After playing that '59 Tele at NAMM outfitted with Barden pickups and the heavier than stock bridge plate, I had to have a set of Bardens. They are very expensive and mine cost me close to $500 for the pair.
The Bardens were designed for Danny Gatton...he and Albert Collins and Roy Bucahana are my very favorite Tele players. And having spent years trying to approximate Danny's tone with everything from the original '54 pickups that came in my '54 Tele guitar to Duncan Antiquitys to Duncan Custom Shop Tele pickups like the CS Jerry Donahue and A2 Tapped Tele Hots and custom wound pickups from Lindy Fralin I now see that the secret to that Danny Gatton tone is the Joe Barden pickups.
Installed everything yesterday morning: Barden bridge with compensated brass saddles and Barden neck and Tele pickups. I replaced the Fralin Blues Specials that have been in my '54 Tele for several years now.
The Barden bridge is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship and a little heavier steel than a regular Tele bridge plate. And the compensated brass saddles Joe makes are the nicest I've ever used...much tighter fit.
All I can say is the Bardens are worth every penny. They sound just as spectacular in my Tele as they sounded to me in Bill Kirchen's Tele that Curly and I had a chance to check out at NAMM.
The Bardens have been described (by me no less! ) as having a hi-fi tone but nothing could be further from the truth. They are ballsy as all get out for soloing but back off on the guitar's volume and they clean up beautifully.
The highs are strong but smooth and not ice picky at all. And the sustain is just unbelieveable.
Simply put, the Barden neck pickup is the finest sounding Tele neck pickup I have ever used and so is the bridge pickup.
Output is stronger than the Fralins that were in this guitar but the tone is more focused and both clearer and ballsier at the same time.
Through my Deluxe Reverb the bridge pickup sustains like a paf humbucker...and pinch harmonics sail off effortlessly. I've never found it easier to do pinch harmonics than with the Bardens. I can even do pinch harmonics with the neck pickup!
I spent something like four hours just playing my "new" Tele yesterday...until my ears were ringing.
With the Bardens, I can get close to the tones of all of my favorite Tele players: Albert Collins, Danny Gatton and Roy Buchanan included...and they bring out my own tone and style and the sounds I'v ebeen hearing in my head for thirty years but been unable to find on my Tele until now.
Now here's my suggestion to the Seymour Duncan Company: since Joe no longer makes the Barden pickups PLEASE talk to Joe and see if you can license the design and manufacture these spectacular pickups from Joe Barden the way you do the Bartolinis.
IMO, there are no finer Tele pickups on earth than the the Barden Tele pickups...and at $500 a pair they are worth every penny if you're a dedicated and truly serious Tele player.