Was great to see this Brett Kingman demo using a Tele Cabronita with Mr Glyns The Tron pickups to demonstrate some really cool pedals the other day. He’s got dozens of guitars to choose from, so chuffed he chose my pickups.
TheTron pickup set is based around the legendary Gretsch pickups Of the 50’s and 60’s. To say TheTron has character is an understatement. TheTron is full and rounded with a well balanced mid range but with that distinctive ‘Clank’ that separates it from other pickups. The neck pickup is clear and fat and the bridge stands out from the mix without ever sounding harsh.
Over the years I’ve repaired a fair few old Gretsch pickups and noticed the best sounding ones are at the upper range for ohms. I’ve taken that design and tweaked it until I got the fullness I was looking for but without loosing clarity or clank.
Most of my pickups are made in collaboration with a professional player, but not TheTron. I started playing guitar at the age of 16 when I first heard Malcolm Young – a Filtertron through an almost clean valve amp. I didn’t feel I needed another set of ears for this one, I knew exactly what I wanted.
I needed this pickup set to be crystal clear with a clean amplifier but to come into its own when pushing an amp to clip. The neck pickup needed to be clear, full and chiming in both a big archtop and in the neck position of a Telecaster. The bridge pickup needed to have no shortage of character, a clean almost jangly tone when played gently but with enough go in it to push the front end of a valve amp to clip when you dig in.
TheTron is the perfect pickup as a Gretsch upgrade, for the modern player wanting something other than Gibson style humbuckers, rockabilly players after that traditional tone, jazz players or, like me, Malcolm Young fans. There’s so much you can to with The Tron.
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.
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.