The master’s apprentice
Tom Doyle is one of those rare characters in the ever-long musical instrument production play that not only shadowed the Shakespeare of electric guitar, but also quickly became Les Paul’s right-hand man. Much like the Roger Mayer and Jimi Hendrix partnership that yielded some of the most iconic tones ever through science and art, the alchemical adventure of Tom Doyle and Les Paul was one of vision, heart, hands and the transmutation of wood, wire and metals into tonal gold.
The quest for the perfect ’57 PAF has been carried out by countless pickup manufactures from the biggest names in the business, right down to the boutique builders and hobbyist pickup-winders. However, there is only one man who was right there in the thick of it, working with Les Paul on early Kalamazoo Gibson pickups. This decade-spanning process of reverse engineering, experimentation, rewinding, magnet swapping and Gaussing was continued right up until Les Paul’s last days and was one of his final obsessions. After his passing, Tom Doyle made it his mission to realize his mentor’s dream. Today, we are looking at the manifestation of two magnetic masters’ work: The Doyle Coils TRU-CLONES PAF Humbuckers.
The articulation proclamation
The first thing that sets the TRU-CLONES apart from the chaff of cosmetic look-a-like PAF copies is the crystal clear touch translation they achieve. This is possibly the highest-fidelity humbucker I have ever heard. This sharpened aural edge never sounds spikey and exposes a complex, harmonic bloom that contains that wonderful hint of compression we love from humbuckers, without the middy murky byproducts. Keeping this in mind, you can still enjoy those half-cocked wah tones with a roll-off of the tone knob. The 3D tonal spectrum achieved here is due in no small part to the level of detailed craftsmanship under the hood of these high-impedance, dual-coil dynamos. One secret to this complex concoction is that the coils within each humbucker are specifically mismatched for holographic harmonic emissions that are tonally topographic. The magnets are even Gaussed in the shop for a consistency not found in vintage PAF pickups.
All the thud without the mud
Though Les Paul and his iconic guitar will always be associated with a thick, rich sound, he was always looking to create a humbucking pickup that rang as clear and true as possible. This became one of Les Paul’s late obsessions and he left meticulous notes, parts, specs and other breadcrumbs for his friend and co-inventor to follow down the tone trail after his passing. Tom Doyle carried this torch onward and illuminated the dark caverns of vintage tone, shedding light on perhaps the deepest abyss of tonal darkness: the neck position humbucker. While everyone enjoys the heft, sustain and liquidity the Les Paul neck pickup provides, I think most of us who find ourselves in this position end up having to fiddle with the ampifier tone stack to get some of our definition back. This age-old quandary has finally been put to pasture with the Doyle Coils TRU-CLONES and no matter what position the selector switch is in, you will enjoy burst and sparkle to garnish your thump and grind.
What we like: Vintage 42-gauge wire, butyrate bobbins, nickel silver baseplates, maple spacers and carefully Gaussed long cast magnets come together for a celebration of one of the most toneful relationships in the history of guitar. These are the only modern PAF style humbuckers I have heard that come close to this kind of clarity and presence. Get this limited edition, USA made set of TRU-CLONES PAF Humbuckers while you can.
Concerns: At $500 per set, this is a costly tone venture, but when you consider that the price point includes peerless pedigree, lifelong persistence and R&D from the Godfather of Modern Guitar, it all becomes clear. Tom Doyle has completed a titanic tonal tribute to his late mentor and friend, clearly proving that input from Les… is indeed more.