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RS/Fralin New PAF Set - NPD (also ToneMan guitar electronics content)

Mr. Papa

Active member
Jan 14, 2002
Hey all,
A quick review of my new set of RS/Fralin New PAF pickups: https://store.rsguitarworks.net/collections/vendors?q=RS Guitarworks/Lindy Fralin

Some of my general comments will make more sense if you read the "tasting notes" at the bottom, but here's the review:

Through a Fender style amp:
The pickups are on the edgy side of PAF, leaning toward P-90 tone. They are sharper, but still have the beefy mids and low end of a humbucker. I think some people expect PAF pickups to sound middy, grunty, warm, etc. and are surprised when they hear a lower/medium-wind PAF style pickup and the rich treble response they have. These measured at 7.4K/8.35K and are A4, unpotted. Neck position tones are warm and smooth, but still bright. There is ample string to string note clarity and a solid sound in general that responded well to reverb, chorus, and delay. Middle position is very useful--when both volumes are at the same position, the normal middle tones are abundant, think Dickey Betts' solo on Stormy Monday from the Fillmore CD. I have my guitar set up with pickups out of phase, so if I turn one volume slightly lower and one higher, it's Quack City. Perfect for what I do. Bridge pickup is very clear and bright in clean settings. I turned the treble knob on my Fender reverb style amp back two clicks and it was good, but then I dialed a click of treble back in and it sounded better, less restricted, more breathy. Very cool '70s country music tones like Toy Caldwell in there, in all positions.

In single coil mode, these pickups really shine. Compared to some other pickups I have heard in split coil mode, they have good tone, are not anemic, blend well in the middle position, and are relatively quiet. I think using the slug coil on the bridge sounded appreciable better than the screw coil because the coil is further from the bridge and, I have read, the slugs sound warmer than the screws on humbuckers. I can't speak to the science, but I could hear the difference having tried it both ways and recommend it as a generally cool idea. These pickups have given me the best stratty-ish sound in the middle and a vaguely-tele-esque sound on either pickup that I have ever gotten from a HB. Close enough for Saturday night and good enough to keep me from having to swap guitars between songs.

Overdriven, I was very pleased with the neck position in HB mode. Through a Zendrive they remain strong and balanced, with good clarity. Through a silicon fuzz there is enough beef and low end to get a chunky tone. Same thing on the bridge pickup with overdrive and fuzz, but I note the lack of heavy chunk that I might get from a hotter bridge pickup like a Super D. With that said, this is almost certainly ALSO a product of the guitar being routed and having a Bigsby on it (see notes), and I found that winding the tone controls back did help cool things down a bit.

Through a Marshall JCM 800 style amp:
The Marshall is more buckled down and filtered than the Fender style amp I own. In this capacity, the pickups deliver all the low end thump and tightness that I want in a harder rock tone, even with the weight relief and Bigsby. There is nothing missing here in the low end, mids, harmonics, anything. Good, balanced tone with the right amount of drive and nuance. I would like to hear this guitar in the hands of a more accomplished player.

Summing up, these have a great classic PAF, clean to drive tone. They are not hard rock / metal monsters, but could easily handle blues, classic rock, country and country rock, and anything that wants a lighter touch and more clarity. I would definitely buy them again and would love to hear them in my LP Custom with a regular setup and solid body to hear what they would do in that application.

Some notes:

I installed these in a Heritage H-157 WR (weight relieved) model, which is routed out through the bouts and on both sides of the bridge and tailpiece, and weighs about 8.5 lbs stock. I put a Bigsby B-7 on it so it weighs a bit more now and has the "sproingier" feel and tone that the Bigsby adds. It is very cool, sounds a lot like a 335, but is the opposite of the tight mids and lows that you get with a solid body LP with a regular bridge. It is also, perhaps, a bit brighter. 11 Gauge strings on the guitar.

The RS/Fralin PAF is well made, as expected, and was shipped in a short time frame despite the warning that it can take several weeks to ship. I spoke with the guys at RS and they are excellent, very customer oriented, and knowledgeable. I believe we agreed to overwind the bridge pickup a bit to compensate for the routed design (8.4 vs. standard 8.1K), as they suggested that the guitar might be especially bright with these pickups in a "Cloud 9" style guitar, and that 500K pots on the lower impedance end might tame the highs a bit. With that in mind, I rewired the guitar with Bourns pots and Russian PIO caps (green, 0.22 / 0.15) that I bought from ToneMan guitars and a new switch. The volume pots are 458/481K and tones are 440/431K for the neck and bridge, respectively. I wired the tone pots to cut the pickups to single coil mode when the tone is on 8-10, a la the Nash LP conversions, reversed the wiring on the bridge pickup so that I get the slug coil vs. the screw coil, and wired the two pickups in reverse phase for the Peter Green middle position tones.

My other guitar is a mahogany tele that has overwound Fralin P-92 humbucker sized P-90s, and they also have the strong treble presence and note clarity that I found here. The PAF pickups edge them out on the low and low mids, I think, but then again these are two very different guitars so it's not a fair comparison. I think the PAFs also clean up a little better than the overwound P-92s, and I don't have coil splitting on the P-92s so I can't make a comparison there.

Big thanks to RS Guitarworks for their insight and fantastic customer support.
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