REVIEW: DiMarzio PAF Master Humbuckers

There are many, many different pickups out there that are inspired by Gibson’s ‘Patent Applied For’ humbucker invented by Seth Lover. Some makers go to incredible lengths to replicate not only the raw materials but also the chaotic, random unpredictability that went into the creation of those original 50s PAFs. DiMarzio’s PAF® Master bridge and neck models are designed with the spirit of those original PAFs in mind but DiMarzio says they’re more about paying tribute to the original sound rather than cloning it. So these pickups use several of DiMarzio’s patented ideas, and the coils are purposely tuned to specific differing frequencies to generate a version of the legendary PAF snarl without compromising the pickup’s ability to hum-cancel (which can be a problem with some of the originals and some of the more randomly-constructed PAF-alikes of the kind you tend to find from some of the smaller builders). See DiMarzio pickups on eBay here. Read More …

EMG releases 57/66 pickups

EMG has announced the release of the 57 and 66 humbuckers. You can hear Judas Priest’s Richie Faulkner putting them through their paces in the video above. Incidentally, you can read my interview with Richie here.

EMG says:

“A true original, the 57 is a bridge pickup designed for today’s player regardless of style or genre. The unique combination of Alnico V magnets and steel pole pieces evoke an unmistakably PAF-like quality in its tone. The active attributes provide the headroom and punch necessary to deliver unparalleled definition and presence. Designed and voiced specifically for the bridge position, the 57 comes in EMG’s exclusive brushed steel cap giving it a sleek modern look that compliments any instrument.”

“The 66 is a result of pickup design innovation inspired by the specific needs and requests of today’s players. Alnico V magnets provide the warm, smooth mid-range and expansive lows while the ceramic pole pieces bring out the clarity in the upper register. Designed and voiced as a neck pickup, the 66 comes in EMG’s exclusive brushed steel cap giving it a sleek modern look that compliments any instrument.”

REVIEW: Seymour Duncan SH-15 Alternative 8

Not content with releasing the Blackout and Livewire active pickups with unprecedented power, Seymour Duncan has unleashed the SH-15 Alternative 8 passive humbucker. The 8 in the Alternative 8’s name is derived from its Alnico 8 (Aluminium/nickel/cobalt alloy) magnet, and this pickup marks the first time this magnet has been used by Seymour Duncan.
The Alternative 8 has a DC resistance of 17.68k, making it one of the hottest passive humbuckers in Seymour Duncan’s history, almost stepping on the toes of the mighty Distortion Parallel Axis, a ceramic magnet humbucker which weighs in at an imposing 21.3 k. The pickup features hot coils wound for maximum output, enhanced further by the natural qualities of the Alnico magnet. While a ceramic magnet might sound tight and bitey, Alnico adds warmth and presence to the true midrange as well as the upper mids, while taming the fizzy buzz factor.

Seymour Duncan rates the pickup’s tonal response as Treble: 9; Midrange: 8; and Bass: 7, with a resonant peak at 4.46 KHz. In contrast, the famed Alnico II humbucker favoured by Slash has a DC resistance of 7.6k, and its tonal response breaks down to Treble: 8; Midrange 4; and Bass: 7, with a resonant peak at 7.1KHz, resulting in a more open, airy tone more suited to bands with multiple guitars.

I tested the Alternative 8 in a Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul Standard through my Marshall DSL50 all-valve half stack. I usually keep the Marshall’s gain at about half way, and goose the input with an overdrive pedal for a little extra fullness and body depending on the guitar and pickups. This certainly wasn’t needed with the Alternative 8. This pickup is loud, chunky and gutsy. It’s ideally suited for single guitar bands, especially when the guitarist really wants to be noticed. The tone is bright and full, with lots of midrange ‘poke,’ making it a great pickup for lead playing. The dynamic response is a little squashed at medium gain levels – picking harder doesn’t increase the volume, but it fills out the bottom end of the tone response nicely. The pickup’s natural compression also makes it great for legato techniques.

Options include a nickel or gold plated cover, if you don’t like the exposed coil look, and the pickup can be ordered in standard or trembucker size (more info here), the latter spaced for Fender-style or Floyd Rose-equipped guitars. It’s important to buy the right size for your guitar, because if the pole pieces of the pickup don’t line up with the strings, you risk a cataclysmic mismatch in volume from one string to another.

This is one of those pickups that rewards the player for putting in a little more detail and finesse. Every little phrasing choice is presented loud and proud for the audience to hear, which can be either intimidating or liberating depending on your approach. But if you have the guts to take on this monster, it’s well worth the tonal payoff.