As a seven – and now eight – string guitarist, I’m fully aware that the needs of an extra-stringer are different to those of someone who plays a sixer. You have to have clarity on the low string(s), because what’s the point of having an extra string if it’s virtually inaudible? And you need the rest of the guitar to still sound right, because what’s the point of having the regular six strings if their tone is going to be sacrificed in honour of that one low string? To date most seven and eight-string pickups have been expanded versions of existing pickup models, but Seymour Duncan’s new Pegasus, Sentient and Nazgul pickups are designed from the ground up to cater to the needs of seven and eight-string players. That’s right: there’s no six-string version of any of these pickups.
I’ve installed a Pegasus and Sentient in my Ibanez Iron Label 8-string (which I bought from the Ibanez Guitar Centre). The Pegasus uses an Alnico 5 magnet and custom designed coils for tonal balance and moderate output. The Sentient also uses an Alnico 5 magnet combined with medium-strength coils to blend vintage PAF and modern tones. Both pickups are designed for high-gain progressive players who wish to achieve clarity, articulation and separation in their tone, rather than having everything mush up together when the overdrive is cranked. They’ve available in three cover styles, whether you go for the seven or eight-string versions: passive mount with uncovered coils; passive mount with metal covers; and active mount with black soap bar covers. I chose the latter, to replace the EMG 808s that came stock in my RG. The DC Resistance readings for these pickups are:
7-string Sentient: 9.2k
8-string Sentient: 10.27k
7-string Pegasus: 14.92
8-string Pegasus: 17.31
The Pegasus reminds me a little of the venerable JB humbucker: it has a very musical, rich midrange quality which brings out a little bit of a ‘vowel’ sound when you pick in a certain way. The treble is clear and direct, but not as edgy as the JB can be, instead adding a nice airiness around the notes. And the low end is tight and snappy rather than deep and boomy – which is perfect for the kind of players who will be using these pickups. The output level is quite manageable, giving you plenty of room to boost the gain at the amp or with pedals, rather than trying to hit your audio chain with a hot signal straight from the guitar. And it works very well. Complex chords sound clear and defined, great for progressive rock, hard rock, djent and thrash styles. And when you’re playing lead, the Pegasus is a very interactive pickup. Dig in hard and you’ll get a drastically different tone to what you will achieve if you pick softly. Employ palm-muting and you’ll be hit with a satisfyingly percussive chunk, but ease off on the muting and the notes jump right out. And in single coil mode it takes on an almost bass-like tone reminiscent of some of those great distorted Tool sounds.
As for the Sentient: y’know in the movie Twins how there are two babies? One is the good DNA of all these ideal donors – and that’s Julius (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a perfect physical, intellectual and artistic specimen – and one is the non-ideal, junk DNA left over – and that’s Vincent (Danny DeVito), the shonky small-time criminal? Well, the Sentient sounds like the good DNA from Seymour Duncans ’59 and Jazz models. (And if there’s a pickup that’s made up solely of the junk DNA then it’s probably kept in a locked safe or something). Dig in hard with the pick while using a semi-distorted sound you’ll get a sweet, vintage-tinged, juicy tone reminiscent of a vintage Gibson, and certainly a characteristic of the venerable ’59. Play with a more even attack and you’ll get the clarity and harmonic sparkle of the Jazz. Flip it into single coil mode and it’s similar to a ’60s Stratocaster. Again it’s a very interactive pickup, and it’ll suit players who really have their phrasing together, rather than those who want a pickup to cover up any rough edges to their playing.
Here’s a song I recorded using the Pegasus and Sentient in my 8-string (it’s also on YouTube if you’d like to check it out there). You’ll hear three rhythm parts, one of which goes all the way down to the low F# string, but I’ve intentionally tried to show that the Pegasus is capable of much more than just killer low notes. And the lead parts switch back and forth between the two pickups. You’ll hear how very nicely the Pegasus and Sentient complement each other.
The Pegasus and Sentient are the perfect choice for players who want to show off their hard-won phrasing control and the cleverness of their complex chord choices. But it’s also great for aggressive, straightforward metal chunk. And ditto for the Sentient: it’s rich and detailed for complex soloing, but if you grab an note and just let it scream, it’ll sound vocal and haunting.