1948 Metronome ad

Close-up #48: Pickups, part 2 / 1946–56

In this two-part overview we look at the pickups Epiphone used in their electric guitars between 1935 and 1956.

Part 1 was dedicated to the pickups of the pre-war years – until 1942, when production of electric instruments was temporarily discontinued due to wartime material restrictions. This Part 2 covers the years from 1946 (when Epiphone relaunched electric instruments production after WW2) to 1956.

General remarks

After WW2, Epiphone introduced new pickup models which were more compact in size – due to much smaller magnets. This allowed the units to be mounted from the top – no longer requiring an access door in the back, as seen on pre-war electric instruments.

All post-war pickups were typically made in adjustable and non-adjustable versions: Adjustable poles were reserved for higher-end instruments, while low-end electrics came with simpler units. 

4. Black surface-mounted pickups (1946–48/49)

The first type of surface-mounted pickups looked similar to some of the the pre-war "Master pickups" (see part 1, 3.) – with an oblong, rounded, black plastic cover, and adjustable pole pieces for each string. However the construction was very different.

Since this pickup variant doesn't seem to be mentioned in any Epiphone advert or sales brochure, we don't know its "official" name.

Below the pickup on two 1946 Zephyr Spanish examples – note the large poles, without slots in these early versions.

Zephyr Spanish 25024Zephyr Spanish 25106

Soon the pole pieces were slotted – for easy adjusting with a screwdriver – as seen below on a 1947 Zephyr Spanish.

Zephyr Spanish 25240

As the disassembled unit below demonstrates, those large pole pieces were the actual single magnets – with threaded ends to be screwed onto a base plate: Their height could be raised/lowered individually by turning the pole pieces.

Master pu large polesMaster pu large poles

Below a 1947 Zephyr Spanish – note the small holes for each pole piece, allowing the threaded ends to move, plus an additional hole for the wires.

Zephyr Spanish 25313

On the Zephyr Hawaiian lap steel, pre-war style Master pickups (see part 1, 3) were used until c. 1947. The new pickup with large, adjustable magnets and a black plastic cover – below on a 1947 example – was only briefly used on this model, until 1948. Note the handrest.

Zephyr Hawaiian 7683Zephyr Hawaiian 7717Zephyr Hawaiian 7717

The low-end Century models came with a non-adjustable version of the new surface-mounted pickup: The same black plastic cover, but   one thick blade/bar magnet, instead of adjustable single magnets. This pickup required just one small hole for the wires drilled through the top.

1946 Century SpanishCentury Spanish 60027

Below a 1946 Century Hawaiian – non-adjustable version, with handrest.

Century Hawaiian 15036

Below a 1949 Kent Hawaiian – still with the black, non-adjustable pickup (handrest removed).

Kent Hawaiian 157

5. Tone Spectrum pickups (1948–52)

In 1948, Epiphone published adverts featuring the newly announced Zephyr Deluxe Cutaway model with the "Tone Spectrum Pick-Up" – pictured below. This pickup again used adjustable pole screws rather than individual magnets. 

1948 Metronome ad

The earliest versions of the Tone Spectrum pickup had the cover attached to the ring by 4 screws – as seen below on a Zephyr Spanish and a Zephyr DeLuxe, both from 1948. Some examples with white cover on a black ring, some black on a white ring.

Zephyr Spanish 25482Zephyr DeLuxe 75230

The 1948 Zephyr DeLuxe shown below sports a pickup with a big whitish/cream-colored ring around a black cover – like in the advert above.

Zephyr Deluxe 75261

Units with a white cover are more common – below on a 1948 Zephyr Deluxe.

Zephyr DeLuxe 75302

Tone Spctrum pickups on a Zephyr Hawaiian and a Duo Console, both 1948 models – note the tortoise plastic pickup ring which typically has a more rounded shape on lap steels. The Zephyr Hawaiian are the "serrated" type control knobs which Epiphone typically used in the 1946–1949 era.

Zephyr Hawaiian 7789 Duo Console 100036

The 1948–49 Zephyr Hawaiian below sports a transitional pickup with a goldish cover under the tortoise plastic ring.

Zephyr Hawaiian 7830

Below a c. 1948 Alkire Eharp – with a 10-string Tone Spectrum unit. Note the rounded, two-part pickup ring.

Alkire Eharp 110

By 1949, a redesigned version of the Tone Spectrum pickup appeared – with a large, square metal cover, as seen on the 1949 Zephyr DeLuxe below. Note that this is a single-coil pickup – although often mistaken for a twin-coil humbucker, because of its large size.

Zephyr DeLuxe 75317

The pickup requires just one small hole drilled, for the wires – as seen below on a 1948 Zephyr Spanish.

Zephyr Spanish 25671

Below two 8-string units on a 1948 Duo Console – with black pickup rings (handrests removed).

Duo Console 100104

Below the 10-string version on a c. 1950 Alkire Eharp – with a two-part pickup ring around the metal cover which is painted white.

Alkire Eharp 314

On the low-end Century models, a simpler version of the Tone Spectrum pickup was used – without adjustable poles, typically with tortoise plastic ring. Below a 1949 Century Spanish – note that this pickup is always mounted in the neck position on this model.

Century Spanish 60227

Below the non-adjustable version on a 1949 Century Hawaiian – note the rounded shape of the tortoise plastic pickup ring, as typical with lap steels.

Century Hawaiian 15109

By 1949, the large metal-covered Tone Spectrum became also available in a non-adjustable version – typically seen with black pickup ring, as shown below on a 1949 Kent Spanish. This pickup was used on the Kent Spanish model until 1951 – always in the bridge position.

Kent Spanish 3076

6. "New Yorker" pickups (1949–56)

In 1949, the large, metal-covered Tone Spectrum was again redesigned – receiving its final, more compact form: Actually named "Spectrum pickup" in the 1950 catalog (see picture below), this unit is commonly dubbed "New Yorker pickup" among guitar aficionados – probably to distinguish it from the later mini-humbuckers used in Kalamazoo-made Epiphone models.

1950 Electar catalog

On high-end models the pickup cover was gold-plated – pictured below on a 1950 Zephyr DeLuxe and a 1951 Zephyr Emperor Vari-Tone. Note the extra spacers to raise some of the pickups.

Zephyr DeLuxe Regent 61605Zephyr Emperor 63188

Below a nickel-plated version from a 1951 Zephyr Regent. Note the open bottom of the mounting ring.

NY pickupsZephyr Regent 62660

Below a pair from 1955 – now with rings of different height, instead of spacers. Their bottom is now closed, with a round hole for the wires. The opened unit shows a single coil lying on its side, with lateral bar magnets – one with pole piece screws.

1955 NY pickupsZephyr Regent 62660 NY pu open

Here a few odd ones: A smaller variant with 4 pole pieces on a 1951 Zephyr Mandolin, ...

Zephyr Mandolin 62061

... and gold-plated units with 4 pole pieces on a 1951 Zephyr Emperor Regent Tenor – a custom-ordered instrument, possibly one-of-a-kind.

Zephyr Emperor Tenor 63958

The pickup ring is cream-colored on the majority of "New Yorker" units, but there are also some (nickel-plated) examples with black ring – see below on a 1952 Zephyr Regent.  

Zephyr Regent 64560

Below a New Yorker pickup with 8 adjustable pole pieces on a c. 1954 Zephyr Hawaiian – no pickup ring, screws in two corners of the cover. Note the "ashtray"-style handrest with E-logo.

Zephyr Hawaiian 9115

Lower-end models such as the Century and Kent sported versions without adjustable pole pieces – on the Century always in the neck position, see the 1953 example below.

Zephyr Regent 66438

Most non-adjustable units came with a cream-colored pickup ring, but examples with black ring are not uncommon – see below on a 1954 Century.

Century 68306

Non-adjustable New Yorker pickup on a c. 1949 Century Hawaiian – no pickup ring, screws in two corners of the cover. By c. 1950, the Century Hawaiian was upgraded to adjustable poles.

Century Hawaiian 15178

Finally, adjustable New Yorker pickups were also available in a pickguard unit to electrify acoustic archtops – similar to Gibson's so-called "McCarty" pickups – in 4 versions, as shown in the 1950 pricelist pictured below: one or two pickups, either for cutaway or non-cutaway body. In 1949–50 pricelists, the Triumph Regent model was offered in versions with factory-installed single or double pickup pickguard unit.

1950 price list pg pickupsNY pickguard pickups

7. DeArmond pickups (1954–56)

Around 1954, Epiphone began to use DeArmond pickups on some of their electric models – however not exclusively: also New Yorker pickups (see 6.) were still installed – we see instruments with either pickup type often within the same batch. By c. 1955 DeArmonds seem to have been used exclusively.

Below gold-plated DeArmonds with adjustable poles on a 1954 Zephyr DeLuxe Cutaway. Note the pearloid pickup cover.

Zephyr Deluxe Cutaway 68632

This 1954 Zephyr Emperor Regent sports 3 gold-plated DeArmonds with adjustable poles, selectable by a 6-pushbutton-switch. Note the clear barrel knobs for tone/volume – typically seen on Epiphones with DeArmond pickups.

Zephyr Emperor 68212

The picture below is from an excellent website about DeArmond pickups – www.musicpickups.com. According to this source, Epiphone used a special version of the DeArmond Model 2000 pickup.

DeArmond Emperor

The picture below of a standard DeArmond 2000 pickup shows the spring-loaded magnets which can be raised/lowered by turning the adjustment screws next to them.

DeArmond 2000 pickup

Below a 1955 Zephyr Cutaway – adjustable poles, chrome finish, black pickup cover. (Detail picture from www.musicpickups.com)

Zephyr Cutaway 69298DeArmond Zephyr

Below a non-adjustable DeArmond pickup – on a 1954 Century, ...

Century 68946

... and on a 1955 Volpe. On the Harry Volpe model, this pickup was used exclusively.

Volpe 69042

Summary – pickups 1946–56

The table below summarizes the pickups used in Epiphone electric instruments after WW2. For earlier pickups see summary part 1. For detailed pickup info of any Epiphone model see models.

4. Black surface-m.
5. Tone Spectrum
6. New Yorker
7. DeArmond
non-adjust. or adj. poles
Zephyr H.
+ Console
adj. poles
adj. poles
adj. poles

adj. poles
adj. poles
adj. poles
adj. poles
Zephyr Deluxe 1946–48:
adj. poles
adj. poles
adj. poles
adj. poles
Kent Hawaiian 1949–51:


Zephyr Emperor     

adj. poles
adj. poles

Alkire Eharp
adj. poles

Note: This overview is subject to updates whenever new evidence surfaces.

(Mar 3, 2019; with later updates)