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Stephens design pickups versus throwbaks?

HI-TONE

Member
Joined
Oct 21, 2014
Messages
39
I have had both, I sold the SD's for about half what they cost me.
The Throbaks were (and still are) just better in my guitars.
I have immense respect for Jon's desire and operation.
 

CatManDoo88

Member
Joined
Mar 3, 2019
Messages
127
Since duaneflowers brought up Wizz Pickups, I will say that for me I find OX4 to be superior. In particular, I think the OX4 Beanos do a much better nailing that specific tone than the Wizz equivalents:

I know which of these sounds closer to the recording in my books. There are a lot of boutique winders out there now and OP should investigate all of them. There was a lot of variations in PAFs back in the day due to different magnets, as well as uneven and inconsistent windings. One player's idea of the ideal PAF replica is different than another's.
 

renderit

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 19, 2009
Messages
10,016
At Duanes suggestion I got a set of Wizz made for my Black Widow out of the 'original' NOS wire.

Very expensive.

He warned me that while great they were a tad hard to control.

He was right.

But they really do sound glorious!

Clearer than the standards but when pushed they really cut. Biters.

Most of the normal
Wizz I find a tad dirtier than the Thrōbaks.

There have been some of my guitars where this just works wonderfully.

I have a CS 339 that I hated the sounds on and went through 7 sets of pickups that were 'meh' in it.

The standard
Wizz worked great.

I have
Thrōbaks in more guitars but sometimes the OX4's sound good as well. Better in some guitars.

I find a lot of them for sale used. That way I can try them all.

It is a wonderful world for us right now. Great offerings from so many winders.
 

marshall1987

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 30, 2005
Messages
3,202
Although I have no personal experience with Stephens Design pickups, there are numerous Internet forum threads on this brand wherein customers complain of: (1) the lengthy wait-time; (2) SD policy of requiring payment up front; (3) SD use of Chinese magnets; (4) use of "offshore" parts; (4) waiting list irregularities where pre-paid customers are "bumped". :dang. This is not to say SD doesn't make good PAF replicas, they may well; nonetheless I would not relish experiencing these frustrations just to have Internet "bragging rights". Indeed, these troubling customer experiences are enough to dissuade me from putting my name on the customer waiting list.

On the other hand, given my repeat customer experience with ThroBak, I haven't experienced ANY of the the above irregular vendor practices with their pickups. Presently, I have two sets of ThroBak PAF replicas, one set in a Collings I35-LC, and the second set in a Gibson 2009 50th Anniversary R9. Both guitars with the ThroBaks deliver the classic PAF experience I covet in spades! :salude. It's also reassuring to know that many respected guitar manufacturer's offer ThoBak pickups as a standard upgrade option in their electric guitars. :2cool
 

jackdonovan

Member
Joined
Mar 18, 2003
Messages
704
Well thanks to everyone for all the comments.

Yes I'm in the UK my avator is a bloke called George Formby ... the older UK guitar players will know about this guy. George Harrison was a fan.

We've all seen the adverts for the different pickup makers and I came to the conclusion these two seemed to be top of the choices at this time.

I do have a 59/60 es 345 with double white PAFs a sg with pre t tops and an early 1969 les paul custom with pre t tops they look like PAFs.
Listening to the online clips the Stevens Design sound better for the whites but the pre t top wind the for the les paul sounds dead right from throwback sounds identical.
The early pre tops in my sg sound just like the double whites to be honest. It is a very good sound very clear but when you hit them they overdrive subtly with a pleasent rock sound but can be clunky and clanky and show up all your mistakes. I know what people mean when they say about PAFs having similarity to a telecaster sound I agree there is that tingle or twang sparkle but with a heavier lower string sound. The real PAFs I own actually are fairly bright sounding on the whole in the room and I would say clearer than any single coil despite what you are told. Recordings never quite capture the sound. Saying that I think a lot of pickup worship is mojo myth and is hype but the modern humbuckers in like PRS definitely don't have quite the same sound even though they're pretty good sound in themselves through the right amp although the ones I've tried didn't sound like Carlos Santana's guitar but then I'm not Carlos. I have tried wcr fillmores and they have a sound of their own that is really good but not like the clunky sound of real PAFs. Gear is overated learning to be a good player is worth more than anything else.
 
Joined
Dec 13, 2001
Messages
63
I have both SD and Throbaks. Both are wonderful sounding pickups and choosing between them comes down to personal tastes. For the record, I have original PAFs as well.

Tone aside, there couldn't be a larger difference in customer service. Throbak gets a 10/10 while Stephens Design comes as close to a 0/10 as you can get without actually ripping me off. It took 2+ years of emails and in the end, public shaming on another large forum, to finally get my prepaid pickups sent to me from SD. To add insult to the injury, during those 2 years SD was selling pickup sets on EBay while ignoring my prepaid order.

SD makes great pickups but they'll never see another cent from me and I will go to my grave telling anyone who will listen about my terrible experience with them.

YMMV. Maybe he's cleaned up his act by now. I hope so. I'd hate to see anyone else get that kind of runaround.
 

jackdonovan

Member
Joined
Mar 18, 2003
Messages
704
Well it’s not reassuring when you read about such bad customer service and for that reason alone I would not do business with them ie SD. Let’s be honest his modus operandi is to milk off another more famous pickup maker with the same initials. That is a bit iffy you know.
I have wondered about his sound clips too, he could be swapping real for clones and vice versa? His clips are pretty convincing to my ears but recordings are never the same as live in the room.
 

JLee

Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2010
Messages
56
I’m a big fan of Throbak Pickups. I would never consider purchasing SD’s pickups with all of his questionable business practices. I also appreciate Jon’s dedication to authenticity and the smallest details.
 

jackdonovan

Member
Joined
Mar 18, 2003
Messages
704
Since duaneflowers brought up Wizz Pickups, I will say that for me I find OX4 to be superior. In particular, I think the OX4 Beanos do a much better nailing that specific tone than the Wizz equivalents:

I know which of these sounds closer to the recording in my books. There are a lot of boutique winders out there now and OP should investigate all of them. There was a lot of variations in PAFs back in the day due to different magnets, as well as uneven and inconsistent windings. One player's idea of the ideal PAF replica is different than another's.
Yes I agree from this clip the ox4 is definitely more like the sound I feel and recognise as a PAF, the wizzes from this clip sound not so sharp and more modern although the guitar player is better in time etc it doesn’t sound nearly as good.
 

El Gringo

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 8, 2015
Messages
4,073
Just FYI... throwback is one of the most dishonest companies I've had the displeasure of dealing with... and I'm really surprised you didn't use the word vintage in your post... you don't seem to know what it means and throw that word around like its candy... buyer beware... :salude
Please do tell as I am most interested in knowing about the dishonesty ?
 

El Gringo

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 8, 2015
Messages
4,073
Here is my ThroBak story . In 2018 I had to get humbuckers for my R8 which had Burstbuckers 1 & 3 , which squealed so bad and were unworkable for me . Having been on this most wonderful Les Paul Forum I seen many posts singing and praising the sonic virtues of ThroBak and decided to give them a try . So I called and spoke with Jon on the phone and he could not have been any more helpful and most wonderful and sincere . The wait time from point of order was less than 2 weeks , around 10 days . I get the pickups delivered by the USPS and had them installed and it was love at first listen . I got the 101 + and requested they be wax potted ( at no extra charge ) with the A5 magnets . As I play thru 2 -Marshall 2555X's half stacks , I can't afford squealing and hissing , whistling pickups . My goodness I was just blown away right from the start . The tone is so thick and luscious and rich and pairs so well for my use with my Marshall 2555X's . This is no accident as the guitar + the pickups + the amp need to be in complete harmony with each other as they are integral to the tone as in a chain where each link must be in complete unison to provide the sonic Epiphany for ones ears . Now I love these pickups so much that I have them loaded in all 10 of my Les Paul's ( 6 R9's, 2 R8's, 1 Les Paul Premium Plus Classic , and lastly my beloved childhood Les Paul Custom which is my very first electric as a kid ) That's a good chunk of change spent on These pickups and it's like the cost of a new R9 , and I love them that much as I would not have it any other way ! I know some would say that is boring or dull and not enough variety for the tonal palette , but to me it's perfection and why would I deviate from a successful formula for tone . This way I get to concentrate on my playing and not fiddling around with knobs and dials trying to get that sound that was so elusive for years . Also this way I get to enjoy the subtle nuances with each of my Les Paul's , which are subtle but still each one has it's own character . This story gets better I just took delivery of my newest edition to my ever growing herd at home (21) which is a new Fender Custom Pink Paisley Telecaster and knowing enough of Fender Customs pickup selections I wanted improved and upgraded pickups and decided to try out the ThroBak Broadcaster A5 Magnet pickups . The neck pickup is shellacked , and the bridge pickup is wax potted , which of course I requested it to be extra wax potted . Also I requested the bridge pickup to have the staggered polepieces and Jon was very accommodating . The tone was glorious , the neck pickup was nice and sweet , whilst the bridge pickup was magnificent . The best single coil sound I have ever had on a Fender instrument . Nice and thick and delivering that nice rocking sound that I was going for with nice rich sustain . On ThroBak's website it is billed as "think Keef tone on steroids" and then some as Keef is the reason I got my first Tele over 30 years ago ! Just think of Keef's tone with the Stones on his many Tele's and then some more ! I mean just mind blowing gratification for me as they work in volumes ! To me Fender Single Coils were always thin and weak and super twangy which is okay but been there and done that and got the T-Shirt and yet still was unsatisfied until now and I can't recommend these pickups enough . Jon goes the extra 100 miles for me and accommodates me each and every time and is very generous with his time spent talking with me and making sure to get it right and make me happy which I am so lucky to have his wonderful pickups . Jon Thank You Very Kindly !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

El Gringo

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Joined
Apr 8, 2015
Messages
4,073
Also I should further add that ThroBak uses the same pickups covers that a certain company that used to manufacture in Kalamazoo before moving to Nashville ( Gibson ) . ThroBak also uses correct vintage spec plain enamel 42 AWG magnet wire . PAF Clone Butyrate Bobbins tooled and molded to correct vintage spec. Coils wound on Vintage leesona 102 and vintage Gibson Kalamazoo made Slug 101 PAF winders . PAF Vintage correct baseplates tooled and stamped for ThroBak . Alnico magnets custom cast with vintage formulations . Vintage correct braided wire . The best part - all MADE IN THE USA including the magnets ( not the cheap overseas junk ) . A most complete recipe for tone and success . Bravo ThroBak ☀️
 
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JLee

Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2010
Messages
56
I thought about going all PG-102 in my guitars. They all have different voices and decided to go with sets that would complement each voice. I feel like the sets I’ve chosen were a perfect match and really bring out the best out of each guitar or at least more of what I wanted to hear from each guitar.
 

Big Al

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Joined
Apr 24, 2002
Messages
14,279
I spend my money on people I trust and respect who are dedicated 100% even obsessed with making quality products. I value knowlege and craft above hyperbole and voodoo bullshit self marketing. I've been at this long enough to know what's real and why.

That said, I wouldn't hesitate to spend my dough on buying any ThroBak pickup and would be proud to have such truly authentic and beautifly crafted pickups made by the deepest well of true vintage manufacture and material knowledge of original vintage Gibson pickups there is. Jon is an amazing resource, and from what I've seen a straight shooter and good man. Regardless the never ending carping of a butt hurt unhappy late Xmass gift that wasn't able to make under the tree on Dec 25. The truth of the matter seems pretty clear.

I'd not waste a cent on a Sephens Design.
 

mthrunn

New member
Joined
Dec 4, 2019
Messages
19
Sound quality-wise, both are exceptional. Argue about the business ethics all you want (not that they’re unimportant, mind you), but if, at the end of the day, you want that vintage sound, either will get you there. I’ve had multiple sets of both (and many other boutique winders) and can’t complain about the product quality.
As others have said- you may also want to consider Rewind, Wizz, Mojo UK/Crazyparts Area ‘59 (or Beastbuckers), Sigil, Doyle’s Coil, etc. It’s like different master chefs preparing their take on filet mignon...it may have slightly different preparations, but it’ll be delicious.
 
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Big Al

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 24, 2002
Messages
14,279
Sound quality-wise, both are exceptional. Argue about the business ethics all you want (not that they’re unimportant, mind you), but if, at the end of the day, you want that vintage sound, either will get you there. I’ve had multiple sets of both (and many other boutique winders) and can’t complain about the product quality.
As others have said- you may also want to consider Rewind, Wizz, Mojo UK/Crazyparts Area ‘59 (or Beastbuckers), Sigil, Doyle’s Coil, etc. It’s like different master chefs preparing their take on filet mignon...it may have slightly different preparations, but it’ll be delicious.
Yep, well said. From what I've seen and heard pretty much EVERY major winder who makes paf replicas, gets it right. Before my big sell off a few surgeries back, I owned several sets of real pafs. I use to pop them in my new guitars but honestly, the new versions nail the tone and I removed all the pafs from non vintage guitars and replaced them with new versions.

They varied in tone and resistence. Resonate peaks were high but did range over a wider area than I expected. I didn't do the math but I suspect the inductence did too. Resistence ranged from 6.8k to 9k. This is why so many wind so many different versions. Because there is so much variety in pafs. There is a paf tone. You can measure a bunch and average it out to get a good paf tone, or match specs to a particular one. There were changes, in winding pattern and number of turns on the coil as well as magnet gauss, size and alloy mix. Some offer a more idealised take suited to modern tastes or needs. It works as long as it retains the paf hallmark of clarity and power. Twang with muscle.

Others strive to make truely authentic clone. Exact in every detail that is available today. Wonderful brand new pafs that are only 60+ years different. Some are close but not exact replicas in every detail but still offer authentic tone and appearence for prices that make that magic available for anyone. Seth Lovers are a good example.

Really, who, among the serious winders , makes an awful one? They all sound like pafs, well like a version of one of the versions. 57 low winds, 58 or 59 overwinds, 60 short alnico V powerhouse or the more balanced post 60 and patent number ones and all points in between??

They're all good and everyone has favorites. I think it's all jake.
 
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