House Of Tone House Special S Type 1960 pickups review

Matthew Bascetta went from building violins and acoustic guitars to winding pickups, but he feels pickup winding and acoustic instrument voicing are closely related.

Pickup winders can adjust numerous small parameters that may have small effects individually, but together have a huge impact on tone. House Of Tone’s Matthew Bascetta equates the voicing of pickups to carving the braces of an acoustic guitar.

Building acoustic instruments taught Bascetta to listen and evaluate tone at a fine level and these skills were employed in extremis when developing the House Of Tone range with partners Nick Leech and Bob Grocott. The House Special S Type 1960 set was conceived as an `idealised’ 1960 Strat tone, based on readings taken from several genuine examples. Naturally, the ingredients include 42 AWG heavy formvar wire and hand-bevelled Alnico V magnets.

House Of Tone’s calibration process involves making the neck and bridge units first, and then taking resistance and inductance readings to determine the exact specs for the middle pickup. Vintage-toned sets are lightly wax potted to retain some microphony.

Since orders are taken on an individual basis, House Of Tone will discuss a buyer’s requirements and make sets to their specifications. If you want hotter windings or extra potting, simply email or phone to request it.

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Clarity was the first thing that hit me about this set. Without being brash or edgy, these pickups have a wide-open presence that’s seldom heard in modern sets. This airiness is balanced by a thick and woody midrange that lends power to chords and a vowel-like quality to single notes.

There are five very distinct tones. Try hammering on and off between two notes on the D string and move the selector switch back and forth rapidly and you’ll hear an effect not unlike moving a wah pedal. Not all Strat sets do this – unless you roll back the middle tone control. Strat bridge pickups always seem to be the hardest to get right- the HSST 60 bridge pickup sounds full, chimey and balanced, the wound strings have a springy `boing’ in the lower registers and there’s a pleasing hint of quack through the midrange.

The middle pickup is the woodiest of the three, and the quack is still there. I liked it best for clangy R&B rhythm and picking sinewy lead lines. There is also a complex, almost delicate refinement in the treble that made me want to play close note clusters to hear how the harmonics blended. Surprisingly, the neck pickup is the brightest. Even so, its positioning contributes to a big, bell-like tone. Despite the fatness, note separation is excellent with no clarity lost. For soloing, it has an eerie singing quality with superb pick articulation and full-bodied follow-through.

Both in-between positions are hum-cancelling and sound quintessentially `Strat’. Midrange scoop accentuates the hollow woodiness, and a slight compression of the transient attack makes both settings perfect for funk, blues and gentle chord melodies.

The vintage Strats I have enjoyed playing most all exhibited slight microphony, an airy and almost acoustic treble, full but clear mids and focused bass. The HSST 60 set ticks all these boxes, and more than holds its own with the real thing. Special by name and special by nature indeed.

Key Features
House Of Tone House Special S Type 1960 Set
Price £155
• Description Hand-wound vintage Strat-style pickups, made in the UK
• Specs 42 AWG heavy formvar magnet wire, hand-beveled Alnico V magnets, vulcanised fibreboard flat work, lightly wax potted
• Contact House Of Tone Pickups 07791 691251 houseoftonepickups.com
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