This is one of the most frequently asked questions i get and is a bit complicated because sound is relative to the person and is an individual taste What I like you ma hate so I will tackle the question in two stages from bother perspectives.
O first of all if you are a collector you need the correct pickup for your guitar no matter how it sounds. As crazy as it sounds a 100% original 1959 les paul that sounds like crap is better than the best sounding modified one in the collectors market. By the way never really hear a bad burst!!.
Wth that said here we go. I personally think that a PAF pickup has a bite and a sound the pick makes when hitting the sting that a normal pickup does not. Again we are in personal territory here but the attack of the pick of the string for me is more aggressive and yet clean. I like that and yes they are have a great tone but to me that is a trademark. PAF pickups range from 7.7 ohms to 9.0 ohms i have had factory unsoldered double whites that read as high as 10 ohms this is not the norm. around a mid 8.2-8.5 is normal for nice one.
Now this is real important I ave heard bad PAF pickups when i mean bad i mean run of the mill sound not horrible. To me the the lower the reading usually the more mid tones and a warmer pickup the higher the output the more treble . But again as pickups age the age differently and i have heard the opposite both scenarios. but the general rule is the lower the output the more tone.
So if you are a player the PAF range is great and again it is a matter of taste. Not all pickups are killers and the pickups will sound different in different guitars. the higher output ones should go in solid bodies or semi-hollow bodys that i do know. This again being said I feel most with like the PAF tone and sound in a solid body guitar and semi-hollow guitar.
Now a little secret that some know . The best pickups Gibson made with a consistent and with a tone were from 1962-1964 in my opinion and are pre-t top pickups. Everyone I have ever heard in an SG sounds like GOD. everyone is a es-335 sounds like GOD. these are monster pickups at 1/3 price.
The first versions of these are pafs with new stickers that have patent numbers on them.They have double black lead wires and all PAF markings on pickups. By 1963 they went to black and white lead wires. FOR ME WHO CARES THEY ALL SOUNDS GREAT . Now collectors will argue and of course you need the correct pickup for te correct guitar and year if you collect or buy and sell guitar but for a player good new they all sounds great. I never heard a bad 63-64 sg or es-335.
These have that classic sound you loved from Cream, the Beatles, Mc5 and more. I will go out on a limb and say that 99% of the people who buy these pickups will be satisfied. These are my favorite pickups.
So I hope this helps I do not know if you are a player, collector or both but i hope this give some insight into the pickup decision making. If you have any further question e mail us at www.thepartsdrawer.com
The Parts Drawer