Gave up on adjusting my cheap stock pickups into greatness and bought a set of IronGear's!

Discussion in 'Pickups' started by NoiseNinja, May 15, 2020.

  1. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Active Member

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    So I eventually gave up on trying to adjust the cheap stock pickups on my cheap Epiphone SG Special (not the current Special model, which is a bit higher end, but one from 2012, but which otherwise plays great, and sounds really good acoustically as well) into sounding great and decided for a pair of cheap IronGear pickups to update them with, since I found out, from researching on the internet, that the common consensus of people who bought them (which actually seems to be quite a few people) is that they are as great, some claim even greater, than pickups from bigger more expensive brands.

    Though aside from their Blues Engine pickups, for which the samples provided on IronGear's homepage sounded no short of amazing, and which I chose for the neck, supposed to be a pickup very similar to the Seymour Duncan Jazz humbucker, just allegedly even better, the samples provided for the rest of the pickups they offer sounded like crap to me, at least if you as me predominantly intend to play completely clean.

    I still decided to take the chance buying the hotter Dirty Torque pickup for the bridge though, since it seemed like everyone speaking about the Blues Engine neck and Dirty Torque bridge combination on the internet agreed on that being an amazing combo, allegedly quite similar to the very common and commonly praised Seymour Duncan Jazz/JB combo, some even claiming it to be like an improved version of that.

    And I did actually also mange to find a single demo on YouTube where the Dirty Talk bridge pickup was played clean, which actually sounded quite decent, despite me not really liking the general tone that the guy demoing it had chosen to dial in on his amp, just as was the case with the samples provided on IronGear's homepage.

    But at least if the Dirty Torque bridge pickup turns out to be unusable for me, despite claims all over the internet of it supposedly being a great pickup, including used for clean tones as well, I still have have the Blues Engine, and will still have ended up using less money on getting that than if I had bought a similar Seymour Duncan or DiMarzio pickup.

    And I am still quite confident that I am going to love the Blues Engine neck pickup, both based on the samples provided on IronGear's homepage, and based on a quite extensive YouTube demo I was able to find of that pickup.

    The Blues Engine by the way being a vintage/low output Alnico IV pickup, as said supposed to be somewhat similar to the Seymour Duncan SH-2n Jazz neck pickup, and the Dirty Torque being a high output Alnico V pickup, as said said supposed to be somewhat similar to the Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB bridge pickup.

    I actually originally intended to buy a set consisting of a Dimarzio PAF 36th Anniversary for the neck and a DiMarzio Super Distortion for the bridge, but decided to try out the IronGear pickups instead, as I otherwise wouldn't have been able to afford upgrading my pickups right away, and while I am quite unsure about how I will like the IronGear Dirty Torque in place of the DiMarzio Super Distortion in the bridge position, I am fairly sure that I will actually prefer the IronGear Blues Engine to the Dimarzio PAF 36th Anniversary in the neck position.

    But in case it turns out that I in fact don't like the Dirty Torque I'll most likely end up buying the Super Distortion anyway at a later point.

    Will write an update, as soon as I have installed the pickups and had a chance for trying them out properly, which should be around the end of next week.

    Here's a link to IronGear's homepage (they are a company based in England, which is perfect for me, since I happen to live in Europe):
    http://www.irongear.co.uk/index.html
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2020
  2. Norton

    Norton Well-Known Member

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    It looks very much as if the Iron Gear pickups are made by one of the large OEM parts makers in China or Korea.

    Which might make them more similar than different to what came stock in your guitar to start with.

    Doesn't mean they aren't good. Higher output, different voices etc...all can be a big deal.
     
  3. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

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    Really? 650R DC resistance 12.8ohms 700R-16.6 ohms, that's pretty darned hot.
    I might swap out the neck pick-up if I cared about clean brights, but at the end of the day, if you don't sound good with the OEM's better pickups probably won't help. If I played metal all the time the 650/700 combo would stay. (You can sterilize the neighbor's Shih-Tzu with the 700T and a 50 watt tube amp.)
     
  4. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Active Member

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    You might be right, but that makes all those posts from different people on various guitar gear forums on the internet who claim to have actually tried them seem very strange to me, sure they can't all be wrong or being hired to spam guitar forums by IronGear, having several other people who agree joining in on those discussion?

    Try to do a search yourself, and read the general consensus from people who actually tried some of the pickups that IronGear offers.

    Not saying you are wrong, as I haven't actually tried any of their pickups myself I can't for sure know if you are or not, just saying that it seems very strange to me if you would be, judging from the research I did on it.


    Edit!!:
    Sorry, seems like I failed to read your reply properly the first time, as I, reading it again, realized that you actually wrote that they very well might be great pickups, so I guess you can just ignore most of what I wrote above as my reply to that post of yours.

    Well, except that I am sure the pickups I ordered would actually be a huge improvement to the stock pickups, at least if there is any truth to what all those people I've read comments from on several different guitar related forums claim, and in case I, at least concerning the neck pickup I ordered, can trust my own ears, based on how the samples I've heard of that pickup sounds, and knowing how my current neck pickup sounds.



    Uhm, not sure where you are getting this from, I stated in my OP that I predominantly intend to play perfectly clean.

    As for the 16.6 KOhm (I asssume you mean), I don't think that is actually crazily hot for a bridge pickup used and adjusted right, though the bridge pickup that I ordered does have a slightly lower DCR value, actually exactly matching that of the Seymour Duncan JB bridge pickup.

    Also I don't agree on the part about swapping pickups not helping, the stock bridge has always sounded a bit too thrill to me, and the neck always like complete mud.

    I was still able to get a quite decent tone with some thorough adjustments, including the individual pole pieces of the two pickups and some additional EQ'ing, but not exactly optimal.

    Though I am pretty much taking a chance with these pickups, so they might not be the exact right ones for the job.

    But from my personal experience swapping pickups makes a much bigger difference on your tone than people usually seem to be willing to give it credit for.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2020
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  5. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

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    Sorry mate, can't hear you over the P-90s.:naughty:
    Seriously, I applaud doing your own thing.
    If your looking for clean, I love 57 classics. Believe it or don't Dirty Fingers clean up great when you roll back the volume, too.
    DSCN1279.JPG
    I have considered this combo in an SG. The P90 bridge is beautifully articulate and the DF can be split, which I don't do much.
    I don't like Seymours all that much but had a decent set in a big jazz box for awhile and they were sterile-ly clean.
    DiMarzios, I'm only familiar with hard rock applications in Les Pauls, but I don't think "Great Cleans." when I hear the name.
     
  6. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Active Member

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    Appreciate your input, but I think our taste in clean tones might be a bit different.

    I actually prefer the kind of thick clean tones humbuckers gives you, and am not a big fan of single coils in general, but judging from the very few clean samples I was able to find of the neck pickup I ordered, it might be the absolute least muddy and most clear neck humbucker I ever heard.

    Also I plan to add the option for running the two coils of the neck in parallel, just in case I need even more clarity from it.

    As for clean headroom, that is one of the advantages you get from actually preferring solid state clean tones, as I personally do, over those of tube amps.

    And finally I for one actually like my bridge pickups to be relatively hot, the tones I was able to get from the middle position of the Westbury Standard I once owned and absolutely loved, but much to my regret yet still was stupid enough to part with (presumably in a momentary lapse of reason, likely to have been caused by my, at that time, a bit too enthusiastic use, some might claim abuse, of cannabis for recreational use), and which from stock had a DiMarzio PAF in the neck position and a DiMarzio Super Distortion in the bridge, was some of the best I ever had yet.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2020
  7. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Active Member

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    As you can tell from this recent thread of mine here on the forum, I planed to install a 2 way switch in my guitar allowing me to switch between the 2 coils of the neck Blues Engine pickup being connected either in parallel or series, however I decided to email IronGear and ask them, and I was surprised with how fast they responded to my mail and how on point and useful their reply actually was: http://www.everythingsg.com/threads...o-these-3-parallel-series-combinations.36906/

    So I emailed my question to IronGear, the company I ordered the pickup in question from, and they replied to my inquiry in less than an hour with a link to a very on point and easy to discern wiring diagram for how to wire their 4 conductive wire humbucker pickups up to a 2 way On-On switch, like the one I mentioned in the OP of linked thread, that I happen to have a spare of, in order to be able to switch between the 2 coils of the humbucker being either connected in parallel or series, just like I had in mind, in case the stock 3 way switch wouldn't work for this, which @plankton kindly clarified for me that it wouldn't.

    So far I am really impressed and positively surprised by the service level of IronGear.

    Also the package that I ordered, according to the tracking service, should arrive already Monday, even if I ordered from outside my own country just yesterday, and that even being a Friday, the absolutely fastest I ever experienced receiving any of the stuff I have ordered though time, even from companies that recites in my own country.

    Time will tell if I will get equally impressed and positively surprised by their actual products, the pickups that I ordered from them, but if there is any truth to what I read from countless people singing praise to these cheap pickups across several guitar related forums all over the internet I think that I very well might just be.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2020
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  8. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Active Member

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    Disclaimer!!!:
    I should probably make clear that I predominantly play perfectly clean, just with a fairly subtle touch of plate reverb.


    Thoughts - Impression - Review


    So my package got delayed one day and arrived Tuesday, instead of Monday as the tracking service had claimed.

    I installed them later Tuesday evening, but as I live in an apartment I couldn't really adjust them using my amp and try them out before yesterday, Wednesday.

    I started out by disengaging the two 2 band fully parametric EQ's on my Zoom G1Xon multi effect, that I had previously needed to get a reasonable decent sound out of my old stock pickups, by boosting the frequency areas around 250 (1dB), 350 (2 dB) and 630 (1 dB) Hz, as well as the frequency area around 1 kHz (2 dB), slightly, all set to a Q curve of 2, as well as I disconnected the Joyo Orange Juice that I used as a clean preamp for my old stock pickups as well, as I had discovered that it brightened the tone of my guitar some (even to such a degree that I had to boost the low mids some, as I explained), that way getting rid of the mud that otherwise was impossible to get rid of by simply adjusting the stock pickups, as well as I had it's Voice knob turned up, boosting the frequency area around 800Hz, with a quite wide bandwidth, about 3 to 4 dB, also re-set my amp's EQ to the 12 o'clock position for all knobs, previously having had both it's passive Low, Mid and High knob at around the 2 o'clock position, as well as I disengaged my otherwise always on EHX Black Finger (tube driven optical compressor), as the last effect in my chain right after the Orange Juice preamp and right before the amp.

    All in all a whole lot of tone shaping going on just to get a reasonable decent tone from the old stock pickups.

    Anyway, my initial first impression of the new pickups was fairly positive, even before having done any adjustments it was clear that these pickups provided a much clearer and more nuanced tone, with no prominent mud (even from the Blues Engine neck pickup), and which also had considerably more depth to it.

    It took a while getting the adjustments of the pickups just right though, but eventually ended up with a result I was satisfied with, and a tone, as I had presumed from my first un-adjusted short test run, that was a huge improvement over what I previously had been able to achieve, as said, much more clarity, no mud whatsoever, considerably more nuanced and with an amazing sense of depth to it.

    And as it turned out all I needed in order to perfect it was now my EHX Black Finger (tube driven optical compressor), and my amps EQ with it's passive Mid control set at about 2 o'clock, the High to about 1 o'clock and then the active Presence control, boosting or cutting the highest frequency spectrum, boosted ever so slightly, just about 1 dB or so, beside my always on plate reverb from the Zoom G1Xon multi effect.

    I should probably add that I exclusively use the middle position of my guitar's 3 way pickup selector switch, which means both pickups are active all the time, so I adjusted the pickups to work optimally for that use, instead of aiming to balance the pickups individually, as I really only need that one great tone, and prefer the kind of tone 2 humbuckers in standard parallel connection with each other (individually with their coils in standard series humbucker mode) provides over both respectively either the neck or bridge pickup soloed, the neck typically being too dark and a bit too warm sounding, and the bridge typically too bright and harsh sounding for my specific use and personal preferences.

    Further more I also adjusted the individual adjustable pole pieces of the two pickups, both to balance their output for the individual strings perfectly, and to fine tune the tone of them, as I happen to be quite specific about my tone.

    Also I decided to drop my plans about installing a parallel/series switch for the coils of the Blues Engine neck pickup, as I realized I most likely would end up never actually using the parallel mode anyway.

    But as far as goes the tone of the individual pickups soloed, I did actually get a pretty good idea of it while swapping back and forth between them under the process of adjusting them, and my impression was that the Blues Engine neck pickup is a truly great neck pickup, being a vintage output Alnico IV type of pickup, having a rounded, really pleasant warm mellow tone, with a great sense of depth, but at the same time being exceptionally clear sounding for a neck pickup, and with a lot of beautifully delicate nuances, and without the inherent tendency to get muddy that a lot of neck humbucker pickups otherwise typically seems to have.

    Though to be honest I wasn't overly impressed with the tone of the high output Alnico V Dirty Torque bridge pickup soloed, it seemed harsh and seriously lacking in nuances compared to the Blues Engine neck pickup, though I suppose that is actually a quite common inherent character trait of most, even some of the more expensive, high output neck pickups, still definitely much better than the old stock neck pickup.

    The Dirty Torque did however also add some serious punch and edge to the tone, and even if it, as a bridge pickup, is inherently bright sounding it is absolutely not thin sounding in any possible way, as my old stock bridge pickup kind of was, and in the end this turned out, both in term of it's edgy- and punchy -ness and in terms of it's inherent bridge pickup brightness, to compliment the warmer and rounder, somewhat more polite, kind of tone of the Blues Engine neck pickup perfectly when combined, at least for my needs and according to my personal preferences.

    All in all I am actually extremely satisfied with the result, a huge improvement over the stock pickups.

    Considerably more nuanced and clear sounding tone, with immensely improved definition and articulation and a whole new sense of depth to it, and thanks to the Dirty Torque bridge pickup with some added edge and punch, just to my personal liking, whereas, even if truly great sounding, the Blues Engine neck pickup alone otherwise would have been a bit too rounded and warm sounding for my specific use and personal preferences.

    But, unless you plan to, like me, exclusively use those two pickups combined and to adjust them accordingly for working optimally that way, I wouldn't really recommend this set to anyone, though the Dirty Torque bridge pickup might still be great soloed for distorted parts, which I didn't really test, as I have no need for that personally.

    I would though definitely recommend the Blues Engine to everyone looking for a cheap, but non the less pretty amazing, alternative to more expensive vintage output humbucker neck pickups offered by for instance Seymour Duncan and DiMarzio.

    And I would think a bridge + neck Blues Engine set would be great as well for someone who prefers a rounder and softer kind of tone with a lot of nuances and a pronounced clarity, though I can't say for certain, as I only tried the, slightly lower output than the bridge version, neck version of this pickup.

    As I mentioned in my OP of this thread a lot of the people who tried the Blues Engine neck + Dirty torque bridge pickup set that I read comments from, as part of my research before taking a chance by ordering these pickups, compare it to Seymour Duncan's popular SH-2n Jazz neck + SH-4 JB bridge set, but weather that has any truth to it I can't really tell, as I haven't got any first hand experience with that set myself.

    Though judging from the YouTube demos I watched featuring that Seymour Duncan pickup set I can definitely at least hear some similarities, and, as with the Blues Engine + Dirty Torque set, I loved the kind of rounded mellow and warm, but at the same time very nuanced and clear, tone of the Seymour Duncan Jazz in the neck position soloed, while I didn't care much for the JB bridge soloed.

    If I were to at some point swap pickups again, though as said, even if I don't care much for the Dirty Torque soloed, I am actually extremely satisfied with how the Blues Engine and Dirty Torque works together when combined (which is everything I need anyway, and how I intended to use the pickups all along), I would likely get a Seymour Duncan Jazz for the neck and a DiMarzio Super Distortion for the bridge.

    So, that was my thoughts after having installed and tried out my new set of pickups properly.

    I will try to pull myself together to do a recording of them, upload it, and post a link to it in the near future for another update of this thread, though in the nature of how I use my pickups and accordingly adjusted them, I will only demo the tone of the pickups used combined with each other, and going through my EHX Black Finger (tube driven optical compressor) and then my amp, using the EQ settings I described above, miked up with my tube condenser microphone, and without editing the recording further, to make the recording sound as close as possible to how it sounds to me in the room when playing, sitting a few feet away from my amp.

    I'm aware that demoing the pickups both soloed and combined, and through an amp with completely neutral EQ settings, and without using a compressor, would have been more useful to most people, but I really don't want to have to re-adjust my pickups, just to be able to do that, and then having to go through the trouble of adjusting them back to work optimally for how I use them all over again after that, as, as said, I happen to be quite specific about how I want my tone to be, so I guess this will be a demo of one possible way this pickup set can be used and one possible version of how it could possibly sound if used this way, the way that I personally prefer it to be.

    Hope my review at least is of some use to others, or if nothing else, then at least to some more general interest of my fellow guitar gear enthusiasts.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2020 at 10:18 AM
  9. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

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    Pics, or it didn't happen!:dude:
     
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  10. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Active Member

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    Sure I can take some pics.

    Though I didn't take any pictures of the pickups before or while I installed them, so it will not look vastly different from when the stock pickups was installed.

    But I promise to take a shot of them installed in my guitar some time later today and throw it up in this thread.
     
  11. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Active Member

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    @Biddlin

    So here they are, the promised pictures of the freshly installed new pickups in my Epiphone SG Special :


    Here are the boxes the pickups came in, including basic instructions and a set of screws and springs for mounting them :
    [​IMG]


    And here's how the pickups look installed in my guitar, pictures respectively shot from 1:-above, 2:-high E string side and 3:-low E string side :
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG] [​IMG]


    After I had placed the order and payed I actually pondered on weather I should really have chosen gold covers, instead of the regular black open coil versions that I did, but guess if I decide for that in the future I could always buy the gold covers separately.

    Need to decide on that though before I order what is likely going to be my next two mods on this guitar, first a bridge with roller saddles, and then a Duesenberg Les Trem II, the latter being an extremely easy to install, but, according to just about all the reveiws, posts and YouTube videos I have seen by people who use it, actually really great, tremolo bar system, that doesn't really require any other procedures or changes done to your guitar than screwing off the stock tail stop bar piece and screwing on the Les Trem system in place of that, and which is somewhat inspired by the classic Bigsby tremolo bar system.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2020 at 11:20 AM
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  12. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

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    That's gotta be the most tricked out Epi special I've ever seen. Good work.
     
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  13. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Active Member

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    Thank you. :smile:

    Yeah, I am actually overall quite pleased with how it has ended up looking, though I kind of wish I had added those visual mods in a little more thorough and properly thought through, less impulsive, way, even if I guess the a bit haphazardly look it ended up with has it's own informal "don't give a ****"/careless, somewhat punk-esque, aesthetics and spontaneous charm as well.

    The visual mods were kind of added gradually, as I got the ideas, but as said, then added quite impulsively shortly after the ideas were born, instead of taking time to think it properly though to make sure it was done right.


    This is how it looks in it's entirety:
    [​IMG]

    And here's a quite similar idea for visual mods on a Yamaha Revstar, that I pondered on buying at some point (and might perhaps still end up buying at some point in the future), but a little more well planed and tidy looking, using PhotoShop to make this sketch, which I really ought to have done with the visual mods I came up with for my SG before carrying them out as well (the solid red circle with the black OM sign in the middle being a decal that can be ordered through Ebay):
    [​IMG]


    I suppose though that not having bothered to do the visual mods on my SG to absolute perfection does give it more personality and unique character, if quite flawed, but then again in reality no one is really perfect either, and often it is ones flaws that makes you an interesting individual and even might contribute greatly to a person's charm, so maybe after all I should only be happy that I didn't think the mods properly though and didn't made it look completely sharp and perfectly tidy, but instead, by carelessly carrying out my spontaneous ideas before I could get second thoughts about them, made it look perfectly unique.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2020 at 12:33 PM
  14. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

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    Kind of minimalist expressionism.
     
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