“Black Sand” Humbucker sized P90

Single NZ$189 for NZ customers, if you’re overseas it’s GST free NZ$164.35

Pair NZ$369 for NZ customers, if you’re overseas they’re GST free NZ$320.87

Alnico V, Neck- 6.96 KOhms, Bridge 7.94 KOhms

The humbucker sized P90 is a great pickup – it sits tonally between a humbucker and and a strat type pickup. If your neck humbucker is a bit thick and woolly sounding for you, you want more clarity, or just want a different tone, then this one may be the answer. The physical size of this pickup is identical to that of a “normal” humbucker so it will pop straight in.

P90’s are different to other single coil pickups. They have a wide, flat coil similar to that of a Jazzmaster but the magnetic field is a very different shape. Fender single coil pickups have the coil wound around the magnet giving a focused, precise percussive sound. A P90 has 2 bar magnets underneath the coil; this broadens the magnetic window allowing the pickup to listen to a bit more string and thickens the sound. I chose Alnico V bar magnets for this model to help give some grit and power characteristic of a P90.

Of course, too much power and the pickup would sound too thick and bass heavy which is not its purpose. Too little power and it just won’t snarl.

Humbucker sized P90s are such a useful pickup. They sit tonally between a single coil and a humbucker (roughly speaking). and their physical size means they pop straight into any humbucker equipped guitar.


The development of my “Black Sand” pickup was a bit backwards. Usually I make a bridge pickup first and work from there but with this one the neck pickup came first. I had a customer ask for a neck pickup for an es335 to sound clearer than his existing Gibson humbucker. I sold a few neck pickups before thinking it would be a good idea to have a set. So I started work on the bridge pickup.


I wanted this bridge pickup to have clarity in the lower mids to stand out from humbuckers while having enough power to grit up nicely. I wanted it to be clean when tickled and to growl at you when you dig in. P90’s are all about dynamics. It had to match the existing neck pickup or work well as a stand alone in a HSS situation.


Of all the pickups in my range this one came together the quickest. There were only 4 or 5 prototypes and I was happy. Experience and intuition combined with a notebook where I’ve written down details of every experimental pickup I’ve made since 1995.

There were a load of prototypes in and out of a Les Paul, Tele Delux and PRS, through different amps and in the hands of different players. I never trust just my own ears with my pickups. I like to get opinions and suggestions from a few players before making any final decisions. I listen to what players say and I adjust prototypes accordingly, but at the end of the day the final decision is mine. I’m always aware of the phrase “a camel is a horse designed by committee”.

It took a while to get this one right. A pickup would sound great at workshop volume, them I’d play it in a band situation and it would be too boomy, too much like a humbucker. So I’d have a think and make another. In the end persistence paid off.

The pickups I finally settled on went into my Les Paul and off to a gig for the ultimate test, and that’s where they’re staying.

The neck “Black Sand” is a great match for either my “Blue Sky” or “Cloud Nine” bridge humbuckers or as a set with its equivalent “Black Sand” bridge humbucker sized P90.

I agonised over what to call this pickup set. I wanted a name that would reflect the apparent contradiction in P90’s. From the perspective of a humbucker player they are clear and chiming. From the viewpoint of a single coil player they are powerful and gritty. They’re one thing while looking like another. I wanted a oxymoron to reflect this contradiction, one that might include the unique magnetic structure that gives the P90 its character. So I went for a run along Muriwai beach to think. And there it was staring me in the face (literally). Muriwai has black volcanic sand due to its iron content and it’s magnetic. So I’ve called this set “Black Sand”.

I’m very happy with this pickup – hopefully you will be too.

Here are some sound samples recorded clean through a Fender Princeton Reverb-Amp. The overdrive sounds are using an Electroharmonix Soul Food. The guitar is a ’98 Les Paul Std with D’Addario 10-52’s. All of them with the same guitar, same amp, same settings, no reverb or eq added later.

Neck Pickup Clean
Bridge Pickup Clean
Middle Position Clean
Neck Pickup with Overdrive
Bridge Pickup with Overdrive
Middle Position with Overdrive

Single $189nz, Pair $369nz

“Black Sand” P90

Single NZ$189 for NZ customers, if you’re overseas it’s GST free; NZ$164.35

Pair NZ$369 for NZ customers, if you’re overseas they’re GST free; NZ$320.87

Alnico V, Neck- 6.96 KOhms, 4.46H, Bridge 7.94 KOhms, 5.42H

P90s are such a useful pickup. They sit tonally between a single coil and a humbucker (roughly speaking).

The development of my “Black Sand” pickup set was a bit backwards. Usually I make a bridge pickup first and work from there but with this one the neck pickup came first. I had a customer ask for a neck pickup for an es335 to sound clearer than his existing Gibson pickup. I sold a few neck pickups before thinking it would be a good idea to have a set. So I started work on the bridge pickup.

I wanted this bridge pickup to have clarity in the lower mids to stand out from humbuckers while having enough power to grit up nicely. I wanted it to be clean when tickled and to growl at you when you dig in. P90’s are all about dynamics. It had to match the existing neck pickup or work well as a stand alone.

Of all the pickups in my range this one came together the quickest. There were only 4 or 5 prototypes and I was happy. Experience and intuition combined with a notebook where I’ve written down details of every experimental pickup I’ve made since 1995.

I agonised over what to call this pickup set. I wanted a name that would reflect the apparent contradiction in P90’s. From the perspective of a humbucker player they are clear and chiming. From the viewpoint of a single coil player they are powerful and gritty. They’re one thing while looking like another. I wanted a oxymoron to reflect this contradiction, one that might include the unique magnetic structure that gives the P90 its character. Hmmm, tricky. So I went for a run along Muriwai beach to think. And there it was staring me in the face (literally). Muriwai has black volcanic sand due to its iron content and it’s magnetic. So I’ve called this set “Black Sand”.

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“Silver Lady”-vintage Telecaster

Single NZ$129 for NZ customers, if you’re overseas it’s GST free; NZ$112.17

Set NZ$249 for NZ customers, if you’re overseas it’s GST free; NZ$216.52

Alnico III, Bridge 5.9 KOhms, 3.18H, Neck 7.25 KOhms, 2.39H

Telecasters are brutally honest guitars. There’s no hiding behind fat mushy tones – if you can do it on a Tele then you really can do it.

I wanted to make a Telecaster set that would reflect the clear honest tone of an old Tele. It’s a delicate balance to get enough treble and for the top end to have sufficient warmth to be usable, but with no hint of woof or boom in the bottom. The bottom needs to be full and clear with no hint of muddiness. The bridge needs a twang but it has to be a warm twang without being over harsh. I’ve used Alnico III magnets with a vintage style wind on both these pickups

Through my repair work I’ve re-wound a lot of old Tele pickups. This is invaluable experience for designing my own version. I enlisted the help of a couple of experienced Telecaster players as test pilots. I really needed plenty of opinions and testing through a variety of amplifiers to get this one right.

I’m really happy with the warm classic tone of this set, clear and chiming with just the right twang. So I have given them a classic name – “Silver Lady”.

Here are some sound samples recorded clean through a Fender Princeton Reverb-Amp with a swamp ash body, maple neck Telecaster with D’Addario 10-52’s.The overdrive is an Elecroharmonix Soul Food pedal. All of them with the same guitar, same amp, same settings, no reverb or eq added later.

Silver Lady Neck Pickup Clean:

Silver Lady Neck Pickup Clean
Silver Lady Bridge Position Clean
Silver Lady Middle Position Clean
Silver Lady Neck Pickup with Overdrive
Silver Lady Bridge Pickup with Overdrive
Silver Lady Middle Position with Overdrive

“Cloud Nine”-hot humbucker

Single NZ$199 for NZ customers, if you’re overseas it’s GST free; NZ$173.04

Pair NZ$379 for NZ customers, if you’re overseas they’re GST free; NZ$329.57

Cover NZ$20 ($17.39) extra each pickup

AlnicoV – Bridge 13.48 KOhms, 10.49H, Neck 7.9 KOhms 5.69H

I am at heart a man of ROCK.

Since the advent of the DiMarzio Super Distortion players have been able to get some power out of their pickups, enough to really push an amp.

The neck pickup needed to be clear and present but with enough power for some of those sweet lead lines. I wanted the bridge pickup to have power to scream with the best of them while retaining enough clarity to have definition. When I play a 7th chord I want to hear it as a 7th and not sound mushy like a John Deere tractor at full throttle. It’s a real danger with hot pickups that they lose character and tone. I needed a crunchy rhythm with strong mids and an over the top lead sound. I want to get squawking pinched harmonics whenever I please. Not only that but I need it it to clean up nicely and react well to a treble bleed circuit. A humbucker for every situation, for players not afraid of a bit of gain.

Not much to ask, eh!

I got through a lot of wire and magnets experimenting over the years to get this set right. I suppose I worked on it for about 5 years, different magnets, winds, wire thickness, insulation, winds per layer – there are a lot of factors. Whenever I felt I was close I used them at a gig to hear how they sat in the band. Pickups can sound quite different next to a drummer or in a mix. I tweaked and adjusted…

Eventually I was happy with the design and I was lucky enough to have legendary Kiwi band ‘Head Like A Hole’ help out with road testing. I knew if they came back from tour happy then I was on to a winner. They did.

When you get it right it feels so good, a sensitive pickup rich in harmonics is so much fun so I called it the “Cloud Nine” which how I felt at the end of it all.

This is the pickup set I gig with myself in my covers band now. I have them in an Epiphone Sheraton with treble bleeds on the volume pots. With this set up it works for everything from The Smiths to Metallica and all points in between. I don’t feel the need to swap guitar – these pickups work for everything.

Here are some sound samples recorded clean through a Fender Princeton Reverb-Amp. The overdrive sounds are using an Electroharmonix Soul Food. The guitar is a ’98 Les Paul Std with D’Addario 10-52’s. All of them with the same guitar, same amp, same settings, no reverb or eq added later.

Neck Pickup Clean
Bridge Pickup Clean
Middle Position Clean
Neck Pickup with Overdrive
Bridge Pickup with Overdrive
Middle Position with Overdrive

Here’s a Cloud Nine bridge pickup in HSS configuration with a pair of a Tui.

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“Bellbird”- vintage Strat set

Single NZ$129 for NZ customers, if you’re overseas it’s GST free; NZ$112.17

Set NZ$339 for NZ customers, if you’re overseas they’re GST free; NZ$294.78

AlnicoV – Neck 5.68 KOhms, 2.36H, Middle 5.68 KOhms, 2.36H, Bridge 6.05 KOhms, 2.71H

The Stratocaster has been around since 1954 and the legend continues. Reading the internet (!?) tells me there have been good and bad years or decades, guitars to avoid and ones worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’ve been repairing guitars since 1995 so I’ve played a lot of old Strats and analysed a lot of old pickups. Vintage pickups aren’t all great but the good ones are fantastic.

I’ve based my Vintage Strat set on the best of the old pickups I’ve had the pleasure of playing through . So I use AWG42 heavy formvar insulated wire – there’s something about the thickness of that insulation that just works with an old Strat pickup.

I’ve aimed for that old quacking chime that makes Strats wonderfully percussive but with a singing quality that’s so musical. Warm and clear with beautiful almost reverb-like clean tones – that’s what I want out of an old Strat. The neck needs to be fat, round and clear, the middle pickup needs to quack and the bridge a cut through twang without thinness. The all important ‘in between’ sounds in positions 2 and 4 must be balanced and characterful. Nothing says Strat more than these sounds.

The Bellbird set has been designed mainly for clean tones but they’re certainly not afraid to perform with a bit of gain. As part of a HSS set they’re great with one of my ‘Blue Sky’ humbuckers in the bridge position.

I agonised for months over names for my Strat pickup sets then during a camping trip to Tauwharanui Regional Park I heard my first Bellbird and realised that was the sound I had been looking for when I was designing this set. The comparison in tone between the Bellbird and the more common Tui seemed exactly what I had in my head when designing my Strat pickups. Bellbirds don’t just go tweet, there’s a depth and warmth in the tone. It’s so hard to describe sound and the difference between pickups but I think the difference between the Bellbird and the Tui sum up the difference between my vintage and hot Strat pickups. So I called them the Bellbird and the Tui.

These sound samples should show you what I mean:

Bellbird:

Tui:

Here are some sound samples recorded clean through a Fender Princeton Reverb-Amp. The overdrive sounds are using an Electroharmonix Soul Food. The guitar is an Alder body Strat with rosewood fretboard strung with D’Addario 10-52’s. All of them with the same guitar, same amp, same settings, no reverb or eq added later.

Bellbird Neck Pickup Clean
Bellbird Neck and Middle Pickups Clean
Bellbird Middle Pickup Clean
Bellbird Middle and Bridge Pickups Clean
Bellbird Bridge Pickup Clean

Bellbird Neck Pickup with Overdrive
Bellbird Neck and Middle with Overdrive
Bellbird Middle with Overdrive
Bellbird Middle an Bride Pickups with Overdrive
Bellbird Bridge Pickup with Overdrive

Here’s a Bellbird neck pickup along side a Blue Sky humbucker.

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“Tui”- hot Strat set

Single NZ$129 for NZ customers, if you’re overseas it’s GST free; $112.17

Set NZ$339 for NZ customers, if you’re overseas they’re GST free; $294.78

AlnicoV – Neck 6.73KOhms, 3.22H, Middle 6.73 KOhms, 3.22H, Bridge 7.12 KOhms, 3.51H.

I’ve wound a lot of Strat pickups since I started in 1995. I started off re-winding cheap pickups and then moved on to repairing old dead Fender pickups. Every experiment was written down in a notebook with tone comments. Back when I started there wasn’t much information available so there was a lot of reverse engineering and a lot of trying things out. That learning time was invaluable to developing instinct for how to change the sound of a pickup. I’ve still got the note book and I’m still adding to it.

In, I think, 2014 a customer of mine approached me wanting a set of Strat pickups. He’s a great blues player and had recently moved from using a Les Paul to a Strat. He described the sound he was after and it seemed to me it was the same as I’d been after myself so I put some time in to designing a pickup set for him.

It needed to be most definitely a Strat sound – I hear plenty of Strat replacement pickups that are fine but just not Strat-ish. Secondly I wanted a bit more power, just a bit, enough to make a good old valve amp clip a bit easier than a “vintage” pickup would. And there needed to be dynamics – tickle it and it’s clean, dig in and it grits up. As I was making the original version of this set for a player used to humbuckers I wanted to reduce the ”ping” of the attack. I’ve added steel base plated as standard to this set. This changes the shape of the magnetic field, broadening the harmonic window. They add a wee bit of power, a wee bit of bass and reduce that pesky ping.

The neck pickup needed to have “that” Strat sound with fullness and clarity. It’s the ‘go to’ sound for most Strat players. The middle pickup needed to have some ‘quack’ to it with its own distinctive personality. The bridge pickup shouldn’t be too thin, it needs to have plenty of highs but not too much of that ‘ping’ or it’s almost useless. Then there are the other sounds – positions 2 and 4, mistakenly referred to as ‘out of phase’. They are really just 2 pickups in parallel. It’s hard to predict what those sounds will be, there was a lot of experimenting.

So I consulted my old note book and wound a lot of pickups and fitted them in a few test Strats. I’ve been lucky enough to have some great players as repair customers and so I was able to get quite a few opinions.

Eventually I was happy and I fitted a set for my ex Les Paul customer and he loved them straight away. A few months later he contacted me to say he was still loving them. I love it when players do that.

I’ve fitted resulting sets into a lot of instruments and it turns out that not only blues players like them, they seem to work for everyone. I shouldn’t be surprised, the Stratocaster is such a versatile guitar, of course they do.

Further experiments have shown they balance really well as part of a HSS set with either my Blue Sky or Cloud Nine humbuckers in the bridge position.

I’m lucky enough to hear a lot of bird song around my home. One day it occurred to me that the difference between the ”vintage ” Strat pickup I make and this pickup is like the difference in song between the Bellbird and the Tui. This hot set is the Tui; beautiful and clear but also just a tad dirty sounding. Versatile and aggressive, capable of performing well in just about any genre. So that’s how the names came about. If you’re not familiar with NZ birdsong have a listen to the links below, I hope you’ll agree.

Here’s a Tui:

And a Bellbird:

Here are some sound samples recorded clean through a Fender Princeton Reverb-Amp. The overdrive sounds are using an Electroharmonix Soul Food. The guitar is an Alder body Strat with rosewood fretboard strung with D’Addario 10-52’s. All of them with the same guitar, same amp, same settings, no reverb or eq added later.

Tui Neck Pickup Clean
Tui Neck and Middle Pickups Clean
Tui Middle Pickup Clean
Tui Middle and Bridge Pickups Clean
Tui Bridge Pickup Clean
Tui Neck Pickup with Overdrive
Tui Neck and Middle Pickups with Overdrive
Tui Middle Pickup with Overdrive
Tui Middle and Bridge Pickups with Overdrive
Tui Bridge Pickup with Overdrive
Tui Pickup Demo

Here’s some more Tui goodness, this time in a HSS configuration with a Cloud Nine humbucker.

Tui in HSS with a Blue Sky humbucker

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“Blue Sky”-vintage humbucker

Single NZ$199 for NZ customers, if you’re overseas it’s GST free; NZ$173.04

Pair NZ$379 for NZ customers, if you’re overseas they’re GST free; NZ$329.57

Cover NZ$20 ($17.39) extra each pickup

Alnico II – Bridge 8.02 KOhms, 6.43H. Neck 7.41 KOhms, 5.57H

Every pickup manufacturer makes a “Vintage” humbucker based on the Gibson PAF, of course they do – old Gibsons sound so good.

So how come they all sound so different? Well, the simple answer is that PAF’s were all different. I’ve been a full time luthier since 1995, whenever I come across an old humbucker I test the ohms and the gause and have a good listen. They’re all different. My conclusion is that pickup manufacturers have taken the PAF they like and based their own version on that. Old PAF’s vary so much so modern ones do as well.

I like my own version to be clear sounding, have obvious string separation and definition and to keep clarity no matter how much gain. The mids must be strong and woody, this is not a “scooped” pickup. The clean sound needs to be chimey and clear with no mush; through a valve amp I want clarity. When I tickle it I want clean and vocal sounding when it clips. The bridge pickup needs to be well behaved with high gain and clear with enough cut through so the drummer knows you’re there. The neck smooth, clear and articulate. Warm but with none of the boom you get with a more powerful pickup.

I don’t want much do I.

My “Vintage” Humbucker has an Alnico II magnet and I’ve used plain enamel insulated magnet wire with asymmetric coils to open up the mids. The very first pickup I ever made back in 1995 was a PAF style and I’ve been tweaking the recipe ever since. Like all my pickups I’ve used a number of test pilot players in its development as well as gigging it myself. It wasn’t until around 2015 that I settled on this particular design. I did a gig with a set in a PRS SE series only last weekend – sounded great to me.

The open clarity of this pickup reminded me of the quote – “there is only one perfect view, that of the sky over our heads” accredited to Dante – so I called this pickup set the “Blue Sky”. The name seems to suit it.

Here are some sound samples recorded clean through a Fender Princeton Reverb-Amp. The overdrive sounds are using an Electroharmonix Soul Food. The guitar is a ’98 Les Paul Std with D’Addario 10-52’s. All of them with the same guitar, same amp, same settings, no reverb or eq added later.

Neck Pickup Clean
Bridge Pickup Clean
Middle Position Clean
Neck Pickup with Overdrive
Bridge Pickup with Overdrive
Middle Position with Overdrive

Here’s a Blue Sky bridge along side a Bellbird neck pickup.

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“Cruel Mistress” -hot Tele set

Single NZ$129 for NZ customers. If you’re overseas it’s GST free; $NZ112.17

Pair NZ$249 for NZ customers. If you’re overseas they’re GST free; $NZ216.52

AlnicoV – Bridge 10.05 KOhms, 4.96H. Neck 7.25 KOhms, 2.48H

There is nothing like the high end snarl of a good Telecaster bridge pickup. It’s a sound that needs to be just right – too much treble and it can sound grating and obnoxious, too little and it just isn’t a Tele. The treble needs warmth while still cutting through a mix like a zombie banjo.

I wanted to make a pickup with a bit more power to drive an amp harder while keeping the Telecaster character. My biggest concern was not losing what a Tele is all about. In my repair work I come across quite a few replacement Tele pickups that just don’t sound like Teles. The bridge needs grit and the neck a chimey clarity; together they should be full and open and matched well enough to create almost a reverb sound with the switch in the middle position.

This pickup uses AlnicoV magnets to help with the attack and AWG43 wire to help with the snarl.

The neck pickup on a Telecaster needs to be smooth and warm and have a great balance with the bridge pickup to ensure that middle position rings with an almost reverb-like tone. The difficulty with Telecaster neck pickups is there just isn’t much space under that cover. I’ve wound this one to just enough bottom end to avoid boominess but still match the bridge.

I had help from the ears of a couple of my regular customers who were generous enough to let me load their guitars with prototypes. The whole process takes time; after many road tests and listening to opinions I fix on a design. Each of my designs have been developed over many years of subtle changes and road tests. Having help like this means my pickups are trialed through many different amps and playing styles. The neck/bridge balance as well as dynamics/compression need to be tested in as many situations as possible to find a pickup that will work for most players.

If you need some grit and aggression from your Tele this is the set for you.

Here are some sound samples recorded clean through a Fender Princeton Reverb-Amp with a swamp ash body, maple neck Telecaster with D’Addario 10-52’s.The overdrive is an Elecroharmonix Soul Food pedal. All of them with the same guitar, same amp, same settings, no reverb or eq added later.

Cruel Mistress Neck Clean
Cruel Mistress Bridge Clean
Cruel Mistress Middle Position Clean
Cruel Mistress Neck Pickup with Overdrive
Cruel Mistress Bridge Pickup with Overdrive
Cruel Mistress Middle Position with Overdrive
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