The story of the Seymour Duncan Jason Becker Perpetual Burn humbucker is a very interesting one. Back in the day, a young Jason Becker became taken with the tone of a Gibson Les Paul loaded with a Seymour Duncan JB humbucker. The guitar belonged to Bob Rock, who was producer of David Lee Roth’s A Little Ain’t Enough album, and Jason used it on the title track. He was so intrigued by the tone of the JB that he started talking with Seymour Duncan about this pickup needs. Some prototypes were developing and the project was well on its way when Jason had to call a halt due to his progressively worsening ALS. But recently, while listening to friends play his guitars through prototypes of a possible signature amp, Jason was blown away by the tone of the prototype pickup. So he reached out to Seymour Duncan to finish was started. The Jason Becker Perpetual Burn bridge humbucker is the result.
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With an Alnico 5 bar magnet and a 12.11k DC resistance, the Perpetual Burn is hotter than a ’59 Model humbucker but not as powerful as the JB. This puts it in a very interesting sonic space. The ’59 is great for vintage and crunch tones, but lacks the natural power to kick out really killer high gain without a little help from a clean boost or an overdrive. And the JB is great for high gain tones but can be a little too big-sounding for some musical situations. So on paper the Perpetual Burn seems like a pickup which will give you vintage and high gain tones without being too hot for the former or too underpowered for the latter.
I installed a Perpetual Burn in my Ibanez RG550 (a roadflare-red 20th Anniversary model). I kept the stock single coil pickup in the middle position for now, and added a Seymour Duncan SH-1n ’59 Model in the neck position. The first thing I noticed about the Perpetual Burn was how it seemed to embody much of what I love about the JB but with more dynamic sensitivity and less power in the low end. The mids aren’t as honky either, with more of an emphasis on upper mids rather than ‘middle mids.’ It’s perfect for hard rock and blues rock, but also ideally suited to my personal favourite metal tones – think the rich, woody tones of the JB on Megadeth’s ‘Youthanasia,’ but shifted a little towards Eddie Van Halen’s famous ‘Brown Sound.’ It’s easy to generate pinch harmonics, and palm-muted notes are well-defined and chunky.
That’s not the Perpetual Burn’s only superpower though: it turns out that it really comes to life when you use your guitar’s volume knob to vary the amount of gain. I was able to go from full-on distortion to a bold crunch to a bright, clear clean sound with ease, and while that’s certainly not unheard of for a pickup to do, they don’t all do it so damn well. No matter what gain level I used, the Perpetual Burn sounded like it was supposed to sound good at that setting. Here’s a video I whipped up for the folks on the Seymour Duncan User Group Forum to demonstrate this quality.
By the way, the ’59 is a very interesting complement to the Perpetual Burn. The ’59 has a fuller low end, and it took a little bit of tweaking with a screwdriver before I was perfectly satisfied with the balanced between the two. I found that the best way was to set the ’59 down a little bit and then raise its adjustable pole pieces. This retained the detail and dynamics of the pickup while reeling back the bass a little bit. I’m sure the Perpetual Burn would work quite nicely with a Jazz or Sentient in the neck position instead, and I’ve heard of some folks trying another Perpetual Burn in the neck position and being quite happy with the results.
I’m hard pressed to think of a genre that the Perpetual Burn wouldn’t sound great in. I’m using it for blues-rock, shred, hard rock and metal, and it sounds completely at home with each. I’ve also tried it for blasting out pop-punk riffs, and it’s got just the right amount of teeth for that too. And in terms of output it really hits that sweet spot where you can blast it with distortion from your amp or with pedals and it’ll retain its definition, or you can dial the grit right back and enjoy the clear, ringing, bright tones. This is my first Perpetual Burn but I’m pretty sure it won’t be my last!