Best of 2019: Top 5 List

Here it is! The best, biggest, brightest, and boldest of the gear covered here on this site for the 2019 calendar year!

Based on reader feedback, the gear will be (in alphabetical order by brand):

  1. Bare Knuckle Pickups Abraxas Humbucker Set
  2. DiMarzio AT-1 Humbucker Pickup
  3. Floyd Rose Tungsten Sustain Block
  4. Pariah Pickups Pasadena White Humbucker
  5. Seymour Duncan Hot Rails Strat Pickup Set

Some brands did receive votes for multiple products. Maybe we will look at a Top 10 for 2020. HaHa! For now, let’s get crackin’ with what we are working with for the 2019 list. For more specific details and for any respective specs, click on each description for a link to take you to the original article on the item.

Bare Knuckle Pickups Abraxas Humbucker Set

The Abraxas bridge is powerful and very expressive with a balanced voicing that works well to let your guitar and your hands be the colors of the tonal canvas. The highs have more presence without being too edgy or sharp. The mids are very even and balanced, while the lows are punchy and slightly firm.

The Abraxas neck has a bit of a lucid character that separates it from a classic vintage PAF voice. It’s almost as if there’s a little midrange compression going on that keeps the headroom managed. The neck position does a good job of avoiding the common traps of being too boomy or too nasal. Lows have depth without being flabby and high-mids have clarity.

Bare Knuckle Pickups Abraxas
DiMarzio AT-1 Humbucker Pickup

The AT-1 is a really darned well-rounded offering. The low end is big and strong and does not mush out so that the riffs will still hit you in the chest. The authoritative roar of the mids and the strong presence of the highs define chords and give solos a foothold.

One of the few bridge pickups that DiMarzio classifies as ‘medium power’, the AT-1 has a voice that makes it feel like it’s much closer to higher output. It does clean up will with the volume knob, but your own taste will define if you might should tweak your amp or seek out a split or parallel wiring options.

Andy Timmons on Jeff Beck
Floyd Rose Tungsten Sustain Block

The Floyd Rose tungsten sustain block is the best of both worlds. It has the chunk and richness of brass, and it has the never-ending sustain of titanium. And that’s cool to all the players that want the versatility of a standard-sized block without the strident results that many associate with titanium.

Let me level with you. I had thought I’d tried every available sustain block material that was worth trying. And then I tried the official Floyd Rose Tungsten Sustain Block. The results from the tungsten block make me wish I’d tried it a lot sooner.

Floyd Rose Hot Rod Series Bridge w/ Tungsten Sustain Block
Pariah Pickups Pasadena White Humbucker

The vibe is a transparent voicing that is well-balanced across the range. Lows are full, yet refined. Highs have edge, without taking your head off. Clean amp tones are pretty darned responsive, giving you an impressive range of options from the guitar volume knob at your fingertips. Having a push-pull pot wired up, the cleans get downright shimmering from the Pasadena White.

Dirty amp settings like the Pasadena White. A lot. From a bit of crunch to full-on distorted overdriven hairy greasy ground-shaking… OK, you get the idea. HaHa! The design lends itself to a singing sustain that defies expectation. What you put in to the Pasadena White is what it will give back out. Which is to say that this is very much a Player’s Pickup. You’ll quickly be going down the mean street (ha! a pun!) to hard rock, classic rock, blues, pop rock, spandex rock, heavy blues, and more!

Jacob Deraps: Van Halen Brown Sound w/ Pariah Pasadena White
Seymour Duncan Hot Rails for Strat Set

For something aggressive as the Hot Rails appears, it’s actually on the more versatile side. Sure, it has some low end punch and a dominant midrange. The high end has a little more going on than you’d think from the specs. At least in the bridge. The highs in the neck position are a little thicker by comparison.

Speaking of the neck position Hot Rail, it’s going to be a go-to for the more fluid lead work. The neck has been a staple in my h-s-s neck slot for a long time. If your switching options allow, it’s also a workable consideration when in split or in parallel for clean amp settings. In that wiring option, it might be a little more crisp than the more organic-sounding Alnico pickups out there. But it’s great for the renowned LA studio clean tone of the 80s.

Hot Rails for Strat

There you go! The Top 5, as selected by you guys.

However there were so many great choices provided, that I’m claiming Editor’s Privilege with 5 Honorable Mentions from the items submitted (also in alphabetical order):

  1. Elysian Hades Series Trident I Humbucker Set
  2. Pariah Pickups Skeré Bridge Humbucker
  3. Schaller Sure Claw
  4. Seymour Duncan Stag Mag/”The Mag”
  5. Thomas The Winder PAF Humbuckers

There you go. The best of the best. The cream of the crop. The top of the heap.

Keep your eyes peeled for more fun stuff coming soon, including a few items that I get many requests about. And remember that if there’s something you want to read about, contact the company as well as me. Maybe their gear will be in the Best of 2020!

Gear evaluations are conducted with a Fractal Axe-Fx II XL+ featuring Celestion Impluse Responses and Fractal MFC-101 MIDI Foot Controller.  Real cabs used are Marshall 1960B cabs with Celestion Vintage 30s and G12M Greenbacks.

7 string 16Ω 59 Alnico 2 Alnico 3 Alnico 4 Alnico 5 Alnico 8 Bare Knuckle BKP 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