The previous owner of my 1978 Telecaster had fitted a Seymour Duncan PAF humbucker in the neck position. When I bought the guitar in 1983 the original pickup was long gone. I kept the humbucker in there for over 15 years although I was never totally happy with it; the sound was OK, albeit a little muddy, but it just didn’t suit the guitar’s character. In 1999 I resolved to return to something close to the original setup. Then came a lenghty quest to find the right pickup.
During that period I tried somewhere in the region of 6 or 7 different neck pickups but none of them ever seemed right. Without exception they were either too muddy or too shrill. On Twitter, I stumbled across The Creamery. Jaime Campbell makes guitars and pickups on the south side of Manchester. What really attracted me was this quote from one of my favourite guitar tech’s, Steve Robinson.
My black “Wilko” Tele, fitted with a great set of (Hot Alnico 5) pickups from The Creamery – Neck pickup might just be the best I’ve ever heard.
I don’t personally know Steve very well, but in my dealings with him he didn’t strike me as the sort of person to say these things lightly. I clicked the “buy” button.
When the pickup arrived it was well packed and certainly had a feel of quality about it. From the neatness of the way the cover was fitted to the tidily trimmed and pre-tinned leads. Of course, if you’ve seen one Tele neck pickup you’ve seen them all, and there’s nothing unusual or radical about this one from The Creamery. What counts is how it sounds, right?
So let’s dive straight in. Here’s a 30 second snippet I recorded to try and give you a flavour of how the pickup sounds. It was recorded directly into Reaper, using a Line 6 Pod XT Live. I selected a simulation of a Fender Bassman into Tweed 4×10″ with a touch of reverb. Nothing else was added or taken away. For the piece I’ve tried to make sure it would show up any of the previous weaknesses: a good balance across all six strings, warm at the low end but without sacrificing clarity.
OK, the sound of any pickup is going to be a subjective thing, so all I can tell you is that this was almost exactly the sound I had in my head. To paraphrase the famous quote, talking about a pickup’s sound is like dancing about architecture, so I’m going to stop there. Suffice it to say; My quest for a Telecaster neck pickup is over.
And here is a screenprint of the Line6 Pod XT Live patch I used.