This is a re-post of a review done by Jay Leonard Juatco that has been scavenged from the archives of our old website
20 June 2013
It didn’t take long until a set of Mike Reilander’s pickups found it’s way into my cherished Gibson SG. I’ve had a long-standing love/hate relationship with this guitar: mostly love, but with the usual hate that accompanies any Tele-bred guitarist working his way through a set of humbuckers. Gibsons are an absolute joy to work with – they pretty much play themselves – but sometimes I really miss the dynamics, detail, and pick attack of a good Ol’ Tele. I mentioned this to Mike, during a Krispy Kreme fueled evening at his workshop, and he tossed me a set of his “Muckbuckers”. A few beers later, the pickups were installed into my old SG ready for some field testing. What a crazy cool set of pickups! Hidden under the nickel covers is a hint of Gretsch Duojet, Fender Jaguar, and Epiphone Crestwood. These are not Angus Young’s PAFs, but I’m sure Ry Cooder would loose his hat over these. The output is closer to the single coil range and it pushes the amp in a similar way; there is no longer the need to change volume and tone settings when switching to Fenders. One experiment for another day is to put the neck pickup in a Tele and the bridge in a Strat; the Muckbuckers’ voicing would be perfect for Fender blending (Mike says that the Muckbucker/Strat in-between position can quack meaner than Mark Knofler).
I have come to the conclusion that an AC30 is the best home for the set; those Vox amps really highlight the assets of the pickups. So, my test was done with an highly cranked and heated AC30: mic’d with an old dependable SM57.
Remember when I mentioned that the Vox AC30 sounded best with the Muckbuckers? You can thank the bridge pickup for that assessment. With the volume full bore, it sounds like a Brian May. The great thing is, you can leave the treble booster at home. The pickup has the detail of a single coil, but with the upper mid bump and slight saturation that will give you an excuse to put that old Dallas Rangemaster on eBay.
Turn down the volume to kill some of the saturation and bring that sharp precise punch to those glass-stabbing rhythm parts.
The standard complaint of the PAF neck is, because it is so warm and smooth, it turns into stale lumpy gravy when you add any gain to it. The detail survives on the Muckbuckers, even with a maxed out amplifier. Reminiscent of a Filtertron, an aggressive percussiveness cuts through. What seals the deal is that you can hear each string ringing true with every strum.
After turning down the volume knob, it cleans up dramatically. The tone is clear and piano like. However, there remains a slight midrange to thicken and grit up your spring water.
Who doesn’t like the in-between position? It has always been one of my favorites. There is that odd-ball mystery frequency that can either steer you in the direction of chicken funk or an nasal arrow of tone. These pickup are all about that arrow. The sound reminds me of the modern electric indie scene. The guitars have a more vocal quality and instead of using super bright guitars to cut through the mix, we rely on a careful manipulation of the frequency band.
After turning down the volume knob, we find a little of that funk. This funk is more in the direction of John Scofield, only with a little more fat and gain.
I think of these pickups as a slightly more compressed and notched Tele pickup set than an PAF set. The benchmarks of it’s sound revolve around it’s note separation, quick attack, and unique EQ swirl under gain. I’ve never played a set that sounded this equally unique and familiar. One piece of advice: find a large empty room, an old cranked Vox amp, wire up the bridge pickup, and rock the best rendition of the “Bohemian Rhapsody” solo you can muster… your ears will thank you.
International performer, writer, and studio musician – Jay Leonard Juatco – works with some of the top artist in the Hong Kong Music scene as well as locally in his home town of Vancouver, BC. Jay Leonard Juatco YouTube