Tonehunter humbuckers – our proprietary custom PAF pickups

Humbuckers made in full alignment to the classic Gibson PAF humbuckers, but with some modern `corrections’.

In the old Gibson factory of Kalamazoo, in the mid to late 50’s, there wasn’t a lot of science applied to making pickups in general, let alone fit for purpose humbuckers. That means that a lot was done in a random or experimental nature, with bobbins chosen randomly depending on what was available, because these were under covers so colour wasn’t important. Specifically, though, the number of winds per bobbin and the type of magnet were also a very random selection. In some cases, where bobbins had mismatched winds, and where the magnets ranged from ALNICO II, III and V, some incredible results were possible.

Now, after decades of in-field experience and observation, the recipe is well defined. At least for those who are observant and know how to learn and apply their learning.

Our pickups are made in the same way as they were at the Kalamazoo factory. We make these under the name of TONEHUNTER. Because its a cool name :)

Rather than totally random winds, we `randomize’ the winding for a specific reason and within a tolerance range. This typically means mismatched windings between the two coils which is an especially beautiful thing when we wire in a single coil option. This introduces a lot of character between the two coils in full humbucker mode.

The output varies also depending on classic, True Vintage PAF requirement, where this around the 7k-8k range for Neck and 8k-9k for Bridge, or Overwound for a hotter tone and more output of 8k-9k Neck and 10k-12k Bridge.

Either is perfect for Blues, Rock and Heavy Rock variations. This is because they Overdrive the Amp rather than Distort the Amp which is a totally different requirement and tone. Without getting too technical, for true PAF pickups, the break-up on the signal sign-wave needs to be higher on the curve so that you get a CLIP in signal rather than create a SAW TOOTH wave which is what Distortion does. Nothing wrong with Distortion for Heavy Metal guitars, however that’s a totally different product.

Our TONEHUNTER humbuckers are either exposed in Black, Cream or Black/Cream Zebra options, or with Nickle or Gold covers. We also make a `Black Chrome’ type which provides a `Smoked’ or darker appearance to an otherwise silver appearing humbucker cover.

These pickups are Unpotted as were the originals, so they may not be for the faint hearted, but given that they are wound properly, the feedback is beautifully manageable – unless you crank the Gain too high or stand in front of a speaker, or both. Experienced guitarists know these basics but for new guitarists who want to experience the true PAF vintage tones, we can provide instruction and support on how to manage the beautiful feedback and tone that these authentic humbuckers can provide.

Of course, the construction itself is as true to the day as they were in the factory. This means Black Paper tape (not plastic), Maple spacer, Nickle baseplate and either ALNICO II & III (for warmer tone with smooth Highs and Bottom end) or V magnets (for clarity and more pronounced Highs and Lows), depending on position and tonality. It should also be noted here that when PAF pickups were originally made, there was no difference between Neck and Bridge models. This is another random placement at the time, that was later developed. You can choose however between Neck and Bridge models based on output and perhaps spacing.

We do build them with braided wire for those that want that, however our specialty is to preserve all the authentic tones whilst using 4 conductor wire in order to maximize the potential of these pickups through wiring options that are limited only by imagination. On the guitars that we build, that means Series/Parallel Coils, Series/Parallel Master, Out of Phase Humbuckers and Single Coil is more than just half the humbucker. We can provide wiring diagram if required also

Be sure to visit our Store to explore specific humbuckers as we add these.

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