Are low gain pickups the answer to great tone?
I have been thinking about this for a couple weeks, mainly because the general consensus I am seeing lately is that the older, more experienced a player becomes, the less gain he/she seems to use to get to the ideal tone, especially with today’s modern options.
Lynch’s Screaming Demon isn’t exactly a high gain pickup, as far as i have heard. The pickups on Gary’s strat were low output, apparently, and EVH used a regular PAF in those old records. On the other hand, Kiss, Maiden and Priest used a DiMarzio Super Distortion back in the day. Different strokes for different folks.
The way I currently have my setup, I have high gain pickups in almost all of my guitars. This is because back in the day I had bad amps, and when I upgraded to the Marshalls I didn’t wanna use a pedal for gain except for the ocassional boost. I wanted to do things the way my heroes did it back in the day, which was cranking their amps and giving them an extra edge someplace in the chain.
I am not into uberheavy high gain sounds. My ideal type of tone is 70’ hard rock or 80’s metal.
The way I stand now, I haven’t used the Marshalls in a while and I have a Fender tube combo with some pedals for home use. There’s plenty of gain on tap in these, as the three I am currently using are a Riot, an OCD and a Keeley modded DS-1. When I first started using them, I honestly didn’t pay attention to where I was setting the gain. I just moved the pots until it sounded good to my ears. Recently I noticed they all were set up at around 12 o' clock or lower.
A few weeks ago i atended a guitar clinic where the guy used a Les Paul type guitar with Duncan 59’s and a Strat with an unknown humbucker in the bridge. His setup employed an EVH 5150 overdrive for gain, and he sounded great. I took my main guitar, a Strat with a Duncan Custom 5 and after the clinic he wanted to try it with his setup.
The Custom 5 is allegedly a high output PAF with an Alnico 5 magnet. And with the way he had his 5150 set, it was umbearably distorted, nothing like it sounded with his guitars. I am talking brutal metal high gain. Not my cup of tea at all.
Now were this my pedal, i would have turned down the gain and it probably would have worked great. But that got me thinking that maybe I am missing something with high gain pickups.
So what do you guys think? Low output pickups and let the pedals/
amp do the work? Or high gain to begin with and adjust as needed? Can the same
results be obtained either way or maybe I am just Reading too much into it?