All of you who visit me here at 300guitars know for a fact that I am a bonafide Tele nut so it only seems fitting that I review a set of Tele pickups right? It is a tough job but someone has to do it..!! Anyway, this review is of a set of pickups made by Brian Porter. I hooked up with Brian on…drum roll..wait for it…twitter! If you are not on twitter or facebook get on them..! There are so many great people doing really cool things that you can engage with instantly.
Back to the pickups… The pickups that Brian sent me are a standard vintage type set that he hand winds like the old days. The bridge pickup reads 5.96k (42 gauge wire) and the neck pickup reads 7.56k (43 gauge wire) on the ohm meter. The bobbins are made from fiberboard, feature cloth leads and the neck pickup cover is plain nickel silver with a mildly aged look. The polepieces are alnico 3 and they are potted just once for less than 15 minutes in a special wax mix.
On the Bench: The Porter pickup set looks great especially the nickel silver neck pickup cover. The leads are more than long enough for any custom application. It’s a drag when you get a set of pickups and the leads are “just long enough”. I like a little slack to work with and I’ll cut them to the length that I want them…thank you very much. They also come in a nifty little tin that you can use for picks and such after you’ve done the installation….bonus..! Both pickups are lightly wax potted but the cover on the neck pickup is not potted. It is held in place by the three little tabs like the old days. In case you were wondering it does not squeal if you use some amp gain or overdrive pedal. Nice..!!
In the Shop: I have a particular Tele that I call my ‘pawn shop guitar”. I built it using a 4lb Musikraft ash body and one piece maple neck, vintage type nickel hardware, RS pots, Glendale cold rolled steel bridge with brass saddles all slightly aged to perfection. It is lightly finished with shellac and then a super thin coat of nitro. It’s a great guitar for trying different pickups. I installed the Porter set without a hitch and couldn’t wait to give them a whirl.
The test amp was my 5F6-A Bassman clone using Mercury Magnetics transformers, Sozo caps, carbon comp resistors, a Larry Rodgers tweed covered pine cabinet and 4- Eminence 1028K speakers. Current production Sovtek 12AX7LPS’s and Tung Sol 5881’s were used and the GZ34 was an N.O.S. General Electric. The amp was hand built by me here at 300Guitars. I plugged into the Normal channel and set the Volume at 12 o’clock, Treble at 1 o’clock, Bass at 10 o’clock, Middle at 1 o’clock and Presence at 12 o’clock….my standard Tele settings.
Flip the standby switch, crack open the volume control and shazam..Tele tone babay..!!! The Porter pickup set sounded great right from the get-go. They are very lively and “vibey” with great clarity and plenty of spank. Twang? Yep, they twang and they get a great bluesy Buchanan-esque tone too.
I could get some nice singing Roy tones from the bridge pickup and it responded very well to my volume control so I could do all those really cool swells. The bridge pickup also did not get muddy as I turned down the volume control and did not lose the lively, “vibey” character. It was great for some chicken pickin’ as well. The middle position with both pickups combined reminded me of the Chet Atkins tone….warm, clear and had that cool twang tone to it. I could Chet or Merle pick without a note being blurred or garbled. Funk rhythms sounded great as well. Lastly the neck pickup surprised me. I was a little skeptical about the neck pickup because the cover was not potted. I really thought that I’d be in for a struggle to keep it from squealing but much to my surprise it did not squeal. I think because the neck cover is not potted it adds to the lively quality and I really liked that aspect. It is hard to explain but it seemed that it was on the edge but still somehow under control. The clarity was awesome and with some overdrive I could get it to sing on single note phrases and chords did not blur together yielding a muddy, non-musical mess. I could also roll down the tone control and jazz it up a bit. A Tele with a great set of pickups can be a very versatile tool for sure.
On the Gig: Gig time..!!! I took my “pawn shop” Tele loaded with Porter pickups and my 5F6-A to a gig along with my BYOC overdrive and a delay pedal. Same settings as the shop (maybe a bit louder…sorry sound dude ;^). From the first tune the guitar just seemed to have this liveliness to it making it very touch sensitive. There was a lot of dynamics you could tap into and it took me a few tunes to sort of get my touch going. I think because the Porter pickups are so dynamic and lively you do not have to play as hard. You almost meet the notes half way and not force them out of the guitar. Any of you Tele players know that playing a Tele is a little more work as compared to some other guitars. It was not built for comfort and does not have any luxury features. The Porter pickup set seemed to take a little of the work out of the equation.
As the band I was playing with jumped through some different styles I found myself discovering more of the sonic possibilities from the Porter’s. Rockabilly, blues, some country, a little western type jazz and good old rock & roll. The minimal rig I brought was made up for by the pickups.
The bridge pickup had a great twang for country and screamed with some overdrive for blues and solos. Both pickups together sounded great for rockabilly and with a little slapback echo my Tele had a little bit of the Gretsch twang happening…sweet and warm. The neck pickup even surprised me on the gig. I really liked it for the jazzy and bluesy tones. The sound was a bit dark and smokey but clear. It also had this real cool organic quality to it that is hard to put into words. Both of the pickups also responded very well to the volume and tone controls on my guitar which adds to the versatility.
Final Analysis: Clarity, spank and dynamics are the name of the Porter game. This is a great set of pickups if you want to liven up a guitar that is lacking dynamics and clarity. You do not lose fundamental or body however so there is really no trade off to my ears. You just gain dynamics which translates into being able to express yourself with your playing easier.
I can tell from all of the conversations I had with Brian on facebook and twitter that he really cares about his brand and his customers. He always gets back to me promptly with answers that are friendly and straight to the point. This shows me that his customer service is excellent which is numero uno right along side of having a great product.
I would recommend Brian and his pickups to anyone who wants a traditional vintage type of pickup for their guitar. As I said earlier he makes other models including humbuckers, P-90 type and Strat type pickups. Replace the factory set of pickups in your production guitar or load a set into your home-brew build and get ready for some awesome clarity and dynamics. Be warned because the Porter pickups will make you a better player because of the great clarity (leaving you no place to hide) and the dynamics. Step up your game and your tone with a set of Porter pickups..!!! Thanks Brian..!!
Click here to visit Porter Pickups for more information.
Here is a 2 minute clip of what the Porter Tele pickups can do..!!