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Author: Subject: Best Duane pickups?

Peach Pit

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  posted on 9/20/2018 at 07:26 PM
I am trying to find the best set of Duane Allman pickups. As I was doing my research, I have found a few sets "claiming" to have Duane's pickups to be spot on. Tell me what you think.

1. OX4's Hot Duane -
Retail Price: $299

Inspired from Duane Allman and his killer tone at the Fillmore, this set is a hotter wind than normal. The neck is over wound giving a smooth and thick note compression. I wind the neck 1st and match the bridge so its nice and balanced. The magnets are alnico 5.

These pickups are uncovered blacks and available new or aged.

2. Jim Wagner's Darkburst Set -
Retail Price: $310

These pickups were wound to the specs of Duane's"DarkBurst" (hence the name), his last axe. Although the name suggests they are a "dark" pickup set, that is a false impression. It is only the name derived from the axe itself. They are a slightly over-wound version of the CrossroadsSet, and tonally have a sound like Duane from "Eat a Peach," Free, Bloomfield's "Super Sessions," EVH's brown-sound, etc.
Comes with:
- Standard 49.2 mm bobbins
- Nickel slugs & screws
- Alnico 5 Magnets

3. Jim Wagner's Fillmore Set -
Retail Price: $320

New custom built matched sets of humbuckers, hand-wound to exactly replicate the tones used in the Fillmore recordings by Duane Allman and others. The Fillmore Set not only does "Duane" perfectly, but are absolutely the very best for 70's style hard rock like Montrose, Schenker, ZZ, BadCo, etc. They do not sound like a harsh super-distortion pickup set as the numbers would lead you to believe. Listen to the clips! MONSTER TONE for slide as well. All Wagner pickups clean up VERY well, retain highs when turned down, with NO MUSH
Comes with:
- Standard 49.2 mm bobbins
- Nickel slugs and screws
- Alnico 5 magnets

4. Wizz's Darkburst (Hot 'Lanta) -
Retail Price: $425

Duane bought his second burst, a Gibson Les Paul Standard Dark Burst, from Kurt Linhof in June of 1971 on the closing day of the Fillmore East. Although Duane never personally referred to this guitar as Hot 'Lanta, that is the nickname it picked up along the way. The headstock of Hot 'Lanta was broken off and replaced before Kurt got it so no one really knows if it was a '59 or a '60. He also reversed the bridge and neck pickups (8.7kΩ and 8.3kΩ before selling it to Duane as they left the Gibson factory with the 8.7kΩ in the neck. These pickups rank among some of the hottest PAFs we have come across, giving them some built-in nastiness... along with a fair amount of gain.

By 1959 Gibson had stopped using AlNiCo 3 magnets in humbuckers, the pickups being chosen entirely at random from a box of A2, A4 and A5 magnets. P.A.F.s manufactured in 1959 could have been any of these (or even a combination). Pickup historians, at least those studying Duane’s pickups, tend to believe the magnets in Hot ‘Lanta were A5, and we tend to agree, based on their brightness and clarity. So that is exactly what we chose to pair with the 8.7kΩ and 8.3kΩ DC Resistances for this set of clones.

While Duane did not have much of a chance to show off this guitar before his untimely passing in October of 1971 quite a few recordings are floating around in which he played it. Our favorites are: Boston Common on 08/17/71, A & R Studios on 26th August 1971 and S.U.N.Y. At Stonybrook on 09/19/71. Having a listen to any or all of these will clearly reveal the power and heat Duane loved so much about this guitar (and its P.A.F.s).

As with the Layla/Fillmore Set, the ear is the most useful tool in reproducing such a signature sound and we believe we have replicated Hot ‘Lanta to perfection. When that signature is applied to the articulation, responsiveness, sustain, bloom, decay and chiminess of the Wizz Premium Clone PAF Pickup Set you will find a set of pickups that you will never want to part with.

5. Wizz's Cherry Burst (Layla/Fillmore) -
Retail Price: $425

The 'Fillmore Set' is the set of PAF Pickups currently residing in Duane Allman's 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard Cherry Burst, although it is essentially a tale of two guitars as the history of those pickups goes back a little farther than the Cherry Burst.

Serial Number 7 3312 belonged to the 1957 Gibson Goldtop Duane played before getting his Burst, and is perhaps most notable for its presence, along with Eric Clapton, on the legendary Layla Sessions. Duane purchased this Goldtop from Lipham Music in Gainsville, Florida in the late ‘60s.

Duane acquired his Cherry Burst in September of 1970 in a trade with Rick Stine (Stone Balloon’s guitarist) for his 1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop, a 50 Watt Marshall head, and $200 cash. Duane purchased the Cherry Burst under the condition that Duane got to keep the PAF pickups from the Goldtop so that he could install them in the Cherry Burst.

PAF Pickups from 1957 were normally lower output than those installed in 1959, yielding greater clarity and articulation. As was usual for 1957, these pickups had fatter wire, double black bobbins and were both wound with a DCR of approximately 7.0kΩ. In 2013 the Gibson Custom Shop had this guitar in house for replication and the resistance decided on for the #3 Custom Buckers in the Gibson Les Paul ’59 Duane Allman Signature Cherry Sunburst pickups was 6.97kΩ in the neck and 7.04kΩ in the bridge. Those are the measurements Wizz provides in the Fillmore Cherry Burst Set in an attempt to get as close as possible to the amazing tones heard on the immortal 'At Fillmore East'.

The Fillmore Cherryburst Set features double black bobbins and comes with the covers on. I've never seen a picture of Duane playing either his Cherry Burst or his Dark Burst with the covers off. While it can be rather subjective I find that keeping the covers on tends to make the highs a bit rounder and eliminates unnecessary interference... which can have a subtle effect on tone.
Conversely, Duane tended to keep the covers off when the same pickups were installed in his '57 Goldtop. This shows how the same set of pickups can respond differently to different guitars (either that or he just like the way it looked).

While AlNiCo 3 Magnets were the magnet of choice in legendary P90 pickups, they were being phased out when the humbucker came along. So while there were some humbuckers made with A3 mags in 1957, these are rather rare. Regardless, today's magnets are manufactured differently than they were in the 50s, and specs changed from factory to factory and even from run to run, so there truly is no apples to apples comparison. The only tool qualified to determine which set of magnets resided in a particular set of pickups is a qualified set of ears. Even dismantling a set of pickups will not yield the results you need as there is a very good chance the magnet specs drifted and are not the same as they were 40 or 50 years ago.
Another aspect to consider is that the sound on 'At Fillmore East' is different depending on how it is listened to and that the engineered sound on the album/CD is no doubt quite different than that heard by the audience. So in duplicating such a set of pickups you have to determine exactly which Duane Allman Cherry Burst sound you are duplicating. The only way to accurately do so is to be familiar enough with enough of the variations to be able to determine a baseline that can provide a suitable foundation... and that is precisely what has been accomplished with the Wizz Fillmore Cherryburst Set.


Peach Master

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  posted on 9/20/2018 at 09:39 PM
Wow, that’s some homework brother. I’m using stock Epiphone cheap pups so nowhere near being able to answer but I’m interested in hearing more as you choose.


hope for the best


Peach Head

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  posted on 9/20/2018 at 11:30 PM
Hey brother, I get your obsession! And I just want to encourage you with a couple of general thoughts:

1) Duane's pickups are well agreed to be hotter-than-average for PAF's. That helps with that lower mid "push" you hear. But his amp definitely enhanced that too. It's also agreed that the extra winds impart more sustain. That helps the guitar to sound a bit more "alive" when you play at higher volumes because it's more prone to trying to feed back.

So any PAF-types that achieve some of that will help. Particularly in the neck position. I myself am not looking for a real hot/thick pickup there. Neither are most players, but that's what Duane used. If you want some of those Fillmore sounds (like on Whipping Post) out of your neck pickup, you may actually try using a hotter bridge pickup in that spot. If you've already got one laying around, what have you got to lose?

2) I already mentioned Duane's amp setup. You probably won't be replicating that, I suspect. And, if you did, you'd have to play some large venues! An amp like that won't sound right unless it's pretty well wound up. So, at that point, you're stuck.....but in a good way. Which leads to :

3) The Quest. It's ultimately going to be up to your ears. Trying guitars, trying pickups, trying amps and speakers, etc. And trying to figure out what isn't as right as you want it to be. Trying to figure out what you need to change. Along the way you'll learn stuff. And, hopefully, you'll enjoy the journey. A year from now you'll have something much closer to THE sound than the sound you got early on, when you thought you had nailed it!

Have fun -- and good luck to you. And let us know how it's going. Some of us are curious about this quest too!


"I like what I'm listening to right now!"


Peach Pro

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  posted on 9/21/2018 at 02:06 PM
OK... Here is my humble opinion.

The pickup sets you listed run, like, $300 to over $400. No pickup set is worth that much money. Absolutely not. Do research into less expensive pickups that are similar and use your amp and whatever pedals you have to get the sound you are looking for. Remember, Duane used a fuzz pedal that he liked to put a half dead battery in because it gave the guitar a warmer sound.

Seriously. These company's are charging hundreds of dollars for features that cost them pennies. But they
call them Duane pickups and charge $400. And what happens when you spend so much money and find that you don't get the tone you thought you were getting.

Trust me on this. You can get a great Duane tone without getting ripped off on these pickups.


Peach Bud

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  posted on 9/23/2018 at 04:40 PM
I've had the Jim Wagner's Fillmore Set since 2003 - been very happy with them. To me they come reasonably close to that 'sonic neighborhood'.

Peach Bud

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  posted on 9/27/2018 at 10:52 PM
Hey Cade,
Willie here. Honestly man I mostly agree with PaulW and think a lot of that stuff is marketing voodoo. Here's a video of me playing Statesboro with my band Skydog through an early 2000's SG with bone stock pickups.
I think the pickups are 57 Classics and not a single solder joint has ever been touched on that guitar. To be fair, someday I'd like to upgrade the wiring and pickups to something with a little more articulation. But for now, I feel like I'm in the ballpark. Also to be fair, I have the luxury of playing a vintage Marshall in larger venues and festivals where I can dime it. And I think that has a LOT to do with Duane's sound. [NOTE* smaller venues don't necessarily hamper me though. The other guitar player and I have custom studio baffles that we place in front of the cabs to keep the FOH levels reasonable. We still crank those things pretty good, even in 200-300 capacity rooms.] Someday I'd like to find some original Cerwin-Vega speakers and open up the back of the cab like Duane did, so I can get a little further down the rabbit hole. But I don't have the money or time for that right now. Just remember that Duane still sounded like Duane even when he was playing a Strat through a Twin! I used to practice those licks on an acoustic until I had his sound down pretty solid. If you can make an acoustic sound like Duane, I promise you're gonna be happy with your electric sound. If I were you I'd save my money and get a good old Marshall instead. ; ) Good luck on your tone quest. To quote Charlie Daniels, "it's a long road and a little wheel!"


Peach Pro

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  posted on 10/10/2018 at 09:32 AM
You might want to add Duanebuckers by Zhangbucker to your list. I have a pair of handwound Duanebuckers in my 57 RI and they sound great, very Duane-ish. I've had WCR's, Throbaks, and the originals that came in the guitar, and none touch the Duanebuckers. It's hard to describe, but they are warm and clear at the same time.

Here's quick and dirty clip I did a few years ago:

Regarding Duane and his gear - Of course, the biggest part of Duane's tone was Duane himself and his amazing talent and sensibilities. He had chops to burn and was a player's player. But, he was also very tuned into his gear and how to get the tone he wanted out of it. When he got the Cherry Burst - he took had the pups taken from the 57 Goldtop. How many guys were swapping out pups back in 1970? How many would have thought to take the Celestions out of a Marshall cab and pop JBLs and later CV's in there? And he was playing vintage Les Pauls. His tone changed quite a bit from the Muscle Shoals days of playing Strats and Teles through a Twin to playing Gibson's through Marshalls.

I do agree you don't necessarily have to spend big bucks, you just have to let your ears be your guide - but some high end stuff is worth the $$$, IMO, and some isn't. The set up in that clip is probably about 5k all together - 57 LP RI with upgrades to tuners, bridge, tailpiece, wiring and pups; Fargen plexi clone with NOS pre-amp tubes, and 2-12 open back cab with one CV ER123 and one Scumback Celestion clone. Was it worth it? I can think of worse things to do with my money. Lol.

[Edited on 10/10/2018 by philipag]

[Edited on 10/10/2018 by philipag]


"Elmore James was a pretty good slide player - but he never did get to hear me play!" - Duane


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