Howl, Growl, and Snarl: TTK Talks Tone With Wolfe Macleod of Wolfetone Pickups

Howl, Growl, and Snarl: TTK Talks Tone With Wolfe Macleod of Wolfetone Pickups

Marc Johnson for

“Find the guys with passion, and you’re bound to find good gear,” is quickly becoming a mantra at And, if there’s anyone who’s passionate about what he’s doing, it’s Wolfe Macleod of Wolfetone Pickups. From his frustrations about how few people play P90s, to his evangelism about the necessity for more mid frequencies in guitar tones, Wolfe’s passion about pickups and tone are only outweighed by his knowledge of them.

“Barring variances in spools of wire and insulation…I can get pretty damn close,” Wolfe says about his rewinds. And his claims seem backed up by Mike Soldano who, after playing three of Wolfe’s single coils pickups, said that they made a Strat “sound like a good Strat should.” Noting that the only difference that he could detect was that Wolfe’s pickups weren’t as noisy as classic Fenders. With that, in 1998, Wolfe started winding pickups fulltime, and, as a pioneer in his field, many of the current crop of winders have since benefited from his expertise.

Unlike the cookie-cutter pickup manufacturers, Wolfetone Pickups builds everything from scratch; including Strat, Tele, and Humbuckers. But the pickups that Wolfe has a particular passion about are P90s. When I asked him what his favorites were, without hesitation he replied, “I absolutely love making and playing through P90s!”

“There aren’t a lot of people who play P90s,” I countered.
“I know, and it bugs the hell out of me,” he retorted.

“Mean, nasty, and raunchy, but still able to clean up and be sweet when you want them to,” is how Wolfe describes his P90s. With three types of P90s simply named Mean, Meaner, and Meanest, they range from an output of 8k – 10k respectively. The Mean and Meaner both have Alnico 2 magnets to make for more midrange bite. While the Meanest has Alnico 5 magnets, “so as to not bleed off too much high end.” He’s even hard at work at a new hum-canceling P90 design, which is already in the testing phase at THD amps.

If classic rock be more your flavor out there in TTK-land, there’s the Marshallhead series that has blistering highs and a punchy midrange. With plain enamel wire and Alnico 5 magnets, these are for the “old school” rock guys out there. Also, there’s an Alnico 2 mod, if you’re more interested in a darker “smoky” tone. If that’s not enough for you, opt instead for the BlisterBucker and the Timbre Wolf  for more face-peeling power. 

One thing that you can only get with an independent pickup company, and many of them wont even do it, is custom pickup design. Wolfetone offers customization on many pickups. But if you want total custom, The Legend Series is the way to go. It starts when Wolfe asks, “what are you looking for,” and goes from there. What follows is Wolfe deducing what sound you want like some sort of sonic Sherlock Holmes. What guitar or amp do you play? How much output are you looking for? Do you want a more vintage or modern tone? All of these are taken into account when you order a Legend. Wolfe will even request some audio of the customer’s playing in order to get a feel for what you want. And if you’re not satisfied with what he has created for you, then send it back, and he’ll do it again.

At the same time, Wolfe is honest about the fact that his pickups are not going to make you sound like Van Halen. Calling that type of marketing “shady” and “slimy,” Wolfe points out what really should be obvious, “Unless you have that particular stompbox or that particular amp, it’s just not going to happen.”

Where Wolfe becomes the most passionate, is when he’s talking about his customers. “I would love to meet everybody who has ever ordered a pickup from me and deliver them to every one of them personally,” his voice flutters and he even gets a little choked up. The Wolfetone website even has numerous sound samples from his past clients. When I asked him what would be the one thing that people should know about him, he said, “There’s no B.S., and I’ll help you get what you want.” 

A recent review of Wolftone Pickups in Tonequest shows that Wolfe’s company is starting to really make a name for itself. And with a price range of $90 – $150, Wolfe does custom work without the heavy price, appealing to even the most meager of expense accounts. It’s impossible to deny Wolfe’s passion. And, in a world filled with cookie-cutter companies, is glad to see when passionate guys like Wolfe bring out the good gear.

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About the Author: Marc published his first novel Becoming in 2010. It’s a kick-ass book with monsters and dreams and stuff, and you should buy it. Since then, he’s written thousands of articles for, many of which have been picked up for circulation by manufacturers and other news outlets. His next book, Drugs and Pancakes, should be available early 2014 if his alcoholic editor can find time to work on it in-between destroying his liver and screaming about punctuation. He graduated from Roosevelt University with honors, which means that he’s not as dumb as he looks. He’s been playing guitar for over 25 years, which is almost twice as long as most of his students have been alive.

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