Wolfetone pickups are relatively new to the market, but go right to the heart of what vintage tone freaks seek.
In an increasingly competitive aftermarket pickup environment, Wolfetone’s units offer all the amenities shared by the best pickups out there, like hand-wound coils, 42-gauge (in this case, Elektrisola) wire, and Alnico magnets.
We recently gave a test run to a range of Wolfetones, including a set of three single-coils, P-90s, a set of Grey Wolf Alnico II-equpped/PAF-spec humbuckers, and Wolftone’s creme de la creme PAF V-Mag humbucker, which employs a magnet from a genuine ’59 Gibson PAF.
We installed the single-coils in an ’80s Squire Strat and ran it through a ’70s Fender Twin Reverb set to clean.
Immediately noticeable was the pickups’ balance; switching from one to the next required virtually no volume adjustment (output readings were 5.96k, 6.49K, and 6.71K, neck to bridge). Also, volume balance from string to string was pretty good, especially considering the poles are not staggered. The tone wasn’t qute as bright as the ’62 reissue pickups our guitar started with, making them less harsh/brittle. Basically, what we got was a nice vintage Strat tone without the brittle edge.
Next, we dropped the P-90s into a Hamer Special and ran it through an all-tube Peavey Butcher head set to overdrive through a 2×12 cab.
Tone-wise, the Wolfetones offered less midrange than standard P-90s and had a very sweet top-end; a Strat-like tone, but with P-90 thickness. Pushed to overdrive, they were very fat and round. And again, very well-balanced, attributable to their output – 8.75K neck, 9.23K bridge.
Next, we dropped the PAF set into a ’79 Ibanez Artist and ran it through the same rig, again set to overdrive. Though one can always attempt to quantify a pickup’s response as you roll off the highs, or roll off the volume, etc., the sound of these humbuckers can be summed up by saying this is what PAFs should sound like – fat and full, with that firespittin’ high-end that made PAFs famous.
These units also use Alnico II magnets, which certainly aided in giving them their incredible blues sound with great note separation.
Last but not least, we installed the limited-production V-Mag in the bridge position of the Artist. This is the unit that uses the real ’59 PAF magnet (which Wolfe says he gets from PAFs that have been damaged beyond repair).
We compared the V-Mag (output reading 8.76K) to a ’60s “patent number” pickup, and found it sounded almost identical, but with more growl and low-end response. It also seemed to offer up a bit more sustain – in all, very satsifying.
We had a good bit of fun swapping and testing the Wolfetones, all of which did a superlative job of capturing true vintage tones.
Type of Pickups Single-coil/P-90-style/PAF-style/vintage humbucker.
Features Alnico magnets, 42-gauge Elektrisola wire, adjustable polepieces (on P-90), vintage-style wire leads, authentic vintage tones.
Price $65 to $210.
Contact Wolfetone Pickups, Seattle, Washington, 206-417-3548, wwwwolfetone.com.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Aug. ’03 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.