Where would guitarists be today without Seth Lover? A bona fide trailblazer in the earliest days of the electric guitar. You can look up how he designed the Varitone or, later on, the Wide Range pickup. For now, let’s focus on when Seth partnered with Seymour W. Duncan to revisit his most famous design, the P.A.F. humbucker.
Let’s face it, the early humbuckers could be all over the place. The winders in Kalamazoo worked with whatever materials they were given. As I covered in a recent evaluation of the Mojotone Hot Classic humbucker, plain enamel wire was used until about 1963. Magnets ranged from different grades of alnico, based on what was available. Coils were wound until they were full or set to a timer… they weren’t keeping count of the turns back then.
Some were great and some, well, not so much. The pickups were selected at random to go in whichever pickup position on the guitar. If you got lucky enough to find more than one guitar, you could try them all to find the best sounding. In the several decades that have passed, the ideal P.A.F. is considered to have a sweet and airy brightness. Descriptors such as “flutey” and “vocal” and “woody” are common.
In 1994, Seymour helped Seth Lover develop what is considered to be a faithful replication of that old P.A.F. design. Some have suggested the effort as Seth pursuing the same goals with updated means. Using a Leesona winding machine from the old Kalamazoo facility, these Seth Lover pickups are quite possibly the most faithful historically accurate usage of the machine by the Duncan company. Additionally, there are tales of Seymour’s passion for this project with Seth Lover prompting him to be even more fastidious that usual in his approach to the manufacturing of this line of humbuckers.
Admittedly, being an 80s riff-rock shredder, I had not previously considered Seymour’s Seth Lover humbuckers. Not long ago, another shredder from the 80s told me about his Seth’s that were literally given to him by Seymour and how he would never take them out of his Les Paul. Alrighty, then. Now I had to try a set. When mine arrived, imagine the resulting grin of finding a double cream bobbin under the cover of the bridge Seth…. I won’t tell Larry DiMarzio if you won’t! LOL!
I loaded them into one of my regular double humbucker test guitar, tuned to E Standard, and running into the same amp with the same amp settings as always. What a really fun set of pickups! Playing these reminds me of that crystal clear transparency of using a Neve console in the studio: incredible clarity between what you play and what you hear.
Don’t let the idea of a classically-voiced P.A.F. humbucker trick you in to thinking you’ll be laying back with the grandpa rock. I deliberately went after the power and heft of a range of hard-edged rock styles ranging from the 70s to current. Then I circled back around to heavy blues and some complex jazz chords. Rounding it out, I gave the neighbors a break and opted for a clean amp setting for bigger full chords and single note lines.
Seymour’s Seth Lover set really does impress with incredible versatility and a huge range. The aforementioned hallmarks of a good P.A.F. are there: airy (or open), sweet, and vocal. The neck position adds more of the flutey and woody traits. The Seth set has a very well-balanced character and a dynamic vibe… oodles of harmonic complexity with salient definition. Do you have a guitar that seems to sound a little woofy or too congested with some of the pickups you’ve tried?… this Seth Lover set might be the cure for your situation.
Check them out in this video:
DC Resistance – 8.327k
Inductange – 4.612H
42 AWG Plain Enamel
Resonant Peak – 5.9kHz (advertised)
DC Resistance – 7.535k
Inductange – 3.733H
42 AWG Plain Enamel
Resonant Peak – 8.14kHz (advertised)