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Author Topic: Update: Emerald review! Mules/Abraxas/Emerald in a new Les Paul  (Read 3352 times)

timmy_pix

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Update: Emerald review! Mules/Abraxas/Emerald in a new Les Paul
« on: September 09, 2017, 11:25:18 PM »
First, a bit of backstory: last time I posted, I was asking for suggestions for my PRS 7-string. I never got to get it anything as shortly afterwards I was burgled and all of my guitars were stolen. After a couple of months of extensive searching and spreading the word everywhere I could, I've accepted my guitars aren't popping up any time soon and it's time to rebuild.

My old #1 was my Epiphone Les Paul Classic which I'd put Mules in, and I adored the Mules. I'd always promised myself if anything happened to the Epi, I'd get the real thing, and last week I bought myself a beautiful 2017 Gibson Les Paul Classic. However, the Classic 57/57+ combo just isn't doing it for me. They sound great - sweet top end and a nice mid-range bark - but they're a bit too thin-sounding for me and the music I'm playing.

So, I know I love Mules, why not just get them again? Because the whole BKP range sounds amazing and I'd be interested in trying something slightly different, and I do like having a slightly hotter bridge.

The guitar is your standard Les Paul, mahogany body and neck with a decent maple cap. It sounds fairly balanced acoustically, with a strong midrange but the highs are clear too.
Live, it's going into a Victory V30 for the most part (EL34s, pretty Marshally in sound) through a Victory cab with Celestion Vintage 30s. Music is hard rock, with a gain level typically sitting roundabout the Slash/Thin Lizzy/GNR kind of level, with the occasional dip into heavier gain levels.
Tonally, I love the typical LP/Marshall sound, think Thin Lizzy/Gary Moore/The Darkness. I would say GNR but I'm not a fan of the A2 sound, the response of an A2 just doesn't seem to suit me and I'm not a fan of the way they can sound kind of brittle. What I loved about my old Mules was having the sweetness, openness and incredible rich harmonics, but still having balls.

Here are my thoughts so far:
Bridge - Abraxas or Emerald. The Abraxas sounds appealing due to the claims of a "vocal" tone and basically just being a "Mule on steroids", but I've also heard it's a little more heavy in the mids, which I'm not sure this guitar needs, but then again it might cope fine. The Mule could go as heavy as I liked if the amp did the work, but I do like the idea of letting the pickup push things a bit and then backing off with the volume pot if I need to. The Emerald, by all accounts, is a brighter pickup, but I think the guitar would balance it, and I do like the idea of the open top end and rich harmonics, as well as a tight low end and a bit of A5 power. Also, the guitar is green and Emeralds just seem fitting.

Neck - depends on what I go for on the bridge. I know the Mule neck is pretty much perfect for me and from searching the forums it seems to pair well with both the Abraxas and the Emerald. However, both those pickups obviously have their matching neck pickups calibrated to suit the bridge, and they're all fairly similar (I assume) given that they're all A4, so I'm assuming the differences aren't going to be huge between the three?

So yeah, I'd love some input from everyone, especially those with direct experience of these pickups in a Les Paul! I'm sure any of them will work for me to be honest, so I can't choose badly, but I want to make the best choice I can.

One further factor for consideration is that I like to use coil splits a fair bit, and I'm considering a parallel/series push-pull pot as well.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2018, 05:58:00 PM by timmy_pix »
BKPs:
The Mule set - PRS SE Bernie Marsden
Emerald set - Gibson Les Paul Classic
Mother's Milk set - Fender Highway 1 Strat
Holydiver set - ESP LTD Ninja 600

Telerocker

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Re: Mules/Abraxas/Emerald in a new Les Paul
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2017, 11:36:03 PM »
Also consider the Rebell Yell.
Mules, VHII, Crawler, MM's, IT's, BG50's.

timmy_pix

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Re: Mules/Abraxas/Emerald in a new Les Paul
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2018, 05:52:10 PM »
Following up on this later than I meant to for anyone in a similar position who searches the forums, finds this thread and wonders what happened next.

I rang Ben, basically recited that post, and he said Emeralds would be perfect. So I bought Emeralds, and I love them! It was kind of a foregone conclusion with a bright green guitar  :grin:

So, here's an Emerald set review.


First of all, I think the Emerald is woefully under-rated and misrepresented around here. I did a lot of research around the forum before I phoned Ben, and yes, a couple of people have found the bridge to be too bright - and don't get me wrong, it is bright, but not in the way you might think - but then others have taken that to heart and gone around telling people it's too bright in anything but the darkest guitar without having played it themselves. Anyway, whinge over.


Bridge

The bridge is a fantastic hot, fat PAF. If the Abraxas is the Mule on steroids, then (according to Nolly), this is the Riff Raff on steroids. I've only played a Mule - in this guitar's predecessor - so the only comparison I can make is that it's like a Mule that instead of steroids, has been to the gym and is on a high-protein, low-fat diet. It has that PAF tone and mid-range character, with rich harmonics, but the extra compression of the hotter wind makes everything feel very solid, and the A5 magnet gives it a faster attack. Under overdrive or distortion, single notes have this weight behind them, something you feel more than you hear, a kind of reassuring presence and fatness. I'm sure I've read another review of someone who had one in a PRS Bernie that said the same thing - after all the talk of brightness, the solidness and weightiness is a pleasant surprise.

So, about this brightness. It is bright. It isn't trebly, or brittle, or harsh. It has a bright airiness to it - the only analogy I can think of that almost makes sense is that if it were an amp EQ section, bass would be on about 3, mids on about 7, treble at about 6, but the presence knob would be right up. The only other pickup I can really compare it to back to back at the moment is the Seymour Duncan JB in my LTD Ninja. It doesn't have the harsh upper mids of the JB, and feels much more even across the frequency range, just with much tighter bass and more air at the top end. Speaking of the top end, while having that brightness, it's actually quite rounded/sweet, at least compared to the JB. The JB will scream with harmonics on lead lines, whereas the Emerald is much less inclined to do so; it's happier to keep the note fat and pure, so it's a different type of lead sound. The only time I notice the brightness of the Emerald is when I switch from the Les Paul to the Ninja and have to check that I'm not on the neck pickup, as lead tones aside, the JB is rounder and darker. So the Emerald cuts more for chord and rhythm work, but less so on leads.

One more thing I need to mention is the bass response. Part of what makes this pickup feel bright is the tight, controlled bass end. It keeps things sharp and bitey for crunchy rock rhythm parts, but it is now by far and away my favourite pickup for metal rhythm. I never understood complaints about the JB being flubby in the bass until I got the Emerald. So now I need to replace the JB, but that's another thread for another day

So to kind of summarise, the Emerald bridge feels like a bit of a juxtaposition, but it's just a very talented bridge pickup. It's bright, tight and cutting, but also fat and rich in the most satisfying way. I absolutely love it.

Neck
The neck is more well known as a great pickup around here, and it's much easier to describe. It's a fat, rich, thick neck pickup. Cleans are beautifully deep and harmonically rich, and the compression of the hotter wind helps keep things very even. It's not as excitable as the bridge, but still has that wonderful weight behind every note. Switch the drive on and it's your dream hot Les Paul neck pickup. Thick, creamy, full of sustain and harmonics. It is quite dark, almost as a polar opposite to the bridge, and the Duncan 59 in the Ninja is much more jangly in comparison. In fact, I'd say the only downside to this pickup - and it's entirely oown to what you need it for - is that it doesn't have the bright openness of the Mule, which is its own special thing that I also love. This pickup is a tad too hot for open jangliness, but it still has great touch sensitivity and is open in its own way, but it's less airy and more... rich, I guess. It's hard to describe, but if the Mule neck is a light golden ale on a sunny afternoon, the Emerald neck is the rich and flavourful pint you'll have with your roast dinner. If that makes any sense at all.

To summarise the set: these are fantastic hot PAFs. They still have that vintage character, so while the output is comparable to more modern-voiced pickups, it still has that old school attitude. They are aptly named; put them into a Les Paul, plug into something Marshally with a nice crunchy overdrive setting and these pickups are right at home. Hard rock heaven; Thin Lizzy right out of the gate. That said, these are far from a one trick pony. Dial things back a bit and these would be more than happy playing Gary Moore-esque blues all night, from pushed cleans to searing fat leads. Turn things up a bit and you have a metal tone that's full of character and richness, with great control in the bass; I imagine they'd also be excellent for lower range tunings and 7-strings, so long as you let the amp do its fair share of the work, which most high-gain amps are quite happy to do these days.

I adore these pickups, and they adore being in a Les Paul. Mine isn't dark by any means - the Epiphone it replaced was much darker - and I would say it's as even and balanced as a Les Paul can be. If you've got a Les Paul with the 490R/498T set, I can imagine these would be the perfect replacement. If you've got 57 Classics and want more balls (like I did), these are perfect. Want less balls but oodles of tone? Get Mules.

Apologies for the wall of text, here's some pictures of my Green Ocean Burst/Emerald combo as a reward. Hope this review helps!



« Last Edit: April 24, 2018, 11:39:11 PM by timmy_pix »
BKPs:
The Mule set - PRS SE Bernie Marsden
Emerald set - Gibson Les Paul Classic
Mother's Milk set - Fender Highway 1 Strat
Holydiver set - ESP LTD Ninja 600

Spiteface

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Re: Update: Emerald review! Mules/Abraxas/Emerald in a new Les Paul
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2018, 08:15:32 PM »
Excellent writeup! Your comments in the thread I started ultimately made me choose the Emerald set for myself. This lengthier review now makes me even more impatient/excited waiting for them to arrive!
Proud owner of a set of Riff Raffs in an Epiphone Dot.

timmy_pix

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Re: Update: Emerald review! Mules/Abraxas/Emerald in a new Les Paul
« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2018, 12:19:17 PM »
Glad it helped! Look forward to reading your thoughts on them.
BKPs:
The Mule set - PRS SE Bernie Marsden
Emerald set - Gibson Les Paul Classic
Mother's Milk set - Fender Highway 1 Strat
Holydiver set - ESP LTD Ninja 600

blue

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Re: Update: Emerald review! Mules/Abraxas/Emerald in a new Les Paul
« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2018, 12:50:58 PM »
That's a great review, and a very nice Les Paul :)

I have a similarly coloured Les Paul Peace, which I've been thinking of putting Emeralds in (it is the obvious choice).  After reading that, I'm wondering if I should maybe go for Emerald bridge and Mule neck, as I do like a clear and bright neck pickup.
cry HAVOC!! and let slip the pigs of war!!!

Nolly

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Re: Update: Emerald review! Mules/Abraxas/Emerald in a new Les Paul
« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2018, 03:45:28 PM »
Awesome, I'm really glad to see the Emeralds are getting some attention - they are fantastic, your review describes them very well indeed!

That's a great review, and a very nice Les Paul :)

I have a similarly coloured Les Paul Peace, which I've been thinking of putting Emeralds in (it is the obvious choice).  After reading that, I'm wondering if I should maybe go for Emerald bridge and Mule neck, as I do like a clear and bright neck pickup.

That would work, though if you want a bright PAF-y neck pickup you could go up a notch further to the Riff Raff neck too - the AV magnet gives you an more aggressive, edgier tone. If you're interested to stray away from overtly PAF types you could also consider the VHII, which has less mid push and a more single-coil esque top end that gives it a lovely woody/scooped character.

stratguy23

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Re: Update: Emerald review! Mules/Abraxas/Emerald in a new Les Paul
« Reply #7 on: April 28, 2018, 10:26:11 PM »
Thanks for posting this update! I actually did find this thread a few weeks before you posted the update. I have a Greco that I was planning to put Mules in, but then I did some work for a friend and installed an Abraxas set in his PRS SE and didnít really like the bridge, I think itís an A4 thing, so Iím now leaning towards the Emerald set for my Greco. This review further confirms thatís probably the right choice.

Kiichi

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Re: Update: Emerald review! Mules/Abraxas/Emerald in a new Les Paul
« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2018, 09:32:33 AM »
Thanks so much for the great writeup. Just my kind of review. Bonus points for the beer analogy.

I have added this to the sticky thread so it does not get lost to time that easily.

Cheers!
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

timmy_pix

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Re: Update: Emerald review! Mules/Abraxas/Emerald in a new Les Paul
« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2018, 12:17:21 AM »
Cheers, Kiichi! Very pleased to be able to contribute.
BKPs:
The Mule set - PRS SE Bernie Marsden
Emerald set - Gibson Les Paul Classic
Mother's Milk set - Fender Highway 1 Strat
Holydiver set - ESP LTD Ninja 600

Spiteface

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Re: Update: Emerald review! Mules/Abraxas/Emerald in a new Les Paul
« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2018, 06:03:15 PM »
I got my guitar (An Edwards white LP custom copy that previously had some Iron Gear Tesla Sharks in it) back from Gamlins in Cardiff today - It was actually ready on Wednesday, but the hours I work meant it had to wait until today before I could go and pick it up. Their guitar tech guy in there also did some extra setup stuff that he said needed doing, but only charged me for the installation of the Emeralds. One of the things he told me after he put the pickups in was that "It sounds like a Les Paul now"

And you know what? from the brief chance I've had to sit down and play it, He is utterly spot-on. A REALLY good one!

It definitely gets me closer than ever to the tones I wanted out of this guitar. I've been a big Manic Street Preachers for 20 years, and now I can get closer to James Dean Bradfield's tone with the Emeralds. When I asked around on here last month, Nolly recommended either Riff Raffs or if I wanted more power, Emeralds. Already having the former in an Epiphone Dot, I felt something hotter was the way to go (I know Bradfield's favoured hotter pickups in his guitars, but the ones he uses now were described as being for players wanting "more grunt from their PAFs" - which indicated "Vintage Hot" was where I wanted to be).  Anyway, I've not had much chance to sit down and play it (yet Ė but it is a Bank Holiday weekend!), but the moment I plugged in and hit a chord, I knew I'd be happy. Yes it's bright, but timmy_pix's review is spot-on. These pickups sound really beefy to me compared to what I had before, and that brightness doesn't come at a sacrifice of enough bottom end to give everything some weight behind it, and it does lend itself to the sounds I've been after.


So all in all, I guitar I already liked, I now love even more, because of these pickups. My next plan was to get a set of Rebel Yells for my Epiphone LP I've had since 2001, but I'm actually tempted to just get more Emeralds...
Proud owner of a set of Riff Raffs in an Epiphone Dot.

timmy_pix

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Re: Update: Emerald review! Mules/Abraxas/Emerald in a new Les Paul
« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2018, 10:15:56 PM »
So glad they're what you wanted, Spiteface!

If you want Emeralds but different, the Boot Camp True Grit set looks interesting from initial reports: similar output and attitude (hot PAF) with a more balanced voice.
BKPs:
The Mule set - PRS SE Bernie Marsden
Emerald set - Gibson Les Paul Classic
Mother's Milk set - Fender Highway 1 Strat
Holydiver set - ESP LTD Ninja 600

Spiteface

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Re: Update: Emerald review! Mules/Abraxas/Emerald in a new Les Paul
« Reply #12 on: May 27, 2018, 11:59:59 AM »
They've been on my radar, as well. Either those or the Rebel Yells, which I was considering for my Edwards at one point, and decided whichever set I got for the Edwards, I'd get the other for the Epiphone at a later date, as well as some new pots, which it very much needs.

Here are the pickups in my guitar:



I like the black covers with gold screws on this guitar. Gold covers look great, too, but I think a bit too bling at times.
Proud owner of a set of Riff Raffs in an Epiphone Dot.