Celebrating Rock guitar icon Slash with our exclusive interview, iGuitar also decided to take a look at one of the key components in the great man's sound - his signature Seymour Duncan pickup set. Will they work for you? Jamie Humphries checks them out.
When Appetite for Destruction came out in 1987, Slash's tone inspired generations, and still continues to do so. To many, this fabulous tone was the magical combination of a classic Gibson Les Paul and a Marshall. But there was also another vital ingredient to that sound, the Seymour Duncan Alnico II pickups that were in the guitar that Slash used to record that genre defining album. As Slash states in an interview, the pickups chose him. After hearing them, he set about replacing all of the pickups in his Les Pauls with the Duncan Alnico II's!
There are a couple of different ways to produce a distorted tone. The first is to use high output pickups that drive the amp harder and the second is to use lower output pickups and push the amp itself harder to produce more distortion and saturation. The second is the more classic and, to many, the more organic way producing a natural and controllable tone, giving the ability to be able to back off the guitar's volume to clean up the sound. Slash falls into the second category, with his pickup choice being more classic and controllable.
The idea behind the signature Slash pickup was to faithfully replicate the tone of Slash's favourite studio and touring guitar. The tone description of the pickups is a 'warm moderate output pickup, which is ideal for blues, rock and hard rock'. The pickups use an Alnico 2 magnet, Alnico being comprised of aluminium, (Al), nickel, (Ni), and Cobalt, (Co). These pickups include a little extra winding just to boost the output of the guitar slightly and send it into the sweet overdriven lead tone, characteristic of Slash's sound. These pickups also feature a single conductor cable, long-legged bottom plate, wooden spacer, and even a custom Slash graphic on the underside of the pickup! They are a vital part of creating the Slash tone, and are also included as standard with the latest signature Gibson Slash Les Paul.
For our review and test we had to decide how to go about fitting a set of these pickups and in consultation with Seymour Duncan's UK distributors, Rosetti, came up with A Cunning Plan, hatched by our editor and Rosetti's MD. We have borrowed a single cutaway Hagstrom, which has been fitted with Seymour Duncan's brilliant Liberator system, which, when installed, allows you to change the pickups in your guitar with ease.
It worked so well that we are going to be using this system again the future as a testbed for various Seymour Duncans that we are also itching to get our sweaty paws on!
All set-up, I began clean and I could tell straight away that these were a quality set of pickups. The tone of the bridge pickup was clean and bright, but at the same time well balanced, not too bright or harsh. The neck pickup was warm and round, and was perfect for producing a rich, warm, clean Jazz feel.
The Duncans really came to life when I kicked in the crunch channel on our Marshall, with the bridge pickup starting to sound slightly more aggressive, with some boosted upper mids. I blasted through a few Slash-inspired riffs and could instantly start to hear 'that tone' starting to take shape. Switch to the neck pick and that "woody" Slash sound was at my fingertips. I backed-off the tone control and was instantly inspired to play a little bit of the Sweet Child O' Mine riff.
These pickups are obviously perfectly matched, and exquisitely crafted, with every detail taken into account. The tone is classic, with a little more output and bite but not so much power that they produce a compressed metal effect. Check out the video! This is a more controllable classic/hard rock tone and if you are a Slash fan than these pickups are a vital piece of that sound puzzle. But if you're not? Don't be put off by the signature. This is a fabulous set of replacement pickups, built to the highest specifications and producing a really musical, inspiring tone. It must be said, they don't come cheap and you can't help feeling that they'd be wasted on a low quality Les Paul clone. But on a fine guitar, they will only ever enhance the sound.