Anyone who reads this website with any regularity knows what a Jimmy Page fanboy I am. When it comes to Led Zeppelin and guitarists, the dictionary definition of fanatic comes into play. Guitarists have done everything from modifying their Les Pauls to casting black magic spells to capture the essence of the Jimmy Page tone. If the latter statement were hyperbole, it would be comical, but strangely enough, it is true.
Seymour Duncan has now made it possible to capture that sought after Madison Square Garden era Page tone without making a pact with the dark side. The Seymour Duncan company makes no reference to Jimmy Page in the marketing of The Whole Lotta Humbucker. However, the product page leaves clues that are as cryptic as the symbols on a Led Zeppelin album.
In his youth, Seymour Duncan spent time in London and aided fellow young guitar players with defining their sound through pickups. This wouldn’t be much of a story if one of these lads didn’t go on to change the world! Seymour’s special rewound PAFs went into a Les Paul and captured a sound that blasted through a Marshall stack and into history. These same pickups are now available as the Whole Lotta Humbucker.
If you can’t make the connection with the timeline, Seymour’s location in the early 70’s and the name of the pickups – I simply cannot help you any further. What I can help you with is how these pickups sound.
The Whole Lotta Humbuckers come with a four connector wiring. Four connector wiring allows you to install them in a variety of configurations including the often duplicated Jimmy Page wiring scheme. I opted for a traditional install on my Gibson Les Paul Traditional. However, some phase switching and coil splitting might be in its future.
My test amp next to my bench is an 80’s era Fender M80 Pro. These solid state Fender “red knobs” are coming back into fashion. They have amazing cleans with great spring reverb. One thing they do incredible is delivering high gain 80’s metal tones at huge volumes.
I plugged the Les Paul into the Fender, and it was 80’s heaven…or hell depending on how you look at it. The guitar was chugging out G&R, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden riffs very clearly and articulately. The bridge pickup is a screamer for leads. The WLHs delivered incredible sustain and control with a finger touch and sensitivity that is amazing.
Throwing the guitar into the middle position (one of my favorites on a Les Paul) the mid-range tones became a lot more pronounced. I was able to take the guitar to some deeper depths of metal banging out some Black Label Society and Pantera riffs.
Plugging into my British style stack was a whole different experience. As I banged out Led Zeppelin classic “For Your Life” I couldn’t believe the clarity and attack the guitar had. “For Your Life” was it; this was the lionized Jimmy Page tone. Standing in front of 8×12 inch speakers with a Les Paul in your hands delivering this sound is magical. Ripping through the Led Zeppelin catalog, the pickups consistently delivered. A bright spot was when I switched to the neck Whole Lotta Humbucker and gave the tone a slight tweak. As I ran through a few lines of “Since I’ve Been Lovin’ You” I got chills.
Spying my talk box sitting in the corner of the basement I was reminded of my other Les Paul wielding hero, Mr. Joe Perry. I took a run at “Sweet Emotion” and “Last Child” with great results. The Whole Lotta Humbuckers deliver that 70’s – 80’s arena rock tone with little effort.
These pickups clean up nicely. I would have no problems using them on any blues, rock or country gig. The neck WLH even has a serviceable jazz tone, with a slight roll of the volume. Everything I threw at these pickups they could handle and more. These pickups as expected perform incredibly in a mahogany bodied guitars. However, I hear about great results from guitarists putting these in everything from LTDs to Fender Strats.
You can read about the Whole Lotta Humbuckers on the Seymour Duncan website. They are available in black uncovered bobbins or nickel covers at all of your major retailers with a street price of around $220 per set.