Jason Lollar's 'Special' Pickups

An article in ToneQuest Report, May 2004

Given Phil Brown's huge and funky tone, we couldn't pick a more suitable issue in which to unveil Jason Lollar's "Special" Stratocaster pickups, and they are special indeed. How many different recipes can there be for Stratocaster pickups? Like recipes for gumbo, Italian red sauce, fine wine and small batch bourbon, it seems as if the possibilities are limited only by the creative vision of their makers.

How to describe the Lollar Specials? If you happen to be a rocker who dearly loves the girth of a P90 or classic PAF but you are hopelessly hooked on hugging a Stratocaster, you will love the Specials. If you admire the early tone found on the Jeff Beck Group recordings with Cozy Powell, Max Middleton and Bob Tench, you are a Special player. If Ron Wood's completely overlooked solo record titled Slide On This speaks to you as it does to us, you need some Specials.

The Lollar Specials are different from your diddy's original Strat pickups in ways that can easily be described: The bottom, or low end is very prominent, but smoother and void of the smack-thud-thwack we hear in classic Strat pickups. It's a bigger, yet kinder, gentler bottom without the hollow pop you hear on the low E string with typical Strat pickups...

The mids are more prominent in the Specials, but not overbearing to the extent that they become dark, honky or smother the essential nuances found in the upper frequencies. You can hear and feel the push of the mids, but they aren't mushing out or muddying the overall tone.

The highs... Now, this is usually where we have a big problem with so-called "hot: Stratocaster pickups, because most of the ones we've heard have this brittle, spikey overtone-thing happening in the upper frequencies that we find extremely irritating, as if each pickup has a little creep with a sizzle cymbal hidden inside the coil. Argggghhhhhh! That's not 'Texas'! That's noise! But not the Specials... The highs are there, but they are smooth and silky. Airy. The highs in the Specials don't dance on your head with lead feet—they kiss you. And this is good, because we all need to be kissed—today more than ever.

No, you ain't gonna get that ultra-glassy, mondo-hollow "The Wind Cries Mary" tone, quite, with the Specials. We've already told you how to get that, and if that's what you want, don't get these. This is Stratocaster Heaven we're talkin' 'bout, as in deep, thick and heavy. And heavy can be good. Every tone has its season in the wind. And how does Warlock Lollar do it? According to himself, 43 gauge wire, 20% more turns on the bobbin, and he doesn't charge up his AINiCo 5 magnets too high—about 800 gauss, max. Output resistance for the Specials ranges from about 6.8K to 7.5K ohms. The Specials rock with an authority and presence that nearly betrays their heritage, and the closest thing we could find to match up with them in Peter Stroud's music room was a vintage Junior sporting a single P90. These pickups are bold as love, no doubt, but with all the string definition and clarity of a Strat, just bigger by a mile.

At this point it would be cruel and unfair not to alert you to one of the best finds on the planet for tone freaks... Acme GuitarWorks. Yes! These people (George is the founder/ owner) specialize in creating pre-wired pickguards and wiring harnesses loaded with your pickup de jour. Acme uses all the good stuff, too... real Fender pickguards, vintage cloth covered wire, Orange drop caps, CTS pots, CRL toggle switches, vintage-style metal shielding plates, and a specially-designed blender pot for the second tone on Stratocasters that enables you to blend the neck and bridge pickups (the first tone control serves as a Master tone for all settings).

Acme is a godsend for guitarists that want to change pickups without shopping for the required components and assembling and soldering their own wiring harnesses from scratch, and they are our exclusive supplier for the new ToneQuest guitars.