Stephanie Lollar recently sent me a set of pickups for my Suhr Classic Antique Telecaster. It is such a phenomenal playing instrument, perhaps the best I own in terms of Telecaster feel and playability. Still the tone of the guitar while usuable and pleasant was always slightly lackluster for me. Hi-fi tone in the bridge and murky tone in the neck. That is not a reflection on Suhr guitars in any way, but rather a common mis-match for my own needs and for this guitar in general. The real-time truth about a pickups response, feel, tone etc is going to be revealed only after the pickups are installed, the guitar strung up, setup, plugged in and played. This is why we cannot simply state as an absolute that ‘pickup XYZ’ is the best choice for rock, jazz, blues, country etc… Pickups should be matched to the instruments unplugged sound. At the least it should be considered as a reference. It is the key to a successful replacement IMO. The exception might be high output pickups designed to be used under alot of tone coloring distortion in which case the guitars natural tone becomes less relevant.
I currently use a Lollar Special T, Vintage T, Lollar Charlie Christian, Imperial Humbucker and Low Wind Imperials. So I have some real-world knowledge and experience with the tonal character of Lollar pickups. Some. Although I am often consulted by other professionals, luthiers and hobbyists on pickup choice based on my years in tone consulting and pickup combination knowledge, wiring knowledge etc., I decided to ask Jason (Lollar) for his advice and recommendation. I gave him a basic description of what was lacking in the current guitar/pickup balance as well as what the guitar sounded like unplugged (resonate and singing). I did not mention what I wanted except that my current tones were not ‘vintage’ enough for me. I had already decided on a Lollar Royal T neck, but was mixed on the bridge choice.
Jason recommended the Lollar Royal T neck, which was super fantastic for me as it confirmed my own thoughts, and then he recommended the Lollar Alnico 3 Bridge pickup as the match. Once I looked into the specs on the A3 I decided it was a really smart idea to try. As it turns out, it was indeed a smart recommendation but also an obviously intuitive one. Like I said before, pickup ‘specs’ alone are not enough. And when you are dealing with musicians like myself who are on the quest for ‘refined’ shifts in tone and the last small percentage of our tonal needs, it usually comes down to a combination of experience, knowledge and intuition. I finally had the chance this morning to install the set.(See install photos here)
Man… I hate to gush as I am rarely ‘over the moon’ with new pickups as I have owned so many but… goodness gracious. Can pickups sound and feel soulful? Yes, of course if they are a match. These sound present, harmonically rich in brilliant clear overtones but with body and fullness. This combination in this guitar is lively, juicy and exciting. LOL (Exciting may be a little gear geekery showing through). But it’s always fun when your tone gets more musical.
Really all I can say at this point is thank you. At this stage in my tonal refinement and personal gear development, I don’t get excited just because something sounds ‘different’. I know when a piece of gear works or not in about 20-60 seconds. Yep, that really is all it takes. Whether amps, pedals, plugins, strings, picks and certainly pickups of which I have many and a long history in. I know if a piece of gear CAN work, but is not ideal. I know if something can work in a different situation etc.. and I always know when a piece of gear is absolutely right on point. I have intentionally developed a hyper-sensitivity to my own tonal preferences as well as the ‘global’ balance in guitar related audio. I have to say that because I am not interested in ‘experimenting’ per se but rather landing on the specific tones in my head and hands, I can only express my deepest gratitude to Jason, Stephanie and all the insanely talented crew at Lollar guitars for providing such high-level pickups.
It is very apparent that this company is listening. Literally.
Big ears at Lollar guitars.
Sound clips soon! Cheers, RG