Seymour Duncan has been making pickups for a long time - 1976 to be precise - and in that time he must have seen and heard Rock music change course many times. Lately, it has moved into some very strange tonal territory indeed, as the Metal maestros of Scandinavia have carved a new, dark sound out of the ice. Time for a new pickup aimed just at guitarists desperate to capture that sound - hence these two newcomers, the Black Winter humbuckers.
As regular GI readers will know, we have a testbed guitar set aside for pickup reviews - coincidentally also with a Scandinavian link, as it's a single cutaway Hagstrom routed for humbuckers. It has had a few choice replacement pickups fitted in the past but it was in for a bit of a jolt with these two, I can tell you!
I should probably start by explaining that for this review we were supplied with a complete calibrated set, however, you can get your hands on either just the neck or bridge pickup, should you so desire. Obviously, if you're fitting a pair it makes sense to buy the matched set.
As you would expect, these passive beasts are very high output pickups to match the demands of the style. The neck pickup has a DC resistance of 13.00k and a resonant peak of 6.35kHz, while the bridge pickup has a DC resistance of 16.60k and a resonant peak of 6.68kHz. Both pickups have ceramic magnets and four conductor cables and are available in black only (what else!). So far, Seymour Duncan is only offering them in six string versions but surely a seven string set must be on the way sometime?
OK, so the Duncans were bolted into our testbed and away I went. As expected, they are mightily aggressive, particularly in the mid and high end register, which is perfect for the extreme metal players they are marketed towards. Curiously, I did find them to have a degree of warmth to the sound though, but that was never at the expense of that aggression. Both the bridge and neck pickup also had an impressive clarity between strings, never turning the sound to a 'mush' as often happens with extreme saturation. The neck pick up had particularly impressive sustain too, perfect for those soaring, melodic leads. Impressively, although they were made for out and out Metal, cleans sounded good, too, with a nice balanced sound between strings. Check out the video!
There is no doubt that if you are looking for the perfect pickups to turn your guitar into a snorting, grunting weapon of sonic destruction, these just demand to be at the top of your list. You may not necessarily be looking for more than that but the Duncans offer it anyway - having a nice melodic quality which we weren't really expecting.