By Esperanza Roux. Guitar Electric. Published at Friday, August 31st, 2018 - 11:45:27 AM.
The second option for a more vintage sounding preamp tubes is the long plate tubes Sovtek makes under its own name as the 12AX7LP (the "lp" stands for "long plate"), and the tube Sovtek sells as the Mullard 12AX7 "reissue." The two tubes look identical, except for the name, but the quality of the Mullards is much better, I think. In addition to Sovtek, Groove Tubes also sells a US-made 12AX7M, and it looks like TAD is now selling this tube as their new TAD 7025. Also JJ has a new long plate tube called the JJ ECC803.
The other primary factor in determining the tone of an electric guitar is the strings. Electric guitar strings are made of nickel and steel. The more nickel, the warmer the sound; the more steel, the brighter and louder the strings sound. Also, the thicker the strings the more volume they will produce. That's why some players like to use heavy strings; they have more tone. If you try them and find they are too hard to play, you can always tune down a half step or more to compensate.
So what you can do by pairing different pickups with different strings is try to get a nicer, balanced tone from the guitar. For example, you might find that rollerwound strings go well with brighter, vintage style single coils, like Fender Custom Shop '54's. But the same strings would probably be way too dark for a Gibson Les Paul equipped with '57 Classics or Burstbuckers (i.e. roundwound strings would sound better). On the other hand, if your Gibson is something like an ES-175 with the same classic humbuckers, and you are looking for a smooth jazz tone, you'll probably like flatwounds better.
Among single coil pickups and humbuckers, there are many variations in how they are constructed and how they sound. Basically, a pickup is a row of magnets wrapped in copper wire. So changes in the magnets and the wire affect the sound. Alnico V magnets are commonly used in single coil pickups, like Fender's Texas Special pickups for Stratocasters and Telecasters; they are stronger magnets and have a sharper sound. Alnico II magnets are more common in humbuckers, like Gibson's Classic '57 pickups; they are softer magnets and they have a smoother tone.
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