Yesterday, May 25, 2012, Mack Amps Endorsing Artist David Barrett came by our showroom to test pickups in his Epiphone doubleneck.
Why would he be testing pickups at Mack Amps????
Because we are about to launch our own line of pickups that are hand made in the Toronto area and that sell for less than typical boutique guitar pickups!
The Mack line will include humbuckers, Tele, Strat and P-90 styles.
Every pickup is completely hand made to vintage standards of materials, construction and building methods. These pickups are as close to original vintage specs as it is possible to achieve in 2012.
Back to David...
David's band, The David Barrett Trio - DB3 - have been turning heads in the Toronto area and worldwide with their original instrumental music along the lines of Rush and fusion - that is heavy and highly melodic!
DB3 are currently recording an album that is being produced by Alex Lifeson of Rush and recorded by Rich Chycki Rush's long time sound engineer who has worked with Aerosmith, Mick Jagger and many other big names.
David and Alex have been friends for many years and a few years ago Alex loaned David his famous white, Gibson 1275. Well, Rush are hitting the road this summer and Alex decided he wanted to play that guitar again live. Pending the Gibson's imminent return to its famous owner, David snagged a very nice Epiphone doubleneck, but was unhappy with its pickups.
Yesterday David and I spent almost four hours testing Mack HB-1 humbuckers that were all identical except for the type of ALNICO magnets.
The Mack HB-1 humbucker lineup will include pickups made with ALNICO 2 (AL2), AL3, AL4, AL5 and AL5 'Unaligned' or AL5U (more on what that means later!).
The object of the exercise was to make David's Epi sound like Lifeson's Gibson. Not an easy task as this particular 1275 is a VERY, VERY good sounding guitar!
Here is what David ended up with:
- 12 string, bridge pickup: Mack HB-1 AL4. The ALNICO 4 humbucker is as close to an exact match with Lifeson's 12 string neck sound as possible using a different guitar. The AL4 had the perfect blend of overtones and clarity and provided a very even response over the frequency range of the guitar. It sounded just as 'lush' and full bodied and the Gibson, which was exactly what we were looking for!
- 6 string, bridge pickup: Mack HB-1 AL5U. We first tried an AL2 and then an AL5 in the 6 string bridge. The AL2 was nice and clear, but did not have as much lower mid/bottom response and overall complexity as Lifeson's 6 string bridge pickup. The AL5 was much closer, but had a bit too much attack (sounded awesome, but not quite what David wanted). So, we tried the AL5U, which provided the even response and lush overtones while still sounding ballsy and aggressive - just what a humbucker bridge pickup should be and a VERY close match to the Gibson.
- 6 string, neck pickup: Mack HB-1 AL5. On a whim, we tried the AL5 in the 6 string neck position and were blown away by the great tone! Articulate, harmonically rich 'woman' tone that had amazing bite and NO bottom end mush. Although this was a more aggressive tone than the Gibson doubleneck's 6 string neck pickup, David instantly fell in love with it!!
David did all of the testing through a Heatseeker HS-18 and 1x12CB.
ALNICO 5 Unaligned - What is it?
When ALNICO 5 magnet material is made it is cooled in a magnetic field. This aligns the magnetic particles in the metal so their orientation is aligned in the same direction.
AL5U is made slightly differently: as it cools the magnetic material is NOT subjected to a magnetic field. This allows the magnetic particles in the metal to remain randomly oriented or 'unaligned. Note that AL2, 3 and 4 magnetic particles are also not aligned.
What does that mean to tone? Whereas AL5, which is used in most humbuckers, provides the most aggressive tone of the group, the AL5U is slightly less aggressive, but features more harmonics - the word 'lush' I used above is a great descriptor.
Stay tuned for more information on the soon-to-be-launched Mack pickup line and more about the what makes pickups sound the way they do!
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