Les Paul’s Final Pickup Project

Tom Doyle delivers Les Paul's "dream guitar sound" with his Tru-Clones PAF Humbuckers.
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Those “in the know” are aware that one of the few disappointments of Les Paul’s life was that the guitar-playing public did not share his enthusiasm for low-impedance guitar pickups. But Les was never one to just give up, so he accepted the smack down and focused his astounding sonic talents on making high-impedance humbuckers sound absolutely, “Les-Paul-Approved” amazing—as well as, not surprisingly, able to compete with the clarity, dynamics, and overall tone of his beloved low-impedance pickups.

Unfortunately, this was one project that Les Paul did not live to see completed. He passed away at 94 years old on August 13, 2009.

However, Les’ guitar tech, confidant, and technical foil for more than 45 years, Tom Doyle, was working alongside the master during his quest, and, using Les’ notes and prototypes, was able to finally bring the “holy grail” pickup to market with his Doyle Coils Tru-Clones PAF Humbuckers.

“For his entire life, Les strove for a guitar sound that was as clear, crisp, and even-sounding as possible,” says Doyle. “Les had an incredible passion for making things ‘just right.’ He would tinker and experiment on things he wanted to fix tirelessly—almost to the point of obsession. Happily, I’m thrilled with the Tru-Clones, and I know Les would be, as well.”

Achieving Les Paul’s dream sound, however, is far from an easy task. In fact, it’s closer to a “blissful nightmare.” Doyle makes each pickup by hand—one at a time—while closely following Les’ secret recipe. He can’t cut corners or materials to enhance profitability. Making Tru-Clones true means using hard to source, vintage parts. The pickup winds are a closely guarded secret, and are devised to give Tru-Clones tons of harmonics and overtones, as well as the ability to cut through a mix without being shrill. For a cinematic, HD-like sonic quality, Doyle also uses four unmatched and unbalanced single-coils to construct the two humbucking pickups. And, finally, Doyle does not purchase pre-magnetized Alnico bars, which can vary wildly due to how they are stored and shipped. Instead, he gausses his own magnetics to exact specifications (an operation that is called “field charging.”)

Now, even after all of that care on Doyle’s part, it appears that he and Les must ask you to collaborate somewhat in the pickup-tweaking process if you want the full benefit of what these humbuckers can deliver. You see, the Achilles’ heel of most boutique pickups is the use of low-grade pots (which have very little taper) and caps (which don’t hold and release to ground smoothly). So in order to get the best quality out of Tru-Clones, Doyle recommends that users replace their guitar’s pots, caps, and low-grade “telephone wire” with vintage-correct braided wire, a good switch, high-audio-taper 500k+ pots, and oil-filled capacitors.

Doyle Coils Tru-Clones are currently available from $500 to $535 retail, and can be purchased in the following finishes: new nickel, aged, nickel, chrome, and gold-plated. Vintage unpotted or lightly wax-potted versions are available, as well. Every pickup comes in a wooden presentation box along with a certificate of authenticity signed by Doyle.

For more information, visit Tom Doyle here.

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