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Neck humbucker pickup choices for a semi hollow

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by bluegrif, Feb 9, 2019.

  1. bluegrif

    bluegrif Member

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    Hey guys, I have an 81 Aria Pro II TA100 (as pictured in my avatar). This is a fantastic MIJ semi hollow, with a solid carved top, ebony board, and Aria's top of the line everything, including the pickups which were only otherwise found on their premium jazz archtops. In general, I haven't really been unhappy with them. However, I have noticed (particularly since I've been using my Marshall Origin) the neck pickup can get a bit boomy and woolly in the bass (sounds great on the treble strings).

    So here's the thing, I'm looking mainly at Seymour Duncan pickups because I've long found them to really be about as good as anything for my live work. A couple of things to know: I'm not a rock guy. I play mainly trad blues and old school soul and R&B. I almost never use high gain. For you rock guys, think of my base tone as mild crunch (listen to someone like Chris Cain and you won't be far off).

    In the past, on other guitars, I've favored Seth Lovers. But recently I installed an Alnico Pro II in the neck of my Bacchus 58 style V and I love it. For the Aria, I'm slightly concerned it may be too bassy, but who knows.

    Sorry to get long winded, but it's in the hope of solid recommendations, not just your preference for your style.

    Here's the list I've narrowed it down to, and maybe unsurprisingly, the sound samples on the SD site sound really, really similar:

    The 59 - maybe as good as anything
    Seth Lover - always seemed lively and balanced
    Alnico II Pro - juicy, that's how I'd describe it. But possibly too "fat".
    Pearly Gates - Never tried it but it seems right in the ballpark

    So, assuming you'd actually take the time to read through this, which and why?
     
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  2. bluegrif

    bluegrif Member

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    Come on guys. I know the majority of you are pickup swapping maniacs. And these are super common choices. I'd be very surprised if there aren't many of you who've tried them all. Give me some pros and cons.
     
  3. GenoVox

    GenoVox Member

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    Seth Lovers, everytime

    Lollar Imperials are great for that too
     
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  4. Jimmy MAck

    Jimmy MAck Member

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    Listen to Geno
     
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  5. Kurt L

    Kurt L Member

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    I’ve been happy with both Seths and 59s in my Hamers. Did not like the Pearly Gates as much... I hate to use vague terms but they seemed less smooth, a little harsher than the other PAF style pickups.

    Maybe you would like an Antiquity, since you want to stick with Duncans.
     
  6. nik

    nik Member

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    I have Gibson 57 Classics that came with my L5 and I couldn't be happier with them. In fact when I needed a pickup for my custom Campellone archtop, I sent a 57 Classic to Mark and it turned out great. Mark even commented on how good it sounded.
     
  7. Mincer

    Mincer Member

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    Well, I dig the Alnico II Pros and the Seths. Neither sound muddy. The Alnico II might be more 'buttery', while the Seth is more touch sensitive and dynamic.
     
  8. xjojox

    xjojox Tardis-dwelling wanker Gold Supporting Member

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    Of those I would go with Seths. I love the top end sparkle of Seths.

    But for a woofy semi-hollow, a Fralin P92 at the neck is fantastic. It’s got two 3-pole coils in a Z-array under the cover. Result is that it sounds more like a P90 (80% P90, 20% PAF to my ear) which means tight piano-string lows even with some gain but still chewey on top. Neat sound and it tames the woof beast at the neck.
     
  9. Tony Done

    Tony Done Member

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    This is the same provenance as my 82 Westone Rainbow I. If it is similar construction, I would go with the brightest humbuckers I could find. I used SD jazz, and even they were dark-sounding, so I installed a series/single/parallel switch to get brighter sounds.
     
  10. bluegrif

    bluegrif Member

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    Thanks guys. As mentioned, I've tended to favor Seths in the past. And for the record, outside of SD, I also enjoy the Dimarzio 36ths.

    The obvious problem, and reason to reach out, is all these models are squarely in the same camp and almost impossible to evaluation via clips. I have been curious about the Pearly Gates (based on the SD site), so it was good to get at least one opinion on how those differ. I've also wondered if the 59, which I had ignored for no rational reason at all, wouldn't maybe do as good a job as any. Looking to buy used if possible, those are always in great supply. And finally, while I absolutely love the rich, buttery tones of the Alnico II pro in my V, I've been slightly hesitant because they seem very warm, which might be a less than optimum match for the Aria. That said, I didn't mean to imply the Aria was an especially dark sounding guitar. Not at all. I'm relatively confident it's just the stock pickup which is overemphasizing the lows through my Marshall. The stock pickup measures right about 8K and it may be that almost any good, lower output, PAF style pickup would be an improvement in clarity. But overall balance - sweet highes - piano like lows, would be optimal.
     
  11. TA22GT

    TA22GT Member

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    I think a Seth or a 59 would be a good choice.
    Last year I bought a Yamaha SG1820 that came with 59's and I really like it in the neck position. It's not boomy and quite well balanced. I was pleasantly surprised.
    I have a Tokai semi with SD Ants in it and the neck pickup is nice and clear but they are more expensive.
    I have tried Pearly Gates twice now and found them hard for want of a better description in both neck and bridge.
     
  12. dude9478

    dude9478 Member

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    I just bought some electric city liberator pickups and put them in my semi hollow artinger. Damn, they are the best sounding pickup I've ever tried. Super clean and just beautiful sounding, especially with a little dirt. They are pricey but completely worth it.
     
  13. bluegrif

    bluegrif Member

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    Thanks, I'm really thinking seriously of giving the 59 a chance, given the ready availability of used examples. I need a gold cover version so that narrows my choice pretty dramatically.

    I've only owned the 59 model once, and it was in a maple/walnut E2 Explorer. That guitar imposed it's particular character on virtually every pickup I tried. So the 59 hasn't had a fair evaluation. If I run across a bargain Seth I'd probably go for it. But otherwise I may try the 59.
     
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  14. ssdeluxe

    ssdeluxe Member

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    At this point : why limit your choice to Duncan's ?

    If it's gotta be Dunc's (and based on your particular gtr characteristics) then Seth's/ants.

    (because you're not gain guy, the non-potting is a bonus: but even if there is, gain, I'm in the non-potted camp).
     
  15. GenoVox

    GenoVox Member

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    Just my own take/experiences on a couple of the other suggestions:

    Duncan 59s tend to bit a little more scooped, with a fuller bottom end. For the neck slot of a hollow body of semi, my ears wanna hear a tighter low end to avoid the “woof”

    Dimarzio 36ths have a slight cocked wah thing going on... fine in a solidbody, not necessarily so much for a semi

    Fralin P92s have received glowing reviews... but the OP should be aware they have staggered pole-pieces, like the humbuckers on a Tele Deluxe. Some people don’t mind the deviation from the stock look, but to me, it would definitely bother my eye on a 335-style

    I would also agree that Pearly Gates are much better for a solidbody or in an HSS Strat... but not for a semi

    As always, YMMV
     
  16. Whiskeyrebel

    Whiskeyrebel Supporting Member

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    To cut boominess, before swapping pickups, try this:
    Take the stock pickup, turn it in its mounting ring so the screws are on the side closer to the bridge, lower it away from the strings until it is just below the ring, then raise the screws back out closer to the strings. Now it's reading the strings in a narrower zone that's closer to the bridge.
     
  17. bluegrif

    bluegrif Member

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    UPDATE: Well, I lucked into a gold set of Seth Lovers at a great price. I'm sure these will be perfect in this guitar. These have been my favorites for at least a couple decades now. Actually, my new favorites for solid bodies are the Alnico II pros. But for a semis, hard to beat the Seths. Thanks to all who've chimed in. As I've said, the information on the SD site made evaluating other choices rather difficult. All close in output, with (on paper) only minor EQ differences. I knew I couldn't go wrong with the Seths but I'd seen some decent deals on the Pearly Gates, and there're always good deals on the 59s. A good deal on a pair of Seths (not that easy when you need gold covers) made it a no-brainer.
     
  18. thebowl

    thebowl Member

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    I am familiar with Seths and the 59 in semi-hollow body guitars. I would definitely go with the Seth, based on your comments. I have a 59 in a MIK Prestige Musician Pro. I actually swapped A4 magnets in it and the JB pickup to calm them down a bit.
     
  19. pattste

    pattste Member

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    Seymour Duncan Antiquity
    Bare Knuckle Stormy Monday
    Bare Knuckle The Mule
    Lollar Imperial
     
  20. GenoVox

    GenoVox Member

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    If I were going with Lollars, I’d try the low wind Imperial at the neck, with the standard Imperial at the bridge... had that combo in an Ibanez semi a few years ago. Nice and airy, very clear, but still balanced

    But those Seth’s... there just a certain sweetness to them, along with the clarity
     

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