson Les Paul Traditional:
It replaces my LP Classic Premium Plus, which, while an amazing looker and sounded great with the DiMarzio PAF set that I loaded it with, I somehow never completely bonded with. The Traditional is in some ways really not what I’ve previously looked for in a Les Paul – it’s not old (I like an LP with a bit of history and maybe a few dings and scars), it’s not super flamey (more of a subtle, ’58 vibe rather than blingy burst), and it’s got the fat ’50s neck profile (something my puny hands usually shy away from). Despite all this, I’m hooked, and I’m digging the hell out of it and looking forward to giving this one a bit of history of my own.
Patent Applied For
The stock pickups in the ’12 Traditional are the Gibson ’57 Classic and ’57 Classic Plus. Gibson advertise these as pickups made to the original PAF spec, with the consistency of modern production. This is and isn’t really true – sure, it might adhere to the original specifications, but the funny thing is that actual PAF pickups were wildly varying, and hardly ever complied strictly with that spec themselves!
’57 Classics are constructed with balanced coils, i.e. both coils receive the exact same number of winds of pickup wire. The ’57 Classic Plus is the same concept, except slightly overwound. That’s all well and good, but if you start delving into the hype-filled world of that mythical PAF tone, you’ll quickly find that most “legit” PAF clones feature unbalanced coils – with one coil receiving slightly more/fewer winds than the other!
This is supposedly due to imprecise winding technique back in the early days, but whatever the reason, it seems like the unbalanced coils are actually one of the important factors in getting that honky, wiry PAF tone. Gibson themselves have integrated this philosophy of using unbalanced coils into their Burstbucker series of pickups.
So… it looks like the ’57 Classics are PAF but not quite PAF. Where does that leave us?
The way I hear it (and feel free to disagree here), the ’57 Classics don’t really sound like PAFs at all. But who cares? They’ve got their own vibe going on – the ’57 Classic in the neck of my Traditional was fat and warm, while the ’57 Classic Plus in the bridge is beefy and chunky and brimming with righteous attitude. That being said, these days my taste does err towards the brighter side of things, and I found the ’57 in the neck way too dark for my liking.
Welcome Back to the Jungle…
The APH-2 set is based on the Duncan Alnico II Pro humbuckers that Slash has used for most of his career, but tuned slightly hotter to attempt to match the mojo of the pickups in his original Appetite Les Paul. They bear his squiggled skull and crossbones insignia on the back, and are old-school single conductor pickups with no time for that fancy schmancy coil split trickery!
Gibson vs Duncan – FIGHT!
I guess there’s not much else to it but to slug it out between these two titans of the guitar world!
What did you guys think?
I for one was a bit surprised at how subtle the difference was once recorded, because to me on this end, it was night and day!
I’m going to bullet point a few of my thoughts on the differences between the two:
- The ’57 Classic set is a lot darker or “warmer”, with a much slower attack. It also feels more compressed than a PAF-style pickup.
- The Slash APH-2 set has more high end than the ’57s, though it’s a sweeter high end that never gets harsh.
- The Slash set generally has a faster attack, and the bridge pickup feels tighter in the mids. It has a bit more of that single-coilesque squishiness/chewiness to it.
- The ’57 Classic Plus definitely sounded hotter than its bridge equivalent Slash pickup. I had to juice the gain up just a tiny bit to match the perceived gain/drive level between the two.
All in all, the Seymour Duncan Slash set looks like it’s found a home in my Les Paul. It does exactly what I want it to – though that’s not to say that the ’57 Classics are bad pickups. They’re pretty different pickups with their own strengths, and I especially dig the bridge pickup. As for the neck pickup, one man’s “too dark” is another man’s “warm and creamy”, so watch the clip and let your ears decide! Hope it’s useful for some of you who may be contemplating similar choices.
Ciao friends! Till next time.