Chasing The Right Tone
I’m sure there’s a lot of us that believe that the Telecaster is the most versatile guitar on the market. Some may even say that it’s their desert island guitar because it covers so much ground. As a Telecaster owner of many years I’m pretty sure that I can cover tons of ground with it. I’ve owned a Fender American Standard Telecaster for about 10 years now but I found myself wanting to go back to the vintage roots. I considered selling off my Tele to buy something else as a way to change things up, but after getting really close to selling, I realized that I loved my Tele and I didn’t want to part ways with it just yet. So I came up with another idea, change the pickups.
Porter Pickups is a boutique pickup manufacturer from Boise,ID and is owned and operated by Brian Porter. Every pickup is hand wound and designed by Brian himself. As a long time worship guitar player, he’s not only had a strong impact on many guitar builders and luthiers businesses, but also many musicians who are looking to unlock the full potential of their guitar.
There’s no skimping on quality when it comes to making great pickups, Brian knows this for sure. So when we got the chance to talk, I knew that what I needed was a new set of pickups to make my guitar sound different without sacrificing the bond I already have with it. After talking about how much I liked the “Delirious?” tele tone Stu G had, he then recommended the pickups that I will be demoing today.
These Porter Custom Tele® pickups feature AlNiCo 5 magnets on both the neck and bridge. The bridge features a custom staggered pole design, with raised D and G poles and a copper baseplate. The results? Why don’t you listen for yourself and then I’ll fill you in on my feelings. I’m recording into a 1961 Silverstone Twin Twelve mic’ed up with a MD421 and an NOS Panther Ribbon mic into my Universal Audio Apollo Twin. Here are the audio samples.
The Porter Custom Tele® Tone
After playing them for a few days and comparing I realized that the stock AlNiCo 5 pickups in my tele had been holding me back. They seemed thin, brittle and while still sounding good they lacked the warm character the Porters have. The porters have a ton of clarity. You can hear every note with great detail. Even when you have a ton of drive on the guitar, every note still pops off the guitar. This was a noticeable difference from the stock pickups.
One thing I really like is how the energy across the 3 pickup positions never changes, even with the best setups the stock pickups would always translate different across the different positions. With the Porters theres a nice balance in all the positions, you never lose the foundation of the tone making these a huge winner in my book.
The Bridge is punchy, almost P90’ish which does very well on big rhythm parts that demand it. The neck is sometimes the position people avoid on the Tele but I love the bell tone it brings. Very useful in lead parts that require that “Hendroff” tone but on a Telecaster. In the middle you get the best of both worlds without that nasal tone you sometimes get with stock pickups. Overall the tone is very clean and beautiful.
Who Needs These?
If you are feeling bored with your stock Telecaster, then this is the right pickup set for you. I did the change on a Fender American Standard Telecaster that already sounded really nice and it was a major upgrade. If you own a “lesser guitar” you really should consider making this upgrade. It won’t change how your guitar feels or give it better tuning, but that’s not always the solution?
Porter pickups are definitely for someone who already love the guitar they have and just wants to do a tone makeover. You can order these in a variety of finishes. My Telecaster’s chrome finish was slightly aged after 10 years of abuse, I decided to order my neck pickup in raw nickel, I love it.
Even if you are happy with your Telecaster’s tone, I’d still recommend giving these a try. With these pickups my humble standard tele puts higher end Tele models to shame. Remember how I said I wanted the Stu G tone? When Stu & I first met, three years ago he showed me his classic Blue Telecaster with the mirror glass pickguard. I was surprised when I noticed it was a Mexican build. He told me that he loved the guitar, and just did some work on it including a pickup overhaul. This is the guitar that made “World Service” the hit we all still love. So it goes to show that a little pickup love can go a long way.
The Porter Custom Tele® pickups go for $185 a set. All are handmade to order. You can get yourself a set here and also look at video demos of the other great pickups Porter has to offer. Please post any questions or comment below and I’ll try to get back to you ASAP. Thanks and Godspeed!