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We had a chat with Mark Stow, owner and founder of OX4 Pickups. Made in the UK, OX4 Pickups are each hand-wound by Mark himself. Having carved a strong reputation for the OX4 low winds, based off the revered original PAFs, OX4 Pickups has now expanded to feature P90s, Strat pickups and some incredible takes on famous recorded tones from the golden era of guitar. In this brief chat, Mark generously offers his thoughts on pickups winds, magnets and tone.
I use A4 magnets as standard. Originally I measured the gauss on my original 57 magnet and had my A4 charged to that spec.
Here are my thoughts on different Alnico:
A2 – Warm sounding magnet with rounded top end, works great in low wind pups.
A3 – Has a great mid-range punch with a nice compression when digging in.
A4 – Clarity, dynamics, harmonics, it’s all there! Nice top end bite at gig volumes.
A5 – Works well in hotter pickups as it pushes the mids and trebles and keeps it all tight.
I think low winds bring out the natural sound of the guitar; you can hear the wood coming though. Also, because the pickups are low output you can turn the amp up louder and drive the tubes harder and get that natural breakup. Of course higher wound pups with A5 mags can do this at lesser volumes!
I have played many vintage guitars and amps, and the sounds are just magical! Like many I was fascinated with the Les Paul and the 59 PAF tones; they’re all over the old records we know and love today, the tones are timeless. Of course the wood and the amp are a big part of the tone but the pickups are doing their thing. Researching the way the were wound and how that had an impact on the end results got me thinking: I wonder if I could do something like that?
I’m a musician and play in a few different bands so I started to make my own pickups and would try them out in a live situation and see how they performed. It was always my intention to make a pickup that could stay clear and cut through at gig volumes. It took ages to get something I was happy with, after lots of wasted wire, experimenting with winds, listening to different PAFs, and having records of all the different OHMs. When I found a recipe I thought was perfect at gig levels I was happy.
I called it OX4 as I was making the pups on the dining room table and it was the postcode of my flat, so I thought it was a cool idea. A few friends heard what I was doing and asked me to make them replacement pickups, and soon I was getting emails from all over the world. In the early days I was using off-the-shelf parts but with my own source of magnets and wire. The magnet and the wind is the key to the sound. It was later when I decided I wanted to visually have a pickup that looked bang on like an original PAF that I reverse engineered a 57 PAF. After many months of CAD measurements and prototyping I had tooling done on my own bobbins, baseplates, covers and keeper bars, so now an OX4 pickup looks and sounds like an original (to my ears!)
Every pickup is made to order and I’m proud to be small part in the chain of tone!
For more info and to see the OX4 Range head here
To shop OX4 Pickups in Australia see here
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