The humbucker pickup has been with us for quite a few years now. It first arrived in our consciousness in 1955, the brain-child of Seth Lover. Working with Gibson at the time, he worked out how to wire two coils and make them out of phase. Reversing the magnetic polarities took away the hum. Or as they called it, “bucking the hum.”
With that in mind, we are going to get to know one of the most popular humbuckers ever created in our in-depth Seymour Duncan JB Humbucker Pickup Review…
What is a Humbucker?
Fender especially was known for their ’60 cycle hum’ from their single-coil pickups. Up until Lover’s invention, guitarists had to put up with it. It was ok for some and part of the sound, but some wanted something different.
An inauspicious start…
It wasn’t particularly well-received at first. His PAF was put on the Les Paul range instead of the much-loved P90s. There wasn’t much of a positive reaction, and sales dropped.
People soon adjusted, and a new breed of players was on the horizon. For those that wanted to play louder, the humbucker was a perfect fit. Some say it was the humbucker that ‘made’ the Les Paul and that it wouldn’t have been the same guitar without it. They have a point. The JB is the epitome of the Gibson humbucker pickup.
Lots to choose from…
Today everyone and his dog are making humbuckers. Some good, some not so good, and some terrible. But they all have to try and compete with one of the best humbucker pickups of the last 40 odd years.
The Seymour Duncan JB Humbucker has been on a lot of guitars and a lot of music. It is the number one choice for those who want that powerful humbucker sound. But before we take a closer look at it, who is Seymour Duncan?
After a stint working at the Fender Soundhouse in London, Seymour went back to the US. He got married and set up his business in 1976. He was good at what he did, making replacement pickups, and his reputation soon grew. He dabbled with amps and some effects pedals, but it was his pickups that that developed a stellar reputation.
The JB Humbucker is one of his shining lights. And today, it is still pumping out heavyweight tones and volume from the rock bands to the heaviest metal. His pickups have found their way onto a lot of well-known guitars, including Dave Gilmour’s black Strat. So what makes it so good and makes it so popular? Let’s take a look.
Seymour Duncan JB Humbucker Pickup – Overview
The JB arrived in the late 70s. It was at a time when the popularity of high-gain guitar sounds was growing. There was no heavy metal music as we understand it today, but already the signs were there from the very early days. And this pickup would prove instrumental in the development of the genre.
Its popularity showed a consistent growth as more and more guitarists discovered its sound. It became the most popular Seymour Duncan pickup and certainly one of the most popular humbucker pickups around the world.
Love it or hate it?
The classic sound of a ‘hot’ humbucker. Of course, not everyone liked it. Some saw it as sacrilege for ‘country-based’ Gibson to use such a monster. And a monster is what it was. The ‘Fender’ crowd disowned it. But some were seeing the possibilities.
Love it or hate it, it was here to stay. And what a difference it made. And it is still here and great for everything from rock to the heaviest of metal.
What made it so good?
It was like nothing before. Plenty of output that didn’t give away any of the tones of the guitar. It added some harmonics and, of course, ‘that’ sustain and a good helping of heavy distortion. The emphasis was on the heavy. A good early example of the sound humbuckers could deliver is the Led Zeppelin II album released at the end of 1969.
But that wasn’t all…
Being aggressive and playing on the edge wasn’t all it could do. Pull it back a bit, and it could give you some warm sweet tones, but that was still thick in texture and very full. It is a pickup built for tones and at the same time built to let it rip.
It was recommended for the bridge position. You can place it at the neck if you want to. But if you put it at the bridge and add a Seymour Duncan 59 at the neck, you better hang on to something because your guitar is gonna fly.
This is a four-conductor pickup that has a completely balanced coil configuration. It has an Alnico V magnet with standard spacing, which is important to understand before fitting.
Standard spacing means that it can fit the vast majority of guitars that do not have a tremolo fitted. If the guitar has a tremolo, you may need what they call a ‘trembucker’. The spacing on these is a little wider.
This is just a rule of thumb guide. It is always best to measure the spacing of the strings to ensure you get the right pickup.
Fitting is not a difficult task, especially if you are just replacing a pickup. The JB Hubmbucker comes with all the necessary mounting springs and screws you will require.
We have touched on it already. This is one of the most versatile humbucker pickups for a high-gain sound. It didn’t become as popular as it is by having a narrow field of potential uses.
Giving you the sound…
The balanced configuration of the coil is essential to give you the humbucker sound. High output with a nice blend of distortion and sustain and some great harmonics.
But it is not just that configuration. The design of this pickup and the materials used tells you it is going to make some noise. Lots of it. The treble especially is powerful.
Best of both worlds…
The material used in the construction of the guitar will also be important to the overall sound. If you have a mahogany body and a Rosewood neck, you will reap the benefits, especially when you pull it back a bit.
We have already made comments about this pickup being able to produce a balanced and warm sound. It can, and this can be enhanced even further by good construction woods. From warm and sweet tones to hard-driving rock and on to screaming metal. This pickup does it all.
You might find yourself with an amp that just doesn’t like to be driven too hard. No matter. This pickup is going to persuade it to take you to overdrive status.
It is capable of doing that and gives you a sledgehammer of a sound. But at the same time, it maintains its crisp highs. And we know we keep going on about it, but it mixes in the right level of distortion and sustain. The performance was stunning more often than not.
Tweak it to your taste…
If you want to smooth out some of the aggressive highs, then some players use 250k pots. This does the job if you feel it is just a bit too much at the top end. If you want to set up some complicated switching, you are able to do so. This is courtesy of the four-conductor cable.
As we have already said, the bridge is the place for this pickup. From there, you will get some great rhythm tones. And you might be thinking this means it comes with a hefty price tag. Not at all; this is one of the best cheap humbucker pickups considering what it can do.
Seymour Duncan JB Humbucker Pickup Review – Pros and Cons
- Four-conductor pickup.
- Balanced coil configuration.
- Alnico V magnet.
- A great blend of distortion and sustain.
- Able to play warm and sweet as well as loud and very heavy.
- Very attractive price point.
- Nothing at all.
Looking for Something Else?
Get your guitar sounding just the way you want it. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Single Coil Pickups, the Best P 90 Pickups, the Best Stratocaster Pickups, the Best Telecaster Guitar Pickups, and the Best Guitar Pickups you can buy in 2021.
You may also like our in-depth reviews of the Best DiMarzio Pickup, the Best Acoustic Guitar Pickups, and the Best Electric Guitar Pickups currently on the market. And for you, bass players, have a look at our reviews of the Best Precision Bass Pickups and the Best Jazz Bass Pickups on sale today.
Seymour Duncan JB Humbucker Pickup Review – Final Thoughts
The fact that this is still such a popular pickup says it all, really. Seymour Duncan produces a range of great humbuckers. This is just one of them.
Do you want to get the best out of it? Paired with or an SH-1 ’59 for P.A.F. tones, the JB is likely to be unbeatable. But even then, on its own, it is a stunning humbucker. And coming from an old single-coil lover like me, that is praise indeed. The fact is you can’t ignore the quality of this pickup.
If you want the best replacement humbucker pickup, you’ve found it. Likewise, if you are looking for your first humbucker, this one won’t let you down.
Until next time, never stop striving for your sound.