Welcome To The DULLhouse

We get asked all the time, “Why does my old pickup sound dull?”

There are many reasons the tone can suffer on vintage pickups…

These p'ups aren't just *playing* dead... They're dead!

These p’ups aren’t just *playing* dead… They’re actually dead!

 

We can’t resurrect or improve every beaten, tired, old pickup that we come across. Some of them, like the ones seen above, are just too far gone. Only a complete rebuild, with brand new parts could bring them back to life – but at that point, you may as well just replace it! You can’t shine a turd, as they say (even if you could, you’d still just have a shiny turd). But, just maybe, your dull sound isn’t the turd you thought it was, so in this edition, we’ll address the possible causes and potential solutions.

 

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Customs, Repops, and Repairs, OH MY!

Custom built Lollar ES300 pickup

This ES 300 reproduction pickup was hand built from raw materials in-house at Lollar Pickups.

At Lollar, we’re one of the few places that actually makes pickups completely from scratch – we always have, always will. Whether it’s for a custom application or a vintage restoration, we have the tools and knowledge to fabricate almost anything in-house, from small repair/replacement parts to complete pickups.

This is a copy of a later version of the Gibson ES 300 pickup that we built recently for a restoration. The old tortoiseshell material Gibson used degrades over time and after decades it just crumbles to dust, so these solid tortoise pickups made from celluloid are often missing from the vintage instruments.

As seen in the picture below. two versions of the ES 300 pickups were made; a long and short. This one is the short of course, but we’ve made the long version too.

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Pickups And Steel Wool: An Amicable Separation.

Opposites Attract – Steel wool is the opposite of good for your pickups.

This picture shows how tiny ferrous pieces of steel wool (or iron shavings, in this case) are attracted to magnetic fields.

(Author’s note: As steel wool can be so harmful to pickups, we are not willing to risk the integrity of our pickups by allowing steel wool into the shop, even for photographic purposes. Because of this, I have used stock images for illustrative aides.)

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to tell our customers that their beloved pickup has gone belly up because of something that was completely avoidable – the usual suspect; STEEL WOOL! In fact, more often than not, they themselves (or even their “reputable guitar tech”) are the ones to blame. Many times when my diagnosis of, “I’m sorry, but your pickup is dead – most likely due to all the steel wool in it. Unfortunately the only way to fix it is to completely re-wind it” solicits a response along the lines of, “How could that even happen? I don’t use steel wool near my pickups.”

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