The Creamery is perhaps best known for making custom pickups for Tele, Strat, Jaguar, and Les Paul players who are looking for something a little different. Their Jazzmaster replacement has also earned a great reputation among aficionados of the classic Fender offset model. However, I wanted to explore some of this Manchester, England, maker’s newer humbucker- based designs, and to that end acquired one Filter’Tron-sized replacement set and another two sets to fit standard full-sized humbucker routes. All were tested through a Komet 60 amp and 2x12 cab and a custom-built AC15- inspired combo.
SUPER FAT BLACK CAT
As a variation on the efforts of other fine contemporary Filter’Tron makers, The Creamery’s Jaime Campbell designed this fuller, fatter and hotter-sounding replacement pickup that retains classic Gretsch clarity and definition while adding extra sizzle. A double-thick Alnico V bar magnet and plated-steel blade poles are hallmarks of the design, while the pickups’ dual coils are wound with 43-guage wire in a specific offset, asymmetrical pattern to add character and dimension. Mounted in a Thorn SoCal C/S guitar, I found the “Super Fat” Black Cats beautifully rich and dynamic, with good single-note articulation into cleaner amp settings, yet more than enough power to dig in and grind with just a little gain introduced. I have played most ’Tron variants on the market, and I don’t think any rock quite as sweetly as these, without entirely losing that Gretschy bite and edge. To my ears, they sound like a superb blend of vintage Gibson PAF and Gretsch Filter’Tron, with a hair of DeArmond gold foil thrown in, which makes them deserving of an Editors’ Pick Award in my book.
A renewed appreciation of Fender’s funky alternative Tele models of the ’70s has led to a renaissance for the Fender Wide Range Humbucker. A handful of makers—The Creamery among them—have picked up the torch in an effort to recreate an accurate rendition. The Baby ’71 is not that, as such, although it might be something even more exciting: Using 12 individually threaded magnet polepieces like the Wide Range, it re-sizes the original to fit a standard Gibson mounting ring, making “that” sound available to an enormous number of guitars. I tested the Baby ’71 set in a Gibson SG and found that they beautifully captured a ’70s Wide Range’s marriage of humbucker and single-coil, with the characteristic sweet top end, warm yet nuanced mids, and edgy bite that fans of the original are so into. The reshaped coil size changes the original’s voice in some ways, of course, yielding a tighter focus and a little less output, but the results provide a great alternative for humbucker players who seek an entirely un-PAF-inspired flavor. Cool stuff.
These Custom ’13 pickups were designed to fulfill a request by Bernard Sumner, guitarist and singer with New Order, for a humbucker with better-defined low-E, A, and D strings, and creamier, warmer G, B, and high-E strings. Campbell and Sumner used the sound of a pair of great P-90s in the latter’s vintage ES-330 as a template, moving the format to a full-sized humbucker to eliminate unwanted noise. The clever design uses a trio of custom magnets, combining threaded magnet poles under the three wound strings plus Alnico bar magnets with steel poles under the three treble strings—somewhat akin to grafting together a Wide Range and a PAF. In the Gibson SG the set delivered a great blend of single-coil-like clarity and treble couched in classic ’bucker thickness. The bridge pickup had plenty of bark and snarl, but I particularly liked the neck’s clear, silvery edge to the pick attack, leading to a buttery, rich follow through. As a bonus, the design lends superb string-to-string clarity amid overdriven tones. Just a little raw, yet well defined, and with a granularity that added characterful texture to everything. The Custom ’13s achieved The Creamery’s goals admirably, earning an Editors’ Pick Award.
SUPER FAT BLACK CAT
PRICE $109 each
MAGNET Alnico V
DC RESISTANCE 9.22kΩ neck, 10.16kΩ bridge
COIL WIRE 43 AWG
KUDOS A juicy, powerful alternative to the classic Filter’Tron, with excellent clarity, yet more power to rock.
PRICE $132 each
MAGNET Custom-designed individually threaded magnet polepieces
DC Resistance 7.68kΩ neck, 8.52kΩ bridge
COIL WIRE 42 AWG
KUDOS An appealing alternative to the original Wide Range Humbucker in a standard ’bucker mount; great marriage of single- coil and humbucker tones.
PRICE $135 each
MAGNET Alnico II, Alnico V, and threaded magnet polepieces
DC RESISTANCE 7.16kΩ neck, 8.3kΩ bridge
COIL WIRE 42 AWG
KUDOS A clever original design; appealing texture and bite that lend clarity to a humbucker that’s still rich and warm.
CONCERNS Not a major deal, but it might take some fiddling to perfectly balance the bass and treble strings’ output and voicing (and to that end, all polepieces are adjustable).