Time for a change (finally) in pickups. For decades, electric guitar pickups have all been built along the same principles. Basically, running long lengths of copper wire around a magnet. To reduce noise, you’d add another pickup, invert it’s polarization and have a double-coil, or humbucker. This has been the standard since the electric guitar was invented and it’s what you have on your axe.
Lace have changed all this. They’ve been making conventional pickups for 25 years; Eric Clapton uses Lace pickups on his strat. But it’s time for something else.
The Alumitone pickup is a radical departure in pickup making. Conventional pickups are voltage designed, meaning it’s the voltage in the current that makes them work. The Alumitone is current-driven instead. What this means is a much more fluid system which allows smoother operation.
Also, the Alumitone is aluminium-based rather than copper-based. Aluminium is a much better conductor than copper. This gives you less resistance and higher output.
Overall, the Alumitone has a single coil of wire and, although it does use copper wire, it uses 90% less than a conventional pickup.
The design is noiseless and picks up so much that it eliminates the need for humbuckers. But they do make humbuckers anyway (and Tele designs) for a simple reason: if you have humbuckers on your guitar, placing a single-coil will look a bit foolish. The humbucker doesn’t do anything more than the single-coil, but it does look nice.
Mike Van Stiphout of Audio Nova in Montreal lent me a Lace Huntington guitar with Alumitone pickups. Since the guitar itself is a bottom-line one, you can’t expect the results you’d get from a high-end guitar. The model is Strat-type with three single coils. But when you plug it in and play, it’s a jaw-dropping experience. It actually sounds like an expensive guitar because of what’s happening with those pickups.
You get a lot more high and bass sounds coming out of the guitar than with conventional pickups. I don’t mean that you have to have a specialist’s trained ear to hear the difference. It’s so obvious that anyone, even a non-musician, will hear the difference immediately.
Although it’s less noticeable, you also get more mids than with conventional pickups and overall, a lot more volume. Believe me when I say the difference is amazing. This is not like comparing two regular brand-name pickups, it’s much more than that.
The sound is of course, very clean. Maybe you wouldn’t want these for a dirty blues sound or heavy metal, but then again, I remember that plugging a very dirty fuzz into a clean Jazz Chorus 120 years ago gave me loads of pleasure and a great sound too. I’m thinking, heavy metal-wise, that these pickups capture so much sound that if you ran them into a dirty distortion pedal, you’d probably end up with something quite nice indeed. Certainly a much bigger sound.
The Alumitones will fit onto any guitar, but take note that the pickguard (if you have one) requires a slight alteration; the cuts have to be rectangular rather than rounded. Look at the photo and you’ll see what I mean. It’s a minor adjustment that can easily be done and won’t alter your sound.
And these pickups look so cool (they also make them in black!). Once you try them you’ll want them.