Every guitar player has heard of them and most would like to own a set of them, but the problem with these early pickups (1957 to 1961 or 62) is that they were very inconsistent in tone and output due in great part to manual winding of the coils and the use of random magnet types (AlNiCo 2, 3, 4 and 5). The result was that some of the pickups were just okay, with other having that “magic” sound and feel, so in reality, not every PAF is a great sounding PAF.
Many pickup winders have taken a crack at building their version of what they consider a great sounding PAF, so the guys at Mojotone asked me if I would like to review their current version of their PAF Clone. I said, “Sure, but explain what you mean by the current version first”. Turns out that the current version isn’t anything they hadn’t previously done, it’s simply a “settled on” version with fixed construction techniques.
Previously they had offered a plethora of options for their PAF style pickup including hand vs. machine winding, AlNiCo 2, 3, 4 or 5 magnets and field charged vs. standard charged magnets. Now, while options are at times a good thing, what they found, as is the case with the original inconsistent hap-hazard original PAF’s, is that in some cases the result is simply not a good representation of the product. Given that situation, they decided to standardize the build for their PAF Clones and this has become their current model:
Custom AlNiCo 4 cast magnets
#42 Enamel wire
Machine wound, un-potted offset coils, with proprietary turns pattern
Vintage spec screws
1958 Long leg frame
Okay, so I received the pickups and I believe there’s no better way to audition a set of PAF style pickups than in a Les Paul. Beautifully constructed and housed in their nickel covers, I installed them in my 2006 Les Paul Standard. Since these pickups have no coil taps, the vintage style single conductor braided leads made for a straightforward installation. I generally like to be able to clean up my sound with the volume control on the guitar, so I really don’t go for maximum output from the pickup / string relationship.
Setting the pickups too close to the strings can tend to make the pickup saturate, which makes it much more difficult to get a clean signal from the guitar. The typical recommendation from Gibson for Les Paul pickup height is 3/32” from the depressed string to the pole on the neck pickup and 1/16” from string to pole on the bridge pickup. Personally I find this a bit too high, so I generally set the neck at 1/8” and the bridge at 3/32”. Now we’re ready to plug in and see how these pickups sound.
The first thing I noticed was a nice balanced tone with the pickup selector in the center position. Switching to the Rhythm (neck) then Treble (bridge) positions, the output level remained balanced, which for me is a great thing, as I don’t like any one setting to be overbearing. The standard issue pair of these PAF Clones comes from Mojotone with a neck pickup resistance of 7.6K and a bridge pickup clocking in at 8K. This proves to be a nice balance with these pickups and left me with a nice full tone with plenty of clarity.
I’m a player that likes to utilize the volume controls on my guitars and these pickups definitely work for me. I like to be able to set an amp to have an adequate amount of gain on tap, and then back down on the volume control(s) of the guitar to achieve whatever degree of “clean” I need. In order to achieve this, the pickups themselves need to deliver a clean signal. It’s easy to reach any amount of gain desired either from the amp itself or the addition of pedals, but if the pickup is not clean, it’s impossible to achieve a good clean sound. I had great control with these pickups from a nice clean with the volume controls on 2, to a nice crunch on 5 or 6, all the way up to great overdrive on 10! Also, these pickups remained clean, even when hit hard. They have a very nice bottom end and full mids, but even more impressive is their smooth top end.
Comparing them to a set of BurstBuckers in another LP, even with a hard string attack or aggressive strum, they did not become harsh or “peaky”, a characteristic that I had experienced with the BurstBuckers. There is also a nice “airiness” to these pickups, more than likely attributable to the fact that they are not wax potted. Does this leave open the possibility that the pickups could be microphonic? Theoretically yes, but that usually manifests itself at substantially higher gain settings. Personally I did not experience any bothersome microphonic issues, even at relatively decent overdrive levels, but I’m guessing this may be due to a well controlled tension spec during the coil wind process.
Seeing as how the original PAFs were also not potted, and most PAF fans would not be expecting them to perform flawlessly at mind-melting gain levels, I think these pickups perform extremely well in the PAF class. Add to that a comfortable price point and I think the guys at Mojotone have come up with a winner!
Review of Mojotone Classic Series Strat and CBS series strat pickups
I am a huge aficionado of high end pickups and a gear addict in general.
I anxiously waited for these two sets to ship and to try them out in my player strats that I know sound great as they are. As a little background, I own several Vintage strats from the 50's and 60's. Well actually I just sold my 58 strat a month ago so that one is gone however…..
I believe that I know a great tone when I hear or better yet experience one.
Among other things I am official DiMarzio pickup endorser and love their hum canceling Virtual Vintage series pickups, however there is a beauty, tone and feel that only comes when a single coil is produced in its original form.
I also own some Fralin strat replacement pickups, Suhr LP's 60 pickups and more……
Now let's get to business and see what I found with these 2 Mojo Strat pickup sets:
Mojotone Classic Strat
First, I have installed the Classic set which is supposed to reproduce 50's style pickups in its true form. The set is calibrated right so the bridge pickup gives you a little more output 6.5k Ohms compared to the neck at 5.8k Ohms.
I found the set to be incredible sounding! It had the sweet tone reminiscing me of my 58 strat pickups. It is definitely very bright sounding set, but the highs were very smooth and overall the attack was extremely fast and tight, yet very dynamic and rich sounding. I tend to be one of the few so called shredders out there that actually love the old school of strat and tele tones with relatively low output pickups and somewhat bluesy tone in general. This set was definitely a winner whether I was pumping the volume of my amp at 11 or if I was playing some clean passages that delivered tones where the Vintage guitar aficionados would die for. The key here is the overall complexity and richness that came with extremely fast attack and very bright overall sound. 2 thumbs up.
Mojotone CBS Strat
Second set that I have tried was the clone series CBS strat style pickups.
You know the details. Grey bobbin, cloth wires, staggered pole pieces….
The set is calibrated in the terms of output as well so the bridge pickup has more oomph.
I like that fact especially, since I have always wished that my late 60's strats would have a tad more output in the bridge position.
Anyway, generally speaking I find the original Fender Grey bobbin pickups from mid sixties to sometime in 1974 to be my favorite single coil pickups of all time. That is my personal preference.
Here is what I found in the terms of sound after installing the pickups. These pickups definitely delivered the growl and slightly more aggressive feel than the 50's set even though the bridge pickup has slightly less output. The overall sound of the pickups is a tad warmer and slightly more aggressive feel than the classic set of pickups while retaining incredible clarity and punch at high volumes. The attack was immediate just like the 50's set which I like in particular cause it allows a player to play at blistering speed and still keep the notes very well separated, focused and articulate. They sounded a tad more compressed to my ears than the 50's set but still very dynamic and rich sounding. The in between positions delivered authentic Knopfler-esque sweet clean tones and yes as you can predict I went there and played some of those long forgotten licks too.
They will definitely inspire you to play those old Richie Blackmore licks that you didn't play in awhile as well.
Sound and feel of any pickups or better yet instrument is for the most part personal preference type of thing and in my opinion all of the high end gear out there is simply great quality for the most part. The key is to find what works best for you with your guitar, your amp, your ears and fingers after all. Do I think that these pickups are better or worse than let's say Fralins, Suhrs, Duncans, Lollars….(You name it) then I would say no. That dilemma, as I described above falls within personal preference at this level of quality and workmanship. I think that in every way both of these Custom Wound Mojo strat pickup sets are 1st class boutique pickups that stand neck to neck with any other high end pickups available on the market today.
I truly believe that if you give these puppies a try, chances are you would love them, I sure do.
Vintage Guitar 2010 Issue reviews the Custom Wound Convertible Pickups
Mojotone Convertible Stratocaster single coils are honestly the greatest Stratocaster pickups that I have ever used. The convertibles have a sound that comes off somewhat compressed and sustain beautifully clean. When in overdrive the hot position has no equal and inspires you to keep playing.
These are hands down the grail of all single coil Stratocaster pickups. The sound is so amazing that it renewed my desire to play more often. I've had so much zeal playing the Stratocaster clean, and when playing the hotter winds mode, I'm so into the tones that I actually sound better than my capibilities!
I'm playing a light weight ash bodied Strat and I own several guitars. Three are Stratocasters but the Mojotone Convertibles equipped one has no rival. I want to encourage any Stratocaster player to install a set today. I was initially sold when someone who owned a Squier Affinity installed a set of these and I got to play it.
I was using hand wound pickups from a talented builder in Texas that I endorsed and they, to me, had no equal until I got the Mojotone Convertibles. These pickups proved to me that I am superior because I'm Mojotone Convertible equipped.