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Throbak vs Stephens

8ohms

Member
Joined
Aug 31, 2003
Messages
170
I've been spending a lot of time recently, researching pickups to replace my 2011 R9 Burstbuckers. From the youtube and demo files I've heard, I feel the Stephens have more of the tone I'm looking for. I'm worried this could simply be the quality of the videos I've been watching. The quality is all over the map. Most are recorded poorly and I'm sure do not represent the true tone and character of the pickups. My perception is that the Stephens have that airy, woody PAF Crang that the throbaks might be missing. I just can't be sure based on the sound files alone. However, the Stephens have almost a years wait, maybe more. Personally I don't want to wait that long to try a pickup. I have a pair of Timbuckers in my R7 that I really dig, so I feel I have a good basis for comparison. I would really like to hear your opinions and comments of these two brands. I'm open to others as well, such as Rolph's. Unfortunatly Jim's site doesn't seem to be working right now. All I can load is the main page. I get error messages when trying to navigate within the site. Thanks.
 
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A

AndrewSimon

Guest
Hmm.... they are both good.

Personally my evolution was BB then Holmes then Throbak then Stephens VL59JP.
I'm pretty sure I'm done now.

:peace2
 

Jumping@Shadows

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 11, 2003
Messages
1,318
I have a number of PAFs, both long mag and short and sets of early PAF spec Pat No's so i'm not hurting for nice hums, and the only repro i would spend money on would be Dave's. My advice is make the commitment and one day a year or so from now you'll get the call and they'll be in your hands and you can flip whatever you've bought in the mean time..they are killer pickups :)
 

slammintone

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 19, 2001
Messages
1,955
All I can say is if Dave Stephens PAF repros sound any better than my ThroBaks do then they'd be worth it waiting three years for!
 

8ohms

Member
Joined
Aug 31, 2003
Messages
170
So which version of throbaks do you have? I'm leaning towards the SL101 MXV based on the sound files I've heard.
 

dc007

Member
Joined
Nov 6, 2009
Messages
321
Call Jim Rolph at the number on his site (main page) and he will chat with you. It will be a fun conversation.

I've been spending a lot of time recently, researching pickups to replace my 2011 R9 Burstbuckers. From the youtube and demo files I've heard, I feel the Stephens have more of the tone I'm looking for. I'm worried this could simply be the quality of the videos I've been watching. The quality is all over the map. Most are recorded poorly and I'm sure do not represent the true tone and character of the pickups. My perception is that the Stephens have that airy, woody PAF Crang that the throbaks might be missing. I just can't be sure based on the sound files alone. However, the Stephens have almost a years wait, maybe more. Personally I don't want to wait that long to try a pickup. I have a pair of Timbuckers in my R7 that I really dig, so I feel I have a good basis for comparison. I would really like to hear your opinions and comments of these two brands. I'm open to others as well, such as Rolph's. Unfortunatly Jim's site doesn't seem to be working right now. All I can load is the main page. I get error messages when trying to navigate within the site. Thanks.
 

straightblues

Member
Joined
Mar 17, 2004
Messages
954
Go review the recent pickup shootout over on My Les Paul Forum (It is a sticky in the "Tonefreaks Pickup Section"). Listen to the clips and decide for yourself. What I learned listening to the clips is that just how close all these pickups are in terms of tone. Neither one of the brands you are looking at won the shootout.


I have both Throbak and Stephens. I really like both. I also love my Wolfetone Legends. Although all of these pickups are great, none of them seem to be that quantum leap back to vintage tone for me. So after coming full circle, I would save some cash and stick with Wolfetones.
 
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latestarter

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 9, 2009
Messages
4,089
Just to throw the cat amongst the pigeons...I have PAF's, Throbaks and Zhangbuckers Handwound. Previously I've had Stephens in the Deweyburst. I'm familiar with them all. ALL of them are great...but the woody honk I love the most I get from the Thro's and the Zhangs. The only downside of the Zhangs are the covers are not as good as the Thro's. So you should also add them into the mix.
 

buddyboy

Member
Joined
Apr 11, 2009
Messages
92
Go review the recent pickup shootout over on My Les Paul Forum (It is a sticky in the "Tonefreaks Pickup Section"). Listen to the clips and decide for yourself. What I learned listening to the clips is that just how close all these pickups are in terms of tone. Neither one of the brands you are looking at won the shootout.


I have both Throbak and Stephens. I really like both. I also love my Wolfetone Legends. Although all of these pickups are great, none of them seem to be that quantum leap back to vintage tone for me. So after coming full circle, I would save some cash and stick with Wolfetones.

After listening to those clips, IMHO, none of the sets match the original Pat Stickers that were demoed. I owned both a 61 335 and a 59 345 back in the day and those pickups get that sound. The other pickups were nice (the 80's Shaws really shocked me as being pretty good and the Scatterbrane Earthbranes too) but none of them sounded as good as those PAt Stickers (IMHO).
 

1970goldielux

New member
Joined
Dec 18, 2011
Messages
65
I have Throbaks. The clarity is beautiful. I would also consider Skatterbrane. There was a set of Stephens for sale on the MLP forum last week. Not sure of they are still there.
 

slammintone

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 19, 2001
Messages
1,955
So which version of throbaks do you have? I'm leaning towards the SL101 MXV based on the sound files I've heard.

I have the pre MXV series ThroBak SLE-101LTD. I bought them new in 2009 and they came with Alnico 2 magnets. Last week I swapped just the magnets for ThroBaks unoriented Alnico 5 magnets and COMPLETELY changed the sound to much more like I would have wanted in the first place. Very PAF, loads of character, the bridge pickup reminds me strongly of Toys in the Attic and Rocks era Aerosmith with Joe Perry and just about anything Paul Kossoff played in the bridge position with Free. I also hear Martin Barres early Jethro Tull work. And the neck pickup sounds like the perfect Gibson counter part and makes for a sweet middle position tone. Thing is, the sound now is like ever changing, with pick position, attack angles, picking intensity etc. producing myriad PAF flavors and harmonics. It makes it really hard to put the guitar down now because it's so interesting and responsive to play.
This is no joke, I've gone almost into a trance playing the guitar now and its' like for brief periods I'm listening to someone else playing the guitar and I'm just there moving my hands and finger across the strings. Single line runs and sustained notes really have body and a sustaining quality I've never had in any of my guitars.

If I was buying a new ThroBak set I guess it would be the closest thing to what I have now which probably would be the SLE-101 Plus MXV which has a similar wind and the same unoriented A5 magnets.

I've been very interested to get my hands on a set of Dave Stephens's pickups, either the Royal Albert Hall set or the new VL61 series. If they turn out sounding better still than the ThroBaks I have now I may have to expand my vocabulary to be able to articulate exactly what I would be hearing that was different or better about them. I once joked to Dave about possibly having him rewind my ThroBaks to sound like what I'd heard in one of his youtube videos. That was then however. Even if Daves' pickups are better (or just as good but different) I'd still never part with the ThroBaks. Period
 

8ohms

Member
Joined
Aug 31, 2003
Messages
170
I have the pre MXV series ThroBak SLE-101LTD. I bought them new in 2009 and they came with Alnico 2 magnets. Last week I swapped just the magnets for ThroBaks unoriented Alnico 5 magnets and COMPLETELY changed the sound to much more like I would have wanted in the first place. Very PAF, loads of character, the bridge pickup reminds me strongly of Toys in the Attic and Rocks era Aerosmith with Joe Perry and just about anything Paul Kossoff played in the bridge position with Free. I also hear Martin Barres early Jethro Tull work. And the neck pickup sounds like the perfect Gibson counter part and makes for a sweet middle position tone. Thing is, the sound now is like ever changing, with pick position, attack angles, picking intensity etc. producing myriad PAF flavors and harmonics. It makes it really hard to put the guitar down now because it's so interesting and responsive to play.
This is no joke, I've gone almost into a trance playing the guitar now and its' like for brief periods I'm listening to someone else playing the guitar and I'm just there moving my hands and finger across the strings. Single line runs and sustained notes really have body and a sustaining quality I've never had in any of my guitars.

If I was buying a new ThroBak set I guess it would be the closest thing to what I have now which probably would be the SLE-101 Plus MXV which has a similar wind and the same unoriented A5 magnets.

I've been very interested to get my hands on a set of Dave Stephens's pickups, either the Royal Albert Hall set or the new VL61 series. If they turn out sounding better still than the ThroBaks I have now I may have to expand my vocabulary to be able to articulate exactly what I would be hearing that was different or better about them. I once joked to Dave about possibly having him rewind my ThroBaks to sound like what I'd heard in one of his youtube videos. That was then however. Even if Daves' pickups are better (or just as good but different) I'd still never part with the ThroBaks. Period


Thanks for the info. I just emailed Jon and gave him a detailed description of what I'm after. He mentioned the same thing you spoke about. He recommended the SLE101 with unoriented A5 magnets. Sounds like you did the neck the same way? How was it before with the A2? I'm looking for that hollow, woody mid crang type of tone. Steppin out by Clapton on the Bluesbreaker album comes to mind. Where did you get the magnets?

I wanted to give Dave's VL61 set a try. His video's seem to show a lot of what I'm after, however I'm just not into the wait.
 
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slammintone

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 19, 2001
Messages
1,955
Here's a link to my review last week of the magnet swap
http://www.lespaulforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=180308

I got the unoriented A5 magnets from Jon and yes the neck pickup got the new magnet as well. Before it wasn't bad really, it was nice but rather ho hum in comparison to the A5 magnet swap. The hollow woody crang type tone is all over the bridge pickup now, and the neck pickup now is very woody, clear and sweet in the mids and detailed with a bit of added sparkle on the very uppermost ranges. They make a killer set. Good luck either way whichever makers product you go with!
 

Aloha_Mark

New member
Joined
Dec 15, 2011
Messages
495
I don't believe in pickup shootouts anymore. Not because they are conceptually wrong, but because they don't match the process by which an individual guitar player dials in his or her tone. On the MLP test, the reviewer set the tone knob to a 10/10 position. He did not explain how he adjusted the amp tone. Therein lies one flaw of the experiment. I own a guitar with 3 PAFs, and never play it with the tone knob wide open. Second flaw has to do with the mic'ing of the sound. Instead of using a SM-57/58 or Royer, the tester used an inexpensive mic. The third problem with the test had nothing to do with the tester, but the audience, most of whom listened on inexpensive speakers. Would you judge a guitar in the same way, listening to the sound through a second hand amplification system? Pickup selection is a very personal experience, and the only way to do it right is to order one from each of the top makers. You laugh. That's several thousand dollars worth of pickups! But, in terms of guitar costs, it is a drop in the bucket.
 
J

JLH

Guest
I've been spending a lot of time recently, researching pickups to replace my 2011 R9 Burstbuckers. From the youtube and demo files I've heard, I feel the Stephens have more of the tone I'm looking for. I'm worried this could simply be the quality of the videos I've been watching. The quality is all over the map. Most are recorded poorly and I'm sure do not represent the true tone and character of the pickups. My perception is that the Stephens have that airy, woody PAF Crang that the throbaks might be missing. I just can't be sure based on the sound files alone. However, the Stephens have almost a years wait, maybe more. Personally I don't want to wait that long to try a pickup. I have a pair of Timbuckers in my R7 that I really dig, so I feel I have a good basis for comparison. I would really like to hear your opinions and comments of these two brands. I'm open to others as well, such as Rolph's. Unfortunatly Jim's site doesn't seem to be working right now. All I can load is the main page. I get error messages when trying to navigate within the site. Thanks.

I tried to e mail you (8 ohms) but no luck, I may have a set of VL2's for sale, feel free to contact me, JLH
 
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