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Microphone Month 3

What is the Difference Between a Gibson ’57 Classic and a Burstbucker?

Q: I see some Gibson guitars have ’57 Classic pickups and some have Burstbuckers. And now, in the 2014 models, Gibson has ’59 Classic and ’61 Classic pickups. But they’re all described as PAF pickups. Are there differences?

A: There definitely are differences. We discussed with this Jim DiCola, a master luthier at Gibson USA. His response was that the ’57 Classic is made to Seth Lover’s original specifications, to the exact letter. So the ’57 Classic is true to how Seth designed the PAF pickup. However, back in the day no pickups were ever made to that exact spec; the technology of the ’50s and early ’60s meant that the two coils of wire in each pickup were more or less unbalanced, the magnets varied, the types of magnets varied over the years, and so on. In other words, in the real world, no PAFs met Seth’s specs, and no two PAFs were identical.

Which brings us to the Burstbucker, which is true to how PAFs were actually made back in the day, including the unbalanced coils. Of course, today, Gibson has the technology to make those inconsistencies consistent — so the imbalanced coils are identical in each Burstbucker pickup, and so on.

Other versions of the PAF made by Gibson feature different magnet types, more or less unbalanced coils, hotter winds, calibrated neck and bridge pickups, hotter slug coils or hotter adjustable pole piece coils, and so on.

If you’re interested in learning more about Gibson pickups, check out our buying guide!

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