Filter’Tron Pickups – Should You Try Them?

Curious about Filter’Tron pickups?

Filter’Tron pickups have long been associated with the warm signature sound of Gretsch. Ever since Chet Atkins wanted pickups that could get rid of the hum on single coils, the name has remained popular among musicians like Malcolm Young, George Harrison, Pete Townsend, and Billy Gibbons.

In this short post, we will take a good look at these pickups, their construction, what gives them their characteristic sound, and how you can incorporate them into your playing style.

Let’s get started!

What Are Filter’Tron Pickups?

You may know humbuckers to be fat and warm, and many players prefer them over single-coils. Filter’Tron pickups are also humbuckers but they are low-output, and the first of their kind to be made.

filtertron pickups on a guitar

To understand Filter’Tron pickups, first, we need to understand how pickups are made. Most pickups have some form of DC resistance, and the higher this value, the higher the power output. The Seymour Duncan Jason Becker Perpetual Burn Trembuckers, for instance, feature 12.11 kOhm DC resistance. Metal pickups can go even higher.

Compare that to the measly 3 – 5 kOhm resistance of the Filter’Tron pickups, and you’ll quickly realize why they’re called low output. This is the reason why manufacturers place them quite close to the strings – so they can capture the string vibrations better and reproduce a bright sound.

Some think Filter’Trons sound like single coils with more warmth but to me, they sound in-between.

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What Makes Filter’Tron Pickups Sound Different?

Instruments sometimes produce a low-frequency noise called hum (or cycle hum) which is undesirable. Humbuckers try to get rid of this by having two coils that are arranged opposite in polarity and thus try to cancel electrically induced hum. The very first double coil was built by Ray Butt but Gibson supposedly filed a patent before he could; these pickups were called PAF humbuckers if you’re interested.

Filter’Tron pickups sound like how you’d expect electro-acoustic instruments to sound. Tonally, they resemble both single coils and warm PAFs and are low output. One thing you’ll find interesting about them is that since they are low-output, Filter’Tron pickups are usually placed closer to the strings to compensate for the low power.

For many musicians, hum-canceling ‘humbuckers’ are a great choice over single coil pickups but if you would like to experiment with a Gretsch-like tone, Filter’Tron pickups are a fantastic option.

What Are Filter’Tron Pickups Great At?

As we discussed earlier, Filter’Tron pickups sit somewhere between single coils and double coils – this makes them quite versatile and you can match them with pretty much any genre out there.

The sound of Gretsch guitars has become synonymous with soft-rock, blues, indie, and funk thanks to their crisp and clear sounds. The tone is full of bass tones without sounding muddy and also sounds bright – this combination is great for both rhythm and lead, and we’re quite sure you will find some use for this tone.

Filter’Tron pickups sound cleaner, and are slightly brighter than humbuckers – and while both of them were built to cancel hum, the former doesn’t offer as much low-end.

That said, you should probably avoid using them for metal as they lack the tight low-end required for high-gain playing. If you’re into chugging 0s, you simply won’t get that crunch and thick tones you’re looking for – you should look out for some heavy humbuckers instead!

We recommend using Filter’Tron pickups together with a fuzz pedal so you capture their excellent tonal output.

Now that you know a fair bit about how the sound of a Filter’Tron pickup lends to a wide variety of genres including rock and blues, we hope you give these sweet pickups a shot someday!

Types Of Filter’Tron Pickups

While the most popular kind of Filter’Tron pickup is the Gretsch one, there are two more types of Filter’Trons you may want to know about – Full’Trons and Broad’Trons.

The basic principle is the same but the Full’Trons offer higher power output and sound fuller as well. But this comes at the cost of clarity.

In contrast to the Filter’Trons that don’t have extended lows, the Broad’Tron pickups have a fantastic low end and also react well to high-gain playing. So, if you’re looking for a Filter’Tron that works for genres that require distortion, check out the Broad’Trons!

Final Thoughts

We hope you have learned something new about Filtertron pickups in this post.

Technology has been advancing rapidly – and we believe there will be more fascinating things to explore. Filter’Tron pickups are a blend of single coils and humbuckers and for players who would like to have a bit of both, they are a fantastic choice!

If you liked reading about Filtertron pickups, you may also like our post on reading EQ cheatsheets or learning about the 3nps major scale patterns.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Filtertron pickups any good?

It depends on what genre you want to use Filtertron pickups with, and what kind of sound you are expecting to get. You cannot use these pickups with aggressive high-gain styles but for anything else, these sound great!

How are Filtertron pickups different from single coil pickups?

Single coil pickups do not have hum-canceling configurations and usually have much cleaner sounds, so they lend themselves well to twangy styles. Filtertron pickups offer lower power output but don’t have an annoying hum associated with them.

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