So when Ash did his tele special deal before xmas, I took the plunge on some tele pickups. One thing led to another and I ended up buying a 4 way tele-wiring loom with Alligator and Californian pickups and a new strat loom with 2 stonetones and scrapyard dog with coil split.
the Tele is a MIJ pink paisley 69 reissue and the strat is a MIJ Sambora Black Paisley.
First up - communication with Ash was first class - he responded quickly with my many pricing requests, and my ever changing requirements. £He told me straight up that going from MIJ to CTS/USA looms would mean I had to alter the scratchplates or buy new ones,
The products came really well packaged. The Looms were pre assembled and components held in place on thick cardboard, each pickup was individually boxed. Ash provided wiring instructions for how to attach the pickups to the loom. Also included were some heat shrinks and some clear plastic tubes, as well as new jack sockets. All pots and Jacksockets came with a gripped washer, to stop them wiggling. That in itself has been a nice upgrade.
The only confusing thing is that the instructions in each pickup box were the same and only related to the Scrapyard dog.
What I would have found helpful, but was missing, was instructions on where to use the heat shrink and plastic tubes... I made a guess, but really just a stab in the dark...
The wiring looms themselves looked really well made - a massive visual upgrade on the MIJ stuff. Bigger looking wires, chunky switches, very neat and shiny solder joints. The pickups felt solid and well made. Again very neat. All pickups seem to have been wax potted (something my tele pickups lacked.)
If Ash wanted to offer a little extra on his website a quick how to solder video or instructions would not go amis. Sure there's loads of stuff on youtube, but it would be nice to see what the maker recommends.. I bought some wire and did a couple of practice runs. Something else that might be nice is if a short length of wire (say 10cm) was included in each loom. For both my guitars I had to use new wire for the grounding. The MIJ Tele didn't have it. The Strat's didn't reach.
Install proved to be a bit more of a pain than expected. I had to buy a new tele control plate, but even then the slot was too short for the 4 way switch. I had to take the hacksaw out.
I bought a new USA scratchplate for the strat. but it was cut very slightly differetnly. Trem, Neck, mounting holes - none of it lined up, so I decided to ream the holes for the pot. The Scrapyard dog was also bigger than the old Di marzio Paf pro so I had to square up the HB slot. however, I took my time and it was quite easy to do with sand paper and a razor blade.
So all done. (will post pics tomorrow)
How do they sound?
The stonetones / scrapyarddog combo is awesome. This is how I've wanted my strat to sound since 1996. It's just liek a good version of the original pickups. The HB has lost the horrible honk that the Di marzio had, yet keeps the Paf character. Ash's description is spot on. It also coil splits beautifully and is the possibly the best sound HB I've had to date. The Stonetones are slightly warmer and beefier than the stock pickups, but retrain their essential stratiness. Pos 2 has become the exact strat sound I've always wanted. POS 4 (SC and HB) though is thin, nasal and honkey. Really nasty sound. I wonder if I made a wiring mistake? Still the coil split makes up for it.
The Alligator/ Californian combo has not worked out so well. I find them ever so slightly muffled, with a slightly unpleasant bass response. I was expecting the alligator to be more like a p90 and it falls someway short of that. It's thicker than a normal SC but doesn't have the bite of my Seymor Duncan p90s in my thinline. The Californian neck is more strat like, but the sound doesn't sit well with the guitar. The whole guitar has become much darker in sound. I will revisit the wiring in case I made a mistake. I'm also nonplussed with the 4 way option, and very much considering going back to 3 way. Which I think will brighten the guitar.
Overall I'd say these a very well made, professional pickups that give all major brands competition. Like any pickups, putting them in is a stab in the dark in terms of how they will sound. So I don't feel that me not quite digging the Tele Pups is a reflection on the Oil City Product - it's just that they don't do what I was hoping. Others will love them.
Need to live with these a bit now and will report back later
Build Quality: 10
Packaging Instructions and extras 8
Sound (Strat) 10 - (Tele) 7
Value for money 10