New Pickup Combo In USA Dean Hardtail - Vintage Duncans


Pelham Blue Addict
Oct 30, 2010
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For those of you who don’t know what the USA Dean Hardtails are, they were made in Dean’s Custom Shop from 2002 until 2006 or so, when production went solely to Korea. Cut much like a PRS McCarty, but with a larger top horn. Solid mahogany body, solid 3/4” maple cap of different types; flamed, quilted, spalted, exotic cuts, all types. No weight relief, they typically weigh high 7lbs to mid 8lbs, depending. Tone pros bridges, locking, Grover Tuners and Seymour Duncan pickups. Usually a JB/59’ or a JB/PG. Those are the two pickup variations I am aware of in the USA models. Mahogany necks and Ebony boards with abalone inlays with a sterling silver/abalone inlay at the 12th. I consider myself an aficionado of sorts on them, but not an all out expert, though I think I know more than most. Anyhow, I have owned 6 total, including 2 Collecters Editions, and I now have one Collectors and one USA.

Back to pickups, the JB actually does not sound bad in these guitars at all, but I am typically a PAF type of guy, so over the years that’s what I’ve had in my two, various iterations of Seymours vintage winds. My favorites have been a Custom Shop set of “Greenie’s”, Antiquities, Seth Lovers, Pearly Gates and Alnico II Pro’s. I also liked the newer Slash set quite a bit. I’ve had the itch to try something different lately however, so I pulled out my box of pickups.

I have a box of about 20 DC Seymour Duncan pickups, singles and sets. A mix of a little bit of everything old and new. My oldest is a JBL from the late 70’s or early 80’s. No logo on the baseplate, just the sticker. My newest is a 2019 59/Custom Hybrid in DC. I decided to try something completely different from my usual fair.

For the bridge, I put in a Duncan Custom, DC, with a reading of 13.3K, which is fairly off spec for a Custom, where standard is 14.1k. This is a DCJ from the Mid 80’s based on the sticker and Large Logo. Not sure if you can attribute the low reading to age, as ceramic mags are not supposed to lose power that much over time. Maybe this one was wound off spec? Hard to say. What I can say is that it isn’t as strident and harsh as modern Customs that I’ve played. It still has that wicked crunch and power that you expect, but with just enough sweetness and 59ish quality to sound almost PAFish when you roll off the volume knob. It cleans up far better than expected. Still not purely clean, but almost. Clean enough for hard rock. Very impressed. Very.

For the neck, I am an AII guy basically 100% of the time. Usually an APH, Seth, Pearly Gates or Antiquity, if not Custom Shop. However, I happened to have a 7.41k Custom Shop 59’, wound by Seymour. No idea on its age, as I don’t have the original box and this one is from before the stickers numbers identified the date. 10+ years old at least, probably more. I took the A5 out and put in an A4, since I just don’t like 59’ necks or A5 necks. Wow, just wow. I probably should have tried this with the stock magnet, because it is insanely good, insanely. Balanced, woody but sweet, clear and articulate but great under gain. However, it is so good just clean with a little bit of reverb and then just on the edge of breakup. Unreal. I loved the bridge so much I thought I would play hard rock riffs all night, but once I tried the neck I didn’t go back to the bridge until right before I quit for the night. Unreal.

So, the Vintage DC Custom/Custom Shop A4 59’ Neck Combo is a winner in my Spalted Maple Dean Hardtail Collectors Edition. Usually when I’m trying something not vintage or ”unusual” for me, they don’t stay long. I have a feeling this set has a long shelf life in this guitar. I’m just sorry these pickups sat in my box for 4 years before I installed them.

Thanks for reading. Here is a pic of the old girl. She is all the way on the left.

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