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  • Writer's pictureBarış Şahin

Interview with Wolfe Macleod of Wolfetone Pickups

In the vibrant world of electric guitars, the quest for the perfect tone is never-ending. For enthusiasts and professional musicians alike, the choice of pickups plays a pivotal role in sculpting their unique sound. At the heart of this sonic exploration is Wolfe MacLeod, the founder and mastermind behind Wolfetone Pickups, a boutique pickup workshop known for its dedication to quality, craftsmanship, sonic excellence, and true MOJO.

Wolfe has carved out a niche in the pickup industry by offering meticulously crafted pickups that enhance the musical voice of each guitar. With detailistic techniques and passion to traditional designs, Wolfetone Pickups has become a go-to for guitarists seeking to elevate their sound.

Today, we sit down with Wolfe to delve into his journey, explore the nuances of his pickups and discover what drives his passion for creating some of the most revered guitar pickups in the market.

I hope that i will present reviews of his flagship model "Marshallhead" and maybe more in the near future. I sincerly thank Wolfe for his time in his hard days. It means a lot!

Hello Wolfe. I want to begin my questions with a cliche. How did you find yourself in “Wolfetone Pickups”? How did you begin winding, make it your Daily job? I am aware of the “about” part of your website which is amazing so to say.

When I worked at a guitar company, I expressed an interested in it with a co-worker who formerly worked for Rickenbacher. He gave me 20 years worth of dead pickup he’d collected, a spool of wire, and asked me to rewind them.  A few weeks later, he came back and said “I don’t know what you did, but you’d better keep doing it” – so I did.

Your humbuckers became well known relatively after all, like Marshallheads. What’s the story of Marshallheads that praised by everyone? And what is so special about it?

The Marshallhead came about due to a request to replicate a particularly hot original PAF that had apparently been well known among those on the Les Paul Forum.  İt was named after the forum user that originally requested it.  It’s hot, raunchy, and still cleans up and behaves nicely when you need it to.

What inspired the inception of Wolfetone Pickups, and what sets your pickups apart from others in the market?

Working with the co-worker is what inspired the inception of Wolfetone, and then another former co-worker from Warmoth suggested it as a company.

How do you balance classic pickup designs with modern innovations? Especially 3D printing tech gives more freedom to pickup makers to do spesific bobbin designs, you know.

I don’t.  =)

Which specific qualities or features do you prioritize when designing your pickup models?

High quality parts that fit well together.

How do you ensure consistency and quality across your various pickup models?

Different spools of wire can be very inconsistent with each other.  Vintage style plain enamel wire can have a huge difference in ohm readings per 1000 feet, something like 1600 ohs to around 1800 ohms per 1000 feet.  When I order my wire, I specify a very tight ohm range – within 10 ohms – per 1000 feet.  So it’s +/- 10 ohms per 1000 feet of lenght.  This ensures a tighter than +/-3% tolerance that a very well known large company uses.    

Double Cream Wolftone Pickups

Which genres or styles of music do you believe your pickups cater to exceptionally well? Do you really think that lower wind humbuckers for blues players and high wind humbuckers for metal players? Can’t you play solid rock or metal with those 8K PAF clones? What do you think of prejudices going on “DCR” numbers solely?

Depends on the model of pickup of course, but it’s very possible to play metal on low output pickups.  Garbage in, garbage out.  I’m a big fan of feedign a clean signal and letting the pedals and amp do the work.  DCR is pretty meaningless.

Wolfetone Pickups logo

Are there any upcoming developments or fresh models in the pipeline that you're excited about?

We’re still working on our idea for a true P90 that fits (most) humbucker routs.  Injection mold tooling is ridiculously expensive though.

What challenges, if any, have you faced in marketing your pickups that stand out in a crowded market?

I’m part of the reason the market is so crowded. Early on, I formed the Pickup Maker’s Forum where we could go talk with other small makers.  Through that, hundreds of small makers sprang forth over the last 25 years.  For marketing, I don’t really do much of that at all, as I’m not really a salesperson and marketing isn’t really my thing.

Can you discuss the importance of period accurate materials like u.s. made alnicos, butyrate bobbins, nos wires etc. and their impact on pickups tonality? Does a “great humbucker” have to have those specs?

No, a great humbucker doesn’t have to have butyrate bobbins or period correct materials.  I’m not a believer in NOS wire, and think it’s marketing BS. NOS wire (if it can actually be found) is already 60+ years old, already has corrosion developing, insulation flaking off, etc.  Did it sound different? Sure.  Is it worth it?  No.  A pickup made with NOS wire isn’t likely to last very much longer.   And changes are high that peopel touting NOS wire are either winding new wire onto old spools, or swapping spool labels around.   To give you some idea, not once in my 25 years have I found a spool of NOS wire fir sale, and I’ve done a lot of looking....

How do you view the future of pickups in terms of innovation and technological advancements?

I don’t really think about it all that much.  But as far as tech advancements go, the Fishman Fluence pickups are pretty slick.

Wolftone Pickups

I strongly believe that someday “profiling pickups” or “modeling pickups” whatever you name it, will be a thing! Just like what happened to the amps. It is inevitable to me. If that happens, what will the boutique pickup makers do, how will they live on?

I think that’s kind of already happening.  However, while modeling a pickup might be able to capture the EQ and such, it won’t be able to capture the characteristics.... the responsiveness, the microphonics, stuff like that.

Gibson has a move against Dimarzio about their trademarks on “PAF” and Double Cream color humbuckers. What do you think about it? Do you think Gibson will free the double cream or will they make it worse for the company that not everything is going well?

Gibson will win.  I’ve been very vocal about that trademark and have research it – and all colord trademark – for 25 years.   A “functional” aspect of an item cannot legally be trademarked.  Color can be functional, such as the color orange for traffic cones, because it’s highly visible. 

How many guitars do you own? What’s your favourite? And what pickups do they have on?

Somewhere around 20.  My favorite is a Healtey Tradition (LP style) and it has a Marshallhead/Dr Vintage pair.  It’s an unreal guitar to play.

Whats your favourite pickup models from other brands? From Dimarzio, Duncan, Lollar or who else/what else?

I’m not really sure.  Interestingly, one of my favorite specific pickups is a cheap Korean G&B pickup that came stock in my PRS S2.  It’s got a certain characteristic to it that makes nearly every note on the neck morph into a harmonic after a few seconds of sustain.  But ONLY in that guitar.  And other pickups won’t really do it much in that guitar.  Just the right pickup, in just the right guitar, I guess.

What kind of pickups do you really dislike?

Strat pickups, and single coils in general.  Making them is a bit of a PITA.  My favorites are P90s.

Interview with Wolfe Macleod of Wolfetone Pickups

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