Guitar Pickup Review: Seymour Duncan Alternative 8 Humbucker

The Alternative 8 is a good workhorse for most any rock style. It has a solid punch when riffing and it delivers clarity and precision for leads and complex fingering.

To date, the Alternative 8 is the most recent production humbucker actually engineered by Seymour himself.

Hitting the market when the Alnico 8 was still a “thing” new to pickup tweakers, 2008’s Alternative 8 follows the Custom Shop’s Crazy 8 model from 2007. Compared to an Alnico 5, for example, the Alnico 8 takes it all up a notch. Among pickup modders that are just fine with violating a product’s warranty, the Alnico 8 seems to have become pretty popular. A bit of sensory overload has it’s novelty, but I’ve personally not met a pickup altered with an Alnico 8 that maintains lasting power with my ears.

On the other hand, a pickup that’s designed around an Alnico 8 is a different story. And that’s why I seem to have found better results when I do not dictate specs to a pickup winder. Do you think people were telling Michelangelo what brushes to use on the Sistine Chapel? Or what chisels were best for Madonna and Child?

Seymour was asked about his take on a humbucker with an Alnico 8. He ponders the possibilities and lays out something the Duncan company’s staff engineers can’t beat. How about that?!

This humbucker comes with 4-conductor lead wire and comes in standard or trem spacing. My Alternative 8 is an earlier model, made in 2008. Given the techniques in play then and now, there’s no reason to think there would be any variance in the results. I mean, unless you could manage to get Seymour himself to make one for you. LOL!

The general vibe of the Alternative 8 is pretty simple to figure out if you’re familiar with Duncan Company staples like the JB or the Distortion. Imagine a pretty similar tone curve. Now, can you hear a JB that’s a smidge fuller sounding with a touch more clarity in the high end? Or maybe consider a Distortion with less grit and a slightly warmer low end.

The Alternative 8 is a good workhorse for most any rock style (disclaimer: “horse” is not to be taken as an affront to anyone’s ex-wife). It has a solid punch when riffing and it delivers clarity and precision for leads and complex fingering. It has plenty of push and drive to provide a singing sustain without so much of the congestion found in many hotter humbuckers.

For a groovy twist on things, you get really great clean tones for a pickup as hot as the Alternative 8. Take it in full-on series mode and roll it back a bit. Or set it up to switch to split or parallel. The awesome versatility is a testament to Seymour’s own design and a throwback to what he was doing when he was able to be more hands-on with the concepts.

Check out this demo of the Alternative 8 that runs through different gain settings:

Ready for some specs:

Series – 18.386 K
Inductance – 8.147 H
North – 9.143 K
South – 9.243 K
Parallel – 4.597 k
Resonant Peak – 4.46 KHz (advertised)
Bass – 7
Mid – 8
Treble – 9
Magnet – Alnico 8

What’s a good match in the neck to pair with the Alternative 8? I haven’t found it. Some players go with a few of the old standbys. Wouldn’t an experiment in going off the reservation with a magnet warrant the same for a neck pickup? Maybe an Alnico 6? The Alternative 6 neck humbucker pickup! That’s the ticket!! HaHa! You saw it here first!

For reference, this Alternative 8 humbucker set evaluation was conducted with a Fractal Axe-Fx II XL+ featuring Celestion Impluse Responses and also with an ADA MP-1 tube preamp. Real cabs used are a Peavey 6505 cab loaded Peavey Sheffield and Mojotone BV-25M speakers in an X config and a Marshall 1960B cab loaded with Celestion G12-65 speakers.

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