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Bill Lawrence USA vs Wilde Pickups "Bill & Becky" L-500XL


Who is better--Ace Frehley or Tommy Thayer? Ozzy Osbourne or Ronnie James Dio? Jason Newsted or Rob Trujillo? Since time immemorial, inquiring minds argue whether a replacement can be as good as the original. Sometimes the meaning of "original" itself fades over time. What is irrefutable is that the precise, heavy and defined guitar tone of Dimebag Darrell has been pursued by metalheads for over two decades. For the majority of his career, Dimebag famously utilized Bill Lawrence L-500XL blade pickups, until Seymour Duncan created their version of the pickup: the Dimebucker.  This is a is a list of equipment used:

  • Bill Lawrence USA L-500XL
  • Wilde Pickups ("Bill & Becky") L-500XL
  • Kam Axiom guitar with removable /interchangeable pickup modules
  • Marshall Valvestate VS65R Amp; amp distortion only
  • Shure SM57 Mic
  • Behringer Xenyx Q502USB Mixer
  • British Shorthair "Hubert" aka "heavy metal cat"


Background
Today there are two private competing companies manufacturing a visually similar pickup marketed as the L-500XL:

  • - Bill Lawrence USA is owned by Jzchak (EZ) Wajcman, one of two founders of the original 1965 “Bill Lawrence” Guitar Pickup Company (Lawrence Electro Sound). Jzchak partnered with Willi Lorenz Stich (aka Bill Lawrence) until 1984. EZ eventually took ownership of the Bill Lawrence trademark and original equipment, on which pickups are still made today.

  • -Wilde Pickups, also known as "Bill and Becky," are manufactured by Willi Lorenz Stitch (Bill Lawrence) and his wife Becky. The family has long claimed that the pickups sold by EZ Wajcman are "counterfeit" and have implied that the trademark passed to EZ Wajcman unfairly.
    Generally, it is not uncommon that a "named" brand passes to another person or company. In the guitar business, the Charvel brand was passed from Wayne Charvel to Grover Jackson, Kramer was passed from Gary Kramer to Dennis Berardi and Peter LaPlaca, etc. Examples of this are many and they don't imply that the quality is negatively impacted after the brand is contractually passed to another party or company.
    Willi Lorenz was born in 1931 near Cologne, Germany and passed away on November 2, 2013. It is unclear whether his family will continue the business after his passing.

It is likely that Dimebag actually used both brands of pickups, "Bill and Becky" which characteristically have a chrome housing,
as well as those manufactured by EZ Wajcman as Bill Lawrence USA. EZ's pickups were sold for many years through Stewart McDonald,
and Dimebag has famously quoted that he's bought his Bill Lawrence pickups from Stewart McDonald.

The Experiment
In a burst of impulsiveness and obsession that only guitar fanatics could understand, I contributed a lot of time and money to solving the question of comparing the two pickups.
  • First, I purchased both sets of pickups: Bill Lawrence USA from eBay and Wilde Pickups "Bill and Becky" from http://www.wildepickups.com

  • Second, I purchased a Kam Axiom guitar, which allows pickup swaps in seconds once pickups are wired to plug-n-play pickup "modules": http://www.kaminstruments.com/axiom_guitars.htm
    Please see below for a full comparison of the two sets of L-500XL humbuckers.



Bill Lawrence USA L-500XL arrives in a nice plastic box.


The pickup is in a plastic, epoxy-filled housing. The pickup ring is curved around the pickup, which creates a signature look.
The pickup had slight dings and scuffs despite being factory sealed, testament to a boutique production.


Bill Lawrence USA: pickup back, with characteristic two phillips head screws and "Bill Lawrence USA" imprint.


Measuring the pickup inductance: 11.74 kOhm




Wilde Pickups L-500XL arrives wrapped in bubble wrap.


The pickup is in a signature chrome, epoxy-filled housing. There are slight imperfections in the pickup's appearance.
The body is made entirely of plastic.


The back includes a "Made in USA" sticker, a sticker with pickup model, and another sticker with Bill Lawrence's signature.


Measuring the pickup's inductance: 15.53 kOhm! Right away it is clear that the pickups are not exact copies of each other.
I have heard anecdotally that Wilde Pickups had recently changed their pickup magnet to Alnico, vs the original recipe
retained by Bill Lawrence USA with a Ceramic magnet.


Just for the fun of it, I weighted the two pickups on a scale. Wilde Pickups (on the right) is 10 grams heavier than the BL USA.


Next, I installed the pickups on Kam Axiom modules. The pickups are wired to Switchcraft male terminals screwed to the module.
Wires are soldered to the leads inside the Switchcraft terminals.


Side view: BL USA inside a Kam Axiom module.


Side view: Wilde Pickups inside a Kam Axiom module.


Modules next to each other, with a listing of pickup color codes for both. Pickup codes are totally different.


Kam Axiom loaded with a Wilde Pickups L-500XL.


Metal cat "Hubert" inspecting the KAM Axiom neck. Watch him go nuts around the 0:30 second mark in the video!


My recording setup: a Marshall Valvestate VS65R miked with a Shure SM57. I dialed up generic warm settings I normally
wouldn't utilize: Gain, Treble, and Bass on 10; Contour at about the 50% mark.



I utilized a Behringer Xenyx Q502USB Mixer right into my MacBook Pro. I used the laptop's camera, therefore the poor image quality.
For the side by side test, I did a quick jam on some metal riffs. The first half is BL USA; the second half is Wilde Pickups.
Check out the video below and decide for yourself!



Conclusion


First, I think both pickups sound very good. Even without external effects, the pickups sound excellent for heavy music.
The two L-500XLs sound similar, but I found Wilde Pickups to have more mid-range grind vs the Bill Lawrence USA. Either way
I think the two are so similar that you will not be disappointed, regardless of which one you end up buying.




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