When Dean Zelinsky started DBZ Guitars back around 2008, he had an idea for a certain pickup. Seems that Zelinsky likes aspects of the Gibson 500T bridge humbucker. What are you gonna do? Put another guitar company’s pickup in your new line of guitars? For starters, have you priced new Gibson pickups? Sheesh!
But if you’re like Zelinsky and have been in the business since the mid 1970s, who you gonna call?
In this instance, the call is to the Seymour Duncan company. They’ve been known to replicate a pickup or two in their day. Seems like the project was given to the company engineers, yet the results weren’t quite making it happen. Wait a minute… what about the Duncan company’s secret weapon?
That’s right, they get Custom Shop Manager MJ in on that action. And since MJ ain’t got no time for jibba jabba, she nails it with no muss or fuss. How awesome is that? Talk about a strong woman that should be running a pickup company… MJ certainly fits that description. And she also makes some mean tamales!
Back to the whole Gibson 500T thing. Does it sound like a 500T? Nope, this one is not a clone. But it does have a similar multi-magnet design. One ceramic down the middle and ceramics down each side in place of spacers. All are thick. Bet you’re thinking that sounds a little like an Invader? Perhaps, except that an Invader is pretty much the same coil as the JB, Distortion, and the Stag-Mag. Remember how the Duncan company has many models made from a couple of coil designs? That might be handy in a minute.
This Duncan-made Zelinksy sounds like it’s based a little more like a Duncan Custom. And that can make sense, as some players have been making a similar comparison to the Gibson 490T (Alnico 2) and 498T (Alnico 5) to the variations in the Duncan Custom line. The comparisons don’t end there, as those Gibsons and those Duncans are all in the same Resistance range and each company’s line appear to be the same coils with different magnets, respective to each brand. So it would make sense that putting a magnet setup similar to the Gibson 500T in the frame of a Duncan Custom would make things happen.
How does it sound? The DBZ Zelinsky Signature humbucker is a comparatively powerful offering with a slightly dense character. And that’s just the way it can be when you’re working with multiple thick ceramic magnets. It requires a slightly higher threshold of energy from the strings to disrupt the stronger magnetic field.
For this review, I installed it in a fairly neutral-sounding double-hum super strat with Bourns 500k pots, Switchcraft switch and jack, and a double locking trem. For the neck position, I went with a few different common humbuckers in the vintage and hot-vintage range.
What I’m hearing from this Zelinsky pickup is an aggressive, high-octane, rock-n-roll humbucker. It’s gonna be good for your rock and hard rock and metal. If you want cleans, be prepared to make some tweaks to your amp settings. I would encourage one to be open to pairing this humbucker with a neck pickup that is a well-balanced match and that can keep up the pace.
The low end has a thunderous and punchy precision. Mids seem to be adequately balanced and have a healthy dose of compression. The high end has presence and cut, but I find that it can take a little more work to respond to harmonic squeals… which surprised me a little.
Alright pardner, let’s gander at some specs.
Series – 15.256 K
Inductance – 7.257 H
Split N – 7.691 K
Split S – 7.594 K
Parallel – 3.816 K
Magnet – Ceramic
When it comes to any inevitable comparisons surrounding this Duncan-made DBZ Zelinsky Signature, that’s a hard call. The only Gibson 500T and Duncan Custom models that I have are all older. Sure, I know that ceramic magnets don’t lose gauss in the way an Alnico magnet will. But it’s something else. I’ve tried newer ones, but don’t hold on to them over the lack of musicality when comparing them to the older ones. This is an issue across many brands, it seems.
DBZ Guitars, as it was, is no more. Your best bet for finding this humbucker might be online in the pre-owned market. There are a few of these floating around, but not many. If you want to get an idea, I think you can put some thick ceramics in a spare Custom model and get a practically identical sound. Or, if a PRS Tremonti bridge pickup happens to fall out of the sky, that’s also a darned good approximation of a 500T.
For reference, this DBZ Zelinsky Signature bridge humbucker pickup evaluation was conducted with a Fractal Axe-Fx II XL+ featuring Celestion Impluse Responses and MFC-101 MIDI Foot Controller. Real cabs used were Marshall 1960B cabs loaded with Celestion G12-65s, Vintage 30s and G12M Greenbacks.