Review: Ron Ellis Single-Coil Pickups

I was extremely impressed with Ron Ellis’ LRP humbuckers in our PAF roundup a few issues ago, but this San Diego pickup maker has forged an even better reputation for his Fender-style single-coils.
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I was extremely impressed with Ron Ellis’ LRP humbuckers in our PAF roundup a few issues ago, but this San Diego pickup maker has forged an even better reputation for his Fender-style single-coils.
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I was extremely impressed with Ron Ellis’ LRP humbuckers in our PAF roundup a few issues ago, but this San Diego pickup maker has forged an even better reputation for his Fender-style single-coils. He’s also gotten some notoriety for the long wait times that sometimes follow customers’ orders for these units. Ron says he’s doing his best to reduce the wait times, currently around five months for the single-coil sets. Nevertheless, a host of major players have been willing to pay their money and get in line, so we thought we’d test a couple sets to see what all the fuss was about.

MID-TALL TELE NECK/BROADCASTER BRIDGE SET

Mid-Tall Neck/Broadcaster Bridge Set

Ellis, who works in engineering on a National Fusion Energy Program at General Atomics in San Diego by day, makes several variations of T-style pickups, but this is the set he recommended to rejuvenate a road-worn ’57 Esquire that was Tele-ized in the ’60s and fitted with lifeless replacement pickups in the mid ’90s. As with all of his single-coils, these designs follow years of studying vintage winding patterns and analyzing magnet and wire materials at the molecular level, long trials perfecting his own lacquer and wax potting processes, and so forth. The neck pickup has Alnico V magnets that are taller than usual to add a oomph to that position, and the bridge pickup is wound with extra turns of 43-gauge wire—as used on the earliest Broadcaster pickups of 1950-’51—rather than the 42-gauge wire that Tele bridge pickups were later known for. With the pickups loaded, I played the Telecaster through a Two-Rock Studio Pro 35 combo and a hand-wired JTM-45 clone and 2x12 cab with Scumback M75 and H75 speakers. In the neck position, with either amp set to clean-going- crunchy, the Ellis Mid-Tall pickup revealed a thick yet bouncy Strat-ish tone that this Tele had never achieved in the past. I loved how the juicy thickness retained great clarity in the attack, and drove the amps just enough to lend some sting to the tone when I really dug in, while purring with creamy jazz tones when I eased up with the pick. The bridge pickup definitely retained that classic Tele twang, but with a throaty richness and a slightly gnarly edge that made it a bundle of fun to play. As such, it segued beautifully from country to roots to rock ’n’ roll, and rocked with authority with a J. Rockett Animal pedal or a Blackout Effectors Musket Fuzz engaged. I loved the open, funky middle position, too, and overall I really dug how the added thickness enhanced this Tele’s assault of everything other than pristine-clean country.

50/60 STRATOCASTER SET WITH FAT BRIDGE

The title might be a bit confusing, but Ellis calls this set “50/60” because he designs them to blend the best characteristics of early ’50s Strat pickups with those of the mid-’60s variety that so many players also covet. Along with this, the Fat bridge pickup is wound Broadcaster style (see above). Installed in an alder-bodied Fender Custom Shop Heavy Relic ’60 Stratocaster, the Ellis set revealed full yet clear tones from all positions, with classic snap, just enough compression in the attack to ease up the forward edge, and great bloom into the note as you let it hang. I won’t describe them as “instant SRV” or “pure Jimi” tones, but I found the set could achieve a little of anything I wanted from it, with rich, bountiful tones throughout. The Fat bridge definitely has more grind than the typical Strat bridge pickup, pushing the JTM-45 clone with a Tele-like aggression that is beefy and mean when you slam it, but never hard or harsh, nor muddy like typical overwound pickups. That said, it still quacked and jangled when I asked it to, unleashing loads of shimmer in arpeggiated chords picked down near the bridge. All in all, this is just a sweet, superb set of pickups, and an upgrade that adds layers of depth even to this fine guitar.

MODEL

MID-TALL TELE NECK/BROADCASTER BRIDGE SET

CONTACT facebook.com/ronellispickups
PRICE $350 per set (including paper-in-oil tone cap)

SPECIFICATIONS

MAGNET Alnico V neck, Alnico III bridge
DC RESISTANCE 7kΩ neck, 10kΩ bridge
COIL WIRE sourced to proprietary vintage specs; 43 AWG neck and bridge
KUDOS Excellent vintage-voiced character yet with more depth and body than many original pickups achieve. Great touch-sensitivity.
CONCERNS None, if you’re prepared to wait.

50/60 STRATOCASTER SET WITH FAT BRIDGE

PRICE $350 per set (including paper-in-oil tone cap)

SPECIFICATIONS

MAGNET A mixture of Alnico II, III and V poles in each pickup
DC RESISTANCE 6kΩ neck, 6.4kΩ middle, 10kΩ bridge
COIL WIRE sourced to proprietary vintage specs; 42 AWG neck and middle, 43 AWG Fat bridge
KUDOS Outstanding vintage transition ’50s-’60s tones in the neck and middle positions. Superb depth, with more grind and bite in the bridge position. Great touch-sensitivity.
CONCERNS None, if you’re prepared to wait.

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