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[Review] Testing bridge humbuckers in a 1981 Love Rock LS120
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hans-j?rgen
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Joined: 21 Feb 2005
Posts: 1740
Location: Hamburg, Germany

PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2005 12:33 pm    Post subject: [Review] Testing bridge humbuckers in a 1981 Love Rock LS120 Reply with quote

PART I: Intro

Recently togps sent me two sets of humbuckers to test them, one being the rather new Tokai PAF-Vintage MK2 made by Keiyo (not Gotoh), and the other one made by AGS which I haven't heard of yet. This was a good opportunity to continue from the first review about the three LS60s that I wrote some months ago. There you can find some more infos about my LS120 as well, e.g. the specs etc.



I had to tinker with my PC oldies in order to record some samples this time, because I wanted to use the open source WAV editor Audacity for this which is a bit demanding on available system resources. It does run on my Cyrix 6x86/P166+ with Win98SE, but not perfect which means there will be a few glitches in the samples resulting from missed bits during disk writing.

When exporting the uncompressed samples to MP3, I noticed an unexpected flaw in the LAME encoder 3.96 (latest version is 3.97b) which has difficulties encoding single instruments with sharp attacks and parallel sustained notes like an electric guitar or a harpsichord. Using 64 kbps/mono which equals the standard bitrate 128 kbps/stereo resulted in obvious rough fluttering sounds like an old tape recorder with a dirty or defective capstan wheel. So I had to raise the bitrate to 96 kbps/mono (= 192 kbps/stereo) which eliminated these flaws. If someone wants to listen to a 64 kbps sample, I can upload it to my homepage, too. The file size of each sample is somewhere between 360 and 720 KB depending on the length.

Another imperfection is the old sound card with its noisy microphone input producing a nice "analog" background hiss. But all in all I'm quite pleased with the results, because they nevertheless represent the sound I'm hearing when sitting on the couch playing guitar over my Mesa Boogie MK IIB 60w head at bedroom level. It is connected to a self-built vented Thiele cab with one EV-12L, and the settings are:
Volume 1 at 8, Treble at 7, Bass at 3, Middle at 7, Master 1 somewhere above 2 (not important as long as it's not lower than that dampening the lead output as well), Lead Drive at 5.5, Lead Master at 0.8 and Presence at 7. I should mention that I tuned its tone circuit some years ago, because it wasn't possible to get good results when alternating between rhythm and lead channel (too boomy with distortion most of the time).



The omnidirectional electret condenser microphone is located 24 cm away from the cab, pointing upwards to the ceiling and 42 cm from the ground, i.e. not a typical close-up miking with a vocal mic pointed towards the speaker cone. There are no effects used, although Audacity offers a lot of them, and the guitar is directly connected to the amp. I only use the lead channel at a medium gain setting, because that's how I play most of the time (e.g. on the gig last week), so no switching to the rhythm channel is involved here.

The guitar controls are always fully open except for one sample intended to show the sound with the bridge volume knob at 6 which I use quite often, also with my Fender Bassman head and Marshall cab or the Marshall combo in the rehearsal room. The individual pickup height of the bridge humbuckers will be adjusted to balance the output of the Gibson P-94 neck pickup that functions as a reference point during the test. I'm mainly interested in the different bridge humbuckers, because I like the sound of that P-94 single coil pickup in humbucker size very much and will probably not change it. It has an Alnico V magnet and a resistance of 7.4 kOhm, so its output is quite similar to a normal PAF humbucker.

Thinking about what clips to play I came up with five different excerpts, one with the neck pickup ("El Diablo" by ZZ Top), one with both pickups ("Black Dog" by Led Zeppelin), and three with the bridge pickup: one playing a chord based riff ("Alright now" by Free), one with mainly single bass notes ("Waitin' for the bus" by ZZ Top) and one with some typical blues phrasing ("Brown Sugar" by ZZ Top). I hope these will be able to show the differences in the bridge humbuckers concerning dynamics, frequency characteristics and desirable extras like "bloom" and you-know-what... I won't change anything in this setup during the test except for the pickup height to adjust the output which is rather a "real life" approach vs. a scientific one, but hey, it's my party!

So I started with the pickup combination that is installed at the moment, the Gibson P-94 at the neck and an unidentified Super Distortion clone at the bridge looking like a DiMarzio with 12 hexagonal pole pieces and no cover, but without that stamp on the brass base plate. Its resistance is 11.9 kOhm which also resembles the DiMarzio, but as far as I know the magnet construction is different, because instead of the normal wooden or plastic spacers under the bobbins there are two additional small magnet bars on each side. Anyhow, it rocks...



The next pickups will be the new Tokai PAF-Vintage MK2, the AGS, the old Tokai '57 PAF from my 1984 LS60, a ~1979 DiMarzio PAF and last but not least the Gibson P-94 bridge pickup. Wait, did I just say that? Jeezz...

End of Part I

[Edit]
Here are the direct links to the other parts of the review, because this thread became rather long and hard to overlook, sorry for that.



And here's another MP3 sample with the Super Distortion clone and P-94 neck in "real life", i.e. from our last gig in Nov 2005. I think it's interesting for this comparison, because I used almost the same gear (LS120 with Boogie and 1x12 EV12L plus Roland Chorus Echo), but the volume was set for a small club with a bit more gain and less presence.

http://home.arcor.de/hans-juergen.bardenhagen/livemedley.mp3 (from a mono video track, ~8MB file size)
_________________
ZZee ya, Hans-Jürgen
BLUEZZ BASTARDZZ "That lil' ol' ZZ Top cover band from Hamburg"
INDIGO ROCKS "Down home rockin' blues. Tasty as strudel"


Last edited by hans-j?rgen on Wed Jan 13, 2016 3:43 am; edited 13 times in total
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benpaul
I only know 3 chords


Joined: 10 Dec 2005
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 5:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

great hans, and great playing too...

I'm kind of wondering, since I'm new to thsi board, wether the tokais (both your 81 ls-120 anb the new ls-150) are really milimetric clones of a gibson, like a orville by gibson is? or are they just aproximations?
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hans-j?rgen
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Joined: 21 Feb 2005
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Location: Hamburg, Germany

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2005 1:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

benpaul wrote:
great hans, and great playing too...

Thank you, I think I'll upload the samples with the Tokai PAF-Vintage MK2 today. The gas-man interrupted my testing on Friday, because he had to have access to the radiator behind the amp.



Quote:
I'm kind of wondering, since I'm new to thsi board, wether the tokais (both your 81 ls-120 anb the new ls-150) are really milimetric clones of a gibson, like a orville by gibson is? or are they just aproximations?

As far as I know, Tokai is one of the Japanese companies that took exact measurements from original 1958 and 1959 Gibson Les Pauls (maybe even own some of them, too) and transferred them into software programs to shape the body blanks with computer-based machines (CNC). There's a short factory tour on their homepage where you can see some pictures of this process (also in the early '80s catalogs on the Tokairegistry main site).

By the way, only the new models built for the domestic Japanese market are allowed to have the exact shape of a Les Paul, the export models all have slight deviations like the headstock or the body cutaway. The old MIJ Love Rocks were not restricted like that, so the export models had the exact shape, too (like mine which I bought second-hand in 1985 in Germany).

But there are other important details when trying to replicate the originals like the hardware and the wood. Tokai tries to come close in that respect, too, but of course has to ask higher prices for such a model then.
_________________
ZZee ya, Hans-Jürgen
BLUEZZ BASTARDZZ "That lil' ol' ZZ Top cover band from Hamburg"
INDIGO ROCKS "Down home rockin' blues. Tasty as strudel"


Last edited by hans-j?rgen on Wed Jan 13, 2016 3:44 am; edited 2 times in total
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benpaul
I only know 3 chords


Joined: 10 Dec 2005
Posts: 16

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2005 2:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looking forward to the new sound clips, I especially enjoying brwon sugar...

I understand, so the new ls-150 is a really close to a real les paul and so are the older tokais...
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hans-j?rgen
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Location: Hamburg, Germany

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2005 2:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, the new LS150 probably is the best deal for a high end Love Rock these days, because the brand-new models with a solid flamed maple top will be more expensive.
_________________
ZZee ya, Hans-Jürgen
BLUEZZ BASTARDZZ "That lil' ol' ZZ Top cover band from Hamburg"
INDIGO ROCKS "Down home rockin' blues. Tasty as strudel"
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benpaul
I only know 3 chords


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2005 7:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm also onchecking out the ls135 and the ls145s with p90's...

how close are these to a gibson historic for example? I know this isn't the best question, but I'm curious.
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hans-j?rgen
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2005 12:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

benpaul wrote:
how close are these to a gibson historic for example? I know this isn't the best question, but I'm curious.

The new high priced models seem to aim directly at the Historic Reissues market, because they all have deep neck joints, lacquer finish, aluminum tailpieces etc., some of them even Honduras mahogany necks and bodies.
_________________
ZZee ya, Hans-Jürgen
BLUEZZ BASTARDZZ "That lil' ol' ZZ Top cover band from Hamburg"
INDIGO ROCKS "Down home rockin' blues. Tasty as strudel"
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hans-j?rgen
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Location: Hamburg, Germany

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2005 12:59 pm    Post subject: Part II: Tokai PAF-Vintage MK2 Reply with quote

Part II: Tokai PAF-Vintage MK2

These seem to be the ones made by Keiyo that are installed in all new MIJ Tokai humbucker guitars according to the 2005 catalog except for the few top models like the LS380 with JM Rolph PAFs and the new LS75 and LS80 which still have the MK3 version. I already tested them in the new Love Rock II SEB which had similar specs as the current set (11.3 kOhm bridge, 7.5 kOhm neck pickup). I don't know what kind of magnets they have, but from the output I would guess it's a little bit weaker than the previously tested Super Distortion clone, i.e. I didn't have to lower its height as much to balance it with the P-94 in the neck position. Nevertheless this is still a rather high output pickup, but not in the same league as the Seymour Duncan Invader etc., more on the "Hot PAF" side, so naming them PAF-Vintage is stretching this label a bit in my opinion.

By the way, I won't comment on the sound differences during the test, so if you want to know how or if it changed, you should download the samples. I'll try to summarize my impressions when I'm finished with the last one though. Yesterday I noticed that I connected the cab to the 4 ohm speaker jack (Thank you, Mr. Gas-man...) which results in a slightly more compressed sound with 8 ohm speakers like the Electro Voice 12L. It's surprising that you can notice this difference even at bedroom level, as the power amp section doesn't have much to do then. After checking the sound with the 8 ohm jack I made some small adjustments to the initial settings (Presence now at 6.5, Lead Drive at 5.7), but kept using the 4 ohm jack. I won't record the Super Distortion clone again though, unless some of you want me to do this, or I'm feeling bored after all this excitement.

Anyhow, it also gave me a good excuse for recording another P-94 neck sample, because I realized that I mostly fingerpicked on "El Diablo" which is one of my favorite neck pickup sounds, but maybe not enough action for the younger folks around here. So I decided to go out on a limb this time and mess with those "Cheap Sunglasses" a bit... errr... that was a joke for those who know...

So here are the next samples, I hope you enjoy them. Those clicking sounds on certain notes is me hitting the strings harder than on softer parts, because I'm sitting next to the amp only ~1m away, and so they get picked up by the omnidirectional mic, too. And of course it adds to the vintage tone of "Brown Sugar" as well...

By the way, I did not try to nail the original sounds of the songs with these settings, but rather find a common ground where the differences between the pickups have a chance to come through. If I wanted to come closer to the originals, I would have changed the settings for each clip of course, maybe use another speaker, too, because the EV12L is known for its rather clean and linear sound (also being used as a PA speaker), and e.g. a Celestion Greenback is a different story altogether.


_________________
ZZee ya, Hans-Jürgen
BLUEZZ BASTARDZZ "That lil' ol' ZZ Top cover band from Hamburg"
INDIGO ROCKS "Down home rockin' blues. Tasty as strudel"


Last edited by hans-j?rgen on Wed Jan 13, 2016 4:38 am; edited 4 times in total
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benpaul
I only know 3 chords


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2005 3:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

thanks hans great info, I liked the first bridge pickup better I think though it's hard to tell I usually prefer lower impedances, that's why the ls145s is a possbility for me
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hans-j?rgen
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 9:22 am    Post subject: PART III: AGS TRH1B Reply with quote

PART III: AGS TRH1B

I can't tell you too much about this one except what the white decal says on its base plate, because I've never heard of them before, and Google doesn't help either (Stewart MacDonald Golden AGS? Adam Guitar School? All Good Stuff? WTF??). So I hope that togps will provide some more information like their price etc., because he should know... My guess is that they come from the U.S. because of the screw hole threading that needs American screws, not Japanese or European. Its resistance is 8.5 kOhm (neck 7.5 kOhm), so this is the first "real PAF" in the test. It has a cover and seems to be wax potted like the Tokai pickups, and also has the braided wire in common with them.

As expected the necessary pickup height was closer to the strings than with the other two candidates, furthermore it came with adjusted pole pieces, i.e. they stuck out ~1mm from the cover (a bit more on the weaker strings), so I tested them that way. I also adjusted the pole pieces of my P-94s some time ago, because it helps to balance the output of individual strings especially on single coil pickups.

If you cannot hear a difference when listening to the samples, it might help to use good headphones instead of the PC speakers or maybe connect the line-out jack of the sound card to your stereo gear. I also have to confess that I tend to play these clips not as exact as I would like to, so that has an effect, too.


_________________
ZZee ya, Hans-Jürgen
BLUEZZ BASTARDZZ "That lil' ol' ZZ Top cover band from Hamburg"
INDIGO ROCKS "Down home rockin' blues. Tasty as strudel"


Last edited by hans-j?rgen on Wed Jan 13, 2016 4:39 am; edited 3 times in total
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benpaul
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 1:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

which one did you prefer?
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hans-j?rgen
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 3:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I won't tell ya... yet. At the moment I'm listening to my 1984 Tokai '57 PAF model again, then I'll install the 1979 DiMarzio, then the P-94 bridge version. And maybe I'll add another one if I get the pickup around Christmas.
_________________
ZZee ya, Hans-Jürgen
BLUEZZ BASTARDZZ "That lil' ol' ZZ Top cover band from Hamburg"
INDIGO ROCKS "Down home rockin' blues. Tasty as strudel"
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benpaul
I only know 3 chords


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 4:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would like to tell you I prefered the lower impedance golden age, but unfortunetly that is not how I expected the first is my favourite so far
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hans-j?rgen
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 11:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I told you it would rock... By the way, I'm not sure yet that the AGS really is the Golden AGS from Stewmac which probably is a Gotoh anyhow.
_________________
ZZee ya, Hans-Jürgen
BLUEZZ BASTARDZZ "That lil' ol' ZZ Top cover band from Hamburg"
INDIGO ROCKS "Down home rockin' blues. Tasty as strudel"
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hans-j?rgen
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Posts: 1740
Location: Hamburg, Germany

PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2005 12:01 pm    Post subject: PART IV: Tokai '57 PAF model Reply with quote

PART IV: Tokai '57 PAF model



That's what the black decal with golden letters and frame says on the back of the pickup, but in the old catalogs you can also find its name with an additional "PAF-Vintage MKII". It was originally installed in my 1984 cherry sunburst LS60, and it has a cover, but probably is not wax potted, because there are no signs of wax on the back. I did not open it, but when peeping through the empty screw holes on the back plate I could see that the color of the bobbins is zebra, i.e. one cream, one black. The bridge and neck versions have almost the same resistance (8.28 and 8.24 kOhm), so I adjusted it quite similar to the AGS pickup, although the pole pieces are on the same level as the cover.

When balancing any bridge humbucker with the P-94 in the neck, I always try to find the spot where the amount of distortion is the same for the treble and bass strings when switching between the pickups playing the same riffs. Then I check the balance of each pickup on its own, i.e. if a barr? chord over all six strings sounds nice without enhancing either the bass or treble side of things. Using the neck pickup as a reference it's quite easy to do this in a few minutes, but it surely would take longer when installing a set of new pickups. My starting point would be the height of the neck pickup on the treble side then which I usually adjust as high as possible without having the strings touch the pole pieces or cover when hitting them a bit harder.


_________________
ZZee ya, Hans-Jürgen
BLUEZZ BASTARDZZ "That lil' ol' ZZ Top cover band from Hamburg"
INDIGO ROCKS "Down home rockin' blues. Tasty as strudel"


Last edited by hans-j?rgen on Wed Jan 13, 2016 4:40 am; edited 10 times in total
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