Seymour Duncan Distortion has me re-thinking high output pickups

1973Marshall

Member
Messages
6,775
For a number of years I have moved from high output pickups to low output, vintage style PAFs and I have generally been quite happy.

In the past I have tried some of Dimarzio and SD high output offerings but they often felt like a dirt pedal was on all the time, and I could never get them to warm up to what I wanted. The Air Zone and Custom 5 came close, but the AZ was too buttery and thick and the C5 lacked mids. The Custom Custom was very muddy.

Recently I got a Charvel with a set of the SD Distortions (the Mayhem Set). I was fully prepared to swap the pickups based on specs such as a Ceramic magnet, but I was very open minded about giving them a chance. So far, early returns, have left me stunned.

There's none of the harsh, stiffness of a DMZ Super Distortion, they clean up well, the neck can be jazzy and thick or quacky and punchy. They aren't too bright and they respond beautifully to a no-load tone pot. They are articulate and have worked well with everything from fuzz to TS808s and Fulltone OCDs. The mids are just right and never too much (like a Custom Custom or JB) and they can punch just as needed. There's low end but also a sweet balance of highs. If I didn't know what model pickups these were I could've been fooled into thinking they were something else altogether. The 'Distortion' moniker is misleading.

Into a plexi style amp they absolutely push it just right, back off perfectly and have enough classic tone to be vintage and enough clarity to play across a ton of styles. They also split beautifully.

This is my first time with this model so I am curious as to your experiences. They have also brought back my excitement for higher output. I am now even thinking of putting a JB or something punchier into my PRS.

What are your thoughts?
 

minimal fretwear

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
357
I have a couple - a DP100 that gets rotated into LP type guitars, and a DP318 in a tele. I use them for more or less classic rock type stuff, and think they are a solid pickup. I guess when these came out in 1972, they were pretty cutting edge and "for distortion".
 

DownByLaw

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,836
Guitar dependent imo. My Hamer Special FM has the JB/59 combo and I can't bring myself to try anything else in that guitar. In a plexi, anything from
classic rock to face melting is there with a twist of the volume knob. Truly a perfect classic rock sound imo with the volume down around 5 to 7.

On the other hand, my strat doesn't sound very good with a hot humbucker in the bridge. Too strident and edgy.

Patrick
 

Dave M

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,562
True story: A couple years ago I played a guy's (late?) '60s ES-335 that had Duncan Distortions in both bridge and neck positions. He put them in there eons ago. Sounded pretty damn good, and absolutely killed into a 100 watt plexi halfstack.
 

Johnny Jelly

Member
Messages
20
Not to sound negative but pickup sound is so subjective that it is irrelevant. We all hear things differently and have various tone preferences. I have heard so many statements such as, "Isn't this the greatest tone (for this type of guitar)?" and to me, it sounded like crap. Of course, they would likely think the tone I like sounds horrible.
 
Last edited:

1973Marshall

Member
Messages
6,775

MkIII Renegade

Senior Member
Messages
7,815
For a number of years I have moved from high output pickups to low output, vintage style PAFs and I have generally been quite happy.

In the past I have tried some of Dimarzio and SD high output offerings but they often felt like a dirt pedal was on all the time, and I could never get them to warm up to what I wanted. The Air Zone and Custom 5 came close, but the AZ was too buttery and thick and the C5 lacked mids. The Custom Custom was very muddy.

Recently I got a Charvel with a set of the SD Distortions (the Mayhem Set). I was fully prepared to swap the pickups based on specs such as a Ceramic magnet, but I was very open minded about giving them a chance. So far, early returns, have left me stunned.

There's none of the harsh, stiffness of a DMZ Super Distortion, they clean up well, the neck can be jazzy and thick or quacky and punchy. They aren't too bright and they respond beautifully to a no-load tone pot. They are articulate and have worked well with everything from fuzz to TS808s and Fulltone OCDs. The mids are just right and never too much (like a Custom Custom or JB) and they can punch just as needed. There's low end but also a sweet balance of highs. If I didn't know what model pickups these were I could've been fooled into thinking they were something else altogether. The 'Distortion' moniker is misleading.

Into a plexi style amp they absolutely push it just right, back off perfectly and have enough classic tone to be vintage and enough clarity to play across a ton of styles. They also split beautifully.

This is my first time with this model so I am curious as to your experiences. They have also brought back my excitement for higher output. I am now even thinking of putting a JB or something punchier into my PRS.

What are your thoughts?
You may know that the Distortion is the ceramic fraternal twin of the JB, although I think the Distortion is a much better pickup overall. The JB has a honk that often annoys me in anything other than a Les Paul, which seems to make up for it. My all time favorite Duncan set is the Distortion + '59N. :beer Have you had a chance to compare the Distortion neck model to the '59N? Would be very curious to hear that. The '59N is still not quite as beefy as I sometimes ike at the neck for leads, although it splits extremely well for cleans.
 

DonP

Member
Messages
2,494
I have three MIJ Charvels and they all sound fantastic with hot pickups. The last one was a SoCal loaded with an X2N I thought I would hate. I love it, and bought another X2N.

But I also think it is the right guitar / right pickup. I have the Mayhem set sitting in a box. It was loaded in a 750XL and didn't float my boat, Was replaced with a Full Shred set.
 

naveed211

Member
Messages
2,019
I usually go low output PAF style, but some of my favorite hotties:

Rio Grande BBQ (like a hot rodded PAF to my ears)

Ibanez V2 (vintage, apparently Super Distortion clone but I find it has a more pleasing high end and midrange)

Bare Knuckle Cobra T (designed for metal, but sounded great for everything in my Tele, also ceramic!)

Gibson 500T (very guitar specific, but it killed in an Explorer and an older LP Classic I played)

JB (just an all around workhorse, cleans up decently with the volume knob, was my main pickup before the PAF journey started. Thick in that guitar)
 

egregion

Member
Messages
578
You may know that the Distortion is the ceramic fraternal twin of the JB, although I think the Distortion is a much better pickup overall. The JB has a honk that often annoys me in anything other than a Les Paul, which seems to make up for it. My all time favorite Duncan set is the Distortion + '59N. :beer Have you had a chance to compare the Distortion neck model to the '59N? Would be very curious to hear that. The '59N is still not quite as beefy as I sometimes ike at the neck for leads, although it splits extremely well for cleans.
I've recently realized i prefer a ceramic magnet in the bridge over any type of Alnico. There's way more punch and clarity with ceramic and none of that honk. The exception is the Gibson Tony Iommi sig pickup which I think is a A2/Ceramic construction. Sounds great.
 

Robert Libutti

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,299
I put a Duncan Distortion Bridge in my Hagstrom Ultra Swede and I think it sounds great. Agree with the OP that it really isn't a death metal pickup. I get great clarity with it and it cleans up really nicely. The Hagstrom has a coil split and it can get really jangly.
 

Baba

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,102
I've been migrating to lower output bridge pickups over the years, I've had SD Pearly Gates, Customs, and JB's in many different guitars, but have recenty discovered the 59 for the bridge position, and it seems to marry well with my mid-focused PRSi and fingers.

Having said that, (and my s/o is the one who gave me this idea), I think I'm going to keep the JB's in a couple of my more aggressive tremolo guitars, to have that attitude when I want to shred or play more aggressively, and keep a few with lower output pickups when I want to have more of a classic sound, and not just do one or the other.
 

Brian N

Member
Messages
1,676
For a number of years I have moved from high output pickups to low output, vintage style PAFs and I have generally been quite happy.

In the past I have tried some of Dimarzio and SD high output offerings but they often felt like a dirt pedal was on all the time, and I could never get them to warm up to what I wanted. The Air Zone and Custom 5 came close, but the AZ was too buttery and thick and the C5 lacked mids. The Custom Custom was very muddy.

Recently I got a Charvel with a set of the SD Distortions (the Mayhem Set). I was fully prepared to swap the pickups based on specs such as a Ceramic magnet, but I was very open minded about giving them a chance. So far, early returns, have left me stunned.

There's none of the harsh, stiffness of a DMZ Super Distortion, they clean up well, the neck can be jazzy and thick or quacky and punchy. They aren't too bright and they respond beautifully to a no-load tone pot. They are articulate and have worked well with everything from fuzz to TS808s and Fulltone OCDs. The mids are just right and never too much (like a Custom Custom or JB) and they can punch just as needed. There's low end but also a sweet balance of highs. If I didn't know what model pickups these were I could've been fooled into thinking they were something else altogether. The 'Distortion' moniker is misleading.

Into a plexi style amp they absolutely push it just right, back off perfectly and have enough classic tone to be vintage and enough clarity to play across a ton of styles. They also split beautifully.

This is my first time with this model so I am curious as to your experiences. They have also brought back my excitement for higher output. I am now even thinking of putting a JB or something punchier into my PRS.

What are your thoughts?
My thoughts are that you like the guitar, not the pickups. Slap some high output Bare Knuckles in there and you'd be even happier. SD is a garbage company that makes garbage pickups and has garbage customer service (according to folks on here who have tried contacting them. Personally never have because I don't use their pickups)
 

Mikhael

Member
Messages
2,948
My thoughts are that you like the guitar, not the pickups. Slap some high output Bare Knuckles in there and you'd be even happier. SD is a garbage company that makes garbage pickups and has garbage customer service (according to folks on here who have tried contacting them. Personally never have because I don't use their pickups)
While I'm not really a fan of Duncan pickups, I think this is a garbage statement. It comes from anecdotal, not personal, experience. Plus, this does not reflect the majority of folks here who seem to have the opposite opinion. Not sure who told you that.
 

Baba

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,102
My thoughts are that you like the guitar, not the pickups. Slap some high output Bare Knuckles in there and you'd be even happier. SD is a garbage company that makes garbage pickups and has garbage customer service (according to folks on here who have tried contacting them. Personally never have because I don't use their pickups)
While I'm not really a fan of Duncan pickups, I think this is a garbage statement. It comes from anecdotal, not personal, experience. Plus, this does not reflect the majority of folks here who seem to have the opposite opinion. Not sure who told you that.
That, and for making such garbage pickups, they sure have been around for a long time and sold a lot of pickups. How exactly are they pulling the wool over everyone's eyes? :rolleyes:
 

DYNA BILL

Member
Messages
11,434
My thoughts are that you like the guitar, not the pickups. Slap some high output Bare Knuckles in there and you'd be even happier. SD is a garbage company that makes garbage pickups and has garbage customer service (according to folks on here who have tried contacting them. Personally never have because I don't use their pickups)
I just called my buddy Seymour and read your post to him.
He just laughed. :D
 

the_Chris

It's All Been Done Before
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,558
Rio Grande BBQ is great and so is the Texas. One Hamer I had really rocked with them, very fat and rich.

Wolfetone Marshallheads are fantastic pickups. Great clarity and punch, really made a PRS McCarty of mine come alive.

Duncan JBs are great with 250k or 300k pots (500k get a bit too honky for folks)

I also enjoyed Gibson 496R/500Ts in the ‘76 RI Explorer I had.
 

Otter351

Member
Messages
553
With higher gain amps, there is less of a need for high-output pickups. Although, I have seen a bit of a shift lately of players going back to basic plexi amps and, subsequently, needing higher output pickups. I recently picked up Lynch's new SD Hunter and was shocked by how muddy it was. It wasn't until I clicked off the drive pedals and turned down the gain on the amp and suddenly the refinement and sensitivity came back and remembered how good a raw amp sounds when you push the input.
 

Seth L

Member
Messages
24,377
I'm pretty much a vintage pickup person, but I put a SD Perpetual Burn in my SG Standard and I love it. It's like a PAF with a slight boost. SD calls it a medium output pickup.
 




Trending Topics

Top