Pickup maker Wolfe Macleod formerly worked for Warmoth, Tacoma Guitars, and Stump Preacher Guitars, and has been winding pickups under his own Wolfetone brand since 1998. Based in Lake Forest Park, Washington, Wolfetone manufactures the three most popular replacement types—Tele, Strat, and P-90—but is perhaps becoming best known for his vintage-style humbuckers, which are made to what might broadly be categorized as Gibson’s original “PAF” style. I tested a neck-and-bridge pair of each of his two most popular humbucker sets: the vintage-wind Dr. Vintage ($270 per pair, uncovered), and the “overwound-PAF” style Marshallheads ($260 per pair, uncovered). A variety of covers are also available.
Well made with neat tape wraps and wiring, all four pickups give an impression of quality and pride of workmanship. The look is straight-up PAF-style humbucker, without any internal effort at aging or “vintage” cosmetic treatments (though the Wolfetone Legends set goes that extra mile for $300 a pair). The Dr. Vintage pair features mixed black-and-cream “zebra coil” bobbins, alnico II magnets, and measure 8.05kΩ bridge and 7.5kΩ neck. The Marshallheads have double black bobbins, alnico V magnets, and measure 9.0kΩ bridge and 8.2kΩ neck. All are wound with 42 AWG enamelcoated wire, and carry vintage-style singlecore wiring with braided shielding.
Loaded into a recent model Gibson SG Standard and played through a Matchless Spitfire, a tweed Fender Pro, and a Fryette Sig:X, the Dr. Vintage pair offers a considerable improvement in clarity over the stock Gibson 57 Classics, with comparable output power. The Wolfetones capture a noticeable portion of that edge and bite that I remember from many of the better genuine PAFs I have played, with a slightly gritty “zing” reminiscent of good P-90s, but are still creamy and fluid into an overdriven amp. The Marshallheads retain good note separation and overall articulation for overwound pickups, but they definitely drive the amps harder, issuing easier crunch from the old-school amps, and greater sizzle from the high-gainer, with noticeably more midrange “bark” at all settings (also available with alnico II magnets for players who want more lower-midrange growl). Either set, however, could be a great replacement option if you’re chasing your own flavor of PAF-style tone.
Kudos An authentic-sounding PAF-style humbucker with good clarity and characteristic bite.
Kudos Increased drive and midrange thump for harder-rocking styles, with little sacrifice of clarity and articulation.
Contact WolfeTone, (206) 417-3548; wolfetone.com