For the most part, junk is junk, quality is quality, and ne’er the twain shall meet. Unless you’re talking Teisco “gold foil” pickups. Likely the most revered component ever to have appeared on a cheapo guitar, one particular variation of this quirky pickup has earned a major cult following of tone-conscious players, Ry Cooder not least among them. With original examples pushing beyond $200 on the vintage market (each a crap shoot at best, with shorted windings and uncontrollable microphonic howl awaiting the unwary buyer), Jason Lollar decided to recreate the hallowed Teisco unit as his new Gold Foil pickup, and I for one am extremely happy he did.
The Gold Foil’s magic is rather difficult to quantify, but came about in the first place through the happy accident of a Japanese guitar manufacturer in the mid ’60s simply attempting to concoct a nifty looking pickup that was functional and cheap to manufacture. The formula consists of 44-gauge wire wound around a rubberized ferrite magnet that constitutes one long “polepiece” of sorts, with separate adjustable polepieces to the side, run through a steel bar that widens the magnetic field. On paper, it shouldn’t be anything special, but plugged in—particularly when mounted on a guitar above Teisco grade—it is magical.
Adapted to a Fano RB6 originally routed for P-90 soapbar pickups, the Lollar Gold Foils rewarded me with a chewy, thick, yet extremely clear tone in both positions. No spikes, no harshness, yet a high-end that really cuts through, bigger lows than Fender-style single coils, and a deliciously tactile playing feel. They don’t sound “hot” as such, yet they drove my Matchless HC-30 easily, inducing delectable crunch and singing lead tones. To top it off, thanks to Lollar’s moderate potting, there was no squeal when I cranked the amp or stepped on a Blackout Effectors Twosome fuzz pedal.
As with the originals, the Gold Foils are designed either for surface mounting on guitars with adequate string clearance (overall pickup height is 11/32" and shims are provided to raise their height if necessary), or “floating”-style to the side of a raised pickguard. Jason Lollar says he is looking into methods of adapting the pickups to a range of fittings, so it’s best to inquire at the time of purchase. Regardless, these pickups offer an exciting alternative flavor, and earn an Editors’ Pick Award for their achievements.
Price $180 street (each)
Magnet Rubberized ferrite
DC resistance 6.23kΩ neck, 6.94kΩ bridge
Covers Nickel or chrome with gold foil inserts (gold-plated covers and silver foil options available)
Wire 44 gauge
Polepieces Six adjustable steel poles, plus bar magnet beneath the cover
Kudos A great recreation of a prized vintage pickup. Fat, juicy yet clear tone and a sweetly tactile playing feel.
Concerns Might require adapting or minor routing to fit some guitars.