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The Difference Between A Regular PAF Style Humbucker and A Filtertron Style

by vaughn skow October 02, 2018 3 min read 1 Comment

Howdy toneful friends!  Last week I had a really interesting guitar in the shop, it was a sweeeet orange Chet Adkins Country Gentleman... but not the Gretsch you might expect, this was a Gibson version!  These are top-notch instruments in every way, and certainly rival the Gretsch models in quality.  However, there is one very glaring difference: the pickups.  The Gretsch comes equipped with real-deal Filter'Trons, while the Gibby has run of the mill humbuckers, which turn to mud in these guitars.  Now if mud's your thing, great, but most folks will find the tone downright uninspiring, and that is PRECISELY why this guitar was brought to me; the owner had already switched the pickups to Jason Lollar's low-wind Imperials but she was still muddy!  Let's talk about why.

What we're talking about here is the difference between a Filtertron style pickup and a standard PAF style humbucker design.  See here's the thing, and this is important:

A Filtertron design (like my V-Trons) is ENTIRELY different than any other humbucker, and as such, nothing else sounds anything like it!

Here's the real rub: lots of folks including even Gretsch themselves are making regular old humbuckers ... putting covers on them that kinda LOOK like filtertron covers ... and calling them Filtertrons!  Shame!  That brings us back to the low-wind imperials, even if the bobbins were wound to exact filtertron spec ... they still don't stand a gost of a chance at sounding like a Filtertron.  Are ya curious as to why?  Well, let's dissect the differences!


Take a look at the filtertron bobbin compared to a standard bucker bobbin ... totally different geometry!  Yep, that matters.


Here's a BIG one, the filtertron baseplate has about three times the mass of a standard bucker baseplate, that means more INDUCTANCE!  Plus, those claws you see coming up from the bottom hold the pole-screws firmly against the magnet for higher Gauss levels at the pole-pieces.


But wait ... look at this, yep, the 'tron's magnet is TWICE the size of the bucker's!  Yep, this means twice the surface area for the pole-pieces to contact with the magnet resulting in even higher Gauss at the pole-pieces!


Speaking of pole-pieces, check out the 'trons big screws!  Your eyes are no deceiving you, they ARE significantly larger than the standard PAF style screws, and way more massive than a PAF style slug.  This translates into not only higher Gauss, but more induction, too!

So, let's put the pieces together.  A typical 'tron only reads about 4K of DC resistance, about half that of a typical bucker, this is, of course because they are wound with about half as much wire.  But the tron ALSO has way more inductance and magnetic Gauss; the result?  The result is a pickup that really does stand in the gap between a single-coil and a humbucker; it is hum-free and it does sound a good bit stouter than a single ... but because of it's higher inductance and Gauss, it's quite bold, yet WAY brighter/janglier than a humbucker, even a "low-wind" humbucker.  I like to call them downright bubbly.  In a hollow-body or semi-hollow body they are pure magic.  Don't believe me, drop some in your guitar and let your ears be the final authority ... oh, and don't forget to thank me :-)


Vaughn Skow

1 Response

David Pack
David Pack

June 08, 2024

I love this article! I absolutely loathe humbuckers. That is, with exception to the Filter’Tron. I think my subconscious thinks it’s a single coil. I’ve always wondered why they were so different and now I know! People have said I’m crazy when I say that my Gretsch and my Jazzmaster sound a lot alike. But through the amplfier that I built, EQ wise, they’re almost indistinguishable. Thanks for this information!!! By the way, the speaker cabinet I built rocks a Warehouse speaker!! Phenomenal.!!!

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