Best PAF Pickups: 5 Choices for Classic Warm Tone

Electric guitar pickups are essential components that shape the sound of the instrument, with PAF (Patent Applied For) pickups being one of the most sought-after styles since their introduction in the late 1950s by Gibson. Coveted for their warm, rich, and articulate tone, these pickups have become synonymous with classic rock and blues music, and their design has been replicated and modified by numerous manufacturers over the years. The best PAF pickups are characterized by their lower output and smooth sound, which is a result of their unique construction and materials used, including the type of magnets and the number of wire windings.

When in the market for the best PAF pickups, it’s important to consider the type of magnet used, the quality of the wire, and the winding pattern, as these factors greatly influence the overall tone and response of the pickups. The magnet type, typically Alnico II, III, or V, affects the pickup’s warmth and clarity, while the winding affects the output and articulation. Authenticity in reproducing the original PAF sound is also a key consideration, with some brands going to great lengths to closely match the materials and specifications of vintage models. With a careful selection process, we have identified some of the top PAF-style pickups that capture the essence of the vintage sound, providing that classic warmth and complexity that guitarists desire.

Best PAF Pickups 5 Choices for Classic Warm Tone

Top P.A.F. Pickups for Guitarists

In our search for the perfect tone, we understand the significance of high-quality pickups. P.A.F. pickups are renowned for their ability to provide a warm, vintage sound that’s both rich and clear. We’ve curated a list of the best P.A.F. pickups to help you achieve that classic humbucker tone, enhancing your guitar’s voice with both depth and detail.

Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates

Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates pickups

Whether you’re chasing the classic ’59 Les Paul tone or seeking to add some snarl to your guitar, our experience says these pickups deliver.


  • Captures the essence of vintage P.A.F. with added growl
  • Versatile tone with rich midrange emphasis
  • Handcrafted build ensures quality and authenticity


  • May not suit those looking for modern high-output tones
  • Price point could be high for budget-conscious musicians
  • Specific sound character may not blend well with all music genres

Our recent session with the Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates set really brought our Les Paul to life. The snarl and bite these pickups provide feel like a bridge between old-school warmth and modern grit. You can count on them to push through the mix, thanks to their unique midrange punch.

There’s a certain satisfaction in hearing those harmonics sing just right, whether you’re digging into bluesy bends or firing up some Texas heat. The clarity we noticed across the strings gave each note its due recognition, standing out crystal clear even during complex chord work.

It’s evident that these Pearly Gates pickups are more than an upgrade; they’re a transformation. They don’t just change the sound; they evoke that raw, legendary energy that feels like it’s straight from a classic rock anthem. And while they’re not a one-size-fits-all solution, for those chasing that vintage allure, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more suitable offering.

DiMarzio PAF 36th Anniversary Edition

DiMarzio PAF 36th Anniversary Edition

If you desire a quintessential vintage tone with modern reliability, the DiMarzio PAF 36th Anniversary pickup is a worthy contender.


  • Faithful vintage tone replication
  • Versatile for both clean and distorted sounds
  • Customizable appearance and wiring options


  • Might be too bright for players seeking darker tones
  • Uncovered option may not appeal to all aesthetically
  • Lack of color options for certain guitar styles

We had the pleasure of outfitting a prized guitar with the DiMarzio PAF 36th Anniversary pickup, and the results were nothing short of captivating. The attention to vintage detail is evident in the clarity and warmth of each note, creating an expressive canvas for both clean and overdriven sounds. Switching between gentle strumming and aggressive picking, the responsive nature of this pickup impressed us with its dynamic range.

Our experience revealed that whether you play jazz, rock, blues, or even metal, this pickup adapts with ease. The harmonics are rich and the sustain is generous, thanks to the careful winding process and the choice of Alnico 5 magnets. We found ourselves entranced by the pickup’s ability to articulate each note, even when using more complex chords.

For guitar enthusiasts who cherish vintage aesthetics as much as sound, the nickel cover option is particularly fetching – it not only looks the part but enhances the magnetic transparency for a purer tone. And for those of us who favor more personalized setups, the flexibility in choosing wiring and leg lengths is a significant boon, allowing us to dial in our desired sound with precision.

In conclusion, the DiMarzio PAF is a remarkable reproduction of the timeless humbucker blueprint. Its sonic character brings out the best in our guitars, breathing new life into our cherished melodies. Its versatility in tone and customizable features make it a staple in our collection.

ProBucker Alnico Set

ProBucker Alnico Set

We found this pickup set infuses new life into guitars, boasting a truly vintage tone that’s both warm yet crisp.


  • Harmonic richness enhanced by Alnico II magnets
  • Pleasantly surprised by the ease of installation with no soldering required
  • Noticeable upgrade from standard epiphone pickups


  • Wire slack in the pre-wired harness could be more generous
  • Original pickup covers might be necessary for optimal fit on some guitars
  • Some units may have soldering issues in the harness

Upgrading our trusty guitar’s pickups with the ProBucker Set was an enlightening experience. Immediately, the tonal quality of our instrument was transformed. What once was muddy and lackluster now sparkles with clarity, delivering those sought-after vintage vibes in spades.

Not only did our sonic landscape expand, but we also reveled in the simplicity of the installation. It was refreshing to forego the soldering iron, as these humbuckers connected seamlessly with their quick-connect system.

A small hiccup presented itself in the form of the pre-wired harness which, while convenient, could benefit from a bit more wire slack. Also, a few fellow players might find themselves needing to repurpose the original pickup frames to ensure a snug fit.

Our final thoughts rest on the surprise held by such an affordable upgrade. Upon strumming those first chords, the buttery-smooth sounds that escaped our amp confirmed that the ProBucker Set is a wise choice for anyone longing to reinvigorate their guitar’s performance.

Wilkinson Alnico 5 PAF-Style Set

Wilkinson Alnico 5 PAF-Style Set

If you’re in search of a cost-effective pickup upgrade that delivers classic vintage tones, this set is a solid choice.


  • Offers a rich, dynamic vintage tone with Alnico V magnets
  • Versatile for various styles with coil-splitting capability
  • Effortless installation for most common Les Paul and SG guitars


  • Included screws may not be suitable for all guitars
  • May not match the high-end performance of more expensive brands
  • Total of 20 reviews might not be sufficient to gauge long-term reliability

Having swapped out many pickups over the years, we found these Wilkinson Alnico 5’s to be surprisingly versatile for their price point. The rich, warm tones breathed new life into our Les Paul project guitar, transforming its sound profile with unmistakable vintage flair.

The ease of installing these pickups made the upgrade smooth and hassle-free—except for a minor hiccup with the screws. We ended up using the ones we had on hand, so be prepared for that possibility.

We were particularly impressed with the pickups’ dynamic range. Whether it was clean or overdriven tones we were after, they responded well to touch and adjustments in attack. The coil-splitting feature added a layer of tonal versatility that isn’t always a given in this price range.

Please note that these are not the cream of the crop when compared to some high-end pickup brands, but for those looking to upgrade a secondary guitar or indulge in a DIY project, these pickups are certainly worth considering. Although the number of reviews is somewhat limited, our hands-on experience tells us the Wilkinson Alnico 5’s performance is reliable and their sound, quite commendable.

FLEOR PAF-Style Humbucker Set

FLEOR PAF-Style Humbucker Set

We recommend this set for anyone looking to upgrade their guitar’s tone without breaking the bank.


  • Enhances clarity and adds warmth to your guitar’s sound
  • Pickup set install smoothly with included hardware
  • Vacuum sealed to reduce noise and unwanted feedback


  • Metal covers prone to shipping dents
  • Some reports of microphonic issues despite wax potting
  • Chrome may appear thinner compared to high-end models

After installing this FLEOR pickup set, we were immediately struck by the crisp, clean tones complemented by a rich warmth that truly transformed our guitar’s sound. It’s reminiscent of vintage PAF pickups and provides a noticeable upgrade over standard stock options.

The pickups give new life to any Les Paul-style guitar with their Alnico 5 magnets, providing articulate and dynamic sound, especially when working the volume pot. It helps us hone in on that sweet spot between overdriven and clean, depending on how hard we dig into the strings.

Even with a moderate price tag, the FLEOR pickups impressively offer a level of quality that punches above their weight. They meld seamlessly into a wide array of genres, from bluesy crunch to rock ‘n’ roll’s roar, making our guitar not just louder, but more expressive.

Buying Guide

When selecting the best PAF pickups for your guitar, several key features must be assessed to ensure an optimal match for your instrument and playing style. We will discuss these attributes in detail to help make an informed decision.

Sound Quality

The essence of a good PAF pickup lies in its sound quality. We want a rich, warm tone with the right balance of brightness and depth. Consider the type of music you play and the tonal qualities you seek. Some pickups offer a vintage sound reminiscent of the classic rock era, while others may provide a cleaner tone suitable for modern genres.


The output level is another crucial aspect to take into account. The pickup’s output can drastically influence the guitar’s final sound. High-output pickups produce a more aggressive and punchier tone, well-suited for rock or metal, while low-output pickups are typically associated with blues and jazz, offering a smoother and clearer sound.


Not all pickups will fit every guitar, so it’s important to verify compatibility with your instrument. Ensure that the size and format of the PAF pickup you’re interested in are suited for the cavity of your guitar. This helps avoid any unnecessary modifications that could affect the guitar’s value or integrity.

Materials and Construction

The materials and build of a PAF pickup contribute significantly to its performance and durability. Here’s a table summarizing the commonly used materials:

MaterialCharacteristicsImpact on Tone
Alnico MagnetsWarm and smooth with different typesAlnico II: Softer, sweeter tone
Alnico V: Brighter, edgier tone
Copper WiringPurity of copper affects clarityHigh-purity: Clearer tone
BobbinPlastic or fiber; affects resonancePlastic: Brighter resonance
Fiber: Warmer tone


While primary focus should be on performance, the aesthetic aspect of the PAF pickups can also be important as it contributes to the overall look of your instrument. Consider the finish and color of the pickups and how it complements your guitar’s design.

Price Point

Cost is always a factor. It’s essential to balance quality with budget. While it may be tempting to go for the least expensive options, remember that a quality PAF pickup is an investment in your sound.

Installation and Maintenance

Lastly, consider the ease of installation and maintenance. Some pickups are easy to install and come with comprehensive instructions; others might require professional assistance, which adds to the cost.

Use these guidelines to make a wise selection that will enhance your playing experience and your guitar’s potential.

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