Guitar Gear Review: Seymour Duncan Custom Shop Allan Holdsworth Humbucker

As guitarists go, Allan Holdsworth is generally associated with Carvin (more so these days, Kiesel). And yes, Kiesel does offer 2 different sets of Holdsworth humbuckers. He is also known to have used DiMarzios (the original DP103 PAF, as near as I can tell). But I have an Allan Holdsworth humbucker from the Seymour Duncan company. So that’s what I’m covering today. LOL!

As with anything going on with the Duncan company, there is a degree of water cooler gossip. One of the more significant things about this topic is that there have been 2 versions of this Holdsworth pickup offered from Duncan. Another thing is that one of those models is based on the 59 Model and the other is based on the JB. If so, this one is clearly JB-based.

The Holdsworth pickup from Duncan can be found in the Custom Shop as the AH-1 or as the Metal Fatigue. The latter is how I found it a few years back. Duncan Custom Shop Manager MJ was at a guitar show, with her table of goodies. It’s great to see MJ at the shows. We always have so much to discuss.

One of the unique characteristics of this humbucker is the 2 rows of fillister screws. Generally speaking, people consider that feature to be prone to softening up the character a little.

For starters, the AH-1 went into a super strat with a Honduras mahogany body, maple neck, ebony board and German Floyd Rose. To throw in a wrinkle, it went into the middle hum position. Middle hum? Yes. I suggest everyone take a moment to try out a middle hum guitar with a pickup voiced for the bridge position. Great for meatier lead work and still focused enough for defined rhythm riffs. But, in mahogany? Darth, are you daft? Well, that’s another conversation. LOL! Nonetheless, the Holdsworth humbucker dominated in that guitar. Clear voicing and with lots of command.

Next up was another super strat, this time in the bridge position. This one is poplar with a maple board and a rosewood neck, also with a Floyd Rose. I went with poplar, as I find it brighter than alder while not being as sharp as maple. So, a little contrast to the middle position of a mahogany guitar. Also wired to a push/pull for series parallel. The simple way to put it is that it’s still in that guitar to this day.

I can definitely hear the comparisons to a JB with double screws. Even the company’s description of the product is that it is a modification of a pre-existing model. To my ears, I’d suggest thinking of a JB. Now shift the mids down a smidge and add a touch of meat to the highs. Even so, lots of bite and plenty of definition. And no mud. And dig on this, I have not adjusted the pole pieces. That’s right. I raised the hurdles on this pickup and it cleared them all.

Overall, dirty tones are commanding and still defined. Seems for my rig that clean amp tones will need to be dialed back just a hair. The guitar’s volume knob should do it.

Although I’ve had this bad boy for 3-1/2 years, I did re-visit it for this evaluation. Also since I’ve added a few new cabs to the rig. A Marshall 1960B with 4 Celestion G12-65 and a Peavey 6505 slant with 4 Sheffields. I even pulled up a few heavier amp settings for good measure.

Here are some specs:

Series – 18.23 k
Inductance – 8.10H
North – 9.01 k
South – 9.21 k
Parallel – 4.54 k
Magnet – Alnico 5

The work of Allan Holdsworth is that of a player’s player. Lots of complexity and known for his legato. My goal was to show that this pickup is more versatile than it may appear on paper or by consideration of “a JB with double screws”.

In closing, there is a GoFundMe page, OKd by the Holdsworth family (UPDATE: which exceeded the goal and is no longer accepting donations). You can also consider official sanctioned signature products, if you’d like a % of your gear purchase to go to the estate. In fairness, there are no indications that the AH Metal Fatigue pickup in this evaluation is such.

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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