Monday, August 10, 2009

1 part quality + 1 part talent = KILLER TONE

I have been so fortunate this last year to come across some pretty great boutique gear companies. One of them being Rumpelstiltskin, a fantastic one-man operation pickup company run by the talented Aaron Campbell. All of Campbell's pickups are hand-wound one at a time, right here in the good ol USA, with tip top materials and parts. You will not only hear the quality in these pickups but notice how well they are put together when take them out of the box. The specialty of the day for Rumpelstiltskin is and always has been Strat and Tele pickup sets. They hit everything from the '54 Strat sets, Pre-CBS Strat sets, to killer sounding Black Guard Tele sets and beyond. Aaron's spin on these classic pickups is spot-on, it is something you can tell the man has studied and studied well. These are perfect pickups for tricking out a guitar or adding some extra needed character to an already ok sounding axe of yours. There is one thing that's for sure, that much needed vintage howl that has been missing in today's music can easily be found in these amazing pickups. If you don't know now you know.

Black Guard Tele
Telecaster set

This set instantly gave me the feel and tone of the authentic vintage Blackguard Telecaster. I've been lucky to have had some pretty cool guitars in my hand, a Blackguard being one of them. This is a tone one will not forget easily and will fall in love with on the spot. I'm happy to say Aaron has captured this beautiful tone. There is something about these pickups that just stands out from the many I have tested and tried. One thing, holding them in your hands you can feel the work that went into building them, this is an area in gear that I just can't get enough of. How can you go wrong when you have a nicely built piece of gear? People who know me know that the Telecaster is my #1 guitar of choice, they also know that I am one tuff judge when it comes to Tele pickups. The Tele tone is unlike any other, it's a guitar tone that has worked so well for so long and for so many types of music. The classic, traditional, and spot-on twangy tone that these Rumpelstiltskin pickups deliver will have even the most hardcore of guitar collector drooling and satisfied. To make sure I got the most our of these bad boys I tested them through a series of clean and classic vintage Fender amps. The chime and ringing goodness floored when I struck that first chord, there is a bite to these pickups that give them their own signature tone while maintaining the classic Blackguard tone. You can definitely hear a bit of Aaron Campbell's flavor in these pickups. I've never been much of a "chicken picker" but you can sure as hell count me in when it comes to blues, funk, and rock. I slammed down on some James Brown funk chords and was quite impressed at the how well they held their clarity, each string well balanced and defined. With a tad bit of overdrive, just a hair, these pickups sound absolutely immaculate! I almost want to say I was able to get a killer Stevie Ray tone out of these pickups. There is a response to these pickups that I haven't been able to get out of most Tele pickups. When I cranked up the overdrive level of my stompbox they were able to hold their own, and boy did they do it well. One thing about some other Tele pickups I haven't dug in the past is how they begin to sound muddy once you introduce a fair amount of drive. You won't get that unwanted character out of these pickups, whether it be funk, blues, rock, you will be able to hang. The Rumpelstiltskin Blackguard pickups passed with flying colors and I would highly suggest you get your hands on some before they blow up...These are one one of the best kept secrets in the underground and boutique world.

Pre-CBS Strat

The name of these pickups says it all. If you've been fortunate enough to try out the classic Pre-CBS Fender guitars and pickups you know how wonderful they sounded and played. It is just a fact that the guitars from back then were built much better than the standard runs that are available today. What about them is better? Play one and you'll know the answer to that question. Well now you can get the tone of those killer guitars in any Start model available today. Think of the great tones from yesteryear and you have what these pickups are capable of, it is a gift sent from heaven! Again I must speak on the attention to detail and quality of Rumpelstiltskin pickups, you know you're holding something special once you get them in your hands. These Pre-CBS model pickups just like Tele sets are built just as beautifully. Now the tone. If I could get it down in one word it would be...immaculate. The springyness, definition, and pop of a great Strat pickup all live inside this amazing Rumpelstiltskin model. There is a character to these pickups that bring back all the great tunes I grew up with. I ran them through my favorite overdrive, boosters, and fuzz pedals, getting some of the most tasteful and true to vintage tones possible. Now we all know how killer a fuzz pedal sounds through a humbucker, but I still think that the best way to get a killer fuzz tone is with a quality single coil pickup. These pickups fall into that category of pickups that work really well pedals no matter what kind the effect. The bridge pickup had lots of tasty highs, with a hint of tight lows, and well balanced mids. The bridge pickup being perfect for cutting through any mix when things get wild on stage. The in-between of the bridge and middle pickup sounded to me like everything I just described only a bit more of it, more balls if you will. The middle pickup alone is the perfect position for slamming down on chords and picking. The mid pickup rings really well as if being pushed by a hint a compression, how Aaron did that I do not know. Now my favorite position, which surprisingly enough is most Strat players least favorite position. The mid/neck pickup setting, oh baby! Through these bad boys you get everything you want, great for rhythm strumming, picking, lead work, and everything in between. I found some really wonderful tones by rolling back on the volume, which reminds me. These pickups hang in there when backing off on the volume control, the eq stays intact and doesn't get too muddy and lost. The neck pickup really growls and sings like a beast leaving it's cave. I had a blast with these pickups and had to throw them into a Stat style guitar of my own...actually my rhythm guitar players Strat, but I do get to play it and see it everyday. I can't say enough about these pickups. Aaron Campbell has a special and great talent for knocking out some wonderful sounding pickups. He is part of that elite group of pickup builders that will continue to be a favorite amongst the "player" community.

For more info please check out the Rumpelstiltskin website at or click the logo in our links. If you're looking for a great vintage tone or looking to upgrade your guitar these are perfect for the job. Have a blast!!!

1 comment:

  1. I have several sets of Rumpels (Strats and Teles), including a set of prototype P90s in my Les Paul. They are all stellar pickups.