For the last few days I’ve been reading about Dean Zelinsky’s new Sidekick pickup. Zelinsky says “The SideKick Pickup is the World’s first pickup that is a true Humbucker and switches to an authentic Single-Coil – all in a single pickup. With SideKick technology, switching from humbucker to single-coil, the pickups actually match volume. There is virtually no volume drop-off as in conventional Humbucker coil-tapping or splitting.”
That sounds like a killer idea, and I’m looking forward to hearing some clips of it in action. My only issue is that this isn’t a new idea, so the claim that it’s the world’s first true humbucker that switches to an authentic single coil sound isn’t quite accurate. I really don’t want to create the impression that I’m talking down the idea – it could be a totally kickass pickup and I’m all for people improving their tone – but this isn’t the first to make this claim, and I’m kind of a nerd for this type of trivia. Any four-conductor pickup can be split into single coil mode and that’s common knowledge so that’s not my issue, but there have been plenty that have been designed with specific technology for the single coil mode to sound authentic (and usually to have a consistent volume level too). For instance…
Seymour Duncan Stag Mag
Traditional humbuckers are designed with a bar magnet underneath two coils; the pole pieces themselves aren’t the magnet that specifically creates the magnetic field (although they do focus it). Single coils have six magnetic slugs instead, going up through the coils. The Stag Mag is built like two traditional single coils side-by-side, so when you turn one coil off you have a truly traditional single coil sound. Sure, there’s a volume drop compared to humbucker mode when you switch to single coil, but that’s true of picking up a single coil guitar after plugging in a humbucker too.
Seymour Duncan Custom Shop
The Seymour Duncan Custom Shop has been making pickups on request for years that can be wired so that when you switch to single coil mode, the remaining coil has extra turns of wire added to it (sort of the reverse of ‘tapping’ a single coil pickup), thereby bringing the volume and power of that coil up to a consistent level with the humbucking mode’s output. And because they’re Custom Shop you can order ’em however you like.
Introduced in 2011, Paul Reed Smith’s 408 pickups also maintain an even volume when switching from humbucker to single coil mode. I reviewed this system back in May 2013 in a Paul Reed Smith Signature Limited guitar.
Listen to the 408 pickups in action here:
Ibanez’s True-Duo pickup uses one coil that has six Alnico V magnets in a hum-cancelling stack design, and one coil that has a Ferrite magnet underneath in a similar manner to a humbucker. When you combine the two, the bottom hum-cancelling coil of the Alnico V side is turned off and you get a regular humbucker sound. Split the pickup and you’re left with just the Alnico V slug pickup with the hum-cancelling coil engaged too for noiseless single coil tones.
Those are just the ones off the top of my head. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more out there. Bottom line: really happy for Zelinsky to be excited about his new pickup (and his Z Glide neck seem like a really cool idea) but my inner guitar geek can’t just let this claim that this is the only pickup like this go out there unaddressed.