I think I finally found the sound I've been looking for...Firebird pickups

rauchman

Senior member
Messages
771
Greetings,

Came across this thread on another site, and the title says it all...."Firebird pickups to get this tone"

A couple of years ago, when I started down the path of my first partscaster, amongst every other aspect of building the guitar, was going down the pickup wormhole.  Somewhere along that road, I started exploring mini humbuckers, went to GC and played a Firebird and SG Special with mini hums.  I loved the sound of the SG Special, but found the Firebird to have a brittle sound and from that experience, thoughts of Firebird based pups were flung out of the pup wormhole.

After listening to the vid in the attached link, that has changed.  I've heard Firebird pups referred to as the sound of a pissed off Tele, and in my mind, that vid really captures that description.  After doing some initial research, the Lindy Fralin pups seem to be very highly regarding for their tone and might go down this path for the FB pups.

I'm currently building a 2 HB Velocity body, but may toy with figuring out a way to get FB pups in there, or just get a new pickguard for the universal routed Hybrid Tele I put together over the summer.  I WANT that sound!!!!!

Outside of my 2 min FB experience going through a Marshall DSL40CR with the gain maxxed, trying to find out more about this sound.  Does anyone know if FB pups have the "openness" or "non compressed" sound of a Tele bridge pup?  My 1st partscaster was my 1st experience with a Tele and I've grown to really appreciate those tones.  However, I was always looking for MOAR to the sound.  I'm using Bill Lawrence Twin Blades Tele bridge and Strat neck pups in that guitar.  Maybe I'm way off base with this, but I'm assuming the FB pups will be in the tonal neighborhood of a Tele with MOAR, without the compressed sound of a high gain humbucker?

edited to add.....would help if I provided the link https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index.php?threads/firebird-pickups-to-get-this-tone.2136849/
 
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swarfrat

Guest
This is a world I'm very very curious about, but with the form factor change and limited options I'm reluctant to dabble in.
I love love love my filtertron inspired GFS Memphis - at least in the hardtail strat. It's like a fatter single or a super tight snappy humbucker with some zing and kerrang. Which is sort of what I think the mini-HB/Firebird thing is like.

But I don't see a vid link.
 

TBurst Std

Senior member
Messages
2,591
First, a mini hum sounds nothing like a FB. Though they look similar, the construction is as radically different than be.

FB tones:
Johnny Winter
Gatemouth Brown
Clapton for part of DG
Allen Collins for the first 3 skynyrd lps
 

stratamania

Senior member
Messages
9,227
Lollar Firebirds anyone demoed by Gregory Kochory

[youtube]https://youtu.be/oGF7oKHBOJA[/youtube]
 

rauchman

Senior member
Messages
771
stratamania said:
Lollar Firebirds anyone demoed by Gregory Kochory

[youtube]https://youtu.be/oGF7oKHBOJA[/youtube]

Fantastic sound.  Just reinforces my desire for "that" sound.

Here's another vid I found that does a great job illustrating the sonic difference between a mini hum and firebird pickup

[youtube]https://youtu.be/tjpyxovZwHc[/youtube]
 
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swarfrat

Guest
They're kind of like the identical twins that get offended when people confuse them. There are differences, but they resemble each other more than regular humbuckers differ from them.
 

DuckBaloo

Senior member
Messages
282
For those who haven't dissected both, both pickups use the same base plate, have the same footprint, and (to a degree) the coils are identical. The difference is the magnet and pole pieces. The Firebird PU originated as a cost-cutting version of the mini-HB.

When Gibson bought Epiphone in '58 and moved production to Michigan, they designed the mini-humbucker to replace Epiphone's anemic New Yorker PU. But these are probably most famous for the '70s Les Paul Deluxe and SG Deluxe models. These PUs are made similar to the PAF-style humbucker. They have steel pole pieces that touch a bar magnet underneath the coils. One coil has the threaded, adjustable pole pieces, the other has one large steel slug.

Gibson_Les_Paul_Deluxe_Mini-Humbuckers_%28Patent_No._2%2C737%2C842%29_rear_side_%26_cover_removed.jpg


When Gibson designed the Firebird, they decided to redesign the PUs to make them faster and cheaper to build. Instead of steel and adjustable pole pieces, they use two alnico magnets as the pole pieces, like with Fender PUs ... the pole pieces are the magnets.

j7A-DvxYQ6aK9iZ5bP2E-w.jpg


This minor difference makes a big differences in tone. IMO, the mini-HB are smoother and more balance, with a lot of clarity and top-end. Like a fat strat PU. The Firebird PUs have a punchier low-med, scoped mids, and a aggressive, raspy to end.

But, like with all PUs these days, the options for aftermarket blur the lines a lot. For instance, the ubiquitous Seymour Duncan mini-humbuckers look like Firebird PUs, but they are actually a hybird...two steel pole slugs with a magnet underneath. SD does make a more authnetioc version of each inder their Antiquities line.

At one time I have a good half dozen Gibson embossed versions of each, but these are a nightmare to rewind, much tighter packed than a normal humbucker, so I think I eventually tossed them.
 

Ace Flibble

Senior member
Messages
859
rauchman said:
Does anyone know if FB pups have the "openness" or "non compressed" sound of a Tele bridge pup?
If they're made like a 'proper' Firebird pickup, the neck will sound quite like a kind of doubled-up Tele neck single coil. They have the same attack, but obviously the second coil and wider design makes them fatter and hum-cancelling.
The bridge is more like a doubled-up Strat than a doubled-up Tele. I always find Tele bridge pickups sound very compressed compared to Strat pickups, so I can't tell you if FB buckers will do what you want at the bridge if you interpret Tele bridge pickups as 'open' in any way. In any case, they don't have an EQ anything like a Tele bridge pickup. They simply don't have that twang and extreme bass and treble; like I said, more of a Strat vibe than a Tele sound.

But whatever version of Fender single coil you compare them to, Firebird pickups (again, when made the original way) do have the same sharp attack of Strat/Tele/Jazzmaster single coils. (Or Tele Deluxe Wide Range humbuckers, come to that.) The magnets being used in place of poles means you get the attack of magnetic pole pieces but the smoothness of bar magnets.

They certainly should not be confused with minihumbuckers, and minibuckers absolutely are closer to full humbuckers in tone than they are to Firebird pickups. I think people confuse them a lot now because so many 'Firebird' pickups are actually just minibuckers with the screw poles concealed, so now when people hear what look like Firebird pickups, they're actually just hearing minibuckers. Having played original, all-intact Gibson Firebirds and LP Deluxes side-by-side, however, the sound is very different.


Get minibuckers if you want mostly a normal humbucker tone, with just a little less and tighter bass but not the sharper high-end of something like a ceramic humbucker.
Get Firebird pickups if you like single coils but often find yourself running them into a boost pedal, and you generally want a fatter and hum-cancelling tone without the honkiness of humbuckers.
 

Slackjaw

Senior member
Messages
184
I went with a Klein Firebird in my tele build, and it is my absolute favorite pickup for the neck position (I have yet to try one at the bridge). Klein makes it vintage spec at 6.1k. Glassiest tones ever from a humbucker:

JD_30.jpg
 

JohnnyHardtail

Senior member
Messages
319
I have a set of Duncan Firebird SM1 neck and SM1 bridge pickups in a 7/8th Warmoth guitar which has 24.75 scale length and 500k volume, 500k Tone controls.  The SM-1 pickups are great because they are very clear.  The clean tone is very nice.  They have vintage tone, but still work with gain.  They are versatile enough so it doesn't feel like I am playing country or Rock-abilly all the time.

When I hear some demos, I start to doubt how well the firebird pickups suit a 25.5" scale neck.  I feel that Firebird pickups are already bright with a 24.75" scale length and will be even brighter with a 25.5" scale length.  Normally when people put a Firebird neck pickup in a Telecaster, they typically seem to use 250k controls and it still sounds fairly country and bright. 

I once tried a mini-humbucker in a strat with 25.5" scale.  Mine was the All-parts "made in japan" mini humbucker.  The clean tone was fine, but it seemed to turn to mud when I used any gain.  I thought it was disappointing.  I understand the mini-humbucker has steel screws and a steel blade in the magnetic circuit which kills some of the brightness.  It seems to me the Firebird pickup with a pair of Alnico 5 bar magnets has a fundamentally different tone. 

However not all of the mini-humbuckers sound the same.  The best demos of mini humbuckers I have heard seem to be the Jason Lollar ones.  I like the Lollar mini-humbucker in the neck.  Here is a demo of the Lollar mini-humbucker neck pickup by a Youtuber that has a shop in Austria.  He is an experienced player and always has interesting guitars with unusual pickup combinations to demonstrate on his channel.  I thought its appropriate for this thread because he has a variety of Tele style guitars.  It gets some lovely cleans, but still works well with gain.  He has good amp tone which definitely helps.
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hXIbrNrono

 
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