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The controversy going on in the for sale forum with regard to what is, and what is not, a Tim Shaw PAF led me to create this thread. I have no clue what is what, I just know if I like the tone of something, but it would be better to discuss it here. I'll start off with these articles.

Fire away.

Gibson PAF Humbuckers Pickups Patent Applied For Pickups M69 M-69 pickup rings - Vintage Guitars Info

Vintage Gibson PAF Humbucker Electric Guitar Pickups History

PAF Alnico Humbucking Guitar Pickup Magnets
 

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I like PAF's, I like A5 medium output pickups, and I'm not super picky about the brand. I have duncan '59's in one guitar that sound like the stock pickups that were in it, and that guitar is louder and bassier sounding than the guitar I use w/o said '59's.

I'd wager some folks are worried about what gauge wire is in their pickups as well as the magnet type.
 

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Out of all the sets I've tried to date the WCR's and Lollar Imperials stand out to me. I also so no reason to change pups in the few DGT's I've owned over the years.
 

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Out of all the sets I've tried to date the WCR's and Lollar Imperials stand out to me. I also so no reason to change pups in the few DGT's I've owned over the years.
I recall when I put an imperial in the bridge of my Cu22 trem, and it went from "not quite right" to "holy thick tones". It took a while to adjust to how it sounded but once I did, all was well. It was a night and day difference though. I still wonder what the low wind would sound like.
 

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Thanks for the history links @mhammer . All I can add after some quick research is that my Duncan Custom DCJ (SH5) that is a PAF style (according to Duncan site) is pretty special. 13.98k passive ceramic Power! It bleeds tone. I've never tried any of the other builds so I speak from very limited knowledge on the many styles of PAF type pups for sure. And I'm good with it. I like my sound.
 

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Thanks for the history links @mhammer . All I can add after some quick research is that my Duncan Custom DCJ (SH5) that is a PAF style (according to Duncan site) is pretty special. 13.98k passive ceramic Power! It bleeds tone. I've never tried any of the other builds so I speak from very limited knowledge on the many styles of PAF type pups for sure. And I'm good with it. I like my sound.
Did Mark post some links?
 

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LOL @davetcan


I truly believe that if Gibson knew they were making what would become the holy grail of pickups in the late 50s, they woulda been a hellofa lot more consistent with their winds. Being hand wound and not thinking anyone would be putting them under microscopes 50 years later, PAF's cover a fairly wide swath, with a variety of windings and coil imbalances.

I think you have to say which set of original PAF's you're going for, because they weren't all created equal.
 

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Let me just put this out there... Tim Shaw PAF clones are NOT actual PAF clones. They're 'theoretical' PAF clones and are much closer to a T-Top than a PAF.

What does that mean? They're built to specs that were part of the original design dimensions. Moreso than actual PAF pickups ever were. Every Shaw I've peeked inside was machine wound to ~5000 winds per coil of poly wire in a very consistent manner. This consistency started to show up in the mid 1960s with T-Tops and not PAF pickups. I didn't unwind them and count every turn; I measured the wire at a few different points and took an average size, then did the math on the coil DC vs the wire dimension.

Real PAF pickups were machine wound. They were also wound 'until the bobbins were full' according to Seth Lover interviews. In theory that was ~5000 turns of wire but in reality, any PAF bobbin I've seen or some other winder has seen, the 5000 turns is out the window.

  1. First issue: human error and judgement. How full is a full bobbin? Visually to me, at different settings on the winder that number can vary widely! I can fit over 5700 turns of 42AWG on a bobbin at 90TPL and it'll look 'full'. Lowering the TPL and I get a far lower number before it looks full.
  2. Second issue: Wire variance. Copper smelting process was very crude in the 50's and was highly refined for better/more consistent production in the 60's. PAF pickups were wound with Plain Enamel coated wire made in the old process and varied in purity, dimension and consistency of all aspects. Those impurities are as much a part of the sound as the rest of the pickup. Even if the Gibson winders were counting to 5000 turns, each bobbin had a range of variance to it based on the inconsistencies and impurities. With 5000 turns of 42AWG wire, the length of that wire is ~800m or 2600ft per coil (very roughly). That's a whole lot of wire with a lot of dimensional changes to account for.
  3. Magnets: PAF magnets were ordered as 'Alnico Bar Magnet' on the original order forms. No specification to type. Some measure at levels of A3, A2, A4 and A5. But even magnets vary from source to source. I have no data on magnet manufacturing process from the 50's to now but my assumption (correct or not) would be that modern process has been regulated for tighter control.
 

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I think that when we get into these pickup debates we all too often ignore the role of the guitar itself in the sound. The guitars that originally came equipped with PAFs were pretty nice guitars! Remember they were built by the same luthiers that were building Super 400s and the like by hand. If you were to pull the pickups from a ‘59 burst and install them in your new Les Paul I think it would be an unreasonable expectation that your Les Paul is going to sound like the ‘59 burst. I agree that there are a ton of nice pickups out there now. They all sound great, just different. The trick is finding the ones that you like in your guitar.


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My favourite PAF clones are PRS 57/08s... the older, scatter wound ones... they can be a little inconsistent, but when you find a good set they are just so good... The A2 magnet is sweet! I've got three sets and they're all wonderful...
 

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I played original PAFs yesterday in a 52/59 conversion.

Just more proof that too many people don't know jack shit about shit.

They werent anything special, and I had to swap guitars to get things sounding right.

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I played original PAFs yesterday in a 52/59 conversion.

Just more proof that too many people don't know jack shit about shit.

They werent anything special, and I had to swap guitars to get things sounding right.

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Current reissue pickups, be they PAFs or '52 Tele single coils or '62 Strat copies, are usually reverse engineered from an EXCEPTIONAL vintage example. That doesn't mean that every vintage pickup was THE SHIT. Sometimes they were just shit. The exceptional ones were often a result of a pleasant sounding mistake, not what was intended.
 

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I played original PAFs yesterday in a 52/59 conversion.

Just more proof that too many people don't know jack shit about shit.
Not to mention, "Beauty is in the eye (and ear) of the beholder".

Said another way, "One guy's shit is another guy's shinola". There are no absolutes. It's all relative when judging art.
 
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My knowledge in this area is limited. I do know that some PAF clones sound better than others. My favourites are in a 1991 SG 3 knob Special. According to a brochure from then they are called Les Paul ‘59 Reissue. I’ve read that this is just Gibson marketing speech for 490s. I’ve read that they are Bill Lawerence. I have no idea what they are. They measure about the same as 490s. Don’t know if it is the guitar or the pickups but almost everyone who has played the guitar comments on how nice the pickups sound.
 

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I played with a guy this past weekend that had just put new SD's in his Epi LP. He was asking me what I thought. It was a loud house jam, with a few different players all going at once. I just looked at his large pedalboard and multi-channel amp and nodded and said "Yea, they sound great".
 

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Funny how folks fall in love with an idea
Of course some PAFS sound fantastic. .....But you need the right pickup rings though
 

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Thanks for the history links @mhammer . All I can add after some quick research is that my Duncan Custom DCJ (SH5) that is a PAF style (according to Duncan site) is pretty special. 13.98k passive ceramic Power! It bleeds tone. I've never tried any of the other builds so I speak from very limited knowledge on the many styles of PAF type pups for sure. And I'm good with it. I like my sound.
<slight rant> :)
I can't understand how Duncan can call that a "PAF style". That materials in that pickup is nothing like a real PAF. ie magnet and wire

The term PAF is so abused to almost be meaningless these days. Just like Burst and Blackguard which also really refer to guitars of specific years.
 
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