Gibson PAF pickups – Gibson’s now legendary humbucking pickups (PAF refers to ‘Patent Applied For’) are amongst the most sought after electric guitar pickups, notable for their rich tone and highly distinctive sonic character.
They were designed by Gibson engineer Seth Lover in 1955.
These pickups began appearing on production guitars in 1957. Original Gibson PAFs are now scarce and very expensive, so most major pickup manufacturers produce copies of the original PAF design, however from time to time a guitar appears on the vintage market which has the original PAF pickups from the period 1957 – 1961.
The Gibson ES-175D (pictured here) is one such guitar and is indeed a rare find. Plugging this instrument in to a quality tube/valve amplifier you can immediately hear what the fuss is all about.
There is something just ‘other-worldly’ about these pickups and they have a sweetness and clarity that is very hard to find now even in the best of the modern day replicas.
Incidentally, the curious adopted name of the pickup was not intentional. Seth Lover and Gibson first filed a patent on the design in June 22, 1955. The pickups, featured a sticker on the bottom plate that said ‘Patent Applied For’.
The full patent was eventually issued on July 28, 1959. As it took more than four years to get a patent number, the previously unnamed pickup had been termed a “PAF” by many guitarists during the period the application was pending, and this name stuck even after the patent had been issued.