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Old 01-18-2018, 05:50 AM
m_g m_g is offline
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Default Eastman T-386 - changing pickups

Hello, first post here, long time lurker.

I own an Eastman T-386. The many positive reviews on this site helped me make the choice at the time. After over a year I'm still very pleased with it and have no intention of parting with it. Very resonant, very nice playing.

I've started looking into some pickup alternatives, and needless to say, the choice is vast. I have a budget of about $250 new for a set. In that price range the upper limit would be a set of Bare Knuckles. I'm also very interested in the OX4 humbucker, endorsed by Jason Isbell, who has a great sound. It's often difficult to judge if small brands truly represent an upgrade compared to better known brands, but it seems to be the case with these two. They're not much more expensive than Seymour Duncans in my country. P90s also have my interest but I wonder if the change would perhaps be too radical and I might regret it. Any other suggestions?

The sounds I'm going for are the more traditional kinds of tones in jazz, rock'n'roll/billy, blues and Americana. In jazz I like too many players to mention from Kenny Burrell to Benson to Mark Whitfield. In rock some of my favorite guitar tones are on the Lucinda Williams album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, and as mentioned Jason Isbell's sound is about as good as it gets for me. Those represent the maximum gain levels I would play at. I'm not into the blues/rock thing at all, British blues etc. at all. Unfortunately, those are often the kinds of tones demonstrated on builders' sites and Youtube.
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Old 01-18-2018, 10:02 AM
stevecuss stevecuss is offline
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I used to own a T386 - I think it is the best value 335 style guitar you can buy and you've already identified its main weakness compared to a Gibson - the pickups. I encourage you to consider upgrading the wiring and pots while you're at it. You can accomplish all that for your budget and it will really help with your tone.

As you've noted, there is an overwhelming choice of great options. I went with Duncan Seth Lovers when I was chasing options. I tend to be, so I bought them preowned for a bargain. They offered a noticeable improvement from the stock Armstrongs. I only know the Bareknuckles by reputation. My friend owns a very nice Collings 335 with Lollars - it looks and plays beautifully, but we couldn't notice an audible difference between the Eastman with Duncans and the Collings with Lollars, if that is any help. No doubt, the Collings build quality was night and day with the Eastman, but the sound was basically identical. To that end, I find that pickups and pedals tend to trick the brain into thinking, "the latest boutique product is THE product that will finally make me sound good." But Vince Gill sounds like Vince no matter what he plays and Mark Knopfler is instantly identifiable whether playing a Strat or a Les Paul. Tone really is in the fingers and personality more than the gear, so I tend to try to upgrade without buying the current fad.

Its also very much worth chasing some genuine Gibson Humbuckers - the 57's are a fantastic pickup.

My preference is for lower output humbuckers and looking at your tonal/musical preferences, it sounds like that's your leaning too. You can always add gain, but can't take it away and the classic rock sound is often low output pickups through a cranked tube amp.

One final thought - are you managing the install yourself? The Eastman F holes are particularly tight and tricky to navigate.

I hope that helps - best wishes on the search!
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Old 01-18-2018, 11:36 AM
muscmp muscmp is offline
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it is difficult to buy 12 sets of pickups, install them and return the ones you don't like, if the seller accepts returns. thus, i recommend that you stick with the name brands such as gibson, seymour duncan, dimarzio, lollar just to name a few.

unless he has changed, jason was playing a les paul and a deusenberg so those are completely different guitars than your eastman, which seems to be more of a 335 type.

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Old 01-18-2018, 09:17 PM
clintj clintj is offline
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Seth Lovers are what I had in my Eastman as well. They're a good choice if you like nice, clear, vintage style tones but can be a bit uncontrollable at high volume/high gain amp settings.

There's not much reason to not upgrade the wiring harness at the same time, since you have to remove it to replace the pickups anyway.

And +1 on the tight F holes. That work wasn't a whole lot of fun.
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Old 01-19-2018, 01:23 AM
m_g m_g is offline
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Thank you for the great answers! I knew I could count on this forum for a more measured response than say, The Gear Page ("I just installed [insert name of esoteric or $500 pickups here] and man, the difference with the Seth Lovers is just like night and day"). The SLs definitely warrant a second look, especially as, per your experience, they seem to work well in the T-386. Though I have to say those UK winders are not a lot pricier here than Seymour Duncans now, due to the weak pound. I will definitely have the electronics changed in the process. As to doing the work myself, a reputable local tech quoted me a reasonable price, and it would take me 10 times longer to do the work myself, possibly making a mess of it - definitely not worth the chance.
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