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Integrity humbucker in a HSS Strat

Roboguy. Humbucker

Had some fun today making a short stop-motion movie of Roboguy to demonstrate an Integrity humbucker in a HSS Strat.

The ‘real’ guitar is being played by Warren Mendonsa aka Blackstratblues.

Of course, any of my humbuckers will work as part of a HSS Strat set but I think the Integrity matches single coil pickups best.

For more demos of this pickup have a look here:

Inspired by the early Gibson PAF pickups the Integrity-vintage humbucker give the classic full, balanced tone we all love. Asymmetric coils give an open sounding mid range and the Alnico II magnet gives clarity and balance. A rich bottom end, characterful mids and sweet treble make this a pickup set for every situation – Jazz, Blues, Rock, it does it all.

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 “Integrity”-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 full and honest sound of the Integrity-vintage humbucker along with it’s timeless tone inspired the name “Integrity”.

humbucker in a HSS Strat

Integrity humbucker in a HSS Strat

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“Black Sand” humbucker size P90

Humbucker side P90 by Mr Glyns Pickups

A big thanks to Brett Kingman in Aussie for his demo of Mr Glyns “Black Sand” humbucker size P90. I love his relaxed approach while giving us a thorough listen to what these pickups can do.

Mr Glyns Pickups

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 “Integrity” 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.

Humbucker size P90 by Mr Glyns Pickups
Mr Glyns Pickups humbucker size P90
Mr Glyns Pickups
Mr Glyns Pickups

humbucker size P90