So while I should be studying for my exam in an hour, I thought I'd share my new experiences with the A8 Pearly Gates. I've been questing for "more rock" out of my Les Paul bridge pup, with the main threads being
So A8 sounds AWESOME in the PG. It started with A2 (sweet, but mushy), spent most of its time until now with A5. A5 sounded very good, close to what I wanted, but a little harsh in the highs, lacking some chunk in the lows, but it sounded like my guitar. With A8 the harsh highs are rounded off, not like A2 but just less intense than A5, while still very present even when rolling off treble/tone knob. Fuller highs, I'd say. The whole pickup just sounds FULL. The entire tone is very round, and very present. There is ROCKING kick in the lower mids, and this is what I've been wanting. On my Spider III I dialed up the Mesa model, turned the treble down a bit and pushed the mids, played an old riff of mine that I've always desired a certain tone for, and BAM it was there. Exactly what I've wanted for all these years. There is still complexity from the mismatched coils. Palm mutes are big, but not mushy. But one of the best things about it is that it doesn't sound compressed like the Custom or Custom 5 that I tried in this guitar. Big, hotter, but still sounds like a Pearly Gates and a Les Paul. For rhythm, it turned this guitar from a medium beast to a huge monster. The higher output and treble taming of A8 helps the lead tone sing rather than sting. There is nice string click when cleanly playing fast leads - not a compressed click, and it doesn't click if your technique is sloppy, but a good click when I nail the notes.
There may be some string pull but I can't really tell - I had the A5 PG pretty close to the strings so I did back it off with the A8. Cleans DO still sound good, but they are closer to breakup, and there's a tad bit of fizz - but its aurally pleasurable fizz. The A5 fizz was a bit much, but this fizz sounds more natural, more like an overdriven amp. Turning the guitar volume down to around 8 gets nice cleans though. Its just a "bigger" sound... more lower mids, sweeter top end, chunkier palm mutes, but without the drawbacks of ceramic magnets or the hotter Custom family. It still sounds organic, PAF, round, all that good stuff but it handles higher gain tones MUCH better than the stock PG and the A5 PG. I can not say how hot it is; less hot than a Custom though. Picking strength doesn't affect the tone as much as the A5 PG, but its not too hot to let subtleties in articulation come across... I actually find it easier to do clean articulations with A8. I do plan on using it for a jazz group and some blues soloing sounded nice.
I did some searches and "purist vintage with balls" was a phrase used to describe an A8 PG. I agree, though I don't have enough experience to be a purist. It is vintage with balls. I would not compare A8 to ceramic/A2/A5 because it just sounds different. I love it though, it is darker, kicks harder, and sings more sweetly than the A2/A5 PGs, has extra output but is not compressed. I am very satisfied, and while I haven't yet used it through my main amp at practice or a show, I don't see it leaving my guitar anytime soon. I'll make an addendum after I use it at practice. I may still try a 59/Custom hybrid, but this pickup sounds so good to my ears.
I got my A8 magnet from Wymore Guitars for 8 bucks plus shipping, they do sell them as singles.
I encourage anyone to try this if they want vintage with balls, vintage meets modern, any of that crossover ground without upgrading to a Custom. A8 turned out to give the PG many of the qualities I like. I can't compare it to other hotter PAFs like the Demon/Brobucker/PATB3, but the tone comes down to one word: awesome.