Just Duncan 59s

David Garner

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I've gone round the bend with pickups for a bit now. I found a set of Custom Shop Pearly Gates (unpotted) that I love, and loved in this guitar (a 1993 Standard), but I loved them more in my 2016 Traditional, so that's where they are now. I thought about just getting another, but I wanted a more rock and roll guitar with the 93, so I started with the stock pickups. Nice, but I thought it could be improved. Swapped to a JB/59 setup, and the JB was better than the 498t, but still way too hot. Oddly, the JB is more powerful than the stock pickup but also clearer. But I found myself wanting that "PAF" type clarity. The 59 neck was exactly what I was looking for, so it stayed.

I ordered a 59 bridge from Reverb. It's an older one wound by MJ, who wound the Custom Shop Pearlies and the Psychedelic Set I have in my Strat. Man, what a great pickup! The best SG tone I ever heard was a guy who shared a bill with us at Buckhead Theater, and when I asked him what he had in there he said "just Duncan 59s." I knew if I ever got an SG that's what I'd put in it. But I ended up with them in this Les Paul and they are very, very nice.

They're very much in the same tonal ballpark as the Pearlies. Bright, punchy, a lot of midrange, a lot of bark, a lot of snarl. But they have a firmer bottom end, so they work better with higher gain levels and still sound very chimey and clear with mid-gain stuff. Clean, the 59 bridge is more complex than the JB, but not quite as harmonically rich as the unpotted Pearly Gates set. I thought about getting Seths but I figured 2 unpotted sets would be too much overlap in tone and also not as good with higher gain. The Pearlies already want to squeal if I get into real 80s metal territory. Up to AC/DC, GnR, etc. levels of gain, no issues. Even Van Halen and so forth. But Dio, Metallica, etc., they start to feedback in the room. Onstage they'd probably be fine but I have to rehearse too. The 59s hold up fine, so they give me another gear for that stuff for those rare occasions when we want a ton of gain.

At any rate, I am looking forward to the day someone hears my guitar and asks "what kind of pickups do you have in there?" I hope their face is as perplexed as mine was when I give the same response: "Just Duncan 59s."
 

DADGAD

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I have a bunch of Duncan 59’s. The 59BJ’s are pretty desirable. Have yet to use it in a guitar yet but can’t wait. I have heard great things about them that they hold their own agains some pricier pickups.
 

AJK1

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Every demo I’ve heard of 59’s have always sounded good
Every guitar I’ve sold in the store I work in that’s had 59’s sounded good
They are just great pickups
You rarely see them compared to boutiquey pickups
I often wonder why lol
 

David Garner

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Every demo I’ve heard of 59’s have always sounded good
Every guitar I’ve sold in the store I work in that’s had 59’s sounded good
They are just great pickups
You rarely see them compared to boutiquey pickups
I often wonder why lol
It’s like Bose and retailers. They don’t allow comparisons because they don’t think it would be fair.

To Bose.

Now I love and use Bose headphones and a Wave radio (and I have 2 sets of Custom Shop pickups). But I get it. Next to real full range audio equipment, “no highs, no lows, must be Bose” just leaps out at you and next thing you know you’re wondering why you‘d pay so much more for something that at best sounds no better than stuff that costs a third what they’re asking for the Bose equipment.
 

rbraad68

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question? I have an old shecter guitar with two SD 59 neck pups there from back in the early 2000's so they have aged well. they sound good but i always find the one in the bridge lacking for highs? I'm always reaching for the tone knob. I was wanting to transplant them into my standard. Question is should i try them in my LP going through the trouble or go ahead and get a proper bridge pup while doing this trans plant?? thx guys
 

rbraad68

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I’d give them a try.
excuse my ignorance but what does unpoted mean? i was going to get a new harness with good pots and all i was hoping that would freshing them up a bit when i put them in the guitar.. thx man
 

David Garner

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It just means the pickups aren’t dipped in wax to stop feedback. Older pickups were not wax potted. For a while newer ones were. Now you can get either and most manufacturers offer some potted and others not.
 

jbash

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I played them throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s in my Gibsons. Sometimes as a set, sometimes as the SH5 and SH1 in the neck.. Had an old set in a Heritage 150 for over 10 years. Bought a new Hamer Standard in 2K5 with a set and couldn't believe my ears. Horrible, and it wasn't the guitar.

AFAIC Old ones sound much better. But they have gone up on the used market, especially MJ wound versions. Different alloys in the slugs/poles, different magnet alloy ,polished heavily (overly?) charged magnets today. I find the "new" ones extremely strident/ harsh in the lows and highs. The early ones were unpotted and super clear and warmer at the same time. I put roughcast 5s or UOA5s in the sets I've bought in recent years and that brings them closer to the sound of those early versions, but I'd prefer the old butyrate bobbins with no wax. The 59s react really well to all magnets I've tried. quality Short 5s (I use Rewinds) get them into that Patent # tonality while rolling off a little highs and lows from the full length mags.
 

rbraad68

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mine are at least 17 yrs old and i don't think there potted?? problem is they are both neck position pups. does that matter?? i don't want to harvest them outa my shecter if i'm just going to have to buy a SD JB for the bridge..
 

ARandall

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mine are at least 17 yrs old and i don't think there potted?
They've been potted since the 80's somewhere AFAIK. They are one of the first pickups Duncan made and originally had Butyrate bobbins and some other more PAF accurate features like rough/sandcast magnets. But as the 80's wore on and high gain players started using them they changed the spec to reduce feedback.

I wanted to like 59's.......I really did. Had a few sets, took covers off.....had covers on.....swapped mags for every type known.
Just didn't change their nature for my playing (which is flat, bright bridge....duller flat toned neck).

Its good that such pickups work for people. Its just they don't work for me. I sold an Epi Dot with them in there, and the guy I sold it to sent me some fabulous clips of him playing with the 59's in there.......I certainly wasn't getting that tone out of them.
 

rbraad68

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the guitar is a 2003 and my brother put them in the guitar that same yr. they are un covered and are at least as old as the guitar. to me also the neck sounds great but the bridge im always reaching for the tone knob... i'm thinking since they are both neck pups i might just steal one for the neck pup in my lp and buy a SD JB for the bridge...
 

bluefrog

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mmh a SD JB can be very bright in 500k ohms harness. I d go for sthg else like a SD59 Bridge or a SH18B or ANT B.
 

rbraad68

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I was going to use this. I got off a guy on this site im not sure what it is?? stock or something someone built... i had planned on building the harness useing these pots... and installing the SD 59 pups with this set up...
 

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bluefrog

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measure the pots- likely 500k.
the SD JB was initially made to work in a Jeffs Tele (250-300k pots) in 60-70tes in London - what I heard.
anyhway just my thoughts - I am leaning to SD59B or what I wrote.
did you lower the highstring side on the bridge to eq the brightness?
 


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