Tom Doyle completes the late, great Les Paul's final project
By Paul Ridden
August 13, 2014
When guitar virtuoso and tech innovator Les Paul died five years ago, one of his last projects was an attempt to create high impedance humbuckers that matched the clear, dynamic sparkle of his beloved low impedance pickups. Sadly, the Reaper took the Master before his endless experiments hit pay dirt. But his collaborator and guitar tech for over four decades has picked through Les Paul's numerous experimental models and prototypes, his extensive notes and hotchpotch of parts and joined the dots to realize his friend and mentor's dream and create the Tru-Clones PAF 57 humbucker.
Tom Doyle was friend, confidant, collaborator and luthier to one Lester William Polsfuss, better known as Les Paul, for over 45 years. The man after whom Gibson's iconic guitar is named was a relentless perfectionist and his co-inventor and engineer got a front row seat to all the successes, and the failures, of Les Paul's relentless sonic experimentation, noting that Les Paul "would tinker, test, and experiment on things he wanted to fix tirelessly – almost to the point of obsession."
For the last five or six years before his death in August 2009, Les Paul's passion was to try and breathe new life into the high-impedance pickup to make it clearer and punchier. Doyle says that the virtuoso guitarist felt that the lower register of humbuckers was a little too muddy for his liking.
"Tom and Les took pickup after pickup apart, experimented, put them back together again, installed pickups in countless guitars, rewound them, added and took away stuff, did endless comparisons and explored innumerable variables," said Doyle's Business Relations Manager Max Stavron.
Unfortunately this final project was not completed, but Doyle has continued the quest for the Holy Grail of tone and developed a set of PAF humbucking pickups which are said to "deliver an extraordinary combination of clarity and warmth, sweetness and definition, all with a fidelity that captures every nuance of the player and their guitar."
PAF stands for Patent Applied For, which reflected the status of a new no-name humbucking pickup model invented by Gibson engineer Seth Lover in 1955. By the time Gibson was granted the patent in 1959, Les Paul guitar owners were calling them PAFs, so the name has stuck. Unfortunately, though the original PAFs are prized for their reference sound, the output and tone can vary considerably.
Ensuring era correctness and vintage detail, Doyle has used silver base plates, butyrate bobbins, maple spacers, alloy slugs and fillister pole screws, 42 gauge enamel wire and long cast magnets (magnetized in-house to spec). He's even had the vintage covers made by the same manufacturer as the originals. Naturally Doyle is keeping the secret sauce that brings it all together pretty close to his chest, but says that the Tru-Clones offer players a chimey, bell-like clarity with buckets of string definition and dynamic response.
"For his entire life Les strove for a guitar sound that was as clear, crisp and even-sounding as possible," said Doyle. "I'm thrilled with the result, as I know Les would be."
Each limited edition Tru-Clone PAF pickup is hand-made to order to Les Paul's secret recipe and shipped as a neck and bridge set in a wooden presentation box with a certificate of authenticity for between US$500 and $535, depending on finish.
Of course, there's little point breaking out the soldering iron to install these new pickups if your existing wiring is just not up to the task, so Doyle has also created a vintage wiring harness upgrade kit for an extra $150.
There are a number of audio clips on the company's website, but the video below shows the kind of sounds you can expect once your new Tru-Clones are installed in your guitar.
Source: Doyle Coils