Purchased from: Bare Knuckle Pickups online shop
Sound — 9
BKP Black Hawks are meant to replicate the power and articulation of active pickups, but with far less dynamic range compression and more character. They do it very well indeed. I have these pickups installed in an LTD EC-1000 (Mahogany body and neck, rosewood fretboard, 24.75" scale, TOM bridge). I'm currently using it with a Saffire Pro 40 and Peavey Revalver.
The bridge model (I got the ceramic magnet version) is tight, incredibly clear, and is fairly hot. Unlike the DiMarzio D-Activator, which is supposed to do the same thing, it is not harsh on the high end - in fact, I would go so far as to say the Black Hawks are quite smooth and pleasant sounding on the high end despite being rather bright. They react to variations in pick attack very nicely.
The neck pickup is not unlike an EMG 85, but without a huge amount of low end buildup or compression. It's got very nice singing qualities to the high end and it lends itself to lead playing very, very nicely. It does cleans quite well too, with plenty of definition but with the nice and smooth highs that I find to be quite pleasant. No ice picks to be found here.
Reliability & Durability — 10
BKPs are made quite well, and like any other pickup, unless there is damage to the coil wire or the magnet, they basically will never stop working. As a plus, Bare Knuckle's customer service is simply outstanding. Ben French got back to my email questions within a day or two. I was seriously impressed by the speed of the response time, especially considering how small of a company Bare Knuckle is. It was much quicker of a response than DiMarzio's customer support. Seymour Duncan comes close, but Bare Knuckle still wins in the great response time.
Overall Impression — 9
I play extreme metal primarily, and that is more or less what Black Hawks are intended to do. They can, however, definitely do other genres. The neck pickup lends itself to jazz with the tone control turned down a bit, and modern hard rock definitely is possible with these pickups. They're decidedly modern sounding pickups, so I would not recommend these if you like to play AC/DC or Zeppelin, but if you're looking for a great set of metal pickups, Bare Knuckle Black Hawks definitely do the job.