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  1. #1

    '53 LP replica PAFs - Rolph or SD?

    Forgive me but I sort of had this going in another thread but jumbled with another subject so I'm starting thie new one to get more opinions.

    To repeat, my 1953 Les Paul (pics) was customized before I bought it in '77 refinished from Gold to Black Top, trapeze changed to std bridge/tailpiece, routed for humbuckers, with replaced Schaller tuners. I put in Seymour Duncan pickups in the early 90's. I think the guitar sounds great, but want to tinker and get some boutique PAF replicas which I presume and hope will make it sound even better (and realizing I'm not eager to sink $4-6K to get original PAFs at this point).

    Based solely on what I've read and listened to on this site, I'm considering Rolph '58s or '59s or Stephens Design VL58 or VL59JP pickups.

    I spoke with Jim Rolph, - for 45 mins, nice guy. Jim recommended his '58 over his '59s for this application - cleaner, more articulate. He also interestingly recommended no nickel covers, just bare zebra or blacks. I sort of like the raw or aged nickel covers but have always liked the looks of the black Duncan buckers in there now without covers). Jim suggested that player guitars are better without covers. Not sure why, does it really affect the sound?

    I also received an email reply from Dave Stephens of SD and he suggested that perhaps his pickups were not the right fi for the application. I told him I play Jazz Fusion/Rock through an Egnater ie4 preamp and VHT 2150 power amp. I can get some great sounds out of that rig but he said his PAFs might not be well suited for such a "modern amp". Not sure what he meant but I don't want to outfit my guitar (my wife) for an amp which I may at some point divorce.

    Any thoughts on these two pickup makers, which of the two models you prefer and why, and any thoughts on bare versus covered pickups. Or other general advice?
    Thanks. -Steve

  2. #2
    Les Paul Forum Member MS 57's Avatar
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    Re: '53 LP replica PAFs - Rolph or SD?

    Hi Steve and welcome to the forum ! Super cool guitar you have there. I used to have a great 53 conversion that I sold to a friend and fellow LPF member. He loves everything about it.
    About the pickups, I have no experience with the Rolphs, but I have SD antiquities ( I took covers off ) in one Les Paul and it sounds really good both for clean and distorted stuff. I have heard that the coverremoval should result in a little bit more clarity/ topend. My no 1 guitarhero Alvin Lee is said to have removed the covers from his 1959 ES 335 for the same reason.
    I also have Sheptone PAF replicas in a couple of my guitars. That is also a PAF maker that I can recommend.
    Good luck with the project !!

  3. #3
    Les Paul Forum Member Guitar Whiskey's Avatar
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    Re: '53 LP replica PAFs - Rolph or SD?

    I've got a set of Rolph '58's with his thin nickel covers. They are great sounding pickups IMO. Removing covers will brighten the sound a bit. It just depends what you are after. I definitely recommend these if you are going for a clear articulate sound. You could have him send you the covers loose to test with or without covers and then solder them on if you favor them.

  4. #4
    Les Paul Forum Member MapleFlame's Avatar
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    Re: '53 LP replica PAFs - Rolph or SD?

    ThroBaks MXV's
    Top carves are sexy

  5. #5
    Les Paul Forum Member Rev.WillieVK's Avatar
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    Re: '53 LP replica PAFs - Rolph or SD?

    You should check out the Dr. Vintage pickups. They blow away any factory pickup; these have great PAF tones modeled after in-hand experience with several real Bursts.

    And great customer service!

  6. #6
    Les Paul Forum Member Ian Anderson's Avatar
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    Re: '53 LP replica PAFs - Rolph or SD?

    for jazz/fusion I'd look at something a little hotter/progressive, not a straight up PAF repro.

    Shed Deliverences would work great, or his Hot Bastardo if you want a rawer vibe with more snarl. BKP Abraxas set would be a good choice too.
    "said I'm a mean machine an' drinkin' gasoline, an' honey you can make my motor hum"

  7. #7
    Les Paul Forum Member apossibleworld's Avatar
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    Re: '53 LP replica PAFs - Rolph or SD?

    On this question about the covers, I've wondered if anybody makes covers that look like nickel but are made of something without magnetic interference? Perhaps the right word is inductance? I'm not up on my electrical engineering, but I know a lot of you are. I prefer the look of covered pickups, but I agree that sometimes uncovered pickups can sound "more open."

  8. #8
    Les Paul Forum Member TM1's Avatar
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    Re: '53 LP replica PAFs - Rolph or SD?

    Throbak SLE-101 MXV's!! You won't get closer to the real deal.

  9. #9

    Re: '53 LP replica PAFs - Rolph or SD?

    I would have to recommend the Rolph 58s. I have them in my R9 Makeover and they are not coming out of that guitar, unless for a set of real PAFs, and perhaps not even then. The bridge pickup growls on the low strings and the plain strings are sweet and clear. The neck pickup sound is the best I've ever heard on any guitar I've ever owned, and that includes my '61 SG/LP. Woody and spanky. I also left the covers off, and I've grown to love the look of the black coils.

  10. #10

    Re: '53 LP replica PAFs - Rolph or SD?

    Thanks for the inputs, guys. Keep 'em comin'. I've been thinking more on this...

    First, I love playing but for me it's a release after work and almost always by myself. (I also have a '67 Tele, a '97 Custom Shop '61 Strat, '94 Parker Fly (mint, which I'm considering selling), and '66 Martin D18 among others. I've been playing since 13 but am now a working stiff with no delusions of getting into a band, certainly not to play covers.

    My early influences are less the more typical Jimmy Page sound although I listended a lot to Zep before I played guitar but more Hendrix, Jethro Tull, and Lynyrd Skynyrd until 15. Then I started getting into fusion and my influences turned to Al DiMeloa (heavily until 20), Frank Gambale, and Alan Holdsworth - guitarist's guitarists, really (my girlfriends all hated their music).

    I'm really doing this as a hobbyist in pursuit of the best tone - the better the tone, the better I tend to play and sound. It feeds off one another. But now that I've realized I don't want to spend what it would take for a full-on '58/59 conversion with vintage PAFs with the presumption it would increase my guitars value, I'm perhaps realizing why then bother with limiting myself to PAF replicas (unless that gives me the best sound). I mentioned above my amp rig, Egnater/VHT. They're chock full of tubes but not sure of the "modern circuitry" which may limit or impede PAF tones. That can always change but I have no plans to anytime soon.

    So I guess I'm open to even more pickup possibilities than repro PAFs. Trouble is, it's not like I can have 6-8 possibilities which I could pop in and out while auditioning on my amp in my studio. Hmm, what to do...

    Again, any comments or opinions would help. Thanks.
    -Steve

  11. #11

    Re: '53 LP replica PAFs - Rolph or SD?

    Thanks for the inputs, guys. Keep 'em comin'. I've been thinking more on this...

    First, I love playing but for me it's a release after work and almost always by myself. (I also have a '67 Tele, a '97 Custom Shop '61 Strat, '94 Parker Fly (mint, which I'm considering selling), and '66 Martin D18 among others. I've been playing since 13 but am now a working stiff with no delusions of getting into a band, certainly not to play covers.

    My early influences are less the more typical Jimmy Page sound although I listended a lot to Zep before I played guitar but more Hendrix, Jethro Tull, and Lynyrd Skynyrd until 15. Then I started getting into fusion and my influences turned to Al DiMeloa (heavily until 20), Frank Gambale, and Alan Holdsworth - guitarist's guitarists, really (my girlfriends all hated their music).

    I'm really doing this as a hobbyist in pursuit of the best tone - the better the tone, the better I tend to play and sound. It feeds off one another. But now that I've realized I don't want to spend what it would take for a full-on '58/59 conversion with vintage PAFs with the presumption it would increase my guitars value, I'm perhaps realizing why then bother with limiting myself to PAF replicas (unless that gives me the best sound). I mentioned above my amp rig, Egnater/VHT. They're chock full of tubes but not sure of the "modern circuitry" which may limit or impede PAF tones. That can always change but I have no plans to anytime soon.

    So I guess I'm open to even more pickup possibilities than repro PAFs. Trouble is, it's not like I can have 6-8 possibilities which I could pop in and out while auditioning on my amp in my studio. Hmm, what to do...

    Again, any comments or opinions would help. Thanks.
    -Steve

  12. #12

    Re: '53 LP replica PAFs - Rolph or SD?

    I bought a set of 58 Pretenders from Jim Rolph for my 58 Historic aprox 8 or so years ago.
    Excellent pickups that were really close sounding to PAFs.
    I also recall Jim suggesting getting the pickups without covers. I think because in higher gain applications, they would have a tendency to feed back.
    I got the nickel covers and had no problems. I play mostly blues based rock.

    I like the sound of a covered humbucker. Slightly microphonic, but in a good way.

    Hope this helps.

  13. #13
    Les Paul Forum Member jbzoso2002's Avatar
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    Re: '53 LP replica PAFs - Rolph or SD?

    Quote Originally Posted by MapleFlame View Post
    ThroBaks MXV's
    +1000

    Jimmy

  14. #14
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: '53 LP replica PAFs - Rolph or SD?

    OP - Reading your most recent post I kind of get what you are saying. I have a '53 which currently has a set of early Antiquities. I think SD did an incredible job with those pickups - I think they are very close to real PAF's when you put them in a real fifties Les Paul - and that last bit is important. With due respect to any other opinions I can't see much point (for you) in discussing what Antiquities or other PAF types sound like in a Historic. So if your experiences have given you a good idea what a 57-60 Les Paul sounds like, especially the top end, and you want that, I would say real PAF's or Antiquities - nothing else.
    But if you are not sure that you want that sound I guess you are gonna have to try all the usual suspects. Buy used and you should not have to lose any money doing that.

  15. #15
    Les Paul Forum Member JJ Blair's Avatar
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    Re: '53 LP replica PAFs - Rolph or SD?

    Another vote for Throbaks. I have two sets in two guitars.

    I have a pair of real PAFs for pretty cheap, if you're interested. PM me.

  16. #16
    Les Paul Forum Member MapleFlame's Avatar
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    Re: '53 LP replica PAFs - Rolph or SD?

    Reason why I say ThroBaks, I have a 52-57 conversion and I actually like the MXV's over the PAF sets that I have.
    Top carves are sexy

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