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So I finally got a G&L tele that feels like the one I should have never let get away, but it just... I think the pickups suck.  My favorite one I ever owned I remember having put some Rio Grande's in almost as soon as I got it.  

Of all the other G&Ls I've owned, some have felt better than others, and the large MFDs sound better I think than the regulars.  That being said, I'm starting to really think their pickups just blow, and I don't mean too "hifi."  I mean just tone-suckingly blow. 

For once in my life, rather than flipping a guitar, I'm actually going to try putting different pups in this one, probably a Rio Grande Muy Grande and a Fat Bastard in this case.  

I'm just curious if anyone else here really like them.  I kinda wish, now having owned a few, that I had tried swapping out the pups on my old Legacy I had before selling it.  It was a graduation gift that just never quite sounded right, which I initially blamed on the fret work.  I'm starting to wonder though if it wasn't the stock pups, but that guitar is long gone now anyway. 

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I've got one Legacy with the regular Alnico Pickups, and I haven't noticed any real issues with the sound. I don't really have any other guitars to really compare it with though, with the same SSS setup and Alnico pickups.

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I've had a bunch of ASATs over the years and found that of all the pups I have played, these more than any need to be dialed in via the knobs.  Knock the volume and tone down just a little bit and you can get a traditional tele sound out of them.  For folks who always fun things wide open, its a common complaint that the MFDs are too hot.

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1 hour ago, G Man said:

I've had a bunch of ASATs over the years and found that of all the pups I have played, these more than any need to be dialed in via the knobs.  Knock the volume and tone down just a little bit and you can get a traditional tele sound out of them.  For folks who always fun things wide open, its a common complaint that the MFDs are too hot.

I was definitely advised that even for the Alnico pickups, to get the "traditional" strat sound I should roll off the bass a bit using the Passive Treble Bass control.  I had an SB-2 bass for a while, and holy heck those MFD pickups were HOT.

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12 hours ago, LucSulla said:

I'm just curious if anyone else here really like them.

I love the MFD pickups. I have 4 G&L's each with some version of the MFD pickup. To me, they have that sparkly Fender tone with a little more huevos. 

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I did recording back in '94 with an ASAT Special equipped with MFD soapbars. They were, admittedly, somewhat hot, but they sounded really nice. Just a bit milder than a good set of P-90s. The build quality of that guitar, FWIW, was superior to anything shipping out of Corona that I could pull off the rack at a guitar store during that time.  That was the era and experience that sold me on the superiority of G&L or EBMM over Fender and likewise, Hamer over Gibson.

Edited by Biz Prof
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My issue isn't that they are too hot.  I just feel like they're bland.  For instance, their in-house humbucker they use in the bluesboy seems a real step down from the Seth Lovers they were using.  

Sure, it could be the empress wood body, but sonically, it seems to be the same issue I had with the Legacy, which was swamp ash.   Plus, without kicking a total hornets nest, I'm probably right down the middle of the whole tone wood argument.  

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Went the easy (and cheaper) route and got a Jerry Donahue pup for the bridge and a Phat Cat rwrp for the neck.  Buying direct for Rio Grande is expensive when you can get their pups cheaper new from other music shops, but I didn't feel like tracking down wind directions and so on.  Figured I'd just get it all from SD. 

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I will admit to being far too lazy in most cases to ever change pickups, mainly because with so many options, choosing becomes nearly impossible.

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Yes, I agree that the MFD pickups are too hot.  Personally, I am in love with Lace pickups.  They were all the rage in the 1990s, because they give single coil sound with (almost) no hum, but then most people fell off the bandwagon, for a reason I never agreed with.  The argument was that the Lace sensors were sterile, but all they are missing, in my opinion, is 60 Hz cycle hum.  I'm still firmly on the bandwagon!  I never left.  Lace golds are great!  I also love light blue sensors.  Dually pickups can be split, and each side gives true single coil tone.

Edited by HamerCustomEr
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3 hours ago, HamerCustomEr said:

Yes, I agree that the MFD pickups are too hot.  Personally, I am in love with Lace pickups.  They were all the rage in the 1990s, because they give single coil sound with (almost no hum), but then most people fell off the bandwagon, for a reason I never agreed with.  The argument was that the Lace sensors were sterile, but all they are missing, in my opinion, is 60 Hz cycle hum.  I'm still firmly on the bandwagon!  I never left.  Lace golds are great!  I also love light blue sensors.  Dually pickups can be split, and each side gives true single coil tone.

They are really nice pickups. I think most of the "bandwagon" had to do with Fender having them as the stock pickups in some of their strats. Once the relationship ended, so did people's interest in them. A shame really, as Fender's own noiseless offerings are less than stellar.

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G&L pickups are great ... if you only play G&L guitars. When all I gigged with was an ASAT Special and a Legacy, I had no problems getting nice tones. It's when you start A/B'ing them with other single coils (other guitars in general, actually) that you find their stock pickups are BRIGHT and somewhat anemic compared to other stuff out there. 

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4 hours ago, Jeff R said:

G&L pickups are great ... if you only play G&L guitars. When all I gigged with was an ASAT Special and a Legacy, I had no problems getting nice tones. It's when you start A/B'ing them with other single coils (other guitars in general, actually) that you find their stock pickups are BRIGHT and somewhat anemic compared to other stuff out there. 

And I do gig with other guitars.  I did find myself thinking the other night, "ummm... where did that note go?"   The brightness isn't a problem, but losing sustain is.  

I've owned three G&Ls with singles now, one with stock pups, one with after markets, and now another stock.  The first guitar I had for 20 years and never found correct.  The second guitar is my one of a handful I wish I'd never sold.  This guitar feels the same as the second but currently suffers from the tone of the first.  So I suppose this is an anecdotal experiment at this point to see if better pups bring it inline with Guitar B or not. 

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4 hours ago, Jeff R said:

G&L pickups are great ... if you only play G&L guitars. When all I gigged with was an ASAT Special and a Legacy, I had no problems getting nice tones. It's when you start A/B'ing them with other single coils (other guitars in general, actually) that you find their stock pickups are BRIGHT and somewhat anemic compared to other stuff out there. 

Sobering perspective, Jeff. Pretty much describes how I feel about Lace Sensors. To wit...

 

16 hours ago, HamerCustomEr said:

Personally, I am in love with Lace pickups.  They were all the rage in the 1990s, because they give single coil sound with (almost) no hum, but then most people fell off the bandwagon, for a reason I never agreed with.  The argument was that the Lace sensors were sterile, but all they are missing, in my opinion, is 60 Hz cycle hum.  I'm still firmly on the bandwagon!  I never left.  Lace golds are great!  I also love light blue sensors.  Dually pickups can be split, and each side gives true single coil tone.

Lace Sensors, to me, were the absolute best sounding noiseless single coil-sized "pickups" on the market in the early '90s. I gigged a red/silver/blue set of Lace Sensors in a Floyd-equipped Strat for more than a year before replacing them with a set of Bill Lawrence twin blades. The Lace units worked well with my rig and were dead quiet, but their inherent EQ and output was so radically different from my other guitars that switching axes during at gig was damn near impossible. Yes, I experimented with the heights of the Lace units, but they still didn't balance effectively with my other guitars and my band's set demanded a couple of mid-set guitar changes.  In the end, the twin blades experiment worked, as I could trade off between my Strat and Special and not have to do a wholesale EQ adjustment.  Those Lace Sensors and Bill Lawrence pickups are gone now, having been sold to HFC members. 

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Posted (edited)

Got the Donahue and the Phat Cat in and like the sound a whole lot more.  Guitar sounds hotter and rounder but now with a lot more twang when you want it.  

I'm also not impressed by the empress would body.  Sounds fine, and the weight is awesome.  However, I stripped the control panel screws and had to throw some match stick ends to get the screws to stay in.  I grew up working on cars and have never been one to over tighten screws that don't have an important reason to be torqued down.  I'm really surprised by how easily the body did that. 

Edited by LucSulla
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49 minutes ago, LucSulla said:

Got the Donahue and the Phat Cat in and like the sound a whole lot more.  Guitar sounds hotter and rounder but now with a lot more twang when you want it.  

I'm also not impressed by the empress would body.  Sounds fine, and the weight is awesome.  However, I stripped the control panel screws and had to throw some match stick ends to get the screws to stay in.  I grew up working on cars and have never been one to over tighten screws that have an important reason to be torqued down.  I'm really surprised by how easily the body did that. 

Glad to hear about the positive results on the pickup swaps, but I hate to hear about your experience with that wood, it's also the main reason why I never jumped on that particular 'booteek' bandwagon when it became the wood flavor-of-the-month a few years ago.  "Empress" wood (aka Paulownia) is softer than Basswood, with a Janka hardness rating of 300 vs. 410 for Basswood, according to The Wood Database.  From the comments section on Paulownia:

"Comments: The other Balsa. Paulownia is used in applications where a lightweight (yet proportionately strong) wood is needed. It’s widely used in Japan for construction of the koto (a stringed musical instrument), as well as other household items, where the wood is referred to as Kiri. Paulownia is one of the fastest growing trees in the world, capable of growth rates of well over seven feet per year as a seedling! But while it’s highly appreciated and cultivated in Asia, Paulownia has come to be considered an invasive species in the United States.

Paulownia was named after Queen Anna Pavlovna of Russia (1795-1865), and is sometimes called Royal Paulownia or Princess Tree."

https://www.wood-database.com/paulownia/

Edited by crunchee
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I researched it a bit before buying it.  I wasn't looking for a light guitar, but I wanted to learn more about it nonetheless.  

Pros - It is light, and I don't notice it sounding any different than anything else.  It sustains as well as anything else I own, and pickups govern more of the color than whatever it's made out of.  I won't tell people what they can and can't hear, but if there is any difference between the harmonic content it has and an alder or ash guitar, no one is ever going to notice in any of the environments in which I use it.  

Cons - Seems to strip easily.  The bridge did anchor back in fine, but I was pretty damn particular about screwing it in.   I hate saying "definitely," based on two out of 15 or whatever including the pickguard, but I've never had that happen on a new guitar either.  

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I'm babysitting a Legacy Deluxe (super Strat HSS) for my son-in-law. Actually, more than babysitting I'm trying to see if I can bond with it. I don't like the pick ups at all and can make no sense of the Passive Treble Bass control. I don't get it.

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I also was a bit skeptical of the "empress wood" that everyone jumped into those few years ago. I like Alder and Ash. While soon the Ash supply is gonna go POOF, Alder is nice, and a great tone wood. It's perfect for underneath most finishes too, so I don't see why G&L was so hogwild over empress wood. What good is a few lbs if your guitar is a strong as a matchstick?

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14 hours ago, rugby1970 said:

I'm babysitting a Legacy Deluxe (super Strat HSS) for my son-in-law. Actually, more than babysitting I'm trying to see if I can bond with it. I don't like the pick ups at all and can make no sense of the Passive Treble Bass control. I don't get it.

Think of it like tone controls for a stereo: one rolls back the high end, the other rolls back the low end.  It's really effective at taming an overly strong bassy tone without having to dial back the low-end at the amp.  I think Reverend's Bass Contour Control (BCC) is a very similar idea.  I've got it on a Legacy and I love it. 

Even before the quarantine I was doing a lot of stuff solo live-looping kind of stuff with layered arrangements. Being able to dial back the sonic footprint in both directions is a godsend when you're trying to layer more parts.  Between playing all over the neck, having five pickup positions, and having PTB...   all win.  :D 

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On 7/27/2020 at 1:12 PM, Biz Prof said:

I did recording back in '94 with an ASAT Special equipped with MFD soapbars. They were, admittedly, somewhat hot, but they sounded really nice. Just a bit milder than a good set of P-90s. The build quality of that guitar, FWIW, was superior to anything shipping out of Corona that I could pull off the rack at a guitar store during that time.  That was the era and experience that sold me on the superiority of G&L or EBMM over Fender and likewise, Hamer over Gibson.

I had a used ASAT Special for awhile. It was Lake Placid blue with MOTO pickguard, stock SC soapbar MFDs, and user-added copper foil lining in the control cavity. I had a Gibson ES-335 Studio at home, but once I got the ASAT home, it was all that I played until I got rid of the ES-335 studio. There were several things I liked about that ASAT; it had a clear, articulate tone and presentation, and for a single-coil pickup it had quite a bit of output, which made it fun plugged into vintage amps. I didn't need no stinkin' booster pedal. The ASAT had the balls to light up a 6V6-powered Silvertone tube amp with some growly, barky distortion. I also liked its ergonomics. Sure, the ASAT was a bit of a slab, without contours or belly cut, but it was balanced, hung on my shoulder comfortably, and the strumming area and fingerboard were naturally accessible.

I also played it into a TopHat Club Deluxe, a handwired 6V6-powered handwired tube amp. It interacted really well with that. I preferred honest  overload over a buzzy-bee boost stage. It was good as a big single-coil slab guitar, but for subtlety I got an ASAT Classic Semi-hollow; It had a lush, rich sound, played clean it had nice jazz tones, and it could do a credible, more comfortable impersonation of an ES-335 of all things. I loved it for jazz, blues, & R&B.

When trying to find a good match between guitar, pickups, pots, cables, guitar and amp settings, there are many possible combinations, and the pickups may not be at fault. I have a Hamer Newport, and used to have a Mesa/Boogie DC-10 100w 2x12 combo. I got it at a pawnshop for $299; it had a bluebook value of around $1K. It was a match made in heaven for the Newport. I never got it to sound right with my TopHat; it was too mid-rangey. My philosophy is that the signal path of an electric guitar rig is almost as complicated as a high-resolution home stereo or surround-sound system, and those can demand some time, effort, and patience to sound satisfactory. The combinations are almost infinite. So my point here is to not scapegoat one component. Twiddle with the knobs--both on the guitar and the amplifier. Swap some cables in and out  if you've got 'em. Try some nickel-plated strings, maybe even flatwounds or coated strings. Fiddling with the tone controls, whether on the guitar or the amp can have a noticeable influence.

I had a G&L Legacy Special. It had an ash body and maple single-layer neck and fretboard. It also had Strat-sized dual-blade humbuckers. You'd think that humbuckers would have ruined its Strat/Legacy tone. But no, that wasn't the case. As others mentioned on this thread, I turned down the passive bass knob and got a classic nasal, "Sultans of Swintg" Strat sound. You would have never guessed I was playing humbuckers. Yet, if I dialed in a humbucker sound, played it back-to-back against a Gibson Lucille, and it showed Lucille the door. So those on-guitar tone controls can be pretty influential.

Edited by JohnnyB
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