Review: Vuorensaku Custom Pickups S. Kamiina set

Vuorensaku Pickups Package

Not all custom pickups are created equal.

Most custom winders seem to be on the hunt for the ”ultimate vintage experience”, whatever that really means. Those makers try to source the most vintage-correct materials and try to zone in on the right way to bring their pickups to the desired authentic NOS specifications. For a Fender Stratocaster this could mean either going for a dry and woody Fifties-style tone or for a juicier and grittier Sixties version.

Vuorensaku’s Saku Vuori fearlessly approaches the subject of custom pickups from a different angle. The result is a pickup set with a refreshingly personal sound that isn’t frantically trying to reclaim past glories.

The Vuorensaku S. Kamiina set’s (prices starting at around 200 €) is based on thicker magnet wire, compared to what an original Fender pickup uses. The S. Kamiina set is wound using 40 AWG gauged wire, while most classic Fender creations use 42 AWG wire (except the Telecaster’s neck pickup, which is wound with a thinner 43 AWG wire). The thicker wire in the S. Kamiina set is complemented with Alnico II magnets, which are a milder type of magnet than Fender’s preferred Alnico V variety.

Vuorensaku’s set includes a reverse wound/reverse polarity middle pickup, resulting in hum-cancelling switch positions two and five. The set’s bridge pickup has received a few extra windings for a little bit of extra output.

In terms of its electronic values the Vuorensaku set clearly differs from your traditional Strat pickups:

The resistance of a regular Stratocaster singlecoil lies in the ballpark of around six kilo-ohms, with a typical inductance of  2,3-2,4 henries. The pickups in the S. Kamiina set read 2,2 kΩ for resistance (bridge pickup: 2,3 kΩ) with an inductance of two henries.

Judging by these numbers only, we can surmise that the Vuorensaku pickup set will probably sound brighter than a traditional vintage Strat set, while also having a slightly lower output.

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Vuorensaku Custom Pickups S. Kamiina Set

Saku Vuori was kind enough to provide a S. Kamiina-equipped Classic Series Fender 70s Stratocaster for this review. The guitar has an ash body, as well as a maple neck with a maple fingerboard. For comparisons I used my own Fender Japan Stratocaster with one-piece maple neck and an alder body.

I was right in expecting the  Vuorensaku set to sound brighter than most vintage-style Stratocaster pickups, but the supposed drop in output level is of a more theoretical nature than of real practical importance. The S. Kamiina set imbues the 70s Reissue with a very cool Gretsch- or Rickenbacker-type jangly tone and grit. The Vuorensaku pickups also feature a cleaner lower mid-range, when compared to traditional Stratocaster pickups.

For comparison purposes the first (neck pickup) and last (bridge pickup) phrases of the sound clip have been played using my own vintage-style Strat, while the five phrases in between have been recorded with the S. Kamiina set (starting with the neck pickup):

The presence lift in the Vuorensaku set is also easy to spot in distorted sounds. The S. Kamiina’s delivery is a bit more aggressive and in-yer-face, which isn’t a bad thing at all.

For comparison purposes the first (neck pickup) and last (bridge pickup) phrases of the sound clip have been played using my own vintage-style Strat, while the five phrases in between have been recorded with the S. Kamiina set (starting with the neck pickup):

The demo song contains four guitar tracks:

• two rhythm guitar parts – left channel: neck and middle pickup; right channel: neck pickups

• a mystically floating backing guitar: middle and bridge pickup

• lead guitar: neck pickup with the tone control turned halfway down

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Turenki Tonefest 2015 002

If you’re an stickler for authentic vintage specs, the Vuorensaku S. Kamiina set probably isn’t what you’re looking for – these pickups are no mere vintage clones.

If you’re after a brighter tone, though, especially if you dislike the neutrality of many active pickups, the S. Kamiina set is definitely one to check out! Vuorensaku’s pickups will breathe life into a dark-sounding guitar, while also giving your controls a wider tonal range to work with. These are pickups that won’t mush up.

By the way:

Saku Vuori applies his ”low output principle” to other Vuorensaku pickups, too, like the Telecaster- and P-90-style pickups he uses in his handcrafted Vuorensaku T. Family guitar models.

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Vuorensaku Custom Pickups S. Kamiina set

Stratocaster sets start from 200 €

Additional options: pickup cover, relicing

Contact: Vuorensaku

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Pros:

+ handmade in Finland

+ original sound, no vintage copies

+ rw/rp middle pickup

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