Sound — 8
This is a resonably high output humbucker set with the lead guitarist in mind. I contacted SD, and they rate the bridge as "slightly lower output than a JB", which is not too shabby. The bridge clocks in at 14.6 kohm and the neck at 7.4 k, so it is pretty high output and fairly uncompressed. I use this mainly through a Peavey Valveking whit some simple mods, and a Kustom Arrow 16 when volume is an issue. They both work fine with these pickups. The bridge has a ceramic magnet, and the neck has an alnico V. This pickup suits me very well, I do a lot of metal, rock, blues and jazz, this set can do it all. I do however recommend that you get a split coil option installed, that will give the player a lot of more options, and can help with some of the more quirky sides of this set... Yes, I said quirky. These pickups are certainly not for the beginner, they are extremely defined, so gain will not hide your mistakes, it does though Drive you to play more clear, so it's all good in the end I guess. The bridge can be experienced as harsh in the hands of a new player, this p-up needs some good eq:ing to get a more balanced tone, I generally raise the treble a bit, the lowest bass a bit, and the lower mids on my Boss EQ-pedal. This pickup has the high mids in abundance, so I generally leave them where they are. I would not consider the tone scooped. Split this is very spanky, and I have found it excellent for funk. If you know how to use this it also packs a good punch, I use an Ibanez Smashbox as my main distortion and that pedal can be a bit finnicky about what pickups it accepts, these two work together like a charm. The pedal itself is very punchy, and together they form one glorious union of face-melt, I really love them together. The neck is however another breed (heh, Breed..), it is not ceramic (alnico V), has a noticable lower output, and a noticably higher volume than the bridge. This caught me off guard first, but then I started to dig it.. The neck is smooth, but still has a bite to it and has a good output. The closest comparison in tone I can think of is the DiMarzio Liquifire, I can really hear some similarities to that one. This pickup has however more growl and bite to it, I'm absolutely convinced that this also would work excellent in the bridge position. Split it gains a certain shimmering quality, excellent for cleans. I mostly use it split when I play cleans, because: 1. It has an extremely shimmery tone, which i have fallen deeply in love with. 2. The volume jump becomes a non-issue when the coils are split. And 3. The output is still fairly high, so to get a really clean tone, splitting it is a good tactic. I grant the tone an eight, I would put it at a seven, because of the bridge being a tad on the unbalanced side, and therefore not for everyone. What weighs it over to eight is however the neck, this is bloody brilliant. It is everything I can ask for in a neck, and much more. I do some leads on my neck pickup, and this one slays for that as well. You can stack loads of distortion on and still shred away like it's no tomorrow, yet have sparkling cleans. It scores this high because it is a very well designed set, a lot of thought has got into making this, and it certainly does what is advertised, giving a high definition to leads, as well as molten aggressive rythms.
Overall Impression — 8
In my +10 years of playing I have tried many pickups, these were the first to have that wow-factor for me. I was really blown away by these, and I am quite picky. This is a good set and they balance each other quite well. The neck pickup is a beaut, it does all I ask of it. Metal rythms, AC/DC-style hard rock, dirty blues, clean blues, jazzy runs and everything between. You name it, I can play it. I frankly cannot find anything I dislike about the neck, it is just that good. To me, it is better than both the Jazz and the '59, others will disagree, but I feel this is the best neck pickup SD makes. The bridge has a nice output, a pleasant ceramic crunch (I really prefer ceramic bridges because of that crunch), it cuts through very well, which makes this a great pickup for a lead guitar player. The con is however that it is fairly unbalanced, in the hands of a rookie this would quickly turn into just a trebly-upper mid-peak. I have also found that rolling back the tone knob just a little bit adds to the sweetness when doing rythms, so it is usable for that application as well. I have this set in a custom Ran Crusher, I had it installed as standard, so I did not buy these pickups separately. The guitar has a mahogany body, mahogany neck, macassar ebony fretboard, and a hipshot bridge, the construction is bolt-on. Having them in a warm guitar is a good match, especially mahogany, as it compensates for some of the frequencies the bridge lack. My ambition is however to make this work in my next project, an ash guitar with a maple neck and a maple fretboard, we'll see how it works out, I am however hopefull. This is a good pickup set, so if you know what you are doing, I strongly recommend these. If you are new to this, I would probably tell you to start with a less sensitive pickup, like the Custom or the JB. For those that are able however, this really is really one of the best seven-stringed combos ever IMO. The grade however stops at an eight, because there is no such thing as all ten, and due to the tricky bridge, it certainly does not deserve a nine. It is not bad however, just tricky, and if you give it time, listen to it, and understand it, you will be rewarded.
Reliability & Durability — 9
This is a Seymour Duncan, 'nuff said. A good feature that not all manufacturers use is the metal baseplate (that is the "bottom" of the pickup), this certainly adds to sturdyness, and I believe I will break down before this pickup does. I have no qualms about giving it a nine for reliability and durability.