One of the really fun things about being a guitarist is that once you’ve figured out how to change pickups, you’ve unlocked a really easy way to completely overhaul your guitar’s sound – or to fine-tune it. Recently I found myself going back and forth between two guitars, each outfitted with a DiMarzio Crunch Lab 7 and LiquiFire 7 set. One was my Ibanez UV777BK, and the other was my Buddy Blaze Sevenator prototype. Both guitars sounded cool, but I found myself wishing for something a little earthier for the poplar body of the Blaze. Something with a bit more hair and rock attitude compared to the very midrangey, slightly boxy quality of the Crunch Lab. Poplar has a similar tone to alder, except it seems to have a slight upper-mid crispness to my ears. I asked the folks at Seymour Duncan what pickup would give me the sound I was after (keeping in mind the poplar body) and they recommended the Full Shred, so I gave it a shot.
The Full Shred is an Alnico V-loaded humbucker with differently-wound coils which each have Allen screw pole pieces for fine-tuning the high end. The DC resistance is 14.6k, and it has four-conductor hookup cable, which is great for my needs because I recently installed a push-pull pot on the Blaze for coil splitting. The seven-string version comes from the Seymour Duncan Pro Shop range of less commonly-ordered, more specialised pickups (and it’s great that it ships with a pickup ring, which makes life a little bit easier). A lot of famous players have used this pickup, including Riggs from Rob Zombie’s first solo band, Phil Campbell from Motorhead and Chris Rest of Lagwagon. Interestingly, Vivian Campbell used the Full Shred in the Buddy Blaze Shredder, the guitar that eventually became the Kramer Nightswan.
Installing the pickup was a pretty quick process (after I located the spring that went shooting off behind the bookshelf). As I always do when I install a new pickup, I experiment with a few different pickup heights before letting myself form an opinion. I found a sweet spot with the pickup about 6mm below the strings, and with the neck-facing poles adjusted slightly up by about 2mm to fine-tune the high end response.
So what’s it sound like? The Full Shred is a relatively hot pickup with a fat but not overly girthy low end, powerful yet not-brittle treble, and a nice collection of harmonic overtones in the upper mids, right where my guitar naturally produces them. The result is a pickup which responds especially well to variances in pick attack. Pick power chords with an upstroke instead of a downstroke and you’ll get a chunky attack with shifting harmonics. Pick down and you’ll get a more unified chug. Play a pinch harmonic halfway along the neck and it’ll jump out from the mix. Ditto for legato techniques. You know how some pickups emphasise picking and fretting dynamics in a certain way that almost sounds like the player is using a wah wah pedal? The Full Shred is great for that.
In single coil mode the Full Shred sounds like a bright – but again not brittle – Strat single coil. When played through a clean tone it’s a little thin, but through overdrive it takes on more of a Malmsteen vibe, especially if you’re into Yngwie’s tone on the Fire & Ice album.
I’m really glad the folks at Seymour Duncan recommended the Full Shred for my Sevenator. It nails exactly what I want it to do: provide chunky, rich and slightly aggressive hard rock/prog rhythm tones alongside harmonically sophisticated and dynamic lead ones. And as an added bonus the single coil mode is much more usable than I expected.