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Author Topic: Crawler Review  (Read 13170 times)

Slartibartfarst42

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Crawler Review
« on: July 19, 2013, 12:42:00 PM »
Time once again for another of my reviews; this time a Crawler set in a PRS SE Custom 24. As my reviews are always long, the short version is – Description on website accurate. Very good.

Now I’ll say from the outset that I was always wary of this pickup due to the numerous references to it being ‘dark’ and to be brutally honest, the fact that Tim said it would be ideal did very little to allay those fears. However, as I do believe it is foolish to completely ignore Tim’s advice, I eventually decided to order a Crawler set, secure in the knowledge that I could always change them to something else if I didn’t like them. Let’s start with a general statement about Crawlers:

‘the pickups had to work equally well in both LP and Strat style guitars’

Mmmmmm…….. I have my doubts. I would certainly say that Crawlers will work supremely well in the vast majority of Strats but I think the ‘Les Paul’ reference will take more qualification. If by ‘Les Paul’ we’re referring to pretty much any single cut guitar then I would say, yes, they will work. Why? Simply because most single cut guitars on the market are somewhat thinner and somewhat brighter than a traditional Gibson. I’ve tried quite a few of them over the last few weeks so I feel confident in making that assertion. A Gibson Les Paul is often darker and thicker sounding and if you have a guitar like that, I suspect that you might find Crawlers a bit too much.

Bridge

‘The Crawler humbucker has a rich, fat, mid range with sweet highs that clean up beautifully and also produce bright split coil tones that retain plenty of output. Bass response is full and warm with excellent detail and the hot wind produces a smooth, natural sustain that really sings through a pushed amp.’

I wouldn’t argue with much of this. Many people, including me, describe the Holydiver as ‘thick’ but it’s positively anorexic compared to a Crawler! Pickups like a Holydiver and Miracle Man may be described as having a big bottom end but in reality, a lot of this is down to low mids, especially in the Miracle Man. While the Crawler certainly has fat mids, it also has a prominent bass response that, when combined with the fat mids, creates a really huge sound. I can’t imagine anything other than a Warpig in the BKP range that will give you this huge sound. In this respect, the Crawler does exactly what I wanted; it makes my PRS sound a lot more like a Les Paul, however, it would be misleading to suggest that the Crawler is all about bottom end because it’s not. There are highs there to balance things out and while the low end is dominant, it also has some beautiful highs to just give things a bit of bite. The result is that the low end is very articulate and the highs are nice and thick.

‘Sweet’ is certainly a very apt word to use here and frankly, I can’t think of a better one. I found that the thick, sweet leads you can play with these pickups brought a constant smile to my face. I installed these pickups in what will nominally be my ‘second’ guitar but these pickups give it such a fantastic lead tone that I suspect that my time will be split quite evenly between both guitars. As you might imagine, rhythms are very thick and it’s also true that they’re extremely rich. It’s a really 3-dimensional tone you get from these pickups and very versatile so it will deliver a wonderful Blues Rock tone but will also take you into the realms of Metal. With that really thick and relatively dark tone, it will make a very decent fist of something like Black Sabbath. One of the things that came up quite a lot in my research into this pickup before I bought it was that it ‘growled’. All of the references to ‘sweet’, ‘rich’ and ‘smooth’ made me believe that these people were exaggerating this alleged ‘growl’ – they’re not! There is a VERY distinct growl to this pickup that is difficult to describe. The tone is too smooth to really be described as ‘aggressive’ so instead I’m going to go for the word ‘sinister’. That sinister growl is a real surprise at first but once you start to get used to it, you realise it’s actually very effective and pleasing.

Cleans are full and satisfying, maintaining those rich qualities. Cleans are certainly better than the Holydiver. Split coils aren’t something I usually bother with because I’ve never been too fussed on single coil tones, especially when you’re trying to get them out of a humbucker, but splits with the Crawler are actually very good indeed, giving the guitar a distinctly Fender twang and rather brighter than it is as a humbucker. I almost didn’t bother with a push/pull pot but I’m really pleased I did because unlike most single coil tones, the split Crawler produces some really good sounds that I can use.

It would be remiss of me to write a review without commenting on some potentially negative aspects of the pickup. I say potentially as there’s nothing actually bad about the pickup but there are things worth noting that may come as a surprise. Firstly, Tim isn’t kidding when he describes the bridge Crawler as a ‘hot wind’. It’s not as hot as the Holydiver but it’s a lot closer than you might imagine. As a result, it’s nothing like as open sounding as some might expect as across the forum as well as the website, there are references to ‘PAF’ and ‘Vintage Hot’ which to me, suggested something far more open that I actually received. This pickup is surprisingly compressed and saturated but fortunately, responds very well to changes in the pickup height and rolling back the guitar’s volume. I can see why Tim moved the Crawler into the contemporary section because its power, compression and saturation are all suited to that category but the richness and smoothness it gives you are clearly in the vintage hot bracket as it has a distinctly PAF vibe about it. It’s a pickup that really does bridge the gap. If you want an open sounding PAF bridge humbucker, this just isn’t for you and I’d suggest you look at other options but if you like your Blues tones with a bit more fire behind them, like higher gain Gary Moore and Slash, this is perfect. It will also hit some limitations with Metal music as the low E especially (I’m tuned to Eb) can get a bit soft but realistically, if you want to play mostly Metal, there are better options in the range anyway.

Overall, I’d say that the description on the website is spot on. ‘Warm’, ‘rich’, ‘fat’, ‘sweet’ and ‘smooth’ are all words that describe a bridge Crawler perfectly.

Neck

‘the Crawler neck humbucker is voiced like a vintage PAF, open and vowel-like, with a calibrated wind to balance in output.’

At this stage you’ll be pleased to note that this section won’t be anything like as long, as the neck and bridge models do share some characteristics. Just like the bridge version, this pickup is fat, sweet and smooth and it also splits very well indeed. Cleans are full and reasonably well balanced, though the bass can start to take over if you have it too close to the strings. It’s never what you’d call a bright and sparkly clean, it’s too warm and full for that but the sound does seem to resonate well and gives a very satisfying tone. The really odd thing to me is how Tim’s managed to create a pickup that is so obviously PAF in nature (much more so than the bridge) yet kept the wind hot enough to balance extremely well with the hot bridge pickup. I don’t pretend to understand the mechanics of how this is done; all I can say is that it works. The neck Crawler is indeed far more open sounding and has a very distinctly vowel-like quality to it. That mixture of open and vowel-like tones with the natural thickness and creaminess of the pickup creates a really satisfying tone. I always used to play the lead on ‘Layla’ using the neck Emerald and I liked the result but this is far more effective at that kind of full vintage tone. The Emerald neck is awesome and I love it but as it’s tighter and brighter than the Crawler neck, I’ll tend to use it more for higher gain leads and keep the Crawler for slightly more vintage tones. Both have PAF DNA in them but it’s more obvious on the Crawler.

Negatives of the neck Crawler? Like the bridge version, there’s honestly not much to criticise but equally, like the bridge version, it can start to get rather soft in the bass. This is much more noticeable on the neck model. Although it shares those articulate characteristics that seem common to all Bare Knuckle pickups, if you start to adjust it too close to the strings and add a bit too much gain, you can really hear it starting to give up on the low E. I hesitate to use the word ‘mud’ because that’s not really accurate but the bottom end can start to go soft to the degree that it starts to have a ‘mushy’ quality to it. The Emerald just doesn’t seem to do this but then the Crawler has some qualities that the Emerald is possibly lacking so it’s not really a criticism; more an observation. The reality is that if you want some of the qualities where the Crawler shines, there needs to be a compromise elsewhere and in this set, it’s that softness in the bass.

In the final analysis, this is a VERY good set of pickups. It’s a highly versatile set that will run from traditional Blues all the way to Metal, though its natural home seems to be Blues Rock. That combination of a hot and growly Alnico V bridge with an open, vowel-like PAF Alnico IV neck gives you a really impressive palette of tones. In an ideal world I’d maybe take it with a touch less bass but it’s not an insurmountable issue at all and certainly shouldn’t put anyone off trying them unless you have a guitar that is somewhat warmer and darker than mine. Great job Tim and thanks again  :D
BKP owned:

Bridge - Emerald; Cold Sweat; Crawler; A-Bomb; Holydiver; Miracle Man; Sinner; Trilogy Suite

Neck - Emerald; Cold Sweat; Crawler; Holydiver; Sinner; Trilogy Suite

richard

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Re: Crawler Review
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2013, 03:06:30 PM »
Great review. I always wondered about Geoff Whitehorn asking for a pickup that worked equally well in Strats and LPs. It sounded like it would have to be too much of a compromise to be particularly wonderful in either. I'd love to try a Crawler but your description makes it sound a bit too thick and smooth for my tastes.
PRS Bernie Marsden Abraxas set
Gibson Firebird Studio  Rebel Yells
JV Strat  IT Bridge
Gibson SG Junior JB bridge
Cornford Roadhouse 30 combo
Yamaha THR 100 Dual

Philly Q

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Re: Crawler Review
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2013, 03:10:54 PM »
I enjoy your big reviews.  :D

Always good to see that word "growl" in relation to the Crawler!  I did find them just a little too dark in the Edwards LP I had, but I wish I'd kept the pickups to try in another guitar.  I do think they'd be great in a Strat, I find most humbuckers overly bright or thin in Fenders.

BKPs I've Got:  RR, BKP-91, ITs, VHII, CS set, Emeralds
BKPs I Had:  RY+Abraxas, Crawlers, BD+SM

fhn_lopes

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Re: Crawler Review
« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2013, 03:35:59 PM »
Bright depends not only on the pickups and guitar, but amp and speakers too.

My VHII is a bit bright in my strat trhough my plexi w/ greenbacks... the same guitar sounds like a chainsaw through a JCM800 and very tight and balanced through a mesa mark III w/ vintage30's ... But of course, it's an important part of the game, but choosing your pup thinking only about your guitar can lead you to a result that you were not expecting, for good or bad.

I hear the crawler as a "brown" pickup and I think it has lots to do with the VHII except for the soft high end (or darkness for that to say) as the VHII is a bit incisive and has that EVH sparkle we all know. It has the looser low end, but without being flabby, has great upper mids and sings in lead tones.... I think it's going to sound fantastic in an ash strat with maple board, bolted straight into the wood , trhough a cranked plexi in a 4x12 with rola greebacks :).... pure melting roack and roll tone, and if you push the amp with an OD pedal, you probably will get classic metal tones in spades.

I played my VHII trhough a mesa mark III with a TS5 pedal and man... it's a whole different league... the bass is punchy and gets very tight, mids are all over the place singing in lead tones and the high end gets a bit softer... what a monster metal tone, completelly different comparing the same guitar trough a marshall (not that it's a bad tone, only DIFFERENT)... Those BKPs can be more versatile than we think. The Crawler is probably the most versatile one.
"Too many pickups, too little guitars"

BigB

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Re: Crawler Review
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2013, 03:38:17 PM »
Great review indeed, I couldn't have put it better and wholefully agree on each and every point. 
Have: Crawlers, BGF 50/52s, Mules, ABomb, RiffRaff
Had : Slowhands (n&m), Trilogy (b)

Telerocker

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Re: Crawler Review
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2013, 12:05:03 AM »
Very good review. As a Crawler-user I recognize your story. However, the results with this pickup depends, as Lopes says, also on the amp. On my Orange Rockerverb the Crawler does a great job, softening the prominent uppermids on the drivechannel. I'm still experimenting with my new amp: The Valve 2/50 (EL34), which has a different voicing: mellower and rounder, with the emphasis on the centermids and lowmids. It's quite thick sounding. The Crawler might be on the warm and dark side for this amp. For the moment I like Mules better on the The Valve.
Mules, VHII, Crawler, MM's, IT's, BG50's.

darrenw5094

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Re: Crawler Review
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2013, 01:24:09 AM »
Anyone know if the Crawler is as middy as the Black Dog?
BKP: Abraxas - Les Paul
Holy Diver - Charvel
Mule - Les Paul
Rebel Yell - Les Paul
VHII - PRS CU22
A-Bomb + Cold Sweat - Les Paul
Warpig - Caparison Horus

darkbluemurder

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Re: Crawler Review
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2013, 07:29:36 AM »
Great review - very informative and detailed, and I fully agree to your description.

@darrenw: I have both pickups but have not played the bridge models in the same guitar. The neck Crawler has more mids than the Black Dog neck and is a lot more vintage sounding in character. I would suspect the same for the bridge models as the Black Dog sounds quite bright in the Single Cut it's in whereas the Crawler was very smooth in any guitar I used it. To me the Crawler worked best with bright guitars.

Cheers Stephan

Slartibartfarst42

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Re: Crawler Review
« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2013, 07:14:43 PM »
Thanks for the positive feedback, it's always reassuring to know that my impressions of a pickup are in keeping with other people's experiences  :D

To try and alleviate some of the bass and slight mushiness in the low end, today I did a full setup on the guitar that involved lowering the pickups a bit but raising the screws so that each was 2mm from the string when depressed at the 24th fret. The screw for the low E is now raised by just over 1.5mm. I had no idea how much would be too much so this was me simply raising to the point where I felt it didn't start to look silly. Thanks for the idea Kiichi  :D I also changed the strings from my usual DR Tite Fits for this guitar to Dean Markley Blue Steels. The result of these changes is that the bridge pickup especially is a bit tighter at the bottom end and if anything, the 'growl' is a tad more aggressive. The neck pickup can still have a bit of mushiness on the very low notes but it has also improved. I took rather more care when adjusting the bridge pickup so I may yet tinker with the neck pickup a little bit more.
BKP owned:

Bridge - Emerald; Cold Sweat; Crawler; A-Bomb; Holydiver; Miracle Man; Sinner; Trilogy Suite

Neck - Emerald; Cold Sweat; Crawler; Holydiver; Sinner; Trilogy Suite

Kiichi

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Re: Crawler Review
« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2013, 08:37:43 PM »
You know, I wanted to write up a review for the Crawler myself...someday at least, but it really seem utterly redundant now. This is so spot on, hats of to you Sir!

Long reviews can be suboptimal, but I am glad you took the space to properly explain everything. The way you describe the tonal qualitys paints exactly the right picture and you hit on all the qualitys, explain them and don´t forget the parts of the tone that can be looked upon as downsides.

Also I must say I really do enjoy your organic style of writing here. Always enjoyed your reviews, but I feel this is your best one yet.

Really interrested on how things develop with further tuning and pole piece raising. Since I have been pushing that practive a fair bit lately I always love to hear what other people trying it think. Your first assesment definetly fits my experience.

Bottom line: Buy more BKPs dammit, I want more of your reviews!
BKPs in use: 10th set / RY set / Holy Diver b, Emerald n / Crawler bridge, Slowhand mid MQ neck/ Manhattan n
On the sidelines: Stockholm b / Suppermassive n, Mule n, AM set, IT mid

Slartibartfarst42

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Re: Crawler Review
« Reply #10 on: July 22, 2013, 08:59:30 PM »
Thanks so much, that means a lot  :D

Playing with the pole pieces is quite effective, though the effect is subtle. With this bit of tinkering, I like the bridge pickup a lot. It now has just enough bite between pole piece adjustment and much brighter strings. I'm still not 100% sure about the neck. The tone is great but unless I'm really pushing the amp hard it always seems a bit too dark and mushy. It seems to be begging for a brighter guitar, more so than the bridge. I'm wondering if maybe the Abraxas neck would have a little more bite to it with it being a bit brighter. The question of course whether it would work with the Crawler bridge as I now have very bright strings in this guitar to make it work and they might be too bright for an Abraxas neck. That being the case, even though I love the Crawler bridge, I may have to go to an Abraxas set and revert back to normal strings.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2013, 09:12:46 PM by Slartibartfarst42 »
BKP owned:

Bridge - Emerald; Cold Sweat; Crawler; A-Bomb; Holydiver; Miracle Man; Sinner; Trilogy Suite

Neck - Emerald; Cold Sweat; Crawler; Holydiver; Sinner; Trilogy Suite

Telerocker

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Re: Crawler Review
« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2013, 10:27:12 PM »
You even might consider a Mule-neck.
Mules, VHII, Crawler, MM's, IT's, BG50's.

Slartibartfarst42

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Re: Crawler Review
« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2013, 10:31:39 PM »
How do the Mule, Abraxas and Crawler necks compare?
BKP owned:

Bridge - Emerald; Cold Sweat; Crawler; A-Bomb; Holydiver; Miracle Man; Sinner; Trilogy Suite

Neck - Emerald; Cold Sweat; Crawler; Holydiver; Sinner; Trilogy Suite

BigB

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Re: Crawler Review
« Reply #13 on: July 23, 2013, 09:58:49 AM »
How do the Mule, Abraxas and Crawler necks compare?

Caveat : I didn't tried them in the same guitar - but anyway... The Crawler and Mule neck are really closely related, the Mule being obviously brighter and more open souding and the Crawler rounder/fatter and more compressed, but the voicing is very very similar. Now I'm not sure the Mule would keep up with the Crawler bridge's output - will need quite some compromises with both pup's height and you'll still have less push from the neck. Can't tell about the Abraxas but AFAICT it's somewhere in between...

Also I suspect that part of what you describe as mushiness might just come from AIV being a bit soft on the lows.
Have: Crawlers, BGF 50/52s, Mules, ABomb, RiffRaff
Had : Slowhands (n&m), Trilogy (b)

Kiichi

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Re: Crawler Review
« Reply #14 on: July 23, 2013, 10:27:06 AM »
Do you have the problem only on the low strings or in general? If only on the lows have you tried to put the PU at a steep angle with the bass side pretty low while treble remains at a distance where it has the bite you want (I think you like this one pretty far away in general)? Then to try and keep some balance raise the pole pieces on the lowered side more.
Usually that should eliminate soft and undefined bass.

I wonder if the issue is with the PU itself or if it may turn out that you don´t like AIV in neck HBs...
BKPs in use: 10th set / RY set / Holy Diver b, Emerald n / Crawler bridge, Slowhand mid MQ neck/ Manhattan n
On the sidelines: Stockholm b / Suppermassive n, Mule n, AM set, IT mid