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'54 Les Paul Custom Question (Staple Pickup is VERY Dark)

yeatzee

Member
Joined
Jul 21, 2016
Messages
49
Anyone here own a '54 custom reissue?

From everything I've read the alnico V staple neck pickup is supposed to be more mid scooped, more fender like than a P90. Nice and bright for a neck pup. I've never played one before until this guitar I just got, and the neck pickup is easily the darkest I've ever played on any guitar... ever. It almost sounds like the tone is rolled off with that almost honky quality you get from doing that even when the tone is on 10. By contrast the bridge P90 is full rock, nice and bright and punchy and good output.

For reference, I can get a similar tone on the bridge as I am getting with the neck everything on 10 if I set the bridge tone to about 2. It's that dark.

Is that normal with the staple P90? The guitar is so far absolutely fantastic, and the bridge is AMAZING. It's not going anywhere, but I do need to figure out how to get the neck dialed in. It's already as low as it'll go, below the pickguard cover, and I tried messing with the pole pieces but they didn't do much. A part of me thinks the volume pot may be 250k or something it's so dark. I tried checking with a multimeter but I can't get a reading on the volume controls. The tones are both ~500k.

If it turns out it's just a dud Gibson pickup does anyone have recommendations for aftermarket replacements? I see lollar and SD make them, but are they more like I've read, fender-y brighter scooped? The output readings are quite high on their websites, mine reads 7.9k. I'm open to whatever, I want to play the guitar and I need a decent neck and middle position :)
 

dnabbet2

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May 31, 2017
Messages
158
I've played a lot of staples, and although to my ear they are brighter than P90s, I would not say they sound like a Fender single coil. So you may be expecting a sound out of yours that it just doesn't have in it.

Rodney Gene does YouTube demos of both Lollar and Seymour Duncan staples. Check them and see if they're more-or-less what you're hearing. For what it's worth, I never used a staple with a pot lower than 500k and I've never lowered the pickup.

If you do swap out, be aware that the Seymour Duncan is an accurate reproduction while the Lollar has non-adjustable magnets and will fit in a standard P90 rout. The two do not sound the same ... to me, anyway.

I have a TH Custom right now with the original Gibson staple in the neck, and a Robbie Krieger with a SD staple in the neck, and they both sound great. Very similar. I put a Lollar in the bridge of a Custom once and bonded less well but I'm sure they're all good pickups.

I do encourage you to get this figured out though, 'cause staples are my all time favourite pickup and they have a lot to offer, especially combined with the bridge P90 on a Custom -- very funky and jangly.
 

LyleGorch

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Aug 17, 2018
Messages
134
I just received mine on Thursday, after playing it for forty minutes i told my wife, I’m gonna sell all my other guitars. Maybe it’s not the sound you want, but it’s music to my ears.
 

PierM

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Aug 18, 2016
Messages
16
Hi. I do have that guitar and the Staple is indeed bright but with more thickness than a P90. From what you describe, looks something might be wrong. Mine is a SD Staple unpotted from the Custom Shop, but those Gibson Staple I tried they had the same tone.
 

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yeatzee

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Jul 21, 2016
Messages
49
I've played a lot of staples, and although to my ear they are brighter than P90s, I would not say they sound like a Fender single coil. So you may be expecting a sound out of yours that it just doesn't have in it.

Rodney Gene does YouTube demos of both Lollar and Seymour Duncan staples. Check them and see if they're more-or-less what you're hearing. For what it's worth, I never used a staple with a pot lower than 500k and I've never lowered the pickup.

If you do swap out, be aware that the Seymour Duncan is an accurate reproduction while the Lollar has non-adjustable magnets and will fit in a standard P90 rout. The two do not sound the same ... to me, anyway.

I have a TH Custom right now with the original Gibson staple in the neck, and a Robbie Krieger with a SD staple in the neck, and they both sound great. Very similar. I put a Lollar in the bridge of a Custom once and bonded less well but I'm sure they're all good pickups.

I do encourage you to get this figured out though, 'cause staples are my all time favourite pickup and they have a lot to offer, especially combined with the bridge P90 on a Custom -- very funky and jangly.
I recorded a sample which may help. Just guitar into a Suhr PT15 set to a light crunch with the bright switch on to give it it's best chance. Bridge is great, neck is just all low mids and bass. Does this sound normal to you?

https://soundcloud.com/tanner-yates-872622389/54-les-paul-custom-pickup-test

I've got no context for staple pickups but I also recorded it side by side with my other guitars that are supposed to be similar to show the differences. It goes staple - dynasonic (gretsch falcon) - P90 (Es330) - Humbucker (my goldtop) - staple:

https://soundcloud.com/tanner-yates-872622389%2F54-les-paul-custom-staple-vs-dynasonic-vs-p90-vs-humbucker
Yeah I'd only be interested in getting a vintage-accurate set which it seems means SD or bust if it's not a wiring / pot issue. The guitar is a rare bird, it's more than worth it to me to get it dialed and figured out vs just moving on from it. I want funky and jangly, that sounds exactly up my alley :)

Hi. I do have that guitar and the Staple is indeed bright but with more thickness than a P90. From what you describe, looks something might be wrong. Mine is a SD Staple unpotted from the Custom Shop, but those Gibson Staple I tried they had the same tone.
Interesting. Take a listen to the demos above and let me know what you think.
 
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yeatzee

Member
Joined
Jul 21, 2016
Messages
49
No. This is NOT the tone I do have on my Staple, neither I do recognize it as a normal Staple tone. Sounds horrible. :(
Glad to hear I'm not crazy! lol

How does the bridge sound in comparison to yours (the link directly above the comparison clip)? The bridge seems great nice and snappy and bright. I dig it a lot.
 

PierM

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Aug 18, 2016
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16
Glad to hear I'm not crazy! lol

How does the bridge sound in comparison to yours (the link directly above the comparison clip)? The bridge seems great nice and snappy and bright. I dig it a lot.

The P90 sounds great, mine also sounds great. Hard to compare with distorted tones, but yeah, that's a P90! That neck tone, meh. I'd start doing a direct signal test. Remove the back plate, and try to grab the Staple signal straight from the wires, bypassing volume, tone and everything. At least you know if there is something wrong there, which is what I think it's happening...
 

yeatzee

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Joined
Jul 21, 2016
Messages
49
The P90 sounds great, mine also sounds great. Hard to compare with distorted tones, but yeah, that's a P90! That neck tone, meh. I'd start doing a direct signal test. Remove the back plate, and try to grab the Staple signal straight from the wires, bypassing volume, tone and everything. At least you know if there is something wrong there, which is what I think it's happening...
How exactly would I go about that?
 

PierM

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Aug 18, 2016
Messages
16
How exactly would I go about that?

I do assume that you know how the pot cavity works in a Les Paul here, if you don't then scratch the entire option:).

Also, assuming your Custom has a 50 wiring, so with the cap wired to the volume output lug, instead of the input lug (modern wiring).

If you have a cheap and crappy guitar cable that you can use for this purpose, just remove one of the two jacks from that cable, and tape the two wires to the staple wires; ground to ground and hot to hot. It's a quick and easy job, that it's 100% reversible. You are not unsoldering, or ruining stuff. If you know what you are doing, it's 100% safe.

Then, when you'll plug the other side of that cable to your rig, you should only get the staple raw sound, without cap, without tone, volume and switch in the middle. If the pickup sound will change drastically, at least you know something in the cap/tone/volume/switch is not working as it should. If pickup sounds exactly the same as when you have volume and tone rolled to 100%, then you know it's the pickup, as it is.
 
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latestarter

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Nov 9, 2009
Messages
4,081
What height is this staple set at? Can you measure from plastic top to string please? They are very sensitive to this aspect. To me, that sound clip suggests it is too low?

and def look to bypass to see if the volume pot has a role in the sound.
 

yeatzee

Member
Joined
Jul 21, 2016
Messages
49
Ok so I tried swapping the neck pickup lead to the bridge volume control and that made no noticeable difference so that tells me it's the pickup, not the wiring, since the bridge is quite bright and chimey. So it looks like I'll be trying the seymour duncan staple.
 

dnabbet2

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May 31, 2017
Messages
158
Unless you're looking for a reason to swap it out, and if you're willing to go to that much trouble, disconnect the pickup from the controls and connect it directly to a cable and hold it there with electrical tape -- shielding braid against the long conductor on the cable jack and hot lead against the tip of the jack. So the pickup's attached right to the known-good guitar cable and amp.

And, yes, raise the pickup to its regular height.

And give it a play.

AND measure the DC resistance while you're at it -- the Seymour Duncan web site says theirs are about 9k ohms.
 

PierM

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Aug 18, 2016
Messages
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Ok so I tried swapping the neck pickup lead to the bridge volume control and that made no noticeable difference so that tells me it's the pickup, not the wiring, since the bridge is quite bright and chimey. So it looks like I'll be trying the seymour duncan staple.

Good choice. They are expensive, but imho the best replica in the market.
 

latestarter

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Joined
Nov 9, 2009
Messages
4,081
Ok so I tried swapping the neck pickup lead to the bridge volume control and that made no noticeable difference so that tells me it's the pickup, not the wiring, since the bridge is quite bright and chimey. So it looks like I'll be trying the seymour duncan staple.
Trying to help here. Any chance you can measure the distance I suggested earlier? I doubt it’s some kinda pickup issue.
 

dnabbet2

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May 31, 2017
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158
Also trying to help. I've actually wound pickups -- like many on this forum, I'm sure -- and I've experience damaged coils or leads rendering a pickup dead, as well as reducing the output and leaving the pickup tinny sounding. But I personally don't recall a damaged pickup sounding darker.

SO, I know I'm nagging, and I apologise, but if you're going to unsolder the pickup lead ANYWAY, how 'bout doing it, and testing the pickup direct with nothing in between it and the known-good cable and amp BEFORE actually ordering and paying for the new pickup. They are expensive.

I'll shut up now. :)
 

yeatzee

Member
Joined
Jul 21, 2016
Messages
49
Unless you're looking for a reason to swap it out, and if you're willing to go to that much trouble, disconnect the pickup from the controls and connect it directly to a cable and hold it there with electrical tape -- shielding braid against the long conductor on the cable jack and hot lead against the tip of the jack. So the pickup's attached right to the known-good guitar cable and amp.

And, yes, raise the pickup to its regular height.

And give it a play.

AND measure the DC resistance while you're at it -- the Seymour Duncan web site says theirs are about 9k ohms.
I don't really see how that's going to tell me anything if the bridge pickup wiring is known to sound good and the neck sounds exactly the same attached there or on the neck volume pot.

Resistance is about 7.9k, and pickup height has been messed with every which way. In my experience the pickup height only allows for fine tuning, it does not radically alter the sound unless you're able to radically alter the height which isn't possible with this pickup.

Good choice. They are expensive, but imho the best replica in the market.
They're the only replica available that actually has adjustable pole pieces as far as I could find. I'm actually sending it to ReWind Electric to make more vintage accurate after I try installing it "stock". Plan on shooting a video going over it all :)

What height is this staple set at? Can you measure from plastic top to string please? They are very sensitive to this aspect. To me, that sound clip suggests it is too low?

and def look to bypass to see if the volume pot has a role in the sound.
As mentioned above, I've tried it every combination of tall pickup low poles and vice versa. The actual range of motion is very limited.

OmXB58d.jpg


The pickup is nearly decked in that picture with the wound string poles lowered and plain string poles raised. Doesn't make any real difference. If the volume pot doesn't seem to be misbehaving with the bridge pickup and the neck pickup sounds the same hooked up to that pot I really don't think it's the pot here (as much as I wish it was).

Also trying to help. I've actually wound pickups -- like many on this forum, I'm sure -- and I've experience damaged coils or leads rendering a pickup dead, as well as reducing the output and leaving the pickup tinny sounding. But I personally don't recall a damaged pickup sounding darker.

SO, I know I'm nagging, and I apologise, but if you're going to unsolder the pickup lead ANYWAY, how 'bout doing it, and testing the pickup direct with nothing in between it and the known-good cable and amp BEFORE actually ordering and paying for the new pickup. They are expensive.

I'll shut up now. :)
Ya I'm not sure I'd say it's damaged or anything, but maybe just a bad wind / bad materials (brass base vs nickel). I mean we've all experienced muddy pickups before, in fact custom buckers are a great example. Some sound bright and clear, others dark. The construction is presumably about the same across all of them though.
 
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