Purchased from: Paul Bothner Music
Sound — 8
So, I am a metal head just like you reading this review about pickups made for metal playing by Seymour Duncan. These are the signature series pickups for Gus G., guitarist of Firewind and Ozzy. I play some range of styles within metal and am not afraid to dial back my gain control (blasphemous!).
Put these pickups in my Ibanez RG 370DXZL which has an H/S/H configuration so now my middle pickup is just a decoration but more on that now. Amp is my Roxy MG120 which is an entry solid state that gives nothing of its own to tone but makes guitar louder through my 4x12 cab. The important bit of my rig is the preamp I have on my Boss ME-80 and my presets. Now onto the pickups.
These pickups are super clean. Being actives I suppose that's what they were meant to do but unless I am moving the strings I forget my amp is on sometimes. My first set of actives and I am impressed by the noise suppression. High gain there is something but not overbearing even through my shot fender cable. Dial the gain back and it gets nice and clean and even quieter.
The tone on full on distortion for bridge is crushing but without any muddy grit in it. Which was pleasant because I like hearing nuances in my bands music and chords aren't just a white noise strum. It does feel a little choppy when I palm mute though. I can probably hit a pinch harmonic on any fret and any string with this pickup. Consistent tone when I use my whammy bar so that's nice. Neck pickup is warmer and not for riffs at all. It is too boomy for rhythm I think. But for single notes it shines. Especially in the high registers. It makes a complete difference to my sound being less noisy. I feel like a better guitarist already.
When you go to clean tone though I have some issues. The bridge pickup feels too empty to me. Totally hollow. In a band context and for EQ live it is great but lacks something in your bedroom or for standalone pieces. The neck is a bit fuller in all bands and is very smooth with no sparkle.I have the ME-80 which is a multi-effects processor stompbox cousin of the GT-100 so amending these issues is not too bad for me. Just not desirable for those with just a small pedalboard.
Reliability & Durability — 7
For reliability and durability they have served me well. Swapping over to the actives wasn't too difficult with the preamp thing you get for your volume pot. Very clean and easy with little space for a battery with some hiccups doing the selector but this was my first time trying it. All looks solid and soldered and screwed in place. Comes with all the spare bits you may need from springs to screws to extra wire.
One thing I still need to fix is that volume rolls off in the same direction as it would on a right handed guitar. Which means that my natural open volume response closes it. You have to pick up your guitar and flip it over to understand. But nothing swapping a wire wont fix. Which is easy with the preamp system. Consistent and powerful magnets with screw adjustment poles on one side to get ultra fine set-up done. For me at least all in perfect order barring the limited instruction manual.
Overall Impression — 7
This is going to be rated high because it is a top end set of pickups with solid construction from a great brand. But not a fanboy rating. For me and my taste they just deserve it. I play something of a combination of progressive metal and metalcore (progcore?) with my band and for the songs that vary between the sounds it holds up on all accounts. By myself I like to roll down the gain and jam out some punk or grunge stuff or just go clean and play chords. Been doing this guitar thing for 5 years now with 2 other guitars with passive pickups and my amp and effects mentioned above.
If my guitar with these were stolen I would go and buy a higher end guitar but immediately go find a set of these and slap them in there because I am in love with their clarity. I with they had a bit more diversity and range of sounds in them though. You are stuck with your usual rock/metal awesome sound when you long to play country or something like that. But otherwise the best sound I have heard out of pickups I have played with (including music shop guitars from all price ranges).