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"Vintage" replacement Strat pups?

Discussion in 'Pickup Forum' started by Voidoid56, Mar 24, 2012.

  1. Voidoid56

    Voidoid56 Strat-Talker

    101
    Mar 15, 2012
    Göteborg, Sweden
    Hi,

    I'm currently considering buying replacement pickups for my (otherwise fantastic) '82 Tokai Strat copy. It's more or less the first time I've been on the pup market for like 30 years and it's slowly dawning on me that there's a whole lot more than just DiMarzios available out there these days. :)

    I'm not primarily looking for recommendations, but have a more general question:
    Some pickup makers offer matched sets that they claim replicate the pickups of more or less every individual year of manufacture from '54 to the early 70's, while others offer sets for a range of years, like '54 to '62 etc.

    Now I'd like to know if anyone actually knows exactly if, and if so how, the pickup specs changed year by year? How consistent were the specs from pickup to pickup? What I mean is: does replicating an individual set of 1958 pickups necessarily mean that the result is truly representative of most pups manufactured during that period. Or are we just talking marketing strategies here?

    /Hans
     

  2. ekul785

    ekul785 Senior Stratmaster

    Age:
    27
    May 3, 2010
    Hampshire, UK
    I believe a lot of it is marketing. However some pickup makers model their '1962 set' on an actual set of 1962 pickups. Others will base it on a classic album/song that featured a 1962 Strat. Or a genre will be more suitable for a certain era or Strat.

    Obviously every guitar sounds slightly different, so one 1962 Strat will sound different to another.
     

  3. willluvstrats

    willluvstrats Strat-O-Master

    591
    Jul 2, 2010
    Mobile
    To me there is to many variables to replicate the sound of a perticular strat. Even the vintage strats were hit or miss on pups equality. I think with pups you can get a set that replicates an era of music, and be close. You also have to consider amps are different now than back in the days. The most important part of the sound chain other than the guitar is the amp, so if your chasing the sound of a vintage bassman and do not have an amp that can replicate a vintage bassman, you probably not going to get a set of pups that will make your sound equal to a vintage bassman. I pick them by deciding if they can sound close to the sound i hear on classic albums. Gilmore swiched back to passive pups becuase he could never replicate the sounds that he acheived on DSOTM even though the vintage pups caused him issues on the stage.
     

  4. uberdavidson

    uberdavidson Strat-Talker

    Age:
    40
    177
    Jun 22, 2011
    Virginia
    I have not tested a great deal of pickups from every year, but a lot of information has been collected on this type of stuff. There was a lot of variation in pickups from the same year, but some generalizations can be made, usually based on the FAMOUS guitars of certain years. The EC-Blacky guitar, the Gilmour Black strat, SRV-#1 strat, Etc.
    As a general rule the '54's were pretty low output with Alnico-3 (much disputed) and Formvar wire. They started getting higher in output until about 62/63-ish. Also switched to Alnico-5 magnets at some pount around '57. CBS switched pickup wire to enamel coating and dropped output in '65 to about 5.6K-ish range. Output went up to about 6K average through out the '70's.
    Most of this is generalization since pickups DID come off the line in each of these years that were outside of these specs.
    Hope that info helps out. All is true to the best of my knowledge, though there are conflicting oppinions out there.
     

  5. stratomaster96

    stratomaster96 Banned

    May 28, 2011
    Connecticut, USA
    1954-Alnico 3 mags with Formvar wire, staggered poles, black fiber bobbins.
    1955-early 1964-Alnico 5 mags with Formvar wire, staggered poles, black fiber bobbins.
    1964-early 1974-Alnico 5 mags with Plain Enamel wire, staggered poles, grey fiber bobbins.
    1974-1979-Alnico 5 mags with Plain Enamel wire, flat poles, grey fiber bobbins.
     

  6. uberdavidson

    uberdavidson Strat-Talker

    Age:
    40
    177
    Jun 22, 2011
    Virginia

  7. Voidoid56

    Voidoid56 Strat-Talker

    101
    Mar 15, 2012
    Göteborg, Sweden
    Thanks for great input. Uberdavidsons link was especially good, seems backed by pretty solid data.

    I'm not exactly certain what I'm trying to achieve soundwise, to be honest. I kinda like the sound of the Tokai pickups in many ways, very chimey and clear, super "stratty", but a bit skinny, frankly. They sound a lot like some low-ouput Strat sets I've heard soundbytes of, which I guess would put them in the 5 - 5.5 K range. A bit more honk and output would be nice, it'd help drive the amp a bit harder.

    The reason I'm looking for a "vintage" set is simply that, looking at the instrument, it's veryevident that some obviously quite knowledgeable Japanese ladies and gentlemen tried very hard to capture the essence of a '63-'64 Strat 30 years ago. They did an excellent job of it, but didn't quite nail the pickups. I thought it's be nice to sort of finish the job for them. :)
     

  8. uberdavidson

    uberdavidson Strat-Talker

    Age:
    40
    177
    Jun 22, 2011
    Virginia
    Have you measured the pickups, or just guessing? If you are worried about the sound there is a LOT more to consider than the ohm reading. Just trying to help out. Not sure what the pickups are now, but if you get a pickup with more wire/wraps it would increase output and increase the mids a bit. Alnico-5's would increase output as well. Formvar is brighter wind-for-wind than enamel.
     

  9. Vintage59

    Vintage59 Senior Stratmaster

    Mar 31, 2010
    Lost Angeles
    I know you're not looking for recommendations, however, read about the research and care that went into these. This is not hype, it's best & logical efforts to replicate the past by reverse engineering.

    Klein Pickups - 1962 Stratocaster Pickups
     

  10. Voidoid56

    Voidoid56 Strat-Talker

    101
    Mar 15, 2012
    Göteborg, Sweden
    No I haven't measured the pickups. I've only had the guitar a couple of weeks, and haven't even examined them with the pickguard off yet. There seem to be two main types of Tokai Strat pickups (marked "E" and "U" respectively), but the info on their properties are sketchy and/or contradictory at best. Lot of mythology around lawsuit Japs. :)

    And yes, I realise the pickups are only one component of the sound of the guitar, and I won't know the full story until I try whichever pickups I buy on it and see if I like the sound. But Formvar wire, Alnico 5 magnets and an output in the 6.0 -6.3 range will at least give me a set of search criteria.

    Thanks a lot for the input!
     

  11. Voidoid56

    Voidoid56 Strat-Talker

    101
    Mar 15, 2012
    Göteborg, Sweden
    Oh, and thanks Vintage59 for the Klein link, looks and sounds really promising!
     

  12. BradL

    BradL Senior Stratmaster

    Jun 1, 2010
    Sussex, UK

  13. stratman323

    stratman323 Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

    Age:
    57
    Apr 21, 2010
    London, UK
    Yeah in '82 Tokai were mainly using Es & Us, later on they used VIs and I think VIIs. The Us were slightly higher output than the Es, & not as thin sounding. I agree that the one thing an '80s Tokai needs to make it even better is slightly warmer pickups, though I can live with Us neck & middle & something a bit fatter in the bridge. I can't live with the Es though, far too bright, & I really can't understand why some people like them.

    I've tried loads of different pickups on Tokais, Voodoo ST50 & ST60, Bareknuckle Slowhand, Fender Fat 50s, Texas Specials, but the ones I keep coming back to are the good old Seymour Duncan Vintage Staggered SSL-1s, maybe with an APS-1 Alnico II (a bit softer sounding) in the bridge. Great pickups.

    I have some sound clips of various Tokais with different pickups if you want me to post? In the meantime, how about some pics of your Strat?

    And, by the way, there was no lawsuit. Please don't propagate that old myth.
     

  14. BradL

    BradL Senior Stratmaster

    Jun 1, 2010
    Sussex, UK
    I wouldn't mind seeing a few pics too, Voidoid -being bit of a Tokai fan on a limited (1 guitar) basis myself.
     

  15. Vintage59

    Vintage59 Senior Stratmaster

    Mar 31, 2010
    Lost Angeles
    I would love to see some Springy Sound goodness!
     

  16. Voidoid56

    Voidoid56 Strat-Talker

    101
    Mar 15, 2012
    Göteborg, Sweden
    Yes, I would very much like to hear some sound clips, thanks! Great!

    I do have some photos, not very good ones I'm afraid, all I have in the photography department is an old iPhone with the lens window worn semi-opaque, but here goes:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/77992899@N07/7013330357

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/77992899@N07/7013320397

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/77992899@N07/7013319613

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/77992899@N07/6867208170

    And you're of course right about the lawsuit myth, Stratman, but the term seems to have become generic. At least, it seems like the only way I can make myself clear on what I'm looking for in a music shop is by asking "Have any Japanede lawsuit guitars?". :) Yes, this instrument has definitely wet my appetite for more oriental goodness. Burny Les Paul, anyone? :)
     

  17. stratman323

    stratman323 Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

    Age:
    57
    Apr 21, 2010
    London, UK
    Very nice! An ST60 in Metallic Red - you don't see nearly as many Springys in custom colours as you do the later (but otherwise identical) Goldstars. It seems to be in remarkable condition for a 30 year old guitar. It's rare to see the model number sticker on the back of the neck in such unmarked condition too. Does the serial number begin with an L or with a number?

    An ST60 is one of the higher models, just below the ST80s, which were nitro finished. So yours will be poly finished, probably a two piece centre joined body, & may have either E or U pickups. My 1980 ST60 has Es, but some did have Us. It's about time you opened that baby up to see what it has inside.

    I know I've posted the link before, but this article from about four years ago gives accurate background info. on the Tokai Strats. The guitars pictured were mine, at the time.

    http://www.tokairegistry.com/tokai-info/Andrew Munro Article-July2008.pdf

    As for the "lawsuit" thing, the Americans use the term more than anybody as threats from Fender meant that MIJ guitars with Fender headstocks didn't really enter the US after 1983 or 84. What a lot of people don't realise is that Tokais with the "proper" headstock shape were distributed in the UK (and maybe the rest of Europe?) throughout the '80s, so the "lawsuit" thing is particularly irrelevant here.

    OK, sound clips. A couple of years ago a group of us met up in Leeds with our various Tokais, & we recorded some 1 minute sound clips at the end of the afternoon featuring various guitars, with different pickups, all played by the same guy using the same amp settings. He goes through each pickup setting in turn from bridge to neck.

    So we have a 1979 Springy ST80 with original E pickups

    Tokai Springy ST80/ Fender Pro Reverb - YouTube

    And a Goldstar TST-55 with VI pickups

    Tokai Goldstar TST-55 Pearl Pink/ Fender Pro Reverb - YouTube

    Through to my Goldstar TST-55 with Bareknuckle Slowhand pickups - much warmer & fatter than the Tokai pickups

    Tokai Goldstar TST-55 Metallic Red/ Fender Pro Reverb - YouTube

    There are too many to post all the links here, but if you're interested, all the clips from that day can be found here, along with details of the pickups each guitar has:

    AireSound - YouTube

    I think the results help to confirm what you & I both think about the Tokai pickups - they're just voiced too brightly. Somebody once described the Es as "shrill", & I think that's why I don't like them.

    Finally, since you mention Burny Les Pauls, a mate of mine has one (he thought it was a "Bunny" till I corrected him), & I borrowed it for a couple of weeks. Nice guitar, but it weighed just over 11 pounds!

    [​IMG]
     

  18. Voidoid56

    Voidoid56 Strat-Talker

    101
    Mar 15, 2012
    Göteborg, Sweden
    Thanks, glad you liked it! Yes, it's in good condition. There are two rather deep nicks in the paintwork of the upper cutout (like something was dropped into it - a mic stand?) but otherwise, it doesn't even have belt buckle rash. However, there are longitudinal cracks/creases in the finish that somehow doesn't seem to have broken through to the surface. As if just a lower paint layer has shrunk (maybe through temperature change?). It's only visible up close and at certain lighting angles, and anyway, it's a vintage guitar, for chrissakes, it's been used! :) That's one of the reasons I "feel" more for these guitars than the many undoubtably excellent reasonably priced guitars on the market today. They have a history, and you can feel it, somehow.
    The model number sticker is a bit more worn than what shows up in the pic, but I suspect the previous owner was more of a lower-register kind of guy. :) But it's kind of fascinating that it's still in place.

    It also came with a rather wonderful oxblood naugahyde original gigbag. It's got no padding whatsoever, so I don't think I'll use it, but it's a nice period piece. :) BTW,the Tokai logo on the bag is in block capitals, but I suppose the faux-spaghetti style on the guitar itself was only used on Fender copies?

    Yes, I'll definitely take the pickguard and have a look at the pups at the next string change.
    Loved the article, thanks! The industrial history side of these guitars is pretty fascinating too. And thanks for the clips. There's obviously a tradeoff between warmth and glassiness. I suspect I'll be going through more than one set of pickups before I find what I'm looking for...
     

  19. Voidoid56

    Voidoid56 Strat-Talker

    101
    Mar 15, 2012
    Göteborg, Sweden
    Oh, and nice Burny! Not the period I'm looking for perhaps ("Some Les Pauls of this era were so heavy they had their own gravity field" as someone wrote...), but still, serious Steve Jones vibe. I saw a really nice lemondrop 'burst in a shop in Stockholm the other week, but since the Springy wasn't exactly cheap (don't ask - I bought it from the US and conveniently forgot about shipping costs and import duties. But never mind, it's a definite keeper.) I need to keep a cool head for a while. :)
     

  20. stratman323

    stratman323 Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

    Age:
    57
    Apr 21, 2010
    London, UK
    "That's one of the reasons I "feel" more for these guitars than the many undoubtably excellent reasonably priced guitars on the market today. They have a history, and you can feel it, somehow."

    I couldn't agree with you more - these babies have real character, & are still remarkably cheap for what you get.

    "BTW,the Tokai logo on the bag is in block capitals, but I suppose the faux-spaghetti style on the guitar itself was only used on Fender copies?"

    I think you said yours is a 1982? Remember that in 1983 Tokai stopped using the Springy script decal & used the block capital TOKAI decal for a year, till the Goldstar script decal arrived in 1984. They used the block decal TOKAI on the little tweed amps too, so maybe that's why it's on your gig bag?

    As for the history of these guitars, Springys were made from 1978, & I don't believe Fender would have made the JV Squiers or the AVRIs in 1982 if Tokai hadn't shown them the way four years earlier.