They’re loved by St. Vincent, Dan Auerbach and Ry Cooder – but what’s behind the Gold Foil pickup resurgence?

Gold-foil pickups
(Image credit: Future)

What is a Gold Foil pickup exactly? Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer, because the only feature common to all Gold Foil pickups is a layer of textured-foil covered paper or cloth beneath cut-out metal covers. It serves no sonic purpose and is merely there to smarten up the look and keep dirt, sweat and debris away from the coil.

‘Gold Foil’ is really just a catch-all term for a range of pickups that often differ significantly in looks, construction and tone. They weren’t all produced by the same company and vintage examples were made in the US and Japan simultaneously and independently. 

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Huw Price

Huw started out in recording studios, working as a sound engineer and producer for David Bowie, Primal Scream, Ian Dury, Fad Gadget, My Bloody Valentine, Cardinal Black and many others. His book, Recording Guitar & Bass, was published in 2002 and a freelance career in journalism soon followed. He has written reviews, interviews, workshop and technical articles for Guitarist, Guitar Magazine, Guitar Player, Acoustic Magazine, Guitar Buyer and Music Tech. He has also contributed to several books, including The Tube Amp Book by Aspen Pittman. Huw builds and maintains guitars and amplifiers for clients, and specializes in vintage restoration. He provides consultancy services for equipment manufacturers and can, occasionally, be lured back into the studio.