In this post, we discover what are PAF pickups, learn more about their unique sound, and find out why these humbuckers remain popular among guitar players. If you want to give your sound a distinctive edge, this post is for you.
In the world of electric guitars, few components have garnered as much fascination and admiration as the legendary PAF pickups. Short for “Patent Applied For,” these magnetic wonders from the 1950s hold the key to unlocking the iconic tones of vintage Gibson guitars.
PAF pickups have left an indelible mark on the music world. In this post, we explore why these sought-after humbuckers continue to resonate with guitar players and collectors across generations.
The Origins of PAF Pickups
The journey to uncovering the origins of PAF pickups takes us back to a significant moment in the history of electric guitars. Following World War II, Gibson introduced the revolutionary single-coil P-90 pickups, renowned for their impressive sound. However, like many electric guitars at the time, they suffered from an irritating humming noise.
Seeking a remedy, Gibson’s engineer, Seth Lover, embarked on a quest for a noise-free solution. In 1955, his ingenuity prevailed as he devised a groundbreaking design utilizing two coils instead of one, effectively canceling out the hum. This invention marked the birth of the early-model humbucking pickups, featuring “Patent Applied For” decals during the late 1950s.
Exploring PAF Pickup Characteristics
Understanding the distinct features of PAF pickups reveals their unique sonic qualities. Typically wound with around 5,000 windings using #42 plain enamel wire, these pickups offer a one-of-a-kind sound. Featuring Alnico magnets (grades 2, 3, 4, or 5) about 2.5″ long, PAF pickups deliver warm and articulate tones. The uniform-sized covers house slightly warped bobbins due to the precise winding process.
PAF pickups lack wax potting, making them slightly microphonic, capturing vibrations and harmonics with finesse. As a result, guitar players worldwide appreciate the warm lows and clear woody tones that define the PAF pickup sound.
The Unique Sound of PAF Pickups
PAF pickups possess a sonic allure that distinguishes them from other guitar pickups. PAFs offer a unique tonal experience with their distinctive construction and vintage charm. These humbuckers strike a delicate balance, providing warm lows, clear mids, and crisp highs that create a harmonious blend of tones. Unlike modern humbuckers, PAFs remain slightly microphonic due to the absence of wax potting, allowing them to capture subtle nuances and respond to touch.
This characteristic gives a touch of organic liveliness to the sound, making PAF pickups popular for their expressive and open tonal character. Their ability to evoke the iconic vintage Gibson Les Paul tone from the late ’50s makes them a sought-after choice among guitar enthusiasts seeking timeless soundscapes.
Identifying PAF Pickups – A Closer Look
Spotting genuine PAF pickups requires a keen eye for the subtle markers that distinguish them. One key identifier is the “Patent Applied For” black decal on the back, where the raised gold lettering signifies authenticity. Another telltale sign is a “clear” stripe or edge with a greenish tint near the black decal, a characteristic unique to PAFs.
Additionally, examining the feet of the pickups might reveal “L” shaped tooling marks. Keep in mind that early 1957 PAF pickups did not bear any decals. For those on the hunt for vintage treasures, these identifying features provide valuable clues to confirm the presence of cherished PAF pickups.
The Value of PAF Pickups
PAF pickups are timeless relics of guitar history and hold a significant place in the hearts of collectors and musicians alike. As the demand for vintage guitars and their original components surges, the value of authentic PAF pickups has escalated accordingly. Clean sets of vintage PAFs from the desirable years (1957-1960) can command prices of approximately $20,000 or more, reflecting their rarity and sonic allure.
Factors like the condition, historical significance, and any modifications or repairs performed on the pickups influence their market value. Owning a set of these treasured humbuckers unlocks the classic tones of yesteryears, and they are a prized possession discerning guitar enthusiasts cherish.
An in-depth exploration of PAF pickups reveals their enduring charm and significance in guitar tones. From their innovative origins to the distinctive warmth and clarity they deliver, PAF pickups have left an indelible mark on music history.
As these pickups continue to captivate guitar players and collectors across generations, their vintage allure remains as potent as ever. As authentic vintage PAFs become increasingly scarce, modern PAF-style humbuckers offer a bridge to the iconic sounds of the past, ensuring that the magic of PAF pickups lives on.