Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Texas Tone in no Time

Imagine you're playing your Strat, something isn't quite right and so you decide to swap out the pickups and do a little hot rodding. If you've ever had to work on you guitar before you know it's no walk in the park, especially if you've never changed your pickups or if you're new to the game. Then there's cost of having to take it in to a tech to do it for you, not cheap. Now there are a hundred and one cats out there building pickups and doing it well, but there is one that comes to mind when thinking of great tone, quality, and quick way to upgrade your axe, Kent Armstrong. We are all familiar with Kent Armstrong and the amazing pickups they have been producing for God knows how long. Something even cooler is now you can get a killer pre-wired Strat pickguard with a set of killer Kent Armstrong pickups. It doesn't get much better than this my friends.

Wired Assembly w/Texas Vintage Pickups

*Alnico V Polepieces/Magnet Dimensions 5x17mm

TVS4N/Neck Pickup= 6K
TVS4M/Middle Pickup= 6.7K (reverse wound/reverse polarity)
TVS4B/Bridge Pickup= 7.5K
Pickups available as set or individually)

If there's one cat out there that deserves his dues more that he's gotten it is Kent Armstrong. Since the early 70's Kent has been working the pickup game, starting rewinding pickups for his pop then later taking over the shop and starting his own biz. In the jazz world Kent Armstrong pickups are well known and used by many of the top players. It's the rockers that are yet to pick up on his work. I'll say this much, the rock and roll world is in for a real treat when they catch up, and for those cats that are already there they own one of the best kept tone secrets out there. I was quite stoked when the Texas Vintage pre-wired pickguard landed on my doorstep, not only was my guitar aching for a upgrade but being that they were a Kent Armstrong set made it that much cooler. The assembly was easy, I unscrewed the old pickguard, unsoldered a few wires, wired a few to get the new pickguard in place, and that was just about it. It's literally that simple, anyone with minimal to little soldering skills should be able to do this. I plugged my guitar into my amp, grabbed a favorite pick, took a deep breath and let it fly. The change and clarity in my sound was right in my face and an instant gift. I started out playing clean through a modified Hod Rod Deville and got some of the best clean blues and jazz tones I've ever heard come from that amp...yes that's right I just said jazz tones. By cutting back on the tone knobs, playing with my fingers, pumping a little bass on my amp and laying off a bit on the highs is how I was able to achieve this. It was lovely! If only my jazz playing skills were just a little better. The snap and balance of each note came through my speakers like a favorite final mix. Adding in a little bit of compression was where I finally heard how special these pickups really are. There are pickups out there especially single coils that don't take to compressors all that well. Either they become too noisy or they lose dynamics. I tell you there is nothing better when you land a piece of gear this good, it's all about having the tools that make our job as players easier. It was time to line up my favorite overdrivers and really put the Texas Vintage set to work. I began with some mellow overdrive pedals getting some really great Stevie Say, Brian Jones, and early Clapton tones. There is a clear articulate sound to these pickups that pushes a good overdrive pedal to sound great. Even banging out chords at full force the note separation was spot on. Next was the pickups through a 57 Tweed Champ, oh baby baby how marvelous did this sound! Playing the amp with everything set to 7 I got the best Hendrix tones I have ever heard come out of that Champ. One super cool thing I noticed is while playing the bridge pickup and throttling back on the volume I was able to get some pretty sweet Tele sounds. We actually started getting such killer tones that we had to spot what we were doing to throw on a track we had been working on, we ended up using the tones we got with the pickups and the Champ on our new EP. Last but not least was fuzz pedal madness time. Oh yes, this is where the fun really began. Every element of a good psychedelic classic rock tone was present and singing loudly through my amplifier now, we moved the guitar into a Twin Reverb for this. I'm a fiend for fuzz pedals and own more than my fair share. These pups didn't sound through one of the fuzz boxes I put them through and let me tell you there were a lot. I began by playing some of my favorite Cream riffs, moved into Black Sabbath territory and of course set into some Jimi licks. The neck position belting out a heavy, chunky, and thick growl, the middle defined and cutting through like a screaming banshee, and the bridge taking it to the next level with a ever lasting amount of sustain and feedback. Even at extreme levels the highs didn't become shrill and stabbing. The mids and lows stayed intact and never gave out making the notes sound woolfy and dull. The only thing else I can say is I had a blast, and these pickups haven't yet left the guitar we swapped them into. This is hands down one of the easiest and quickest upgrades of I ever gotten from a pickup. If you're hunting for something to make a difference and have you standing out from the rest pick up a set of these, there is no way to go wrong. Whether you play blues, funk, jazz, or rock and roll, these pups will deliver on point and spectacular guitar tones.


For more info on Kent Armstrong Pickups go to www.kentarmstrong.com or click the logo i our links. You can also visit the WD Music website for tons of great Kent Armstrong products and much more. www.wdmusic.com May the future hold endless hours of tasty tone for you!

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