Bare Knuckle Pickups Review
Are Bare Knuckle Pickups the answer to your dreams? Well maybe, but guitar pickups are subjective...
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Bare Knuckle Pickups Reviewed
Bare Knuckle Pickups Review
A while ago I visited a Music Show in Sunny Birmingham England (actually in the rain and fog) to have a look around and get some new pickups for an Ibanez Guitar I picked up from the USA. The Guitar already had some Dimarzio units in there but I did not particularly like the sound. Wandering around the show I found the Bare Knuckle Pickups stand, and one guy Called Tim, who knew what he was talking about (for a change). I asked about some pickups and explained what style and sound I was looking for - basically a tight and defined bottom end and great mids. Tim recommended the 'Cold Sweat' Model of Hum bucker's so I bought a matched set at a cost of £180.00 pounds - that's $US280 to everyone else - man these were really expensive. Now this brand is sold on the basis that it is scatter wound just like the original end of 50's pickups and have a wonderful sound.
The Cold Sweat Pickups are sold as QUOTE 'Evolved Vintage Attitude with a Completely Modern Edge'. These use a Ceramic Magnet - so you're going to get high output, so I would not be looking for a clean sound particularly from this set of pickups. OK, now a little bit of education. When pickups are made today, they are either scatter wound or machine would - i.e. black or white (and I don't mean colour!) so each type of winding has a distinct effect on the sound. Check out Bare Knuckle Pickups HERE or Seymour Duncan Pickups HERE or Dimarzio HERE.
The basic difference is how Capacitance affects the sound output from the pickup - and the winding type directly influences the sound. If you have a scatter would pickup, and another made exactly the same, except that the winding is machine wound (nice and even) then the difference is that the scatter wound pickup will be more top end - simple as that. Capacitance (or even capacitors) dull the sound if the capacitance is increased and brighten the sound if the capacitance is reduced - in the case of scatter wound, because the windings are usually away from each other i.e. not next to each other the sound is decidedly more top end output. Lesson over - now we have some idea what we're talking about. Scatter wound = top end, machine wound = less top end - in the simplest form.
OK So far so good, so how were the 'Cold Sweat' pickups for me? Actually, if you listen to some of my music when tapping guitar and using a Wah pedal in a particular way I achieve 'my' sound. I guess it's not unique, but I have not heard anyone play exactly like me - so it definitely is 'my' style. I returned home from the music show and proceeded to fit the Cold Sweat pickups in to the Ibanez. The wiring diagram provided in my view was poor, but on the Seymour Duncan site there were some excellent wiring diagrams - a little change on the colour codes and these diagrams worked fine. Thanks Seymour.
I tested the guitar with three different setup's - Mesa TriAxis and 2:90, an Engl E670 Special and of course a Marshall TSL2000 100 watt amp. From each amp I found that when I used the guitar fitted with Cold Sweat pickup's that the top end was way over the limit for my style - remember I use the wah for the tapping. The result was that no matter what volume I played at (except nearly no volume) I had unwanted feedback through the amp - and changing my sound this much was simply not for me. This is NOT particularly a criticism of the Cold Sweat Pickup's - they do exactly as described. But if you think you like top end - my own view is that when you try these they may well be more top than you bargained for.
The Quality of these pickups has never been in doubt - Tim and his team's manufacturing standards are as good as any company in the world. It's just that for my style I could not ever make these work. I called Bare Knuckle Pickup's because they have a 14 day exchange policy - providing you have NOT cut the pickup wires down - lucky for me I had not - unlucky for you if you have. Tim recommended a set of 'Nail Bomb' pickups instead - described as less top but still reasonably tight bottom end - the description at least was inviting. The Nail Bomb pickup's were Alnico magnets too - thus probably lower output.
I returned the Cold Sweat's and duly received the Nail Bomb pickups by return - thank you Bare Knuckle Pickups.
What were they like? Well these were much improved over the Cold Sweat units by way of reduced top end - good, but the top end was still (at least for me) too much for my style. These remain in the Ibanez at the moment. Again the build quality was excellent, but I just can't quite do with the feedback when I tap in the way I do - so these will be destined for eBay I'm afraid. Again this is not particularly a criticism of Bare Knuckle Pickups (the company) but more a 'take heed' notice to would be buyers - just make sure that the top end is not too bright for your style.
I guess I could have harassed Tim to change these - I know he would have - but I could go on all day and maybe a fair number of sets until the ones that suit my playing appear one day. These pickups carry a Limited Lifetime Warranty to the original buyer so they are manufactured as top end units.
Here's what I found with Bare Knuckle Pickups:
- Bare Knuckle should describe pickup names in a much better way The title 'Nail Bomb' for example says nothing of the sound of the pickup a major problem in my view for prospective buyers.
- The Pickup's I have tried are too toppy for my liking
- The Manufacturing Quality is superb
- The price is really top end also - and for this money the competitors (Seymour Duncan and Dimarzio) offer also some great pickup's
- I liked the way that BKP changed the units - not unique, but really good customer service.
Although I eventually sold these pickups - that was no reflection on the company and their service is hard to beat - especially if you're funny like me.
Visit their site at: www.bareknucklepickups.co.uk