mercredi 11 septembre 2013

Bill Lawrence L500-XL

Some kind of monster

Never a pickup has been so controversial, subject to love, hate and dispute.
Aside the controversy that arose by 2k between the two Bill Lawrence brand former co-owners, which is indeed the pickup succes result, let´s get focused on the L500-XL and its unique sounding.

My 1995 Cort Sterling with total pickup upgrade :
DiMarzio Virtual PAF neck DP196
Fender Tex Mex bridge
Bill Lawrence USA L500XL
My Washburn Culprit bought in 2007, came with
the Bill Lawrence USA L500 XL. Note the reverse
position with the hot coil on neck side to get more
string amplitude then power. Neck pickup is
Seymour Duncan 59' for a full Dime setup.
Twin blades humbucker

First this pickup has a singular design making it identifiable at first view, it´s a humbucker but having  one blade per bobin instead of six classical round poles.
The blade design has been made famous since then with single coil format humbuckers as the Seymour Duncan Hot Rails.


Sharp sound

The L500-XL sound follows two characteristics :
 - Very high output
-  Medium high shifted sound
It gives a brutal sounding, the clean sound is almost a caricature of very high output stratocaster, but when feeding a hi-gain pre-amp, it bumps out unrevealed harmonics, givind a specific and agressive sounding.
Although it´s brutal, it´s also very clear, articulate and accurate because the high power acts on a norrow frequencies range, those the ear is sensitive to, then making a violently audible sound.
The most famous guitarist who endorsed this pickup is Dimebag Darell, who wrote the bigest stories of the L500 : Cowboy from hell with Pantera.

The guitar that made it famous
Dimebag Darell's "Dime from hell" w/ Bill Lawrence USA L-500XL

Nowadays three different flavours of the pickup are available :

-  Bill Lawrence USA L-500XL : The original
This is the pickup issued by the original Bill Lawrence factory, Dimebag bought at StewMac and used in his Dime from hell. It is identifible with its twin thin and flat blades, a design that appeared in 1984, before the blades were thicker and slightly curved.
It has the dramatic characteristics it´s famous for. It won't fit everybody's taste but i's unique. My image for this is lemon juice syndrom, either you hate or love it, but in the second case any other choice seems dull sweety.
In the 90's it became the OEM pickup for signature models from Jackson and Washburn for Dave Mustaine, Dimebag Darell or Nuno Bettencourt this later using the 500L version with lower output.
Deprecated as "fake" by its designer Willi Stich who left Bill Lawrence company in 1984, a campaign widely supported by devot worshippers in forums, this pickup is the one that built the whole history and is the premium choice.

- Wilde L-500 : The consensual 
Willi Stich, the original designer of the pickup went back to affairs in 1996 with the boom of the internet. After the dispute that ended in 2007 with a court trial giving the whole brand rights to Bill Lawrence USA , he finally branded his products as Wilde and produces his version of the pickup where he introduced changes making the beast a more consensual pickup.
This pickup includes further modification gathered by its conceptor from his OBL, Gibson and Fender experience. On second hand market there are variation of its characteristics depending on the creator mood of the moment.
It combines the high output with a wider frequency response, making it more versatile, but missing the radical sound of the original. Nuno Bettencourt is reknown to use this one.
It's also known as B&B for Bill&Becky from the first name of Stich (renamed Lawrence) couple .

- Seymour Duncan SH-13 Dimebucker : The ultimate

When Dimebag endorsed Seymour Duncan, he could rely on the huge experience of the company. His wish for a model signature gave a fantastic result. Dime had indeed several different pickups on his guitar from the stock BL USA to specific prototypes made by Willi Stich. This later argues for a reverse engineering assuming the Dimebucker is just a copy of the former.
But Seymour Duncan went through a specific research process giving  Dime different prototypes and adjusting up to get the one that became the Dimebucker.
The Dimebucker is in the end very close to the original USA, slightly punchier and thicker, to sumarize a L500-XXL !

Wich one sounds the best ?
Up to your choice here is the test everybody was waiting (not my work).

A German made OBL
This German brand is Willi Stich creation in 1986 after he left his american company two years before. It stands for Original Bill Lawrence. I suppose the production was done by Hahn in Germany as this trademark submision from 1987 supports. The production ran till 1989.

A Gibson's made OBL after they bought the name to their
contractor Willi Stich

Later in 1991 W.L Stich  sold the OBL name to Gibson as he was contracting for them. Gibson produced then OBL pickups for Epiphone midrange guitars, users quoted them as valuable hot pups.

Those OBL has also been subject to Willi Stich disparagement after he sold the brand and make to Gibson.
OBL trademark ended in 2008.

An Epiphone NightHawk with OBL Pups. Gorgeous.
I'll make a post on the Bill Lawrence history later on. Reason is I discovered a fabulous pickup regarding the different Duncan or Dimarzio I already got and this marvel was deprecated in many forums against any logic.
The OBL case gives a clue on deprecation capacities of some of the protagonists.

"Hurl your calumnies boldly, something is sure to stick." (Sir Francis Bacon - De Augmentis Scientiarum - 1623).

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