Originally marketed as an exclusive to the Scandinavian region (Norway, Denmark, Sweden, etc.), the Black Winter humbucker pickup set was given a more international release a while back. Fans of the brand quickly jumped at something new and the Black Winter humbuckers seemed to gain a degree of notoriety as being more than the name suggested (i.e., the Full Shred, anyone?). While looking at the specs of the Black Winter set on paper, you’d find some similarities to some of the staples of Seymour’s legacy offerings, such as the Distortion. I think the Black Winter set is a lot closer to something entirely different, and we’ll get to that in a minute.
For now, let’s get past the scary packaging that may remind you of Halloween or that kid in school that went through the Marilyn Manson phase. And don’t let the different font used for the Seymour brand make you think you’ll be playing the lute at ye olde renaissance faire… unless you use your lute to pillage the countryside and make away with the fair maidens. Not judging.
When considering something new for the workbench from Seymour’s catalog, it was a bit of a toss up between this Black Winter set and a few of the other newer models with the less-conventional names that include the Pegasus, the Nazgul and the Sentient. The Black Winter set has been suggested to be the most different in terms of what could be the least like something already offered. For this testing and review, they were installed in a 2-hum super strat with a double locking trem. Each pickup is connected to a push/pull pot for series/parallel options and rigged up to a nice CTS volume pot, a Switchcraft 12120x 3-way toggle and a Switchcraft 151 output jack.
Let’s plug it in and crank it up.
Wow! I can see/hear why the Black Winter is also offered in 7 and 8-string variants, as well as how it appears to appeal to players that like to use lower tuning or extended scale lengths. Out of the gate, this set of pickups is quite precise and articulate. Punchy and controlled lows with edgy and focused mids and highs. These should prove a solid fit for dropping to D or even C#, as well as playing styles the demand a very accurate low-end tracking of extreme riffing. Playing with 10s in standard tuning, I was at no loss for an amped up level of definition and plenty of sustain.
In the bridge, the Black Winter is a little sharp. There will be no problem with your Vai and Dime squeals as you sail the seas with this Cap’n Crunch on a dirty amp setting. Easing off the guitar volume knob a bit can reveal some downright good tones for the likes of some AC/DC. While a little strong on clean settings while in both series and parallel, put that volume knob to use here as well.
The neck pickup is something a bit different. Seymour’s neck models are more known for that more traditional fuller neck voice that can often times be big in the lows and sweet in the highs. Yet the Black Winter neck retains the same precision focus of the bridge across chords and solo work. Things held together well when going down low. Playing leads produced blistering harmonics so clearly and loudly that I expect neighborhood dogs out front with #NeverPinch signs. I’m not a huge fan in general of the middle position between 2 humbuckers, but I did find some really usable tones with both pickups in parallel mode… even a bit of a brown tone, when tweaked properly
Series – 18.21k, 8.96H
Split n – 9.17k, 2.78H
Split s – 9.08k, 4.49H
Parallel – 4.56k, 2.22H
Resonant Peak – 6.68KHz
Series – 12.86k, 6.67H
Split n – 6.42k, 2.81H
Split s – 6.46k, 3.28H
Parallel – 3.28k, 1.38H
Resonant Peak – 6.35KHz
As promised, about this pickup set being close to something else… I picked up on it right away (ha! a pun!), and then did some back and forth between the production floor Black Winter set and the Bare Knuckle Pickups Aftermath calibrated humbucker set – with the tighter-sounding bolt pole option (a clear improvement to BKP’s default softer-sounding screw pole pieces). Check any elitist fanboy tone-sniffing at the door, as I hear them as being so close that it’d be silly to not save yourself about $80 and buy American – you save on that costly international shipping as well!
Lay your peepers on this video of the Black Winter in action, starting at 13:25. Then keep watching or just jump to 16:55 to hear it without the backing track.
Darth Phineas is a long time music industry insider who provides his readers with unbiased reviews on musical instrument and guitar gear. You can read more of his reviews and check out industry news on his Facebook community Darth Phineas, Twitter or his website is darthphineas.com