The PG Blues is a fun set of pickups. Bare Knuckles gets a lot of attention for the more modern Contemporary offerings. I’m here to say that you are missing out if you overlook BKP’s Vintage menu. At this point, you can see my opinions on The Mule and the Riff Raff sets from the BKP Vintage line. Let’s look at where the PG Blues falls in to the order of things.
This set is a take on the PAF humbuckers in Peter Green’s legenday 1959 Les Paul. You can read a bit of the tale of Peter Green’s ’59 Lester in my article on the Greenie humbucker set. But I can also save you the click and break it down here for you.
Peter Green got a hold of the pre-owned ’59 and put it to good use in the Bluesbreakers and in Fleetwood Mac. It then went to an unknown Gary Moore, who made a name for himself with the guitar in tow. The Les Paul is currently in the hands of Metallica‘s Kirk Hammett, who does actively tour with it.
Aside from that pedigree, one of the most-known characteristics of this guitar among guitar geeks would be the neck pickup. It is out of phase with the bridge pickup. In a 2-pickup rig, that means the middle (or, the in-between) position delivers a hollow voice with a bit of a “cocked wah” characteristic.
There are a few ways a humbucker can be out of phase with another. The main offenders are magnetically and mechanically. Magnetically is when the polarity of the magnet is the reverse of normal.
A common mechanical scenario is when the coils are wound in the opposite direction of the coils in the other humbuckers. That can sometimes be an issue when using different brands in the same guitar. You can also purposefully make a 4-conductor humbucker out of phase with how you wire it up.
When it comes to the Peter Green Les Paul, there are competing opinions on how the neck humbucker is out of phase. I have not laid hands on this particular LP nor have I personally spoken to anyone that has. HaHa! as such, I’m not here to debate that factoid, so… moving along…. LOL!
For this evaluation, I plant the PG Blues set in a double-hum axe. Connections are Bourns 500k pots, a Switchcraft 12120X 3-way toggle, and a Switchcraft 1/4″ output jack. I like mine with short legs, open coils, and 4-con lead wire. You can find or order yours with the full range of accouterments.
Did I already mention that the PG Blues humbuckers are impressive? Most impressive? Why am I so aghast? The marketing for the PG Blues contains words like “sweet” and “warm” and “fat”. That is often times a recipe for a muddy, boomy, dull-sounding mess. But not this time.
Right out of the gate, the PG Blues pickups hit me as The Mule’s older, more streetwise brother. The Mule is an excellent pickup and lands in my Top 10 vintage style and my Top 5 PAF replica. It’s a go-to for players like Steve Steven when he needs a reference-level benchmark. But at times, I have the need to add a little grit to the amp’s level of saturation to reach my goals with The Mule. But not with the PG Blues.
The PB Blues has a little more attitude and a touch of a smoldering voice. To be clear, I’m not saying it is a face-melting sonic sledgehammer. LOL! But I am saying that I think it is voiced in a way that makes it pretty darned versatile.
On a dirty amp setting, the PG Blues humbuckers are harmonically rich and lusciously transparent. Hit a chord hard and you still have note separation. Pluck out a lead line and the touch-sensitive nature reveals subtle nuances. Sustained vibrato and bends organically decay in to the mechanical artifacts of the string traversing the fret.
These humbuckers are a totally flexible choice for clean amp tones. Generally speaking, I find that I often have to facilitate split or parallel wiring to get great clean tones from many humbuckers. The PG Blues is top-shelf in full series configuration. You definitely can put other wiring options to work for those ultra glassy tones. Or you can make use of the middle position. The slightly lower presence and the unique out of phase character makes the middle position a dream for clean amp tones.
As a reference of the Peter Green “tone”, check out this video of Mr. Green performing with Fleetwood Mac:
Let’s look at some specs:
PG Blues Bridge
Series – 8.134 K
Inductance – 4.556 H
Split – 4.179 K
Split – 3.954 K
Parallel – 2.031 K
Magnet – Roughcast Alnico 2
Wire – Plain Enamel
PG Blues Neck
Series – 7.461 K
Inductance – 3.816 H
Split – 3.801 K
Split – 3.663 K
Parallel – 1.8645 K
Magnet – Roughcast Alnico 2
Wire – Heavy Formvar
Did you catch that? Heavy Formvar for the neck! Bare Knuckle is relatively renown for using vintage correct 42 AWG plain enamel across their Vintage selection. It’s cool they are being transparent with this variance. Is Formvar bad? Nope. It’s the type of insulation in use, that’s all. Formvar is a little more common on single coils, and a bit of a rarity on humbuckers. We can deep-dive on the geek factor of that all day long. I’m simply looking at it as a unique approach, and the results seem to be working.
The PG Blues is an excellent consideration for someone wanting a solid PAF style offering. As with the Greenie set, I like this set for that alone and consider the out of phase feature a bonus. If you like The Mule but want a little more pushing your amp, take a solid look at the PG Blues.
To finish out my run on BKP’s Vintage line, my thoughts on the Stormy Monday humbuckers will be coming soon!
For reference, this Bare Knuckle Pickups PG Blues humbucker pickup set evaluation was conducted with a Fractal Axe-Fx II XL+ featuring Celestion Impluse Responses and Fractal MFC-101 MIDI Foot Controller. Real cabs used were Marshall 1960B cabs loaded with Celestion Vintage 30s and G12M Greenbacks.
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