From dcovel–(at)– Tue Dec 8 14:36:10 CST 1998
Article: 268584 of
From: dcovel–(at)–
Subject: Antiquity/Fralin PAF comparison
Date: Tue, 08 Dec 1998 16:10:12 GMT
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Ever since reading the oft-quoted PAF shootout review (from G.P. I believe)
I’ve been wondering how a set of Fralins would compare with the Duncan
Antiquity PAF’s I currently have on my Les Paul. Unfortunately, that review
neglected to include Duncan’s Seth Lover and Antiquity PAF’s. As I recall, the
Fralins were the favorites by a healthy margin.

After posting a request for opinions on the Fralin PAF’s and getting only one
response I decided to just buy a pair and give them a try. I had Lindy’s
single-coils in a strat and liked them so I figured I couldn’t go wrong with
his PAF’s, and it was worth the price of admission to finally hear how they
compared to the Antiquity PAF’s, which I’ve been delighted with.

It’s always difficult to accurately compare pickups since no two guitars are
tonally equivalent, and even if you’re fast on the swap-out, your ear forgets
the subtle nuances. I expected the Fralins and Antiquities to sound very
similar and such slight differences in tone are hard to hear when you can’t
A/B the pickups. So I turned to my 8-track reel-to-reel for help. I recorded
a variety of backing tracks from my sequencer, a jam-along CD, and some of my
original tunes, installed a fresh set of strings, recorded a lead track to
the songs with the Antiquities, swapped in the Fralins as quickly as I could
(9 minutes by the clock), and recorded new tracks with the Fralins using the
same settings on my amp, Klon Centaur, and the mixer tone controls and
levels. I played similar leads using both pickups; the end result allowed me
to use my mixer to alternate between the Antiquity and Fralin lead tracks in
real time. The backing tracks included clean pseudo-jazz, slightly-distorted
minor blues, and several tunes in the Abraxas-era Santana realm of 70’s-style
Les Paul distortion.

My test guitar was my battle-scarred ’78 Les Paul Standard, which despite its
reviled Norlin ancestry happens to be one of the best-sounding Pauls I’ve
played. Very resonant one-piece body; a real sweetheart tonally. I’ve had
Antiquities in it for about 1.5 years. From what I read, Seymour intentionally
winds these at different values so no two sound the same. In my case, the neck
PU measures 7.96K and the bridge 8.37K. The Fralins are nominally the same as
used on the quoted review: 8K neck, 9K bridge. In my haste I forgot to measure
them before installation to see what they really are; sorry.

Due to the quick swap-out, I was able to hear a difference immediately. The
Fralin neck pickup has comparable output level but it sounds to me like its
resonant frequency is a little higher than the Antiquity, which results in a
slight touch less midrange. It also seems a little fatter and sweeter on the
treble end, but the difference is subtle and can be partly compensated for by
adjusting the amp’s presence and/or treble pot. Low end seems about the same.
The Fralin’s bridge PU seemed somewhat hotter (as the DC resistance indicates
it theoretically should be) and has a fair amount more low end than the
Antiquity, which I really liked. Top end seemed very similar to the Antiquity;
not enough difference to really matter.

As expected, A/B tests on the multitrack showed that the differences were
less pronounced as the amount of distortion increased. The Antiquity’s
stronger mids were the most noticeable difference on tape. Again, this is
something that a tweak of the amp’s tone controls equalizes easily.

Bottom line is that the audible differences in these pickups is minimal, at
least in my case (due to the variance in Antiquity construction your mileage
may vary considerably). I like ’em both; to my ears they’re the best new
PAF-style humbuckers available. If I played exclusively clean I’d prefer the
Fralins; players who usually use distortion might prefer the Antiquities due
to the stronger midrange.

Cosmetically it’s a very different story: the Fralins have nice shiny nickel
covers whereas the Antiquities have covers that look like they’ve been in a
fire. Seymour, if you’re reading this, I love the pickups but your artificial
cosmetic aging looks terrible! They certainly don’t look like old PAF covers
and I always regretted the way they made my Les Paul look. And my Paul has
battle scars; I can’t imagine putting these on a new-looking guitar! They
should be made available with an optional standard nickel cover. I realize
the intent of Antiquities is to capture the “essence” of a 30-year-old pickup
but these covers *don’t* achieve the desired effect; they look very fake.

So, since I use both clean and overdriven tones, and since I hate the look of
the Antiquities’ covers, I’ll leave the Fralins in my Paul. The tonal
differences are pretty minimal, and again, the uniqueness of the Antiquities
makes it hard to predict what another pair would sound like. In my case, the
Fralins sound just slightly more to my liking and look *much* nicer. If the
Antiquities were available with optional clean-looking covers it would have
been much harder to choose between them.

I bought my Fralins from Main Street Music (801-492-0505). They had at least 6
pairs of them in stock and shipped ’em free. Quite a difference from my
single-coil Fralins, for which I waited 3 long months.

Note: I have no connection with Main Street Music nor any ulterior motive in
mentioning them. I just liked their service and they happen to have Fralins in

# David Covell – Senior CAD Engineer – Intel Corporation – Folsom, CA

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