This is a guest post by James Abel
The Whole Lotta Humbucker is a pickup designed to celebrate the time spent by pickup juggernaut Seymour Duncan during his time in London. While living in London, Seymour rewound and customized pickups for some of the hottest cliental of the time, including the likes of Paul Kossoff, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. Based on a rewind Seymour would perform on P.A.Fs, and designed for non-other than a Les Paul – Marshall set up, the Whole Lotta Humbucker could well be a British Blues rockers ideal pickup.
Availible in either uncovered black bobbins, or nickel covers, the Whole Lotta Humbucker was based on a particular pickup Seymour rewound while residing in merry old England. With a name like ‘Whole Lotta Humbucker’ no ones getting first place for guessing which player’s ‘#1’ 59’ burst this pickup is from. If the name’s not enough, the fact that the company states the pickup is for ‘use in any Mahogany or warm-toned solid body guitar with a Rosewood fingerboard for the “original” sound.’ gives a pretty concrete impression of which Rock N’ Roll giant owned the original set. Wound with a plain enamel 42-gauge wire, while also featuring alnico V magnets, the bucker may seem to fit the generic vintage pickup mould. Add short legs, and well, you’ve got a P.A.F style pickup. However, when taking a look at the output of these little gems, you begin to see why they’re somewhat different. The bridge pickup reaches a hotter than vintage 8.78K whilst the neck humbuggie weighs in at a fat 8.2K. Furthermore, the alnico V magnets are rough cast in sand moulds, meaning each magnet is a little different in their own way. The switching applied to the original pickups is also available here, as four way conductors allow for an array of switching, such as out of phase switching and coil tapping.
For the review, the pickups were used in their ‘original’ format, by being run through the ever classic partnership of a Les Paul and a Marshall.
Clean: Starting things off with a clean tone, the pickups respond extremely well to pick attack. They sound articulate and clear, with a slight natural compression to be both felt and heard. The neck bucker really does sound beautiful, with a clear chime and sheen. The bridge pickup on the other hand has a more pronounced tonality to it, with a touch more of a push. Really laying into the strings can give some nice natural break-up to the amp. Flicking the selector switch into the middle position provides the user with a fat singing quality, that’s gorgeous for both chord work and clean licks. With the coils split, you’re given an almost Tele on steroids kind of sound, that is perfectly fitting for all the country licks you can summon. Phase inverting the pickups and flicking into the middle position yields an excellent out of phase sound that is more than suitable for adding flavour to jazz or funk work.
Dirty: When cranking the Marshall and getting things to heat up, these little rockers really do kick up a storm. The compression, articulation and clarity is all still there, but with more of a kick. The pickups are wound to just a degree that they give the amp a nice push, without hammering the front end into oblivion. You name a British player that used a Les Paul and a Marshall, and its here. Kossoff style vibrato sings with pounds of sustain, while in the middle position a sweet blues tone is easily achieved. The neck pickup is creamy and juicy, and has a thick bottom end to it. Rolling down the tone pots here really do drop you smack bang in the middle of Clapton land. However, one of the most prominent tones offered by the bucker is its namesake. Cranking up a Marshall and flicking to the bridge pickup will have you wanting to play the Heartbraker solo for hours. It really is the fat, snarling, sweet, singing Les Paul tone that can be found on those early hard rock albums. Zeppelin tribute bands should also rejoice, it seems their pickup messiah is here. Pushing the gain into a hot-rodded Marshall territory really doesn’t seem to phase the pickups either; one could quite easily get away with using them for metal. When coil tapped, the pickups have a strong singlecoil tone that is somewhat reminiscent of Beck’s early tones. When phase inverted and running through a hot amp, it would be criminal not to show off some licks in the style of Green or Moore. Though, what stands out above all else, is how balanced the pickups are. They have a certain ‘Mojo’ if you will. There’s something about them that really do just make more of whatever amp and guitar they’re paired with. Perhaps it’s because they don’t put too much focus on colouring your tone, as they refrain from accentuating any frequency range in particular. Or perhaps Mr.Duncan has found a way to enhance the love between the Les Paul and the Marshall (if that’s even possible!). Although to this reviewers ears, they just seem to enhance that Les Paul Marshall set-up. It’s like finding the perfect glue between the two, as these pickups bring out the best in each of them.
At a price of $225 per set, these pickups are relatively competitively priced. It’s not often that I genuinely find a piece of gear I struggle to find faults with, though this is certainly towards the top of that pile. The wide range of tones in it’s arsenal, not to mention the heritage of the pickup make it hard to beat for both British blues and hard rock fans alike. Although the buckers can cope with a decent metal sound, those that are inclined to spiked bracelets and extreme shaped guitars may want to look at pickups more specific to the genre. But for those that love their Les Pauls and Marshalls, and are looking for that little bit extra to enhance their tone, these are the way to go. Unfortunately the Violin bow is not included, but that does not stop these pickups from being a tremendously special set.
View the Whole Lotta Humbucker Pickups on Amazon