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Author Topic: Comparison VHII – A-Bomb – Crawler Bridge Pickups  (Read 7609 times)

darkbluemurder

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Comparison VHII – A-Bomb – Crawler Bridge Pickups
« on: January 30, 2013, 10:56:05 AM »
Here we go with another pickup review. All pickups were in the bridge position of a Les Paul Standard, together with the VHII neck in the neck position. The guitar has a three-way-toggle, 500k pots and 50s wiring but no push-pull/coil split/out-of-phase switches whatsoever.

VHII bridge
The VHII is listed as the first pickup in the vintage hot category. I first believed that the pickups were listed in ascending order by output level as the DC resistances ascend in that order but this overlooks the fact that the pickups are not wound with the same wire gauge. I have now tried all vintage hot humbuckers except for the Emerald, and the VHII may even be the hottest in output of them all. It can easily put up with the Crawler in output, and from a direct comparison in another guitar I would say Crawler and Abraxas are about the same output level. Off topic: the VHII neck pickup is definitely the hottest neck pickup in the vintage hot range and makes a good partner to the higher output bridge pickups in the contemporary range.

The VHII has more output than a traditional PAF type humbucker without going into the high output zone. It has good punch and articulation. Its trademarks are a strong edge to the tone and a lot of harmonics. Insofar I fully agree with the description on the website. On the other side of the coin it did not transfer as much of the fundamental notes in that guitar which made it a bit too thin sounding for me. It also does not have a lot of midrange. It really gets the typical EVH signature snarl prominent on the first two VH albums. Players looking for the early Warren DeMartini tones (Out of the Cellar, Invasion of Your Privacy) can also stop right here. I can see it doing a fine job in a guitar that has a strong midrange focus because the strong attack and harmonics should nicely balance that out.

Alnico Nailbomb bridge (short “A-Bomb”)
The A-Bomb has more output than the VHII. It’s definitely a high output humbucker even though it may not have as much as a DiMarzio Super Distortion or ToneZone. Due to its higher output it drives the amp harder and provides for more compression. It also has more low and center mids which leads to a greater emphasis of the fundamental tone vs. harmonics. Insofar the website description of deep bottom end with rich throaty midrange is spot on, as is the remark of the “strong and commanding voice”. I would not call the highs necessarily “warm”, they are a bit subdued in relation to the other frequency bands and compared to the VHII but there are enough to prevent it from sounding dull or blurred. It never loses the clarity all BKPs are known for. I liked it more in that guitar overall but especially for lead playing. It also balances well with the VHII neck model in the neck spot - to my taste it balances better with it than the VHII bridge did as individual pickups. However, the VHII set provides for a brilliant twangy tone in the middle position of the toggle which the A-Bomb/VHII neck does not provide - it's still a good and distinctive tone from the individual pickups but not as twangy as with the set.

Crawler bridge
I only put it in the guitar yesterday so these are my first impressions.

Quote from the website description: “The Crawler humbucker has a rich, fat, mid range with sweet highs that clean up beautifully …. 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.”

This description is spot on, so was Ben’s recommendation. The Crawler is completely different to both the VHII and the A-Bomb. Even though it is placed in the contemporary range I could see it easily being part of the vintage hot range. In fact I feel it would be more appropriately placed there as its tone has a lot more in common with what I perceive as “vintage” than with the modern humbuckers, and I have not even tried the ones mostly associated with modern metal tones such as Aftermath or Painkiller. The output is very similar to the VHII bridge but considerably lower than the A-Bomb. It lacks the aggressiveness of both pickups. You may have noted that the attributes “smooth” and “sweet” do not appear for the VHII or Nailbomb in their website descriptions, and I can only assume that is for good reason. Not so for the Crawler: here, “smooth” is really appropriate. From the very first note there was the tone – warm, creamy, round and fluid, powerful but still very open and clear. If you want it to sound aggressive you really have to dig in hard whereas with the other two you would rather seek to find ways to tame their aggression.

In earlier posts I described the Crawler as dark. I am now positive that this was more due to the guitar it was in, which goes once more to show that it is not the pickup alone that is responsible for the final sound. While it does sound darker than both the VHII and the A-Bomb, it is not dark as such but I would caution against putting it in a guitar that is dark to begin with.

The Crawler works well with the VHII neck even though I had to set the Crawler quite close to the strings to get it in balance with the strong VHII neck but that is where the Crawler sounds best anyway. The combination of both humbuckers produces a very distinct tone from the single positions – which is always important to me, otherwise what’s the purpose of playing both humbuckers combined? But it’s not only distinct, it’s also very good in a way that it is very clear, twangy and just spits out the harmonics. Very nice.

Once again, thank you Tim for making these fine pickups, and thank you Ben for your recommendation.

Cheers Stephan

Marco78

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Re: Comparison VHII – A-Bomb – Crawler Bridge Pickups
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2013, 02:10:16 PM »
Very good review!!

TheyCallMeVolume

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Re: Comparison VHII – A-Bomb – Crawler Bridge Pickups
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2013, 02:19:48 PM »
BKP should put you on payroll with these reviews.

Telerocker

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Re: Comparison VHII – A-Bomb – Crawler Bridge Pickups
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2013, 06:06:46 PM »
Thanks Stephan!

I agree with the descriptions of the VHII and the Crawler, which I have in an ash and swampashstrat. Of those two the VHII sounds more agressive (especially) uppermids and highs. The Crawler has more a lowmid growl when pushed. The Crawler feels/sounds outputwise and in character more vintagehot then contemporary. A good pickup for mediumbright (wrong description, but you know what I mean) to bright strats and other bolt-on alder/ash guitars.
Mules, VHII, Crawler, MM's, IT's, BG50's.

darkbluemurder

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Re: Comparison VHII – A-Bomb – Crawler Bridge Pickups
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2013, 09:42:35 AM »
A good pickup for mediumbright (wrong description, but you know what I mean) to bright strats and other bolt-on alder/ash guitars.

Yes I do.

I spent a bit more time with it yesterday and my initial findings were fully confirmed. In addition to my review, here is what I think it can do well and what it does not so well.

It does get very convincing Southern Rock sounds, particularly Molly Hatchet or 38 Special. It also does the Gary Moore Les Paul and Slash sounds well (even if the Emerald may be better at those). You can get really beautiful blues tones with the guitar volume turned down slightly or by playing out of the middle position and turning down the neck pickup volume. Of course it is equally at home at any classic rock stuff as Ben advised.

It does not really do the Duane Allman tone - that would require still more mids - but I did not seek to duplicate that tone (otherwise I would have chosen a different pickup winder who specialises in chasing that particular tone). The VHII neck does a better job for the Dickey Betts tones than the Crawler does for the Duane tones. The Crawler can do the Warren Haynes tones to some extent.

You should not expect the Crawler to do Peter Green/Mike Bloomfield tones. For those the Stormy Mondays/PG Blues would be the No. 1 choice.

While the Crawler can do hard rock really well it would not be my first choice for anything heavy metal and beyond. For these styles it lacks the aggressiveness and brutality in the top end and the tightness in the low end, even though I believe you could get by with the right amp. Since I don't play anything heavier than 80s hair metal this is a non-issue for me.

Cheers Stephan

Telerocker

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Re: Comparison VHII – A-Bomb – Crawler Bridge Pickups
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2013, 02:29:01 AM »
Another nice and complete description. The Crawler is a good allrounder but not for chimey vintagetones and not for anything extreme like trash. It's a rockpickup, which has in a strat a good splited tone too. For Warren Haynes I'd pick my Mule-loaded all mahogany Saint Blues, maybe also for Duane Allman and Peter Green. And tweak the amp-eq.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2013, 12:38:42 AM by Telerocker »
Mules, VHII, Crawler, MM's, IT's, BG50's.

BigB

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Re: Comparison VHII – A-Bomb – Crawler Bridge Pickups
« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2013, 08:00:25 PM »
Just for the record the Crawler used to be listed in the vintage hot section and I never understood why it was relabelled as contemporary.
Have: Crawlers, BGF 50/52s, Mules, ABomb, RiffRaff
Had : Slowhands (n&m), Trilogy (b)

darkbluemurder

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Re: Comparison VHII – A-Bomb – Crawler Bridge Pickups
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2013, 10:34:59 AM »
Just for the record the Crawler used to be listed in the vintage hot section and I never understood why it was relabelled as contemporary.

That's interesting.

I think that it would also be less confusing to have the Crawler in the vintage hot section simply because there are less models in that section. Five different pickup models is still clearly arranged.

Cheers Stephan

darkbluemurder

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Re: Comparison VHII – A-Bomb – Crawler Bridge Pickups
« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2014, 03:06:15 PM »
I mentioned it in a few other threads but the Crawler bridge and VHII neck are no longer in the Les Paul. As good as they sounded I felt that they limited the dynamics of the guitar too much. They needed to go into a guitar with more inherent dynamics. So I put them into my PRS Custom where they replaced the Holydiver bridge and Cold Sweat neck, which sat in this guitar for a few years now.

What can I say - it's like this guitar has only been waiting for these two guys.

The Crawler in the bridge almost turned this guitar into a Les Paul. It completely removed the little nasal aspect that the HD still had in this guitar (the HD already removed most of it compared to previous pickups) and sounds huge and fat, smooth or aggressive depending on the pick attack. Compared to the HD the midrange in the Crawler is in a slightly different spot - less in the high mids but more in the center mids. I hear more bass in the Crawler. Overall my impression is that the HD is more "compact" and the Crawler more "open". This is not to say that the HD is not "open" but the high mids somehow do melt more into the highs than in the Crawler.

The VHII neck does a great job in this 24 fret guitar. I like it even better than the Cold Sweat neck here, and the Cold Sweat was great. The VHII neck sounds a bit bigger still and is an excellent match to the Crawler in the bridge. As a bonus, the split positions on the 5-way rotary sound excellent, too.

During a short transitional phase I had the HD bridge together with the VHII in that guitar which worked great as well, individually and in the various split configurations on the 5-way rotary. The same pickup combination in the PRS Single Cut did not work as well - while the pickups balanced well individually I found that the combined humbucker setting provided for a tone that was not bad but also not too distinct from the neck humbucker alone. I am not sure whether it was that particular guitar or whether this combination works better with 24 fret guitars than with 22 fret guitars. 

Cheers Stephan

darrenw5094

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Re: Comparison VHII – A-Bomb – Crawler Bridge Pickups
« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2014, 08:54:11 PM »
Did you try the Black Dog bridge yet?
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: Comparison VHII – A-Bomb – Crawler Bridge Pickups
« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2014, 08:30:18 AM »
Not the one you sent me but I have another set which I have reviewed here: https://bareknucklepickups.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=29239

Cheers Stephan

darrenw5094

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Re: Comparison VHII – A-Bomb – Crawler Bridge Pickups
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2014, 07:23:08 PM »
Not the one you sent me but I have another set which I have reviewed here: https://bareknucklepickups.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=29239

Cheers Stephan

Dude, i am more satisfied with your nailbomb in my Les Paul over the Black Dog.
Everyone is a winner.  8)
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: Comparison VHII – A-Bomb – Crawler Bridge Pickups
« Reply #12 on: January 31, 2014, 08:45:34 AM »
That's good to hear, Darren. BTW it's the exact same Nailbomb I described here.

Cheers Stephan