Monday, November 23, 2009

Nov Monthly Pick/TV Jones Pickups



If there's one pickup company that's not afraid to think outside the box I would have to say it's TV Jones. If you look at what most pickup builders are producing these days it's traditional single coil and humbucking pickups. Thomas V. Jones (aka TV Jones) has decided to take it in another direction, and for good reason too. Ever since I first started playing the guitar I have been fascinated with Gretsch Guitars. Why is this do you ask? I'll tell you why, the tone. And where does that tone come from? I'll tell you where, the mighty mighty Filter'Tron pickup. As good as classic Filter'Tron pickups sound through a clean tone they did lack a bit of power, but this is no longer an issue. For years now Tom has been modifying, hot-rodding, and perfecting the sound of these amazing pickups, making them stronger, more defined, and evenly balanced. For many of us, me included, the Filter'Tron tone has been a kind of secret weapon, and now that TV Jones has stepped it up the possibilities are endless. If there's a particular vintage tone you dig or have been searching for chances are TV Jones has a pickup that's perfect for you. It doesn't end with pickups either, TV Jones also builds their own guitars, guitars I have drooled over many, many times. We had a chance to light up our amps with two of Tom's pickups designs, the Power'Tron and his new P90's. Quickly these pickups have become favorites in our studio, and time and time again they continue to surprise us. Tom's pickups have given us a new arsenal of go-to tones that we're proud to use on our recording sessions. I can only imagine what the rest of the line is capable of...



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TV Jones/Power'Tron
EM1 (English Mount)


First up to bat is the TV Jones Power'Tron, sent to us in the EM1 mounting style and swapped into a Les Paul Studio. This pickup may look like an old favorite but I assure you this is an entire new breed of Filter'Tron pickup. With the Power'tron you get all of the warmth and twang of the original only imagine it stronger and clearer. Something else you'll notice right away is the difference in output, these will definitely put some hair on your amp's chest. The output of the Power'Tron is more than enough needed to send your amp into a howling, great sounding, natural overdrive. The tight midrange, sparkling highs, and rich lows create an even projection of harmonics, overtones, and undertones. This makes for one of the sweetest tones you will ever hear come from your amp. To my ears the tone is much like the cross between a vintage humbucker and highend P90. You get all the size of a bucker, with the clarity & punch of a P90. With the EM-1 (English Mount) setup swapping the Power'Tron's into our Studio Les Paul was easy as cake and super quick. We wanted to put the pickups to work right away so we plugged into our buddy's JTM45 reissue and went to town. Before I go on let me just say a set of Power'Tron's and a proper Marshall make for one amazing sound, a definite winning combo. Getting a solid, crunchy rhythm tone with these pickups was super simple. I set it to the neck pickup, plugged straight into the JTM's 1rst channel, set all the knobs to about 8, and cranked the volume to about 7. Everything I wanted was there, the tight lows, midrange honk, and bright, clear highs. Mellowing out the sound was as easy as rolling back the volume knob, and you don't lose any of the pickups character either, the sound stays focused and intact all the way through. This was a big big plus for me being that I'm the type of player that relies on much of his sound by working the guitar's controls. You don't know how many pickups I've played that supposedly hold their own when rolled back, most of them either get too muddy or just go all to hell. You get non of that here. Next was a real treat and something I had to jot down. I switched to the middle pickup position, jumped the amp's channels, dialed mids and lows to 8, highs to 5, and every other knob to noon. Next thing you know, BAM! I got one of the most amazing high gain tones I have ever dialed in, I mean an absolute work of art. The personality of each pickup when blended with one another really works well to create an even overall tone. The sound was heavy and aggressive but nowhere near that sharp metal realm, some how it dished out all the balls and attitude of a heavy rock sound but maintained the warm, milky tone of a classic rock vibe. While in this killer high gain tone we switched to the lead pickup, this is where I sat back and let my parter take over, i'm not much of a lead guy. A few words came to mind while listening to my buddy play, sustain, violin, buttery, and EVH. Being more of a rhythm player means I've always gravitated towards the meat & potato players, this doesn't I don't dig my fair share of axe slingers. These pups are most definitely capable of producing many of the famous lead tones of our time. I classify the Power'Tron's in that elite group of pickup that work with you. You won't find yourself having to tame or spend hours trying to dial these pickups in. Want just a tad of grit in your chords? Simple, just strum lightly and listen to the sound bounce with a perfect mixture of clean and dirty strings. You can literally dig in with your fingers and control the attitude of a note, it's lovely! The last dirty test I put these through was a stompbox setup. I pulled out my favorite overdrive, distortion, and fuzz box. One thing I noticed while playing through each pedal was how well the pickups preserved my tone. Through the overdriver the Power'Tron's did exactly what I wanted, which was give me back what I put in. Distortion and fuzz pedals through these pickups was the same only much more of everything. Even in wild fuzz setting you can hear the lows, mids, and highs very clearly. I was able to get some new flavors out of my stompboxes with these pickups. Last I set the pickups up against a nice warm clean tone, which meant pulling out my modified Hot Rod Deville. It's kind of tuff to explain what the tone sounded like if you don't listen to it yourself, these pickups really do produce a special, signature clean tone all it's own. Without much tweaking of the amp's knobs I was able to dial-in every kind of clean I wanted. This tells me Tom really spent a lot of time working in the response of these pickups. Whenever you come across a tone this killer it leaves you without words. The clean tones possible with the Power'Tron's were by far my favorite and the new signature clean tone I use on all my bands recording sessions. As responsive and transparent as these pickups are I would love to listen to them through many more different guitars. There is a endless collection of tones you can get through these badboys, tones you will also be proud to use on your sessions. Whether you have an old Gretsch that needs a bit of a pushin' or a guitar that needs some character the Power'Tron's are perfect. Jump in with both feet you won't be sorry!



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TV Jones/P90

The P90 pickup is by far one of my all around favorite pickups, it makes for a great studio tool, sounds great on stage, and is capable of a parade of tones. When I first heard TV Jones was going to be building their own P90 my first reaction was "I cannot wait!". Just like I imagined these pickups are off the hook and made beautifully. Everything I love in a P90 lives in and comes flying out of Tom's P90's. If you've ever played a proper set of P90's you know how special a tone they're capable of, it's a tone many cats have used, and a sound that is easily noticeable from the rest of it's pickup cousins. The mash-up for these pickups was a Epiphone copy of a 56' Les Paul Goldtop (the perfect candidate for a good honest run-through), a Fender Hot Rod, and a low watt amp head I use a lot in the studio (my secret weapon). I grabbed a couple of my favorite cables, plugged in, and never have I gotten such instant gratification as I did with these pickups. The change in the sound was unbelievably noticeable, most of the time it takes me a bit to warm up to a pickup, not here it didn't. Again like Tom's other models the frequency projection of these pickups is super even and tight. You get plenty of sparkle, the perfect amount of bass, a midrange that's out of this world, and enough balls to make your amp scream. As far as the Les Paul goes these pickups matched it perfectly, the dark sound of the guitar with the bright'n'smooth sound of the pickups made for a great combo. I can honestly say I was able to hear the Les Paul's true voice for the first time. I noticed it didn't take as much to get the guitar to start crunching, the harder I hit the strings the more break-up I got. It jumped that Epi into a whole new class of guitar, a guitar I might just start gigging with. This is what a good boutique pickup should do you for you. Many times I hear friends complain how they go out and buy a set of pickups only to come home to the same thing. It is apparent Tom has done his homework. It doesn't end there though, there was something a bit different about this P90's, yes they had all the traditional P90 characteristics, and they played and looked great. But there was more, these P90's are unlike any others I've ever played. You'll notice as you start turning things up that the pickups also own a sonic attitude all it's own. It was as if Tom blended a Filter'Tron and classic P90 into one pickup. At first I couldn't put my finger on it, then I remembered the Power'Tron demo I had done a few days earlier. If I had to put the TV Jones pickups into one word I'd have to say "HUGE". They are very sensitive to the touch but can be easily controlled with your tone and volume knob. It really didn't take much to get these pickups to start growling, which means you can set your amp loud and depending on your touch control it with your guitar. Rocking out to the P90's through the Deville was a blast, but I have always dug playing P90's through low watt amps. Next I set up my 15/7 watt head, plugged it into a 2x12 cab with alnico speakers, and started jamming. In the full 15 watts I didn't have to turn it up much to get a good chunky overdrive. With the guitar's volume knob at about 50% I got good balanced combination of clean and dirty. Every time I flipped the volume knob up a bit things got more intense, much more saturated, and richer. The notes just jump out of the amp and hold in the air without sounding brittle or piercing. My favorite things for sure would have to be how great the mids sound in these pickups, they're not too strong, not too punchy, and give you the right amount ooohmff. This was true of all settings, in low, high, and extreme high gain settings. Last I played the pickups through a simple booster, I wanted to see how well they played with others. I was able to get more tones than I knew what to do with, and this was with a simple one knob 15db booster. I was able to get the tightest sustain by simply cranking the clean boost through an already dirty tone. The sound was very natural and user friendly (another big plus for me). After playing through the booster I noticed these pickups took to all pedals this well, like a kid in a candy store. Distortion pedals became warmer, fuzz pedals became screaming banshees, and though modulation, delay, compression and wah pedals the original tone stayed transparent. If you're a pedal freak like me you will absolutely fall in love with these P90's. Before I forget there's another little trick these pickups are capable of, something I'm not even sure Tom is aware of. In the middle position, through a clean Fender tone, with some of the guitar's tone shaved off, you're able to get some decent Strat sounds. This makes for a great set of gigging or recording pickups, lord knows I could use more guitars that are capable of giving more. The TV Jones P90's not only met every expectation I had, but also went far and beyond. I see these pickups going nowhere, they will certainly live in this guitar for a long long time...unless I end up selling the guitar, then I'll have to swap them out and keep them for another suitor.




For more info on TV Jones's Pickups please go to www.tvjones.com or click the direct link in our sidebar. Stay tuned for more news and updates from TV Jones and more reviews to come in the near future. This is hands down some of the most solid gear we have come across here at AWC, we highly suggest you get your hands on some. Dig it!



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4 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review, but what I didn't really get was how the P90 did besides growl like a P90 is supposed to do. Does it give you complex tones when not in growl mode? How about a comparison between it and Lollar's P90 or SD's P90? That would help.

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