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Installing a set of replacement pickups is a great way to alter your instrument's tone so that it better reflects your own personal taste and style. While there are plenty of great humbucker sets out there, each with their own distinct sound and feel, these five managed to create a tonal combination that took them above the rest, becoming one of our most popular humbucker sets.
This classic humbucker combination was created by Duncan himself while in England in 1974 and remains his favorite set of pickups to this day. An SH-4 JB for the bridge and SH-2N Jazz Model for the neck; amazing on their own but together they provide one of the most versatile humbucker sets ever devised. With its hot coils and alnico 5 bar magnet, the JB pickup delivers an unmistakable upper midrange attack, a tight, articulate low end and harmonically rich highs that can easily cut through a mix. Originally designed as the matching neck pickup for the JB Model bridge pickup, the Jazz Model neck is known for its bright sound and vintage output that gives off a clear, articulate neck tone and a glassy treble response that balances very well with its full, but tight low end. Whether you’re looking for cleaner, more articulate tones, an emphasis on heavy or a precise mix of both, the Seymour Duncan Hot Rodded Humbucker set is the way to go.
While Slash has played with multiple amazing guitars over the years, he's been using the same Les Paul for all of his recordings since 1986. This set was designed to specifically give his other Les Pauls, what he calls his "live guitars," that exact same tone. While the Slash set uses the same Alnico 2 magnets as the APH-1 Alnico II Pro, they are wound with just enough boosted output to push a stock Les Paul toward the sweet sustain and classic crunch that characterizes his signature sound as heard on hundreds of tracks. But the custom job doesn't end there: The Slash set comes with some of the same other features found on the Duncan pickups in Slash's '86 recording axe including single-conductor cable, long-legged bottom plate, and wooden spacer. For the true fan, or the player who wants to capture Slash's recorded tone, this pickup is a critical part of the tone chain.
In his youth, Seymour Duncan honed his chops by helping create pickups for a number of young guitar players that would end up defining their generation including Jimmy Page, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Pete Townshend, Jimi Hendrix and Peter Frampton. One of these players decided it would be a good idea to take one of Seymour's special re-wound PAFs, stick them in a Les Paul and blast them through his Marshall stack, creating one of the most legendary tones in rock history. These same pickups are now the Whole Lotta Humbucker. The unique design behind these pickups starts with a rough cast Alnico 5 magnets, plain enamel wire and Seymour's custom wind pattern. The bridge is a hotter than vintage 8.78k DC resistance and the neck is also beefy at 8.20k. Tonally, the rough cast magnets add warmth and balanced note-to-note clarity so everything sounds bigger. What is sonically unique about the Whole Lotta Humbucker is the way they push your amp and add a very slight natural compression and sustain to your playing. And just in case you want to get as close to the original sound as possible, match this set with any Mahogany or warm tone wood body guitar with a Rosewood fingerboard and let it rock!
Seymour Duncan "Vintage Blues" SH-1 '59 humbucker pickup set are faithful replicas of humbucker inventor Seth Lover's original "Patent Applied For" models, with a tone that's bright and airy like a vintage PAF should be. True to 1959 specs with the same alnico magnets, plain enamel winding, nickel plated studs, wooden spacer, black paper tape, and balanced coil windings. While these vintage style coils give the 59 Model humbuckers an airy quality that keeps them planted firmly in the PAF family, the alnico 5 bar magnet, and vacuum wax potting have been added to compensate for lighter guitar strings and louder amplifiers than were ever used in the 50s. The result is a pickup set with tons of old-school tonal character, but with a brighter top end, and a more compressed sound. And in order to get that vintage feel just right, Duncan also added a number of other traditional features such as 42AWG plain enamel mag wire, long legged nickel silver bottom plate, vintage single-conductor braided push-back lead wire and no logo. The Sh-1 59 Vintage Blues set are the perfect humbuckers for modern players looking for a vintage PAF style tone.
If you were to come across an original set of first production pickups, decades old, found online or maybe in an original vintage guitar, what would they sound like today? Duncan's Antiquity line aims to answer exactly that: create brand new pickups designed to look, sound and feel like the real deal thanks to their propriety aging process. With the JB/Jazz set in particular, Duncan himself went the extra mile, using the intimate knowledge from guitars in his own possession to create the first 70s-era set pickups to get the Antiquity treatment. The result is a set that features rich harmonics, and a balance of sustain, distortion, and clarity, buffered by the mellowing effect of aged magnets and years of simulated sweat, dust, and oxidation. The JB/Jazz is the perfect set for vintage connoisseurs looking to grab the one of the best historic Seymour Duncan sounds.
What's your favorite humbucker set?