The El Diablo. Where to begin? LOL! There is just enough information out there to work against the information that is NOT out there. Let’s see if we can sort through enough of it all to get it sorted out.
For starters, this evaluation will be about the currently available Custom Shop El Diablo set that is available from the official site. Why is a disclaimer necessary? HaHa! There are 5 (yes, five!) different humbuckers out there that people think about when “El Diablo” is mentioned. How about we clear up what we are not talking about here? LOL!
There is the original El Diablo, which is an overwound Screamin’ Demon. You can still get it. I have one, for example. Just ask MJ for the “original” El Diablo that’s based on the Demon. Simple enough. Be warned, it has a lot of high end and a ton of lows with mids that seem scooped. It works well as a middle hum for my goals, but it was just too sharp in the highs for the bridge position.
And then there are the OEM versions. And, of course, I have these as well. LOL! One is the SH-SI1B. The other is the SH-TI1B. The SI is for Scott Ian and has been in guitars from Washburn and Schecter. The TI is for Tony Iommi and has been in a Jackson model. The two OEM versions are the exact same pickup as each other. Yes. The exact. same. pickup. But they are still not the same as the Custom Shop El Diablo.
I learned that the hard way. HaHa! I asked Custom Shop Manager MJ if they were the same or not. She said they were different. When I tracked down both OEM models and realized the sounded identical, I followed up to ask why. It turns out that I was asking about the OEM versions and she was talking about the Custom Shop versions. LOL! And the truth set me free. HaHa! In all honesty, the OEM version SH-SI1B/SHTI1B (once again, either label is the exact same thing as the other) is an excellent sounding humbucker and I’m still rocking that bad boy. If you can find one, you should grab one as well.
Then there is the Custom Shop Tony Iommi model. This came out in the mid-90s and is from before the Gibson Tony Iommi signature model humbucker. This is being mentioned because the biggest confusion taking place is that the Custom Shop Iommi set and the Custom Shop Diablo set are the same pickups. This misinformation appears to have originated from a Duncan company employee that is actually no longer employed there. I did reach out to this person for more input on the topic, but they were unresponsive. So… we are taking what MJ says as gospel, which is as it should be anyway. HaHa!
So now on to why we are all here: the Custom Shop El Diablo humbucker set!
The first thing that most people notice about the El Diablo set is that the thick bars in each bobbin. Some might think those are rails, along the line of the Dimebucker or most of the Bill Lawrence models. In this instance, those are actually the edges of the Alnico 2 magnets. It’s a similar set up to what we see in the Duncan Silverbird humbucker and also in the newer SLUG model.
While researching this pickup, I discovered that Dan Donegan (Disturbed) had had the El Diablo in both his Washburn and Schecter signature model guitars. While a Duncan 59 Model is generally in the neck position, there was a limited run of El Diablo neck models made for some of the Washburn Dan Donegan “Maya” model guitars. You can see the complete El Diablo set in this video for Disturbed’s “Into The Fire”:
How about that?! And that’s on a Drop C tuning!! You can also CLICK HERE for another video of Dan sporting a complete El Diablo set in a tutorial video.
I’m checking out the full El Diablo set in a double hum guitar with a push/pull setup for each pickup to go series/parallel. All pots are Bourns 500K, and the toggle and output jack are Switchcraft.
For a pickup with so much resistance, the El Diablo brings a lot to the table. If you remember, there have been similar results with other very high resistance humbuckers such as the Super 3, the Gibson Iommi, and the Warpig. The Diablo is more open-sounding than most might expect for upwards of 22 kOhm.
If you like to play 80s style pedal root riffage, the El Diablo bridge will down right knock the wind out of you with a hard hit square in the solar plexus. The low end is big and powerful with plenty of control, so that things retain a degree of precision. The mids have a balance with a smidge of grunt, a touch of growl, and a dab of roar. The high end is also a little big, sporting some authority in the presence so the lead work and solos are more punchy than thin. The El Diablo bridge is harmonically rich in as much as there’s a depth to the voicing and everything has an all-hands-on-deck attitude. Harmonic pinches and squeals are every bit as dripping with an aggressive pissed-off attitude as you’d expect from this bad boy.
The El Diablo neck is a pleasant delight. For all intents and purposes, it’s an underwound version of the bridge… so that might be something to consider among the players that like swap things around here and there. And I’ll shoot straight when I say that I was a little concerned that the neck position might be an overly dark and murky mess. It is not. It’s just as big and powerful as the bridge position, but also stays under control. If you like to noodle around with a really angry heavy-blues lead style, this is something to consider. And tons of sustain.
On clean amp setting, either pickup in full series mode might be a touch much for some. But in parallel mode, the El Diablo pickups are capable of excellent clean vibes. Glassy and transparent, with even a bit of a responsive snap when you dig in. But still, it might be a little bold for the meek, although pleasantly clear sounding.
How about some specs:
Custom Shop El Diablo Bridge
Series – 22.26 K
Inductance – 8.316 H (actual)
Inductance – 7.9 H (advertised)
North – 11.113 K
South – 11.143 K
Parallel – 5.568 K
Magnet – Alnico 2
Resonant Peak – 3.75 KHz
Custom Shop El Diablo Neck
Series – 10.425 K
Inductance – 4.573 H
North – 5.219 K
South – 5.128 K
Parallel – 2.607 K
Magnet – Alnico 2
And about that Diablo = Iommi confusion. The Duncan Custom Shop Iommi set is reported to have a different wind and degaussed magnets. So for the umpteenth time, no, it’s not the same. However, if you have or would prefer the El Diablo, and based on my experience with other Iommi-themed pickups, the El Diablo can definitely make Iommi vibes happen for you.
For reference, this Seymour Duncan Custom Shop El Diablo humbucker pickup set evaluation was conducted with a Fractal Axe-Fx II XL+ featuring Celestion Impluse Responses and Fractal MFC-101 MIDI Foot Controller. Real cabs in use are Marshall 1960B cabs with Celestion Vintage 30s and G12M Greenbacks.