Texas-based Amalfitano Pickups specializes in hand-wound pickups as well as pickup rewinding and restoration. Owner Jerry Amalfitano uses high-grade Alnico magnets, 42-gauge vintage enameled magnetic wire, vintage-style cloth-covered leads, and he lightly pots his pickups to control microphonics.
His line of pickups has a decided vintage bent and includes three single-coil replacement sets for your offset-double-cutaway guitar; the SP High-Output, with Alnico V magnets, the VS 1950s with Alnico III, and the ’62 Vintage with large-diameter (.194″) Alnico III. All three are available with beveled polepieces, reverse-wound middle pickup, and even in left-handed configuration. If you’re more into classic single-cut tones, Amalfitano’s TP has Alnico V magnets in both the neck and bridge, for a more balanced output, a reverse-wound/reverse-polarity neck pickup for hum-canceling in the middle position, and a copper-clad baseplate on the bridge pickup for a punchier, smoother traditional sound.
Under the category “humbucker,” Amalfitano offers the Fullbucker and Vintage sets, which are wound with Alnico II, Alnico V, and ceramic magnets (depending on customer preference) along with nickel/steel baseplates, overwound bobbins, maple spacer blocks and single-conductor leads (four-conductor is an option). Other options include chrome and nickel distressed covers, as well as bobbins in black, cream, and zebra if you prefer to fly without covers.
Last but not least, the P90 Soapbar set uses a choice of Alnico II or the warmer-sounding Alnico V magnets and have a reverse-wound/reverse-polarity neck pickup for humbucking in the middle position.
We installed a ’62 Vintage set in a late-model Fender Stratocaster and a Vintage humbucker set with chrome covers in a late-’90s Gibson Les Paul Standard. Both were plugged into a 65Amp SoHo head (EF86/12AX7/EL84) and 2×12″ cabinet with Celestion Alnico Blue G12H speakers, as well as a Randall Lynch Box head (12AX7/EL34) and Randall LB 4×12″ cab with Eminence Super V speakers.
The Strat set produced a balanced, accurate early-’60s tone with a lot of single-coil spank and punchy low-end. They offered relatively equal output in relation to their placement; the bridge pickup has a crisp, twangy sound with nice high-end bite that retains its clarity even with overdrive piled on, and without getting really harsh. The middle pickup has a fair amount of high-end bite, but with more body and midrange, while the neck pickup exhibited the throaty, round neck-position sound exemplified by the Strat, again with nice clarity even with heavy overdrive. The two out-of-phase positions produce plenty of quack with shimmering lush highs. And in keeping with the set’s true-vintage vibe, the middle pickup is not reverse-wound/reverse-phased, so the “classic” single-coil noise that comes with the classic tone remains noticeable. The light wax potting controls microphonics and feedback very well, and the staggered polepieces compensate for the fretboard radius and string-to-string output, so the pickups can be adjusted to sit close to the strings without suffering pull.
The humbucking Vintage Set also produces a full, rich, well-balanced sound; the bridge pickup is clear and bright with ample complex midrange, while the neck pickup is slightly darker without being mushy. The combination of the slightly bright bridge pickup and the slightly dark neck pickup make for a lush, overtone-thick combination in the middle position. With the overdrive dimed in both amps, the bridge pickup offers an articulate, crunchy tone, with a smooth body and chunky low-end response. The neck pickup, while also very smooth, washes out only slightly under heavy distortion.
Amalfitano’s Vintage humbucking and ’62 Vintage single-coil pickup sets offer excellent-quality, classic vintage tones and utilize top shelf components and excellent construction.
Price $250/per set (SP High-Output, VS 1950s, ’62 Vintage, Fullbucker, Humbucker), $210 (TP set), $200 (P90 Soapbar set).
Contact Amalfitano Pickups, 13027 Brittmoore Park Drive, Houston, TX 77041; phone (817) 917-8707; www.amalfitanopickups.com.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s August 2008 issue. All opyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.