Which Pickup Combination?


I'm in the market for new pickups. I want to go with a PAF style Seymour Duncan pickup. I looked through their website and have pretty much narrowed it down to a '59 and/or a Whole Lotta Humbucker. I decided against the Pearly Gates and Seth Lovers due to the PG's being described as bright/texas sizzle (my amp can already be bright [Laney GH100L], not sure I want more highs), and the Lover's because they're unpotted.

My main question is; which positions for the pickup should I get? '59 in the neck and WLH in the bridge, or vice versa? That's the combination I was thinking of, but I've heard '59's in the neck can be bassy in Les Pauls. My guitar, while not a true Les Paul, is a double cutaway Les Paul (Mahogany body and neck, maple top, rosewood fret board). I'm not sure if that same problem would apply with my guitar. If it did, I'll probably opt to get '59 for the bridge and WLH for the neck.

Either way, the pickup combination needs to be versatile since it will be used in the studio a lot, but also needs to be able to handle high amounts of fuzz, volume, and overdrive since a good chunk of the time I play stoner, doom and sludge.

So... any advice or suggestions? Thanks in advance!

EDIT: They will also be (or have to be able to) coil tap.


Supporting Member
59 neck and WHL in the bridge. I love how the 59 sounds in the neck. I don't have much experience with the WLH.


Gold Supporting Member
^^^ I second this. I have/had the 59 in the neck position of my LP Traditional but with a UOA5 magnet to bring back some of the mids. It sounds decent with the stock magnet as well. I did not like the 59 in the bridge. I thought it was too ice picky but YMMV.

Wayne Alexander

Silver Supporting Member
What guitar do you have and what pickups are in it now? What do you like and not like about them? Pretty hard to recommend replacements when we don't know what you have and how they sound to you, and what change you're looking for.
'59 is a really great neck pickup, and as mentioned if it's boomy in your guitar a mag swap should take care of it. Ought to work really nicely with your 100w Laney just the way it comes.

Jazz neck has tighter lows and perhaps slightly better definition, but to my ear sounds less classic. Hard to say for certain because I never tried both in the same axe. Jazz might be a better choice if you use the neck with heavy distortion a lot though.

Like others, I've found the 59 bridge to be a bit sharp in general. Depends on the guitar though. Of course. (And a 59b with UA5 magnet is sweet magic in one of my LPs.) The WLH bridge will have a bit more drive and more attitude.
I've been thinking you might also consider something hotter if you do a lot of heavy stuff. The Full Shred and Black Winter sets are designed to handle distortion and stay well defined, but might not be ideal for low gain sounds.

As a sort of middle point between vintage and modern, the Duncan Custom is good and powerful but retains enough of the PAF tone profile that it performs quite well in a wide variety of music. Also responds very nicely to mag swaps, so you can easily personalize it three or four different ways without having to change pickups.

And the deceptively named Screamin' Demon makes a great neck pickup for heavy stuff (even though officially it's a bridge model) but it tames down well enough to deliver good medium-drive blues tone and nice cleans too. A very underappreciated pickup, not so over-the-top hot as you might expect.

You can read a lot more about these over at the Seymour Duncan Forum.


If your pickup is too bright, there are tone knobs on the guitar and on the amp.

If it's too bassy, you turn those little screws.

IOW, most of the differences between most of the pickups can be mitigated by height adjustment and EQ adjustment.

Have you adjusted the height on your current pickups? So many people have great-sounding pickups at the wrong height (or not the best height for their taste, choice of strings, playing style, etc.). You can really breathe new life into dead pickups by moving them up or down. You have to very carefully listen to the changes each 1/4 turn makes, and dial them in where you want them.

Then, if you still can't get what you want, yeah it's time to consider replacements.

The 59s and PGs I've played have all sounded great to me. I have a 59 in a Strat Bridge and run the tone on about 6.7 and it works great for me. I think it's too bright on 10, but it's pretty "round" on 3. Honestly haven't played a 59 in a neck position though.

But my son's Charvel has two Duncans in it and even though they're "distortion" pickups, they actually are just higher output and sound quite wonderful in that instrument. The bridge needs adjustment but the neck (SH-6N) sound beautiful as is. It doesn't have "thin shreddy tone" but is actually quite full and warm (and there is no tone knob!)

So I don't think you can go wrong with Duncan at least.
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Silver Supporting Member
The '59 is an excellent neck pickup, but with a maple capped guitar I prefer either an A3 magnet for vintage tones or an A4 magnet for modern tones. As a bridge pickup it excels with a UOA5 magnet. Honestly, I prefer either a '59/hybrid in the bridge position with a UOA5 magnet paired with a '59 in the neck, or a Custom with an A8 magnet paired with a '59 in the neck. Hope that helps.


Yeah, magnet swapping is a cheap and easy way to drastically change the sound of a pickup when height and screw adjustment fail, and before you buy new pickups. However, I would go with a matched set if you buy new pickups. And I wouldn't be concerned about the lack of potting on the Seths- unless you play super loud and face the amp, it isn't a problem, but it contributes to the complex mids it has.
The WLH set is a true 'hot paf' set. The 59 is a basic paf set. The Sets are replicas of the best pafs designed by the guy that designed the originals.
However, the Seths are 2 conductor, but the WLH is 4 conductor to split. The 59s can be ordered with either, so make sure you specify.
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