PapaBear

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Nov 9, 2021
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Trying to pin down a good upgrade set of pickups for my daily driver.

she’s a 2002 Santana SE
All mahogany body/neck
Rosewood fretboard
Stoptail Bridge
Tuning : she lives in E Standard & Drop D 40/60 of the time, for all playing styles. I never tune it below Drop D, as I have a Strat that lives permanently in Drop-C for those needs. I’ve always loved the sound of my Santana acoustically. It has plenty of warm sustain, and want my pickups to work with that natural tone rather than against it. Currently my stock pickups just don’t do it ALL the way for me, especially in the neck. The neck pickup is very bassy/boomy no matter how I adjust it. The stock bridge is decent, but leans slightly towards a thin/trebly sound. Currently I find myself playing mostly in the middle position to blend the two and compensate for them, and stick to the bridge for rock/prog/metal tones. I have a 7-band eq pedal coming in the mail to play with and see different sounds my ear gravitates towards to help make this pickup hunt easier in the end by physically hearing/seeing what is added/taken away to achieve those sounds.

At first I was set on finding a winning combination between 57/08, 59/09, and metals. (57/08 neck with 59/09 bridge, or 59/09 neck with Metal Bridge.)

-I loved how clear the 57/08 was whether it was snappy single notes, or full chords. But in the bridge with high gains it lacked that low end punch and oomph you get from the metals. The 59/09 seemed like a good middle ground between the two as a set to cover all types of music. The metal bridge scared me a bit for retaining that clear clean sound when NOT playing metal and rock.

THEN

I fell into a new tunnel in the pickup rabbit hole, by the name of Bare Knuckle Pickups.

being my playing styles range from instrumental/ambient/shoe gaze , blues, rock, while still having the guilty pleasure in metal/prog with some chugging,

I knew I was asking a lot from whatever pickup I would settle on. I don’t play with a band or gig, a majority of the time it’s by myself jamming in the basement. If not, I jam with a buddy at his house once a week, so I don’t need to “cut through a band mix” or compete with other walls of sound.

Back to Bare Knuckle Pickups.
I’ve always loved Rabea Masaad and his style, as he can bring you from brain melting ambient , to smoothe crunchy leads, over to massive thick metal tones. When I learned he helped create a signature set of PUPS with bare knuckle, the more I researched them, the more I was convinced these were the winning ticket for my Santana SE.

THEN!

The Polymaths dropped…. Now like many, I was in love after watching the demo video with Nolly, and the tones he was getting were my favorite shades of distortion. I tend to like a juicy, saturated, fat tone over a “dry” or scooped tone for distortion. I also prefer when the pickups are running clean, that they don’t have that “raspy/pushed sound” a lot of “metal” pickups have when trying to clean them up.

Having the ability to sound very clear on cleans, with a balanced sound across the strings is vital for what I want out of my pickups. Not to sharp/ice picky, and keeping note separation strong so it doesn’t sound like everything is mooshed together in chaos.

I also want them to bring the thunder when I play dirty. I can get a pretty nasty tone with a perfectly dialed in Metal Zone, but when plugging directly into my amp and throwing the gain to 10, I want to still achieve a nice “dirty sound”. Not that I CANT, but it’s not nearly as juicy.

I need the pickups to be very versatile, and not just a “one trick pony”. If I’m playing really heavy stuff, I have the Strat for that. If I want SUPER-BLUES , I have a Gibson Blueshawk with P90’s. And if I want some low output twang and snap, I have a Gretsch Chet Atkins Nashville for that sound. My PRS is my favorite guitar that is “home” to me , and i would love for it to cover all bases equally well as my #1 daily-driver.

So NOW, In a nut shell, I’m stuck between the Polymath and the Silos. From everything I’ve read, they are pretty similar in general, with the silos having more bottom end where as the polymath is slightly rolled off on the bottom for a “punchier” sound. I also have read the silos have a fairly neutral EQ across the board without any cuts for a less compressed sound and a wider frequency range as a bridge/neck set. As of now, I feel the Silos are slightly more versatile than the Polymaths overall, and could cover any style you could throw at it. The Polymaths have the best sounding dirty tone I’ve heard though, but trying to factor how much of that was Nollys Rig perfectly dialed in makes this decision tough. If I was only ever playing in drop D 24/7, the Polymaths would win for me, as I’m in love with that tone he was getting in the demo videos. But likewise I’m curious to know how the polymath and silo sound in E standard or drop D? Do they excel best with these lower tunings where I would have better options in the E/DropD realm somewhere else?

At this point, I’m at a “information overload” point and have a million things running through my head. If someone could shed some light, advice, information, personal experiences & trials, etc. I would appreciate it greatly! Even if it’s not using any of the pickups listed above, all input is welcome here. I haven’t found much online of anyone talking about my particular Santana SE, and it’s tough to take opinions of what worked for others in a totally different type of guitar and use it in my situation. Apologies if this post is confusing or all over the place, I’m just trying to get as many of my thoughts out initially as I can.

Someone save me from this rabbit hole…..
 
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Bowtiefanatc

Confirmed Bird Snob
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I’ll be getting a set of Polys for sure. They are going to go in my Standard 22.

I think a 57/08 neck with 59/09 bridge could be good. If you want more modern you could also do 85/15 neck with \m/ bridge. It’s a great modern combo.
 

PapaBear

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I should also add the first set of pickups that really caught my ear was

Dimarzio Dreamcatcher / Rainmaker set.
Being there isn’t much quality media on them, this choice was based off the demo video that shows Petrucci playing them, and it sounded INCREDIBLE! Now how much of that is his rig dialed in & post processing is what made me second guess if they would sound anything close in my guitar. Love how the bridge has the perfect amount of oomph to being the thunder, while cleaning up very nice. The neck was warm and smoothe, without too much pick attack for single note leads to blend together nicely. This was very early in the rabbit hole , and I was dead set on these for awhile. Then the more I learned about pickups, the more I learned there’s a good chance they’d sound totally different than how they did in the demo video.
 

PapaBear

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I’ll be getting a set of Polys for sure. They are going to go in my Standard 22.

I think a 57/08 neck with 59/09 bridge could be good. If you want more modern you could also do 85/15 neck with \m/ bridge. It’s a great modern combo.
Thanks for the fast reply! I’ve made several posts on other forums/Reddit and never get any helpful replies. I finally decided this was my best bet for useful information and help from fellow PRS users. I don’t regret coming here!

I do enjoy a modern sound, if I understand that term properly. Example, I’m not a big fan of the “80s metal sound”, it comes off very muffled and dry too me. OR I prefer the fat sounds of a REVV G4 over those from a REVV G3 if that helps.
 

PapaBear

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Nov 9, 2021
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I am not afraid of the fact BKP’s come in around $400 a set, as my other options I wanted are PRS which are the same price.
 

PapaBear

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Nov 9, 2021
Messages
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I’ll be getting a set of Polys for sure. They are going to go in my Standard 22.

I think a 57/08 neck with 59/09 bridge could be good. If you want more modern you could also do 85/15 neck with \m/ bridge. It’s a great modern combo.

I wish I lived anywhere remotely close to a decent guitar shop so I could try them all in person with my amp to chose a winner properly. Let me know how the Polymaths sound! My Santana is also a 22 fret similar setup so I’ll be anxious to hear your thoughts once you get a pair installed.
 

PapaBear

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I can ALSO add, during Rabeas demo of the silo pickups, I loved how he could get those spanky Strat tones when he split the coils! It also makes each pickup a lot more clear and clean when he split them, which is a huge plus for me and makes them THAT MUCH more versatile. I haven’t heard the Polymath split yet anywhere…
 

PapaBear

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I put a set of \m/ pickups in an Artist Pack Santana (maple neck / ebony board). Don't let the name scare you off. They are fantastic clean and have great clarity. DEFINITELY NOT a one trick pony.
This is the information I need to hear! I’ve gotten overwhelmed with the amount of information I’ve absorbed in the past month of research, making it far to easy to second guess EVERYTHING.
 

PapaBear

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I play through my one and only amp at home to add some helpful information.

crate v-18 with 1-12”
(2) EL84’s
(3) 12ax7’s

for the tubes.

this baby shines as a clean/blues amp. If I turn the gain all the way to 10, I can pull some pretty impressive dirty tones from it as well WITHOUT any pedals.
Pedals =
Metal Zone
Boss Super OD
Digitech Luxe (setup like a chorus)
 

PapaBear

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Also for my 171th added point, I’ve read great things about the SD 59 as a neck pickup. Works exceptionally well in mahogany guitars, covers all territories well, and sounded like you couldn’t go wrong if you wanted to save some money over PRS OR BKP. It ticked all the boxes for me. Clean, blues, rock, metal/prog. It has a nice warm, full, and smooth sound without too much pick attack. Trying to figure out what bridge pickup would pair well with the SD 59 neck . AND is it better to keep pickup sets together, or do I achieve what I’m searching for more by choosing my favorite neck with my favorite bridge sound. (Assuming specs play well and balance together) I don’t flip back and forth much between neck and bridge while playing, mainly set it and forget it till I need to play something different when jamming.
 
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Draconomics

Celebrating 16 years of crappy tone
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I'd like to throw out Suhr too. Most of their stuff is moderately priced and are pretty nice pickups. The Aldrich model is a great high gain pickup. Worth a look.
 

PapaBear

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I'd like to throw out Suhr too. Most of their stuff is moderately priced and are pretty nice pickups. The Aldrich model is a great high gain pickup. Worth a look.
Thanks for the tip! I’ve also read quite raving reviews for their Thornbucker. Most of what I’ve seen is the Aldrich, and lots going into PRS bodies. I’ll definitely add that pickup to today’s “research” list. Have you used them yourself? Curious to know a users feedback and how they use them.
 

Draconomics

Celebrating 16 years of crappy tone
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Thanks for the tip! I’ve also read quite raving reviews for their Thornbucker. Most of what I’ve seen is the Aldrich, and lots going into PRS bodies. I’ll definitely add that pickup to today’s “research” list. Have you used them yourself? Curious to know a users feedback and how they use them.
I did use an Aldrich bridge. It's definitely a hard rock/metal pickup for sure, good clarity, great output, stupid price ($50 used). I did ditch it, I don't play either of those genres so it's not for me, but wanted to try it for the heck of it. It's a great value!
 

bodia

Authorities said.....best leave it.....unsolved
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I'd like to throw out Suhr too. Most of their stuff is moderately priced and are pretty nice pickups. The Aldrich model is a great high gain pickup. Worth a look.
I’ll second the Aldrich. I had a set in my KL-33 (sold that guitar….stoopidly), and have a set in my Core Mira. Love ‘me.
 

Silvertree

I love the smell of a PRS case in the morning.
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I am going to say you should contact Sherm at Stocktone Guitar. He custom made me a set a pickups after getting to know what I like in music. I am in love. I have no skin in the game, I just love the pickups.
 

Dusty Chalk

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Nolly is a freakin' wizard in the studio, so yes, he has his rig dialed in to perfection. You know this exists, right?
https://neuraldsp.com/plugins/archetype-nolly
Doesn't really help you if you're playing live, or practising, but it's how he gets his tones in the studio/recording.

I missed it if you mentioned what amp you're using, but you may want to look into a Mesa/Boogie JP-2C -- I want to get one just for the cleans, they are exactly as you describe (the demo guy said that what Petrucci asked for was "clean for days" and that's what he got), but the thing is a tone monster -- the amp head equivalent of a 513 -- it has everything from clean to vintage crunch to modern fuzzed out metal and everything in between, with a ridiculous amount of tone-shaping.
 

skelt101

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Also for my 171th added point, I’ve read great things about the SD 59 as a neck pickup. Works exceptionally well in mahogany guitars, covers all territories well, and sounded like you couldn’t go wrong if you wanted to save some money over PRS OR BKP. It ticked all the boxes for me. Clean, blues, rock, metal/prog. It has a nice warm, full, and smooth sound without too much pick attack. Trying to figure out what bridge pickup would pair well with the SD 59 neck . AND is it better to keep pickup sets together, or do I achieve what I’m searching for more by choosing my favorite neck with my favorite bridge sound. (Assuming specs play well and balance together) I don’t flip back and forth much between neck and bridge while playing, mainly set it and forget it till I need to play something different when jamming.
For a bridge pickup to match the 59, I’d go with a 59/Custom Hybrid. Also, if the 59 is too “boomy” in the neck (which can happen with 22 fret guitars), look at the Jazz.
 

alantig

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I'll second what @bodia said about the \m/s. Don't be fooled by the name - they clean up very nicely. I have them in my PS, and I've used them for a range of tones. No issues at all with how they clean up.
 

Draconomics

Celebrating 16 years of crappy tone
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I'll second what @bodia said about the \m/s. Don't be fooled by the name - they clean up very nicely. I have them in my PS, and I've used them for a range of tones. No issues at all with how they clean up.
I've been eying those for some time, just never pulled the trigger. I don't play metal and by the time I was seriously considering the \m/ for a build I discovered the BK Abraxas, and that culminated my pickup quest.
 
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