David Allen makes a lot of different Strat® pickups, maybe almost too many to figure out what to select. The variability of available sound-clips and videos only adds to the complexity. So when we decided to carry the line we asked David himself what pickups were most representative of the range. He recommended three sets: TruVintage 54, Tru ’62, and the Voodoo Blues SSS set. So armed with our trusty G&L Legacy (swamp ash, hardtail, Emerson wiring assembly, maple fretboard) we set about trying out all three sets to see how they compared.
Dave Allen TruVintage 54
As with many of the David Allen pickups, they don’t attempt to completely follow every excruciating construction detail of the original pickup. Instead they focus on creating the sound of a ’54 Strat rather than just replicating the construction. The TruVintage 54’s are wound progressively in the mid-to-upper 5K range and use staggered, beveled Alnico 3 magnets. Having never handled a true 1954 Stratocaster® (tonally these pickups are modeled after an actual set of ’54 pickups) we can only say that they sound the way we “think” they should sound: Exceptionally clean, glassy, with a bouncy low end. Characteristically, the bridge pickup is pretty light, and to some may only serve to pair with the middle pickup. But the Alnico 3 magnets lend enough sweetness to the high end that it’s not shrill or brittle. So you can actually use a distortion pedal with the bridge pickup and get some decent rock sounds. The TruVintage 54’s are textbook Strat, and hit the mark for those putting together the ultimate vintage Strat.
David Allen Tru ’62
Like the 54’s, the Tru ’62 set is graduated set, but wound from the low to mid 6K range from neck to bridge. They also use staggered magnets but in this case Alnico 5. They are rounder and warmer than the 54’s and a little less glassy. But they project a more soulful nature, and have a deeper rounder bass. There is also a little less quack to the positions 2 and 4, but in return you get one great sounding middle pickup. It’s got good low end like the neck pickup, but more twang and bite. It’s my favorite position of this set, followed by the neck + middle. Overall, the Tru 62’s are a slightly huskier sound than the 54’s but certainly won’t be mistaken for anything else than a Strat.
David Allen Voodoo Blues SSS
The Voodoo Blues set is a light top/heavy bottom set with a twist. The neck and middle pickups are wound to about 5.8K with staggered and beveled Alnico 5 magnets. These are right out of the David Allen ’69 Voodoo set, and you get one guess as to what tone they were aiming for. They are bright and glassy with a percussive and snappy low end. Just the ticket for some Jimi, SRV or Los Lonely Boys. The bridge is wound to 7.8K but instead of just more wire, it’s also a lighter gauge wire. The net result is more output without the loss of clarity and detail typical of a higher output pickup (technically a higher resistance without a big jump in inductance). So you get more punch and better pedal performance without a big tonal sacrifice. Players who want to rock their Strat but won’t compromise on looks or authentic tones will like the Voodoo Blues SSS set.
These pickups are not radically different from each other. It’s not like we were testing Hot Rails versus a vintage reproduction pickup. But in each case as we changed sets there was an “oh yeah, I can hear that” feeling as soon as we plugged in. We were not in total agreement on what we liked best either. My favorite set was the Tru 62’s while our new Sales Tech Eric liked the sweet-but-glassy tones of 54’s followed by the Voodoo SSS. For the moment, the Tru 62’s are staying in our Legacy, but the discussion is not over yet….