#1
My main guitar is an ESP LTD JH-600. It is a maple neck-thru, alder body with an ebony fretboard. I replaced the kahler hybrid on it with a Kahler 2315 (brass cam, steel rollers) and I want to rip out the EMG 81/85 set and put in some passive pickups. I play through a Mesa Boogie Mark IV amp and sometimes a Roadster or a Marshall 6100LM which run into an Avatar 2x12 with Celetion V30s. The sound is somewhat dark with a tight, big bottom end, a lot of mids and a smooth high end. My tone as of now is pretty much this "Somewhat my current tone" but more sterile, darker and tighter. I want to have a tight yet articulate bridge pickup and a neck that can give me smooth, searing leads; but I want both to be able to clean up and do the low gain crunch. I play in E standard and play a lot of thrash and progressive metal as well as 70s rock/hard rock, 80s and early 90s metal and alternative rock (grunge), jazz, blues and some clean electric classical guitar. I want a pickup set that can cover all that ground. I have a few pup combos in mind but any input/recommendation would be appreciated. Here are the pickups I have been eyeballing:

Seymour Duncan TB-6b Distortion/TB-6n Distortion or SH-1n 59
Seymour Duncan PATB-2b Parallel Axis Trembucker Distortion/PATB-1n Parallel Axis Trembucker
Seymour Duncan Fire Blackouts
DiMarzio Crunch Lab/Liquifire
DiMarzio Super 3/Liquifire

*Seymour Duncan Black Winter set if they are released in the US.
#2
Try the Custom 5 for the bridge as well.

The Parallel Axis Distortion is too dirty for what you want.
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#4
I didn't find it so. The Custom 5 didn't sound VERY scooped to me. Of course that said, I use a MkV, and you're using a MkIV, Both are amps with mids to spare, even with the mids dialed way down, so i think you'll be fine.

However, what I would REALLY recommend is a Bare Knuckle Black Hawk.
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#5
I can say from experience that either of the Dimarzio combinations are slightly too hot, especially with the Crunch Lab in the bridge.

I'd go for a low-output pickup touted as having all the dynamic qualities of a passive with the gainy filth potential of an active. So basically +1 to the BKP Black Hawk.
#6
I was planning on coil tapping the pickups anyways. But I will check out the Black Hawk and maybe even shoot the guys a BKP an email.
#7
Quote by SCopeland24
I was planning on coil tapping the pickups anyways. But I will check out the Black Hawk and maybe even shoot the guys a BKP an email.


Coil tap or coil split?

Coil tapping adds more gain and compression. Coil splitting effectively halves your output.
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#8
Quote by ragingkitty
Coil tap or coil split?

Coil tapping adds more gain and compression. Coil splitting effectively halves your output.
Er, wrong, in so many ways.

Gain is not in any way controlled by the guitar.
Compression is not controlled by the guitar.
Tapping and splitting can both remove any degree of output; it depends on how the pickup is made.


Anyway, OP, if you're set on going passive then the SD Custom or DM Evo 2 is the bridge pickup for you, though the SD Alternative 8 and 59/Custom Hybrid would also be worth a look (slightly more output and slightly less, respectively). For the neck, an SD Jazz or PAF Pro is what you're after.

Bear in mind that as far as 'cleaning up' goes, that's down to how you set up your rig overall and is not an ability that a pickup has or hasn't. Any pickup can clean up, depending on your amp, and any pickup can be incapable of cleaning up, depending on your amp. Going for something medium-output is your best bet; use a pot with a linear taper and set your amp to medium gain. That's how you clean up a distorted tone. Using high gain or high output with medium gain will limit how clean you can get. Don't bank on a pickup magically providing you with all of your high, mid and low-gain tones with just an adjustment of the volume knob. Pickups are just some wire and a magnet, they're ambivalent to what kind of distortion you're trying to get.

The Black Hawk really does not have the dynamic range of an active. It's a simple fact of the the construction differencs, no passive can have that sort of dynamic range. That said, if you want a less 'sterile' tone but with the same sort of range and response as an active then staying active is the way to go; ditch the 81 & 85 and replace them with two 60AX pickups. More clarity, more character, less harshness, very slightly lower output but the same wider dynamic range and sensitivity that only an active design can provide.
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#9
Quote by MrFlibble
Er, wrong, in so many ways.

Gain is not in any way controlled by the guitar.
Compression is not controlled by the guitar.
Tapping and splitting can both remove any degree of output; it depends on how the pickup is made.


Gain and volume are the same thing.

Coil tapping is where you have an additional length of wire attached to the pickup to allow for additional coil winds to be wired so that you can "stack" these on top of the existing coil winds. This effective increases your DC resistance, which also leads to higher output.

A coil tap can be wired without the additional winds so that you have less output, and if you choose to, add more output. In many cases, the additional output will also introduce compression, or if you already have a high output pup, it can also add further compression to your sound.

You are right in that tapping and splitting can remove output. However, in so far as I was aware, most coil taps are wired to have a lower output, and then to add on more coil winds.

In contrast, splitting is typically having one of the slugs of the humbuckers "split out".
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#10
Well I'd want to be able to get that strat like spank and those thinner, "cleaner" cleans which I assume means less output. Yes I like that punch of actives but I just want to get away from actives, that is why I was interested in the Fire Blackouts.

But I will definitely look into the Custom. I have a paf pro on an alder Charvel and I am not the biggest fan of it. It's almost too clean. What is the difference between the SH-2 Jazz and the SH-1 59? I hear they are very similar. I also have had an Ibanez with a set of Evos in them and I didn't like them due to the lack of bottom end. The whole voicing was too sharp, middy, whatever it was, I didn't like. So how is the Evo 2 different in tone from the Evo bridge pup? I know it has less output and treble but more mids, but tonally what does that mean?

If I stay active I then I would definitely look into a set of 60/60ax, but what about the new 57/66 set from EMG?
#11
Quote by ragingkitty
Gain and volume are the same thing.

No, no, no and no.

Neither gain nor volume are available on your guitar. You have an output control. Gain, aka preamp volume, is over there in your amp's preamp section. Volume, aka power amp output, is over in your power amp section.

Same with compression. That happens in pedals and in your amp. Pickups and guitar controls do not have compression.

And no, most coil taps are wired full-on with the lower output option as the secondary selection. That's why they're called taps and not boosts. Full is the default.

Please, stop with the misinformation. There's already too much spread around, we don't need new people picking up more of it to continue the cycle.


Quote by SCopeland24
Well I'd want to be able to get that strat like spank and those thinner, "cleaner" cleans which I assume means less output.
Not always. You can have low output and a muddy sound. Clarity really comes down to the magnet and type of wire in the pickup, and those aren't things that can be adjusted with a pot or changed with a switch. If you want a clearer clean tone then that clarity will also cross over to your distorted tones and you'll probably find your distorted tones end up sounding very thin.

Yes I like that punch of actives but I just want to get away from actives, that is why I was interested in the Fire Blackouts.
Then the Gus G Blackout system won't work for you. It's just a generic overwound humbucker with an overpowered preamp. You get the same sound as active pickups but with more noise and a narrower dynamic range. It really wouldn't do what you want it to.

I have a paf pro on an alder Charvel and I am not the biggest fan of it. It's almost too clean.
Try raising the height of it. Also, different pickups sound different in different guitars, especially all-rounders like the PAF Pro (or SD JB, '59, etc, etc, etc). Absolutely, it may not be the pickup for you, I'd just suggest you look into it as a viable option because spec-wise it matches what you're asking for.

What is the difference between the SH-2 Jazz and the SH-1 59? I hear they are very similar.
The Jazz is slightly brighter and has a bit more power to it; it's basically a more modern version for the '59.

I also have had an Ibanez with a set of Evos in them and I didn't like them due to the lack of bottom end. The whole voicing was too sharp, middy, whatever it was, I didn't like. So how is the Evo 2 different in tone from the Evo bridge pup? I know it has less output and treble but more mids, but tonally what does that mean?
The way I like to describe it is the regular Evo sounds like two Strat pickups wired together while the Evo 2 sounds like two Telecaster pickups wired together. Its output measures lower but the stronger mid focus actually hits your amp a little harder and the slightly warmer tone fills out the low end. It's kind of the same difference as the Jazz and '59, again.
The important part for you is that it's a very 70s/80s prog-style pickup, with enough power for grunge and a classic enough response for blues and jazz.

The Evo 2 is basically DiMarzio's take on the SD Custom vibe, and the SD Jazz is their take on the DM PAF Pro. The main difference between the two brands is the SD pickups have common slug and screw poles while the DiMarzio pickups have hex poles. Hex poles give you more "direct" response and more even output balance between all six strings, while the basic slug and screw poles have a very slightly softer attack and the wound strings will produce a bit more output than the plain strings. It sounds like you may lean more towards the slug and screw style of Seymour Duncan, so those two pickups may be your best option.

If I stay active I then I would definitely look into a set of 60/60ax, but what about the new 57/66 set from EMG?
I've given them a try and I'll be damned if I can tell the difference between them and the 60A. They're meant to have the same poles as the Hetfield pickups, instead of the bars of the other EMGs, but they don't sound like they do. They just sound like 60As, to me.
And don't bother with the 60. That's an overly-harsh mess (not unlike the plain DM Evo). The 60AX is very different and that's the pickup that may actually suit you. It's the wind of the 60 with the magnet of the 85 and an updated preamp for more headroom. Clearer than an 85, more character than an 81, less harsh than a 60 and the dynamics of a passive. It blows my mind that EMG don't advertise it more and it's a damn shame that so many people only think of active pickups as being the 81, 85, 60 and Blackouts.
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