While a pickup is in essence a simple thing—basically a bunch of copper wire wrapped around a magnet—it’s the innumerable subtle differences among pickups that give each a distinct sound. Small variations in wire gauge, magnet material and shape, polepiece layout, and most important, wiring and coil-count, can result in immediately audible differences in sound. The Aero pickups reviewed here exemplify the boutique-pickup trend, especially because this set features a number of custom touches: They are the result of collaboration between Aero’s Larry Pollack and me.
Wanting to demonstrate the bespoke customization process available to Aero’s customers (the company also offers a big line of excellent off-the-shelf pickups), Pollack suggested I choose a bass from my personal collection and work with him on the set that would best capture my goals. While I love the stock Fodera pickups in my Fodera NYC Empire 5-string, I’m always open to trying new flavors, so I decided that’d be the platform for this review. First, Larry and I decided on the pickups’ winding option. Aero offers six dual-coil wiring options; I decided to go with parallel humcancelling (PHC), similar to the Fodera design. Next, Larry needed to know the instrument’s string spacing and pickup-cover size. When I sent a few measurements over, he quickly recognized that I was likely off by a few millimeters, given his experience with the Fodera NYC line. It’s that sort of general product awareness and attention to detail that ought to define the boutique experience.
The most fun part was availing myself of Aero’s custom wood-cover options. Wood is a beautiful alternative to the typical black plastic cover, and since it’s non-ferrous, it does nothing to interfere with a pickup’s performance. Wanting to accent my bass’ beautiful black-burst finish, I thought ebony might be a cool choice. Pollack agreed, but thought that a 100 percent ebony cover might be too vulnerable to cracking. Instead, he suggested a 4/3" ebony cap with a surround, accented with a thin maple laminate. To accomplish this, Pollack partnered with luthier Rob Elrick, one of the best in the game, who fabricated the raw cover blocks.
The resulting pickups arrived in a few weeks. They were absolutely gorgeous. I haven’t typically seen pickups as an especially lust-worthy part of a bass, but alone in their pretty box, I almost felt bad sticking them on the bass. Nevertheless, the installation was smooth, with the high-end construction revealing itself as I manipulated the four-conductor leads and got a closer look at the pickups’ internal construction.
Having got the install out of the way, I excitedly started playing. The Aeros are medium-output, hugely broad-spectrum, sparkling, full-bodied, and rich sounding. They have a ton of frequency response, with overtones shimmering from each note, adding a crystalline, but not at all brittle, character to the bass. They lend themselves well to EQ, given their even frequency response, but I was mostly so seduced by their intrinsic sound that I found myself running the bass flat most of the time, perhaps dialing out some treble with the onboard tone control.
The Aero pickups, whether in a custom cover or not, represent some of the best aftermarket options available. With the company offering many standard configurations, including P, J, MM, and a host of more esoteric styles, they must be a stop on your search for a swap.
Type 1 PHC Pickups
Street $320 (as tested, with custom wood covers
Pros Huge and even frequency response; sparkling overtones; rich midrange
Bottom line At this price, you ought to get the best out there. The Aeros deliver.
Winding Humbucking pickups wired in parallel
Cover Ebony with maple accent stripe and walnut surround
Made in USA