Wacky vintage Jackson pickup
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Thread: Wacky vintage Jackson pickup

  1. #1


    Join Date: Oct 2008
    Location: Herndon, VA
    ME: Jackson Soloist
    Rig: Fractal Audio Axe-FX II

    iTrader: 4 (100%)

    Wacky vintage Jackson pickup

    I finally got around to replacing the bridge pickup in my '85 Soloist with a vintage Duncan JBJ that I've had for a while. The JBJ sounds fantastic in this guitar (no surprise there), but the fun part is looking at the stock Jackson pickup.

    For those who don't know, Jackson started making their own pickups sometime in mid-late 1984 after buying Fender's winding machines when Fender briefly closed its U.S. operations and sold off the contents of the Fullerton factory. Most early US Charvels and Jacksons before that had Duncans.

    Jackson also hired Fender's pickup winder, Abby Ybarra, and its pickup designer, Paul Gagon. Gagon designed Jackson's range of pickups after working with a bunch of prototypes for endorsers.

    Anyway, my Soloist was finished in January '85 shortly after the company began making pickups. The neck pickup was shot when I got the guitar and I replaced it with a Dimarzio stacked HB I got from Garrett (with a much later Jackson cover that somehow fits). I've tried other things in the bridge and had gone back to the original Jackson PU.

    If you've seen production Jackson pickups, you know that they had an engraved baseplate and/or a silver foil logo with the model number.

    Not this one. It's such an early Jackson pickup that the only "logo" is a piece of masking tape with the letter "B" written on it. So professional!





    Because of the lack of logo, I can't actually tell which model it is. I had thought that the earliest Jackson HBs were all J-50Bs, which was a low-output Alnico 5 PAF clone. However, this one is hotter than the JB, loose low end, and lots of ceramic "jangle" on top. This leads me to think it's either an early J-80C or J-90C.

    Whatever it is, it sounded like crap in this Soloist, which has a lot of low end, scooped low-mids by Soloist standards, and bright high-mids due to the OFR. Annoyed the fuck out of me.

    The JBJ is perfect for this guitar, if maybe almost too dark. I had it in Dave's old Soloist w/Kahler before, and that is a very mid-heavy (~700-800 hz) guitar, and the JBJ lacked enough punch in it, I thought. I've been playing the hell out of the '85 today in writing a new metal song, and I'm hopeful it'll make the '85 one of my main players.

    Here are a couple poor pictures of the '85 with the JBJ, desperately in need of a polish job.




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  4. #2


    Join Date: Oct 2016
    Location: Corpus Christi
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    Cool info. And, pretty neat that you have a piece of Jackson history, even if it sounds like crap.

    I know it's not apples to apples, but the Duncan Distortions in my '17 Soloist sound great. They suit it very well.
    Tone Chasers Anonymous ™ - I’m not just a member, I’m the President.
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  5. #3


    Join Date: Oct 2008
    Location: Herndon, VA
    ME: Jackson Soloist
    Rig: Fractal Audio Axe-FX II

    iTrader: 4 (100%)

    Quote Originally Posted by Iron1 View Post
    Cool info. And, pretty neat that you have a piece of Jackson history, even if it sounds like crap.

    I know it's not apples to apples, but the Duncan Distortions in my '17 Soloist sound great. They suit it very well.
    I think I had a Distortion in this guitar at one point. Wasn't the right choice for it. It's unusual-sounding for a Soloist.

    The Jackson Mystery pickup might sound decent in another guitar. It's not actually a bad pickup (not harsh like later Jackson pickups), just not right for this guitar.

    For my Soloist Jr., I'm probably going to switch out the J-50BC in the bridge with a Wolfetone Timbre Wolf and ditch the active electronics. They make the thing sound really sloppy.

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  7. #4


    Join Date: Oct 2016
    Location: Corpus Christi
    ME: LTD H7, KM6, 540SLTD
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    Quote Originally Posted by jacksonplayer View Post

    The Jackson Mystery pickup might sound decent in another guitar. It's not actually a bad pickup (not harsh like later Jackson pickups), just not right for this guitar.
    When I was swapping the stock Jackson's out of my 7-strings and making tone comps between them and the litany of others I tried, it really seemed like all they did was make a pickup with every frequency turned to 10, instead of striving to shape the tone and only accentuate the ear-pleasing ones. Harsh is a better way to put it. But, I was able to get decent tones with them. Just not as good as what I'm getting with the Custom, Imperiums and Elysian Trident II. Now, my KM6 has a set of Apocalypse IVs in it, which I'm strongly considering replacing with a set of Trident IIs or Hellfiires. Either way, for stock pups I think the Jackson's are some of the best out there... which isn't saying much.

  8. #5


    Join Date: Sep 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by jacksonplayer View Post
    I had it in Dave's old Soloist w/Kahler before, and that is a very mid-heavy (~700-800 hz) guitar, and the JBJ lacked enough punch in it, I thought.
    I sold you that guitar before Wolfe was around, or it would probably would have gotten a Timbre Wolfe.
    Noodles

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  9. #6


    Join Date: Oct 2008
    Location: Herndon, VA
    ME: Jackson Soloist
    Rig: Fractal Audio Axe-FX II

    iTrader: 4 (100%)

    Quote Originally Posted by Iron1 View Post
    When I was swapping the stock Jackson's out of my 7-strings and making tone comps between them and the litany of others I tried, it really seemed like all they did was make a pickup with every frequency turned to 10, instead of striving to shape the tone and only accentuate the ear-pleasing ones. Harsh is a better way to put it.
    The newer Jackson pickups are a completely different thing. They're built by someone else and just logo-ed for Jackson. They're also intended to be cheapos, like Duncan Designed pickups or the ones in the low end Ibanezes.

    Back in the '80s, Jackson was one of the few 'new' guitar makers to try their hand at in-house pickups. ESP might have done so for a while, but all the others like Ibanez, Kramer etc. outsourced pickups. It was sort of an accident with Jackson, as Fender's machinery and employees just happened to be available.

    The philosophy was different, though. Nowadays, pickup makers are almost all just trying to make the "perfect PAF" or "perfect JB". Jackson was trying to make new designs, and the preference of the era was for a wider-range pickup that could drive an amp harder. I think the hope was that Jackson could develop a side business selling a whole range of guitar electronics beyond just guitars.

    Problem is, the Jackson pickups, even during the brief era of U.S. manufacture, weren't good enough to replace desire for Duncans or Dimarzios. The J-50B isn't a terrible PAF and the J-90C is okay instead of a Duncan Distortion, but neither was good enough to be a first choice. Also, in Jacksons they were typically paired with active preamps that added a lot of noise and slop but not a lot of useful tone.

    And after production was shifted to Japan in the late '80s, the quality level dropped significantly.

    Quote Originally Posted by noodles View Post
    I sold you that guitar before Wolfe was around, or it would probably would have gotten a Timbre Wolfe.
    I imagine a Duncan Custom would also kill in that guitar. I'm eager to try a Timbre Wolf, but the Soloist Jr. has dibs at the moment.

  10. #7


    Join Date: Sep 2008
    Location: Woodbridge, VA
    ME: CS USA Soloist 7
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    Quote Originally Posted by jacksonplayer View Post
    And after production was shifted to Japan in the late '80s, the quality level dropped significantly.
    You ain't kidding. The pickups in my '88 Dinky (which were Japanese) were TOTAL crap. The J50/J200s pairings from that era aren't even suitable for fridge magnets.

  11. #8


    Join Date: Feb 2010
    Location: Laramie, Wyoming
    ME: Jackson AT Pro
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    Quote Originally Posted by jacksonplayer View Post
    Paul Gagon. Gagon designed Jackson's range of pickups after working with a bunch of prototypes for endorsers.
    His main claim to fame is designing the Marshall Guv-nor circuit before Marshall. Seriously.

    Seriously, it's a weird feud thing. He works for BBE now. There's a JHS Pedals show episode addressing it.

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