Kazumi Watanabe, Collings, and Lollar!

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Kazumi Watanabe - photo by Leslie Kee

We always love to hear about great guitar players, especially when they are using our pickups! Our Japanese distributor, Zenbu Japan, recently informed us that the legendary Kazumi Watanabe has been spinning many of his burning jazz and fusion lines on a Collings SoCo, complete with Lollar Imperials!

Mr. Watanabe has been one of Japan’s most important and influential guitarists (and composers) since the mid-seventies. He has played and recorded with many of the worlds greatest musicians, and received the prestigious Fumio Nanri Award in 1991. He has also been a visiting professor of music at Senzoku Gakuen College since 1996.

Please enjoy his playing!

The Genuine Lollar Experience

Hi Lollar fans! We sometimes get requests to verify the authenticity of Lollar pickups, whether its a set that pops up on eBay, or a used guitar that is said to be stocked with our stuff. Sometime in 2003 or 2004 we standardized how our pickups were marked, and it is still done the same today. The only way to know for sure that you have a genuine Lollar pickup is to check the bottom and look for the proper markings. We label them in a few different ways, from humbuckers to Strats… there are certain things to look for to insure authenticity.

CURRENT PRODUCTION:

HUMBUCKERS: All our humbuckers have tags screwed to the bottom and are stamped with “LOLLAR IMPERIAL” followed by the year, and if it is a neck or a bridge. Color is important as well… a black label is standard wind, grey is a Low Wind, and red is a High Wind. The name of the builder will be initialed in the right bottom corner.

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STRATS AND TELES: All of our Strat and Tele style pickups have this info hand written on the bottom: Lollar, the type of pickup (position if it’s a Strat), initials of the builder, and the year it was produced. LOLLAR is also stamped on the top middle on Strats. We use either white or black paint pens to handwrite on our pickups. A few models like Thunderbird and Johnny Smith pickups  have black baked on enamel that we apply with a laser.

tele-neck

tele-bridge

strat-bridge

P90s: On our P90 pickups, all the info is stamped like a humbucker, except for our Special winds which are indicated by a hand written label, such as 50’s, -5% or +5%. Same for soapbar or dog ear.

p90

Besides the markings, our overall construction is top notch. If the pickup seems a bit off- not as solid as it should be, it might not be a Lollar. For instance, wax is usually completely wiped off after potting leaving little to no trace, instead of drippy gooey globs all over. We also buff any exposed forbon (like on Tele bridge pickups) so it has a satin sheen instead of dull, matte type finish.  Our lead wires on single-coil pickups lay flat, and there are no frays in the cloth wiring. We also tape all of our coils to protect them from damage. We even buff our plastic pickup covers!  Our humbuckers come with clear plastic tape over the top to protect the finish on the pickup cover. We only use high quality lead wires.

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OLD SCHOOL LOLLARS:

If it says Custom on the bottom (along with Lollar and the date) it could be anything- it may not be in phase with anything else we make and it may not match any specs.  If you know the name of who originally purchased the custom item we can usually look the job up and see what the specifications were.

Occasionally we get asked questions about pickups for sale on eBay that are supposedly Lollar made. It is rare for people to try to pass off fake, uninstalled pickups for Lollars, but here are a couple photos of horribly made pickups that have Lollar written on the bottom.

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Fake

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Loller? Uh, no.

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Crap-tastic

Yikes.

Yikes.

More often, a guitar was sold claiming to have Lollars installed and was purchased by someone and resold. The purchaser had been told Lollars were installed and they never verified it. Even this is not common (but it happens) , so here’s how you can tell…

Going as far back as I can remember (before ’96 or ‘97) the bobbins could have been made out of anything other than vulcanized fiberboard – maybe wood, or often I would make them out of the thin plastic that cassette tape cases were made of- these would be fairly roughly made and would have no markings.

After ‘96 or ‘97 I would have made my bobbins out of vulcanized fiberboard- this is the same material Fender makes their pickups out of. The quality of construction would be quite high, as all of my parts were cut by hand using jigs – everything would be uniform, but nothing would be signed yet unless someone asked me to. You can tell if a P-90 is mine because I have always made the bobbins by hand and after ‘96 or ‘97 they would be made of vulcanized fiberboard.

After my book came out I started to see a few other manufacturers making P-90s using the plan I drew up- vulcanized fiber assembled bobbins. The only time I might use the standard cast plastic bobbin on P-90s would be to restore and old Gibson P-90 that had bobbin rot beyond repair.

Sometime around ‘98 or ‘99 I would have started to write model names on the bottom of pickups and dating them- still no signature unless asked for it. If the pickup in question has a model name that corresponds to something I still make then the specs are the same- same magnets and turn count. If you bought a pickup in 1996 and you buy another one today to match with the old pickup, the new pickup will be in phase with the old one- I never changed that.

Also, if you have an old single coil neck pickup (like a P-90) and you buy a new bridge pickup, not only will it be in phase but the set will be hum cancelling. Around 2001 or 2002 most of my pickups had established model names, and you’ll see the model name either abbreviated or written out on the bottom- usually in paint pen along with the date and my initials or last name.

If all else fails and you are still not sure, take a picture of the bottom and send it to info@lollarguitars.com and we’ll take a look for you.

Kortmann Bridges and Lollar pickups

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Kortmann bridge for the Lollar Chicago Steel

Attention Lollar Tone-heads… our friends at Kortmann Guitars have come up with some beautiful new bridges, designed with Lollar pickups in mind! Jason has checked them out personally, and gives them a resounding thumbs up. Good Stuff!

You can check out these and other great products here. And please, tell them Jason and Stephanie sent you.

Best Selling Lollar Humbucker Style Pickups

This is the fourth article in a series about best selling Lollar pickups. In this post we will talk a little about best selling Lollar Imperial® humbuckers, plus give you an overview of the three full sized, stock humbucking pickups that we build. For this discussion we’ll stick to our full sized humbuckers only.

Lollar Imperial® Humbuckers:

We build three general categories of Lollar Imperial® humbuckers. They are categorized based on their output levels, using the standard wind Imperial as the “baseline” or point of reference. The three categories are the Lollar Imperial (considered our standard wind), the Low Wind Imperial, and the High Wind Imperial.

As the name implies, the Lollar Low Wind Imperial is a slightly lower output pickup as compared to our standard wind Imperial. Our High Wind Imperial is a slightly higher output pickup as compared to our standard wind Imperial. For detailed descriptions and sound clips of the three different full sized humbuckers we build, follow this link to read about Lollar Imperial® humbuckers.

On a side note, this is a good opportunity to clarify the word “wind” as used in the names Low Wind and High Wind. This word refers to the amount of copper wire that is wrapped – or wound – around the humbucker bobbins to form a “coil.” The wire is wrapped around and around the bobbin, literally thousands of times to make each coil. The number of times the wire is wrapped around the bobbin is called the “turn count.” The turn count is the number of times the copper wire is “wound” around the bobbin. The term Low Wind refers to the fact that there are fewer times the copper wire is wound around the bobbin to make a coil. The term High Wind refers to the fact that there are more times the copper wire is wound around the bobbin to make a coil.

A favorite: standard Lollar Imperial humbuckers, with nickel covers and traditional single conductor leads.

A favorite: standard Lollar Imperial humbuckers, with nickel covers and traditional single conductor leads.

Getting back to best selling Lollar humbuckers: Our standard Lollar Imperial is our best selling humbucker – by far. We sell roughly 50% more Lollar standard Imperials than Low Wind and High Wind Imperials combined.

Each of our humbucker models is available in eight different “finishes.” These include nickel, chrome, gold, aged, heavy aged, double-black, zebra, and reverse zebra. In addition, each of these is available in your choice of either the traditional Gibson style single conductor lead wire or 4-conductor lead wire. So in other words, you have 16 different choices of standard Lollar Imperial sets to choose from.

Among all of these choices, our nickel covered single conductor Lollar Imperial sets are the top sellers. The second most popular Imperials are (again) our nickel covered Imperial sets, but with 4-conductor leads. Our third best selling full sized humbucker is our Low Wind Imperial neck, with nickel cover and single conductor lead wire. This item is popular for two reasons. First, our Low Wind nickel single conductor sets are popular with archtop players. Second, our Low Wind nickel single conductor necks are great for tele applications. The Low Wind Imperial neck (usually nickel, single conductor) is frequently combined with the Lollar Special Tele bridge.

Now, like we have mentioned throughout this series, there really is no “wrong” answer. All of our pickups have their own advantages. The best approach is to know what your specific goals are, and then make your selection based on what you’d like to accomplish for the particular project or guitar you are working on.

Next week’s discussion will be about a few other popular “miscellaneous” items.