When we talk about Brown-E pickups here, let’s just be clear that it’s obviously a nod to Clapton’s 1956 Fender Stratocaster “Brownie”. This is a fairly basic Strat construction. Alder body, maple neck and maple fingerboard. Clapton is digging “broken in” guitars at the time and finds this one for about $400 in 1967. Primarily known for two studio albums (“Eric Clapton” and “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs“), Brownie was auctioned for charity in 1999 for close to $500k. So, hold on to those Strats fellas. HaHa!
Back in 1956, Fender is using 42 gauge Formvar guided by hand to about 8000 turns. Hand-guided is essentially the same as wound by hand. That does not mean someone sits there and spins the bobbin by hand 8000 times, laying the wire with the other hand. Yes, there are people that see “hand wound” and think that. LOL! A machine spins the bobbin and the person guides it by hand. This is also known as scatter winding, as a human will not have the accuracy to lay down wire with the precision of a CNC (for example). So there are inherent inconsistencies, which are also part of the magic.
For an idea of the sound for the Brown-E set, let’s consider the goals. Much of the tone of 1970’s self-titled “Eric Clapton” is quintessential Stratocaster snap and a mean slinky snarl. After Midnight, Blues Power, and Let It Rain are fine examples
“Layla…” is recorded almost immediately after “Eric Clapton” and also hit the streets in 1970. To really hear what Clapton is doing, we have to work very hard to listen beyond the legendary slide guitar of Duane Allman. Bell Bottom Blues, however, is all Clapton and an excellent listen for Brownie at work. The title track is a big fat lesson in complimentary noodling throughout each verse. Hard to imagine that this album was considered a commercial and critical flop at the time of release.
Factoring those elements into the Brown-E set, you get chimey highs and bold lows. They work together to give the Brown-E pickups a rounder tone. The mids are voiced to compliment that fatter character while keeping things from getting harsh.
For installation, the Brown-E set goes in a 1990 American Standard Stratocaster with a maple neck and board. I am using the Mojotone Solderless Strat Blender Harness, so install is a snap. This harness lets me blend in some neck to positions 1 and 2, and some bridge into positions 4 and 5. Since Clapton is all about the 2nd and 4th positions, that makes it fun.
Mojotone partnered with Lee Dickson on these pickups. Lee is the tech that was with Clapton for 30 years. He is an authority on Clapton’s tone. The Brown-E set is an excellent nod to the mid-50s Fender single coil pickup. It is crisp and clear and articulate. With dirty and clean amp tones alike, the Brown-E is transparent and is conducive to pristine sustain. Every position of the selector switch is a totally usable voice adding to a full tonal palate.
Since I’m a high-gain player, you know I definitely went around the block with some juiced-up amp tones. Let me tell you, the Brown-E set can stand right up to that challenge and deliver the goods. Every single riff, lick, and trick is within reach here, making the Brown-E set much more versatile than one might expect. This is a truly impressive set of single coil pickups. If you’re not a Strat player, these will make you want to become one.
How about some specs?
Resistance – 6.825 K
Inductance – 2.765 H
Magnet – Alnico 5
Resistance – 6.325 K
Inductance – 2.437 H
Magnet – Alnico 5
Resistance – 6.385 K
Inductance – 2.453 H
Magnet – Alnico 5
Yep, those numbers are all fairly similar. That’s how it’s going on back in the day. Make them all the same, stick them in a pile, and grab them randomly for installation.
Let’s look at a demo:
While the Brown-E set is clearly a take on a specific tone on a few albums in the early 70s, they are more than that. As the example is a set of mid 50s single coils, there is a lot that the Brown-E pickups are capable of doing. Country, Surf, Jazz, Blues, Funk, Pop, Classic Rock, Reggae, Texas Blues, and more!
You can find the Brown-E pickups as singles or as a set, as well as in a loaded pre-wired pickguard in a wide selection of pickguard options. Pickup cover choices include white, black, mint green, parchment, cream, and aged white. They are also available via the Amazon link down below.
For reference, this Mojotone Lee Dickson Brown-E Strat pickup set evaluation was conducted with a Fractal Axe-Fx II XL+ featuring Celestion Impluse Responses and Fractal MFC-101 MIDI Foot Controller. Real cabs in use are Marshall 1960B, Mojotone British, and Peavey 6505 cabs loaded with Celestion Classic Series Vintage 30s, Classic Series G12M Greenbacks, and Heritage Series G12-65s.