Allan Holdsworth is a player’s player. You can find as many “known” players citing Allan as an influence as you will find for Eddie Van Halen. For that matter, Eddie cited Allan as an influence too! LOL!
As guitarists go, Allan Holdsworth had associations with as many different pieces of gear as there are starts in the sky. Charvel, Carvin, Gibson. Fender, Steinberger, and more. And that’s just guitars! HaHa! Thankfully, the list of pickup companies is a little more narrow. You can find dabblings with pickups from Carvin, Ibanez, and even DiMarzio. For today, we are talking about the Allan Holdsworth humbucker from the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop. It currently goes by the name Metal Fatigue.
The Custom Shop? Wasn’t there a production Holdsworth model back in the day? Yep. The AH1B. The word is that Robbin Crosby (RATT) and Scott Henderson (Tribal Tech, Chick Corea) were users. The listing for a production model is there at least until the early 2000s. Then it disappears from the Duncan website for a bit, only to pop up in the mid-2000s in the Custom Shop. Who know?! Just be happy Duncan will still make you pretty much whatever you’re looking for. LOL!
As with anything going on with the Duncan company, there is a degree of water cooler gossip. One of the more significant things about this topic is that there have been 2 versions of this Holdsworth pickup offered from Duncan. Of that, one is based on the 59 Model. And not just the 59 Model, but the 59 Model neck position with double screws going in the bridge. The other is based on the JB. The ones we will be discussing are clearly JB-based.
In lieu of the Custom Shop, you can find older AH1B humbuckers online from time to time. But honestly, not all that often. And it seems to be a seller’s market for this one. So be patient and you can find yourself a deal you are comfortable with.
The most unique characteristics of this humbucker is the 2 rows of filister screws. Generally speaking, people consider that feature to be prone to softening up the character a little. To my ears, not so much. It does put a little meat on to the treble, which can address the issue that some people have with the high end of the JB.
For starters, the AH-1 went into a super strat with a Honduras mahogany body, maple neck, ebony board and German Floyd Rose. To throw in a wrinkle, it went into the middle hum position. Middle hum? Yes. I suggest everyone take a moment to try out a middle hum guitar with a pickup voiced for the bridge position. Great for meatier lead work and still focused enough for defined rhythm riffs.
But, in mahogany? Darth, are you daft? Well, that’s another conversation. LOL! Nonetheless, the Holdsworth humbucker dominated in that guitar. Clear voicing and with lots of command.
Next up was another super strat, this time in the bridge position. This one is poplar with a maple board and a rosewood neck, also with a Floyd Rose. I went with poplar, as I find it brighter than alder while not being as sharp as maple. So, a little contrast to the middle position of a mahogany guitar. Also wired to a push/pull for series parallel. The improvement in tone might have doubled the value of that guitar! HaHa!
Overall, dirty tones are commanding and still defined. Seems for my rig that clean amp tones will need to be dialed back just a hair. The guitar’s volume knob should do it.
I can definitely hear the comparisons to a JB with double screws. To my ears, I’d suggest thinking of a JB. Now shift the mids down a smidge and add a touch of meat to the highs. Even so, lots of bite and plenty of definition. And no mud. And dig on this, I have not adjusted the pole pieces. That’s right. I raised the hurdles on this pickup and it cleared them all.
In the time since grabbing the Custom Shop Metal Fatigue, I’m building a collection of old AH1B models. For grins, I also ordered another Metal Fatigue from the Custom Shop with Antiquity appointments. In other words, a double-screw Antiquity JB. These are at work in alder and maple guitars with boards ranging from maple to rosewood to ebony.
For grins, let’s break it up a little. Here are specs for the Custom Shop Metal Fatigue and an old school production Holdsworth AH1B. To split the difference, I’m throwing in the newer “Antiquity” AH1B as well. NOTE: The Metal Fatigue has trem-spacing, where the others do not.
Series – 18.23 K
Inductance – 8.10 H
Split – 9.01 K
Split – 9.21 K
Parallel – 4.54 K
Magnet – Alnico 5
Series – 16.636 K
Inductance – 7.577 H
Split – 8.344 K
Split – 8.322 K
Parallel – 4.162 K
Magnet – Alnico 5
Series – 16.681 K
Inductance – 7.621 H
Split – 8.418 K
Split – 8.286 K
Parallel – 4.176 K
Magnet – Alnico 5
Res Peak – 6.0 khz (advertised)
Yeah, I know. That trem-spacing on the Metal Fatigue throws it off a little. It’s what I have on-hand. Sue me. LOL!
Here is how the Holdsworth shows up on an older version of the Tone Chart:
We did discuss the rumors of this pickup in use for the metal of Robbin Crosby (RATT) and the fusion of Scott Henderson. The Duncan company does promote the association with the jazz of Jamie Findlay and with Lang Scott (Reba McEntire, LeAnn Rimes). All that to say that it’s a very versatile offering. One could say that this one deserves more attention that it gets by being hidden on the Custom Shop site under a name that only a prog guitar geek would notice. HaHa!
If you cannot find an older one, at least you can still get it new from the Custom Shop. That also means you can get whatever features you want. Leg height. Pole spacing. Lead wire. Bobbin color. And so on.
For reference, this Seymour Duncan Custom Shop Allan Holdsworth Metal Fatigue humbucker 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, Mojotone British, and Peavey 6505 cabs loaded with Celestion Classic Series Vintage 30s and Classic Series G12M Greenbacks.
8Ω 16Ω 59 Alnico 2 Alnico 3 Alnico 4 Alnico 5 Alnico 8 Bare Knuckle BKP Brass Brown Sound Celestion Ceramic Custom Shop Dean DiMarzio DMT Dual Resonance EVH Fishman Floyd Rose Fluence Gibson Humbucker Ibanez JB Jimmy Page MJ Mojotone Nut PAF Pariah Pickup Professor Guitarism Satch Satriani Schaller Seymour Duncan Singlecoil Single Width Speaker Steve Vai Tech Tip Tremolo