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Which is the most balanced Strat-size neck humbucker?

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  • Which is the most balanced Strat-size neck humbucker?

    Hi,

    I've got a HSS Strat I want to change to HH but the body is routed very tightly for HSS and I'm not familiar with the neck versions of the Strat humbuckers. All pickups are pretty expensive here and we don't have the 30 day test policy America has so I want to be really sure I order the most likely fit.

    Whatever I get needs to work well both series and parallel (no splitting, noise is a huge problem here). I don't need any super specific style of humbucker or single tone, just the general vibe of each but I do prefer a slightly hollow EQ. I only use neck pickups clean or very low gain, this is not for shredding or anything like that. I'll swap in 500k controls with treble bleed.
    In my full humbucker guitars I use 59s at the necks of two and a Suhr Thornbucker in another (I think the Thornbucker is basically a 59). Those get the right sound.

    I know the Little 59 is the obvious choice but I read a lot about how it's not actually much like the standard 59. Some people say it's way tighter and sharper because of the ceramic while other people say it's really bassy and I can't tell which to believe. Every demo I've found has either been low quality or heavy distortion so I can't really tell what it'll be like in my use.

    The EQ of the Cool Rails on the Duncan page suggest it's the most balanced but I'm worried it might be too weak parallel. Could I use the bridge model to increase the power with a similar EQ?

    I've read the newer Vintage Rails and Duckbucker can be wired series now and will do a better job of the parallel tone but I assume that series tone will still be very thin.

    I can't really find anything about the Lil Screamin Demon or Red Devils. They're both much more expensive than the others so I don't want to go for them unless lots of people are really sure they'll be right.

    I've had a Hot Rails in a Tele bridge before and that was way too strong, especially the mids. I assume the neck is the same deal.
    Not used the JB Jr but the Duncan page makes it sound like it'll have the same problems as the Hot Rails.

    Any help appreciated, TIA

  • #2
    Got both the Cool Rails and the Little '59, both neck versions, in two very different superStrats, both with series/parallel wiring for the neck pickup.

    The former is in an alder body, bolt-on maple neck with a rosewood fretboard Jackson DK2. The Cool Rail in series sounds indeed very balanced, and it shows its versatility in the way it handles both high gain and clean tones. Parallel has lower output, slightly changing the EQ to a more trebley but yet puncht tone, perfectly suited for Fender-like tones when using clean.

    The latter is a mahogany body, neck-through maple neck with an ebony fretboard ESP LTD MH-1000HS. The Little '59 in series sounds fuller in the mids and has more output than the Cool Rails, but that has more to do with the guitar woods and construction. Definitely sounds more vintage than the Cool Rails, and I prefer to use it with gain than with clean tones. Parallel cuts output, bass and middle more evidently than the Cool Rails, and makes it more usable in clean tones. Yet, to get LP-like tones from a Strat, this is the one to get.

    This guitar came stock with a Hot Rails neck, but it just had too much gain and mids to my liking. Definitely a Dave Murray from Iron Maiden tone, but while I love the band, I really didn't like the pickup voicing.
    Guitars:Gibson LP Trad ('57 Classics), Epiphone Les Paul Special (SP90-1 set), PRS SE CU 24 Flametop (TB5/PGn), Ibanez RG870RWZ (PATB set), Jackson DK2M1H (TB4) & DK2 (TB10/VRn/CRn), LTD MH-1000HS (TB-15/Lil59n), ST213A (HRb/STK-S4 m&n) & TE212 (Hot Stack/A2Pn), Dean Cadillac 1980 (59 set) & Old Skull V (TB6/JazzN), Squier VM JM (SJM-1 set);Effects:L6 Helix, Digitech Drop & FreqOut, TC Eletronic Eyemaster, Fender FVP-1, EHX Wailer Wah & Volume Pedal;

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    • #3
      What strat? Fender or other? What shape SS routs, with the V shape protrusion or just the pickup cover outline (mostly on EMG single routs, but not exclusively)
      "New stuff always sucks" -Me

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      • #4
        Been thru several and found on American Special Strat the Pearly Gate works best...

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        • #5
          @Synapsys thanks for that, those descriptions are very helpful

          Adieu it's a mid 1990s Japanese hardtail Fender. I'm not sure of the particular model name. The route is the regular Strat pickup shape, V as you call it. The current stock single fits in it with just a mm or two extra room around the whole outline. It's definitely not going to fit any other type of pickup.

          justFred I was just about to ask if that was really any different from the Red Devil but then I looked up the price! Waaaay out of budget. Custom Shop might as well not exist here.

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          • #6
            The 'Lil Screamin' Demon is a really great pickup in that format. I've tried all the " 'Lil " variations ('59, JB, Demon) and of them all, the Demon is my favorite. It's not just a really good bridge pickup but makes a great neck pickup as well. I even use the full-size Screamin' Demon as a neck pickup.

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            • #7
              id guess the lil demon or cool rails are the most balanced of the regular line of strat sized buckers. the lil 59 is a little more middy and the hot rails is much more so and a little dark. the vintage rails and duckbucker are pretty scooped in the mids

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              • #8
                Yes, the hot rails is very middy with a darker tone. When split or in parallel it's better. Parallel is probably my favorite way to use the hot rails in the neck.

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                • #9
                  My guess is the Cool Rails. It is slightly scooped, but the EQ isn't as middy as the Little 59 or Hot Rails. The Duckbucker and Vintage Rails, even in series, doesn't sound like a humbucker to me at all.
                  Dave, Ambassador/Writer/Artist for Seymour Duncan

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                  • #10
                    Just get neck cavity routed for a humbucker and turn it into HSH.
                    Who took my guitar?

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ErikH View Post
                      The 'Lil Screamin' Demon is a really great pickup in that format. I've tried all the " 'Lil " variations ('59, JB, Demon) and of them all, the Demon is my favorite. It's not just a really good bridge pickup but makes a great neck pickup as well. I even use the full-size Screamin' Demon as a neck pickup.
                      I've used the bridge pickup in the neck and it was amazing.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by ErikH View Post
                        The 'Lil Screamin' Demon is a really great pickup in that format. I've tried all the " 'Lil " variations ('59, JB, Demon) and of them all, the Demon is my favorite. It's not just a really good bridge pickup but makes a great neck pickup as well. I even use the full-size Screamin' Demon as a neck pickup.
                        this! Lil Sh-12/Screamin demon makes for a wonderful neck pickup! Not too hot but also strong and powerful with great harmonics!

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                        • #13
                          I like both the Cool Rails and the Lil Demon, but there's something particularly nice to me about the Lil' Demon in the neck position, has a nice little extra boost in the treble end that I really enjoy. I'm in agreement with ErikH. there regarding the various "Lil" pickups, I am most fond of the Demon out of the bunch.

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                          • #14
                            Sounds like it's a pretty even vote between the Cool Rails and Lil Screamin Demon. I can't find any examples of the Demon clean or at the neck at all, can anyone vouch for it clean, specifically?

                            Originally posted by IMENATOR View Post
                            Just get neck cavity routed for a humbucker and turn it into HSH.
                            If that was viable I would have already. I don't have the tools to do that myself and there aren't any experienced techs anywhere near here. I already tried getting quotes from some a little further away and the cost of their work plus getting the guitar couriered to them and back winds up being about double what just buying a pickup does and then I'd still have to buy a full humbucker on top so it would be 3x the price total. Total waste.

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                            • #15
                              I'd say the Coolrails is the more balanced of the two. The voicing is similar to a 59 or Jazz. However the Cool rails does not have quite as much output as the full size humbuckers. The lil 59 seems to be even lower in output than the Coolrails, so that might be an issue if you are trying to balance it with a full size humbucker in the bridge. The Lil 59 becomes much warmer as it is brought closer to the strings as it tends to emphasize the mids. The Coolrails becomes more balanced when it is positioned close to the strings. In my case I use it with 500k controls and raise it up high so its only around 2mm or less from the fretted string.

                              To me it seems the lil 59 is trying to make your strat sound like it has somehow turned into a Les Paul, with quite a thick tone at that.
                              Last edited by Teleplayer; 01-28-2021, 02:42 PM.

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