- Band Management
- Home Recording
- Live Sound
- Best Instruments
- New Music & Video
New pickups can breathe fresh life into any guitar, and there are a lot of choices out there. But Sheptone just made it easier if you’re looking for that classic PAF tone. We were sent a set of Sheptone’s Tribute Humbuckers, which we installed in our test guitar; a PRS Mira (Core) with a maple top. Control-wise it has a master volume, master tone, a 3-way blade switch, and a mini toggle for coil taps.
OK, here are the specs: the magnets are Alnico 5 and the resistance is pretty close, with the bridge at 8.0K and the neck at 7.6K. With the ratings so close, the pickup’s actual physical position in the guitar tends to dictate the treble and bass balance, rather than pickups optimized for individual neck or bridge locations. When using both pickups together, it means one isn’t overpowering the other, just a better overall tonal balance.
While we didn’t have a guitar with a set of original Gibson PAFs for a direct comparison, from past experiences it should be good to note PAFs have an interesting and tight high-end response. In lower gain settings this is very present, and that same character is here in the Tribute set. The neck pickup has a nice rich and full tone, with a great blend of top-end chime on the B and E strings. It’s bubbly, and doesn’t get tubby or loose with the lower strings, even with an overdriven amp. Players who like soloing on a neck pickup, but wish it had more push in the mix, this is the one for you. *coughSlashcough*
On the bridge pickup, it again has that nice richness, with a more open response. There’s plenty of balance and bite here, and with an overdriven amp, the top-end is still bright without being piercing. Midrange-wise, they have plenty of poke-through, but not in a brash way. Lead parts sing through easily, with no brittleness or low-end mushiness. Rhythm wise, there’s plenty of tight drive, that still has space in there.
Together they balanced nicely. In a lot of dual humbucker guitars, one pickup can really over color the other, but not here. The tone just gets fuller. Want more bass, go to the neck, more treble, switch to the bridge — it’s a natural feel and overall response that gives plenty of tonal options.
And with 4-conductor wire, you can coil-tap until your heart’s content for even more options. When using coil taps, we wired up the screw coils to be active. In a lot of cases split coils fall into the “meh” zone, thankfully not here. There’s still plenty of overall presence, but it just thins out just enough, as if a low-pass filter was engaged, and just tighten things up a bit, like going from a heavyweight class to a middleweight class. They still have punch, but it’s less bulky. It won’t out-Strat a Stratocaster, or out-Tele a Telecaster, but a guitar equipped with these could save bringing a single coil guitar to the studio for overdubs, or hauling that Strat or Tele out for that one song in your set that needs it.
Our PRS’s tone knob really responded nicely as well, with a deep sweep. If you’re one of those players who pretty much runs the tone at 10, because it doesn’t sound good anywhere else, these really interacted well, rolling of just enough high-end (great on the bridge pickup in split coil mode) where it wasn’t wanted.
Sheptone gives you plenty of options for aging, baseplate, bobbin colors, metal covers in gold, chrome, nickel (aged and unaged), wax potting, and 2, 3 or 4 conductor wiring, and more.
ANY guitar with a set of these installed can really be a game changer. We never had any issue with our test guitar’s original stock pickups, but after installing these, we’ve been thinking, “Where have you been all these years?”
Excellent PAF tone, well balanced individually and as a set. Plenty of wiring options.