Are 57s the best pickups or the most over-hyped?

Discussion in 'Pickups' started by Biddlin, Jun 30, 2019.

  1. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

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    I have a bunch of Gibson pickups under my 122 or so strings currently in service. I bought a pair of 57 Classics for my LPJ.
    DSCN1207.JPG
    They were OK, but I missed the 490/498 stock pickups grit.
    They ended up here:
    DSCN1626.JPG
    My 03 G-400 Vintage.
    I have to say that the 57s are clear, adapt to pedals and overdriven amps well, but straight into a clean amp, they are bland. I find the OEM "Hot 57 " Epi pickups more suited to metal and hard rock, though less defined when the volume and tone are rolled down.
    I have to say that I find the 490s and the DirtyFingers are both capable of matching the 57s cleans and exceeding their tonal range. Perhaps it is my long relationship with P-90s that also makes the 57s seem "thin" sounding.
    Maybe it's just me.
     
  2. Bob Womack

    Bob Womack Active Member

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    Funny. I've had both and consider the 490/498s to be hard sounding. Now, I like a sweet sound. I am also a traditional "push the amp" rather than forty-thousand pedal kind of guy. An ES-335 with '57 Classics has been my home base in the studio since 2007. Oh, and I love the cleanish sound of the '57 Classics.

    Bob
     
  3. cerebral gasket

    cerebral gasket Well-Known Member

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    I had SG in the past where some had 57s and others had 490s and I preferred the 490s.

    My favorite pickups are P-90s.
    All my guitars with P-90s are equipped with hum-cancelling P-90s at the bridge position for hi gain use, so I no longer see the need for guitars with traditional humbuckers. I sold all my guitars with humbuckers except for one SG Special with the stock 490R / 490T combo that I use for alternate tunings.

    Pictured below is my current set of tools...

    [​IMG]
     
  4. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

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    Mine, too, but there might be something wrong with us.
     

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  5. papagayo

    papagayo Well-Known Member

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    I love 498T and 490R
     
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  6. Didds

    Didds Well-Known Member

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    Personal preference I suppose, but I find 57s to way outshine any other pickup that Gibson makes today
     
  7. GrumpyOldDBA

    GrumpyOldDBA Well-Known Member

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    Yeah I dunno it's very hard to beat the 57 57+ combo that I have in both my 2018 SG HP and 2017 LP Tribute Studio HP.

    But the 498/490s are fine also just a little too sharp and brittle sounding for some songs. But heck there is the tone control and amp controls. There are certain songs I play ( Animals House of Rising Sun for example ) that to me the 57s sound a fair amount better than the 498/490 set.

    Both the 57s and 498/490 sound fine for more aggressive rock and blues.

    I am also digging the PRS 85/15 pickups a lot lot.
     
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  8. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

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    Really like that compressed tone, eh?
     
  9. GrumpyOldDBA

    GrumpyOldDBA Well-Known Member

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    Have you tried a set of the relatively new 85/15s?

    They sound sweet and full not quite as bright as the 57s to me. But compressed compared to a 57 sorry I don't hear that at all.
     
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  10. DrBGood

    DrBGood Well-Known Member

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    57's shades of ...

    Nope.

    02.jpg
    Untitled-1.jpg

    1-.jpg
     
  11. PixMix

    PixMix Well-Known Member

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    My first experience with '57s was about 13-14 years ago when I bought a used Gibson ES 135. I had a love-hate relationship with them, and when I hated them I thought the balance between wound and plain strings was really bad. Thin and brittle high E to G and too muddy D-E, especially true on the neck pickup.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Fast forward to my first SG 61 Standard, and I love them. They are incredibly balanced, great cleans and beautiful overdriven tones, and probably my favorite sounding humbuckers I have. I don't know if there was some change in specs between 2003 and 2013-14, but it's stunning how much difference there is between the two. Of course a lot might have to do with the difference in guitars themselves.
     
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  12. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

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    My point is that the PRS and 57s are both less dynamic than some of the other Gibson pickups.
     
  13. Voxman

    Voxman Moderator Staff Member

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    Too much of what one perceives ear wise to make a call as everyone hears differently. But it's really interesting to read what each persons take is on each pickup! Especially in detail.
     
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  14. HackeIommi

    HackeIommi Active Member

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    When I was using LP, my favorite pickups were Seymour Duncan Seth Lover set. Play clean or drive doesn't matter. They always sounded crystal clean, kings of accuracy. Almost accurate as best Strat single pickups. They beat every Gibson pickups for my tastes. Don't let somebody hear this but they were sounding very very authentic :/ Wish I could try them on an SG.

    498-490 pickup sets are different worlds IMO. Actually, I find them very versatile. Old 498t bridges (14-15 k versions) were good but risky on SG's. They always sounded too bright on every SG I tend to buy. IDK new lower output versions. On the other hand, old 490t bridges were tasty on Special Fadeds. Maybe Alnico II factor like Seth Lovers, IDK.
     
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  15. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    So many times I read posts about "tone from pickups"
    and it sounds like something that ought to be controlled by EQ.

    *shrugs

    I know that I considered the Epiphone humbuckers that
    were stock on my Step daughter's Epi Les Paul special ll
    were actually good sounding. I didn't expect this on an
    inexpensive guitar. But the Bolt-neck Epiphone Special ll
    is full of surprises. ...including a well made neck and lots
    of sustain.

    I replaced those Epi p'ups with the 490 set I took out of my SG special, and felt that the Gibson pickups sounded better in the Epi Les Paul than they did in the SG. Maybe
    neck p'up placement made it so.

    I was new to all this, having played acoustic for most of my career, and I joined this forum just bursting with curiosity. I read many of the ETSG threads on tone, and pickups, and string tuners, and amps, and distortion, and
    clean tones, and the difference between Telecaster twang and Strat clarity, and Gibson dark energy.

    I worked on the Epi Les Paul as a learning experience, and also because I didn't want my Stepdaughter to have to learn on a poor instrument. She still has that Les Paul, and it still sounds great.

    What did I replace the 490R and T pickups with, in my
    SG special? '57 classic and Classic plus. At that time, the Gibson '61 ReIssue was one of my ideals as Gibson's best, and these p'ups were issued stock in the
    '61. That brought them to my attention, and then comments by members here made me want those in my SG. I will confirm all good reviews of Gibson's '57s without reservation. SGs and '57s were made for each
    other IMHO.

    These are Gibson's attempt to recreate the past.
    Relatively mild output, Alnico 2 magnets, similar wire
    and windings to what was made in Kalamazoo. This pickup suits my style perfectly. So I'm a fan.
    Other players might not feel this way, because of stylistic differences. And that's the way it should be.

    I've actually never played one of the 'golden age" Gibson guitars, so I really don't care how the modern '57 classic p'up measures up to the old ones. I do know that I love the tones I get. Clear sweet upper range, with no ice pick to the ear... Firm and present midrange, tough jazzy or bluesy sound, deep round bottom with no mud, and a great Gibson growl when you want it.

    That's what I hear when I play my favorite SG with the '57s. I read other posts where players describe the '57s as harsh, or where they describe them as muddy, and I just don't get it. But I don't know how they EQ their amps, so I can't argue with them. I just say that's not what I hear from my equipment.

    I've played other hum buckers, and I have a guitar with P-90 pickups as well. I can't say that I've ever had a guitar or a set of pickups that I considered muddy, or shrill. Because if I thought that, I'd turn the controls until it didn't sound that way. ...works for me.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2019
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  16. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    I actually liked the tones of the 490s in my first SG,
    and played them for almost a year before I saw the '57s
    go onsale... Then I had to pounce. Ten years ago there
    was lots of Gibson bashing, just like now. Lots of posts
    that said Gibson p'ups were crap, and should be replaced immediately by Seymour Duncans or Fralins or Rio Grande, or Bare Knuckles or what.... ANYTHING but Gibson.

    I didn't fall for this then, and I'm not falling for it now.
    Too much of it sounded (and still sounds) like knee-jerk
    reflex... "oh you got a new Gibson? When are you going to replace those muddy pickups with something good?
    ...just like I did"

    Naw. I read the posts, and I thought about them, and I
    played my guitar and listened a lot. I bought a few amps
    and played my SG through each of them, and listened.
    I don't think there's any flies on the 490 set but I like
    the '57s better. I don't know anything about Seymour Duncans, except that they are well regarded on this forum. Never played them... happy with my Gibson pickups.

    I found that the difference between the 490 R and the '57 Classic pickup is small. Negligible. I coulda saved my money on that. Not much difference IMHO.
    Like 'em both.

    But I also found that the difference between the 490T and the '57 Classic plus is like night and day. The 490T is accurate, and I was able to dial in a tone I liked with this pickup, but I like the sound of the Classic Plus so much better, it seems effortless to play it. More output, more low range, more midrange, more upper range, more of everything. I play mine wide open, with the tone control at about 7 or 8. My guitar growls, it screams, this might be my favorite pickup.
     
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  17. Bettyboo

    Bettyboo Well-Known Member

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    I like a 57 in the neck, sounds pretty similar to the 490 with a nice bite to it, but I'm not fond of the 57+ in the bridge position, doesn't do the rock/punk sounds that I like - much prefer the 498T or AY (much under-rated pickup which sounds amazing in the bridge of an SG, imho).

    I suspect that a lot of folks who love the 57s might be more into country/folk music?
     
  18. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    That would be me, but I also like blues, jazz and rock an roll music as well.
    If you think about it, the name is the key, as it should be.
    In 1957, when Humbuckers were first installed in Les Paul guitars,
    distortion was considered "amp failure" by most guitarists,
    most recording engineers, and most radio & TV program directors.
    I think blues guys started distorting amps before anyone else,
    guys like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Guy.

    Amps were designed not to distort. Pop music of the day was mostly Jazz...
    Rock an Roll had just gotten started, and music biz control types insisted
    that it would never last. They had their heads up their arses, as usual.

    So in 1957, the hum bucking pickup was designed to play clean.
    It wasn't until later that guys figured out that some Humbuckers
    had more output than others. And the ones that had more output
    could be used to drive a 15W amp into breakup, and new rock tones
    were developed, that had never been considered before.
    Eric Clapton famously had furious arguments with recording engineers
    over this, trying to get this notion through their engineer heads.

    Many of the pickups we use now are intended to mimic what was
    made in the past. The overwound pickups we can buy over the counter
    are intended to re-create those that accidentally got overwound at the
    factory, sixty years ago. There's no way to really do that, but most
    pickup makers do their best, and get as close as they can to the P.A.F. sound.

    Which is where EQ comes in, IMHO.
    What PAF pickups were, and still are, is versatile. Capable of playing multiple
    kinds of tone, clean or overdriven. So it's up to the guitarist to EQ the
    accurate and versatile tone of the PAF style pickup, and get the sound he wants.
    And to me, the best way to begin is with the sparkly clean tone of a PAF style
    pickup, and drive it and spin it and delay it the way you want.
     
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  19. Retrop

    Retrop Member

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    My Les Paul came with '57s and I loved them. My SG came with '61s and I loved them a little more. Then I swapped them between the two guitars and then eventually put the '61s back in the SG and decided that I prefer them over the '57 classics.

    Now my Les Paul has a set of the Gibson '59 pickups in it and I prefer those too over the '57 classics for that guitar.

    I used to really like the '57 classics (I still do really) but after trying the '61 and '59 pickups (and trying custombuckers on an R9 in the store) I think I prefer all three over the '57 classic. IMO, the '57 classics really shine in an ES-335 but mine already had Tim Shaws in it so they just sit in a box now...

    Not sure where I was going with this but I guess it just depends on what you want to use them for. I don't consider them overhyped but I also wouldn't call them the best. I rank them after the '61 for an SG and after the '59, Custombucker, and Burstbuckers in a Les Paul.

    As for the 490/498 family? Well, they are good too but I prefer them in an LP Custom over a Standard or SG and I would stick a short A5 magnet in the neck 490 which essentially turns it into a T-Top.
     
  20. Beery Swine

    Beery Swine Member

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    '57s are great, altho my experience with them has been limited to inside the music shops. They sound great for classic rock and metal alike (both are where I live). I don't think "best" is a label for anything where taste is involved. I think chicken fajitas drenched in guac and salsa are the best food on the planet. Most disagree, but most also think fajitas are great food (if they've had them).
    Don't get too hung up on people telling you about "the" pickup. There are a TON of great options, and they can sound fairly different, even among the same type or "class" of pickups, but some you just may not prefer. I have some Duncans, EMGs, PRSs and SEs, and Epiphones (which I've been VERY impressed with, btw). The only ones I plan/planned on replacing are the EMGs because I've grown much more fond of passive and vintage tones lately (but others use them exclusively), along with these stock "Duncan Designed" in my Jackson Soloist because they really just didn't sound good. I loved EMGs for years as a huge Metallica and Slayer tone fan, tho. One big time brand name pickup I've never liked the tone of is the Duncan JB, so if I ever found a good deal on a guitar model I really wanted but it had that pickup in the bridge, there's a 100% chance I'd change it ASAP, regardless of all the rock and metal players who swear by it.
    My advice to anyone is to not focus too much on "the best", so long as it's getting the job done. Focus more on the fingers. If you have two of the same sets of pickups in a couple guitars, fine, it makes sense to switch one out, but if they already sound good and they're the only guitar with that set in them, just relax.
     

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