This pickup is a bit of a rarity for me, as it’s one I’d been keeping my eye on for a while without jumping on….although not for lack of trying. More than anything, there has been so little out there about the tone that resonated with anything that hit home.
I remember when this one came on the scene about 18 months ago, as it appeared to clearly be released while the namesake was still on the artist roster of another company. Someone asked me about this model, and if it was a new release from that prior company. I called a contact within that company and after an audible sigh and an almost under-the-breath “Not again!” from the other end, I later discovered that I was hearing the beginning of an end to a 20+ year business relationship. Wow! Understandably, I’ve been wondering if any one pickup is worth it. So let’s see.
Over the years, I’ve tried just about any production and custom pickup that this artist had been known for using. Even with some of the more rare ones, I had a degree of comfort from getting an idea of how it would sound from conversations with the pickup winder. This pickup…not so much. Although I had previously tried the Arcane Brownbucker, no voicemails or e-mails to Arcane have ever been returned. I did catch the owner on the phone once, and while a perfectly nice gentleman, I didn’t end up with a description of the Mr Scary Humbucker that synced with any nomenclature that I am accustomed to within the realm of understanding the voice of a guitar pickup.
For this purpose, I installed the pickup in an ESP Guitars Serpent model. A real deal Serpent, not the LTD model. It’s a direct mount to an ash body. It has a maple neck with rosewood board and an ESP-branded Schaller double-locking trem.
So, you ask, how does it sound? The Arcane site describes the pickup as “beautiful highs and sweetness without being harsh.” Gotta be honest, the highs are definitely there….but maybe “harsh” is a relative concept. This pickup has some brightness to it. A lot of brightness to it. Some might consider it shrill or tinny or brittle, but I’m not sure I’d take it to that extreme. But, you say, it’s in an ash body. Yes it is. It’s a signature model associated with the artist…or I could have installed it in one of the other signature models, such as an oversized maple body with an ebony board that I know would have been ever brighter. Yet there is still a good amount of thump in the low end, which I found a little curious for a pickup so bright.
Having gone through many pickups in each of the guitars associated with this artist as well as just about all of the pickups associated with this artist, I am really finding this product to be a tone quest that goes a little outside the box. Looking at the specs for an alnico 8 magnet, it seemed a little like what I’ve heard when players tweak with swapping magnets in a pickup and the little bit of extra everything that an alnico 8 can deliver…except that in some cases it will deliver a bit of ear fatigue, which is what the saturated high end of this pickup can lead to. Put all that together, and I can get a pretty good idea of the origins and the thought process that led to the voicing of this model.
If you are one of those players that considers a certain archetype production model pickup that’s been out for almost 40 years to be a little shrill and ice-picky, this is not going to be for you. On the flip side, it does have a little of a very-hot-vintage vibe that stops short of being compressed. Someone that has a guitar that lacks lows and highs might have just found an ideal pickup to even out their tone.
series – 13.93k
split N – 6.95k
split S – 6.97k
parallel – 3.48k