July 12th, 2012

Please Don’t Call Them “Humbuckers”

JBE Pickups™ makes a line of guitar and bass pickups for both single coil as well as humbucker-equipped instruments.   While our line of pickups are currently all hum canceling they are not accurately all “Humbuckers”.

If you are already own a set of JBE pickups for your Strat™ or Tele™, you know that they deliver great single coil tone and performance well above noisy stock single coil pickups.  For those of you who own an HB or HB Two/Tone™, you know that these too are hum-canceling pickups, and more accurately called “Humbuckers”, that offer a fatter tone than single coil pickups, making them a perfect replacement for the mushy/dull humbuckers, or as options for an HSS or HSH setup for Strats™.

So, what’s the diff?  Doesn’t hum cancellation characterize a ‘humbucker’?

Technically, the answer to this question is, yes.   However, the term “Humbucker” was actually a marketing term that generally referred to the noise canceling attributes of a dual coil pickup design.  It also inferred a particular pickup size.    Think Les Paul, ES335, SG and other great instruments.  But, perhaps more importantly, “Humbucker” also came to infer a specific tonal character that is generally darker and somewhat muted, sometimes boomy, sometimes muddy.  Some are clearly better at producing a musical tone while others simply fall flat.

Also related, is the PAF, or “ Patent Applied For” used to describe a “vintage” sounding humbucker as tries to capture the vibe of the original humbucker design of Seth Lover.  Both PAF and Humbucker are marketing terms whose use generalizes the description of a specific pickup size (again think LP, SG etc) and tone (i.e. darker, fatter, and more muted than a single coil pickup).

Now (hopefully) for the Ah-Ha ! moment and my point of this rant.

JBE pickups should not be characterized as humbuckers solely on the basis of hum cancellation.  This description totally misses the most important aspects of popular aspects of many of JBE’s popular pickup models, i.e. the fact that our “single-coil-sounding” pickups provide authentic single coil tone… without hum.   In contrast, our HB and HB Two/Tone™ models certainly fit the general description of a humbucker tone as being darker and fatter,  but with the “presence” that is characteristic of all JBE pickups, and allows you to stand out in the mix.

Characterizing our T-Style (Tele™), S-Deluxe (Strat™), Soapbar, or our single coil sounding bass pickups for the J-Bass™, P-Bass™, or RIC™4000,  could lead some to believe that all we have done is repackage a “humbucker” (along with all the tonal aspects inferred by this pickup type) into a footprint to fit these instruments.   Such a description misses the point of what a JBE pickup offers entirely!   More  importantly, it  sends the prospective JBE player down a false path for pickup comparison.

The best way to understand how a JBE pickup performs is to try one.   Authorized JBE dealers can help you here.  You will be amazed not only in the tone but also how a JBE pickup feels.   The combination of tone and feel create a unique experience for guitarists and bassists.  Many tell us that our pickups, because of their accuracy and responsiveness, have actually made them better players.

So, please don’t call them humbuckers…. unless you mean it!

Strat™, Tele™, RIC™ are trademarks of Fender Musical Instrument Corp, and Rickenbacker International®