The electronics are the icing on the cake. They account for maybe 10% of the sound. Hot
pickups change the sound a lot, but what they're really changing is the sound of the amp
not the guitar. The timber and design is everything. It's not just about quality or
charachter of the timber but also about the relationship between the pieces used. The neck
and body interact, and they can either encourage or discourage each other to 'sing'.
You can tell a good sounding electric without ever plugging it in.