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Author Topic: Iommi's pickups  (Read 18189 times)

Ratrod

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Iommi's pickups
« on: June 23, 2005, 10:34:55 AM »
Tony has gone through alot of pickups in his career. He had his own pickup designer named John Birch. So what kind of mongrels were made and what were they like? And whatever happened to John?
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HJM

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« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2005, 12:25:59 PM »
I think John Birch passed away, could anybody confirm?
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YT

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Iommi's pickups
« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2005, 02:32:05 PM »

FELINEGUITARS

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« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2005, 03:21:16 PM »
Quote from: HJM
I think John Birch passed away, could anybody confirm?[/quote

I believe that John Birch did indeed die a few years ago , but John Diggins (JD) is very much alive and well - well I spoke to him last year anyway

Jophn Birch also made the pale replica of Brian may's guitar that Brian used live as a second guitar for years and also made the guitars that Dave Hill of Slade used including the Superyob guitar
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magma

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Iommi's pickups
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2005, 04:13:29 PM »

Skybone

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Iommi's pickups
« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2005, 04:32:43 PM »
Well I certainly remember that Tony also used a number of JD guitars, built for him by John Diggins, but I don't know what pickups were used in them. Probably the John Birch's.

I remember reading an interview with Tony a while back, where he said he had to "design" his own pickups and get them made (more than likely by John Birch) as he couldn't get the distorted tones he was after with the pickups of the time.

At the time JD were more famous for their basses than their guitars, all because Mark King (Level 42's slap god) endorsed them.
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PhilKing

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« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2005, 11:01:53 PM »
Years ago I worked for a music shop and we were a John Birch main dealer.  He had about 8 pickup types and he made a guitar for Tony Iommi which would let you swap the pickups from the back.  Tony used to use the Magnum.  He made single and humbucking pickups, but all in a P-90 sized metal box with 9 pole screws for p-90/fender and 18 for humbucker.  The models I  remember were:

Biflux - P-90 single coil
Superflux B - Bass pickup
Superflux G - Strong PAF H/B
Superflux F - Fender voiced single coil
Hyperflux - more power
Magnum - lot of power

They all has an instruction to say 'don't open this pickup or you will destroy it'  :shock:  That is because they were baked in epoxy inside.  

I have a John Birch J-2 and have just had one of the pickups rewound by Alan Exley who is an ex-John Birch guy.  I was lucky because mine is a really early one, before the epoxy trick, but even so the coils were superglued togther  :twisted:   Alan had some old formers and was able to do the rewind.  

All JB guitars were neck through and heelless, with 24 frets.  The neck shape is great, but he was a bugger for pots and switches.  Mine has 5 pots, 1 rotary switch, 1 3-way and 2 mini switches!  It is also wired stereo (the rotary selects stereo/reverse stereo/mono).  Some guitars have 6-way tone switches instead of pots.

He died about 5 years ago, but stopped making guitars in the late 70's.  I heard he went to jail for poisoning his wife, but some other people tell me that this is not true.  For whatever reason, John Diggins took over the work.  The new John Birch stuff has been set up sine he died, though I believe he had something to do with it.

Anyway the guitars are great, but don't ask Tim to do a rewind  on the pickups :tfrag:
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Ratrod

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« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2005, 05:00:04 PM »
Sorry, this one didn't submit well.
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Ratrod

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« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2005, 05:00:20 PM »
Thanks for all the info, guys. I love the look of that Iommi SG.

I'd like a neck-thru SG, but I can't find a cheap one. I was wondering about those P-90 in a humbucker housing pickups. How would they compare to the Pig-90 in a humbucker size?
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carlaz

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« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2005, 11:43:47 AM »
Quote from: Ratrod
Thanks for all the info, guys. I love the look of that Iommi SG.

The look is good, but I really like his tone on the Iommi album (even if the songs were a bit of a mixed bag) and on the one track I've heard from his new project with Glenn Hughes and Kenny Aronoff.  Made me want to get some Gibson Iommi PUs for my LP, but then I started sniffing around the BKPs and Saw The Light :) (or heard the light, anyway! ;)  

Haven't found much technical detail on the current Gibson Iommi pickups, not even what kind of magnet (Alnico of some kind, presumably) though I have been wondering what kind of BKP they're most similar to.  I guess they're meant to be hotter than a PAF thing, with better definition at high gain and fatter-but-tighter low end; I remember some magazine reviews that said they actually cleaned up pretty well, too.  And a pickup that's better defined at high gain, all around fatter and capable of hefty chug,, but still sweet when clean is, like, my holy grail (for the bridge at the very least!).  Naturally, my first thought for a BKP Iommish thing is the Warpig :) though I am guessing the 'Pig is actually way hotter than the Gibson Iommi.  Maybe the Gibson Iommi's are actually more like the Mules, which are kind of a "PAF with a kick in the rear" thing?  I'm thinking the Nailbombs are a bit to "open" while the Miracle Man's ceramic is a bit too focused.  The Black Dog?  Only a few clips of those have come through the Players section (though I dug them :)).

Yeah, I guess my tone touchpoints are Iommi in the bridge and "souped up Santana" in the neck. How to achieve that balance ....?  (Well, I'm not gonna sell a kidney and buy a Mesa, that's for sure :) but I can probably manage some new pickups :) )
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Ratrod

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« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2005, 04:12:01 PM »
All I know about the Gibson Iommi pickups is that they have no pole pieces and that it's not a high output pickup. They were designed in a way so that all strings can be heard well in a chord. Problem is that they were designed with Iommi's needs in mind. Iommi uses very light gauge strings and often tunes them down low as f*ck. So he needs a pickup that doesn't pull to hard on the strings and he needs it to sound big dispite of those strings.
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Ced777

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« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2005, 09:44:59 PM »
I got some Gibson Iommi's pickups a few years ago. Weak (definitly less  output than a 498T), few bass (but tight), round thick highs. Uninspiring. Sold them immediatly.

The amazing Phil

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« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2005, 08:13:24 AM »
The Gibson Iommi pickups are more or less Magnum replicas from what I hear, the reason Gibson didn't use an after market brand like they do for Zakk and Slash I think is because neither EMG or Seymour Duncan make guitars, whereas John Birch does.

Ratrod

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« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2005, 10:53:37 AM »
I think mass production is an issue here too. JB seems like a small company who could never dish out as many pickups as Gibson needs. Especially after they launched the Epiphone Iommi signature SG.

And yes, Gibson hates competition. :?
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carlaz

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« Reply #14 on: June 28, 2005, 11:25:35 AM »
Good points about the Gibson/John Birch thing and the strings/fingers stuff on the pickup design. Have Iommi's pickups really been that specialized to his situation? If so, then as I have all my fingers (currently!) and use heavier strings without such extreme downtuning, it's probably just as well that I didn't go down the Iommi GIbson pickup road -- or bother looking at the JB Magnums. Though "definition/monster-crunch/sweet-clean" characteristics are still attractive concepts to me when scoping the BKPs :)
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