Guitar Pickup Review

Seymour Duncan Red Devil Set

The Red Devil pickups are something put together by Seymour Duncan Custom Shop Manager MJ in collaboration with ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons. Billy’s history with the Duncan company goes all the way back to the Pearly Gates humbuckers. There are also some Tele style pickups with a Gibbons association available from the Custom Shop. So why not round it out with some Strat style options for the Reverend BFG?

This is where you might look at the Red Devil marketing and see the reference to a ’59 PAF tone. And that has us thinking about two things. The Duncan company’s 59 Model humbucker… and the Little ’59 Strat.

It’s fairly well documented that the 59 Model humbucker is Seymour’s late-70’s answer for a beefy vintage tone. And the Seth Lover and the Antiquity Humbucker are much more accurate representations of PAFs. Also that the Little ’59 bares little resemblance to the aforementioned ’59 Model. Although the Little ’59 does have a little more of the PAF character in some respects.

Having put hands (and ears!) to all of those, we can cut to the chase here. The Red Devil is what you want if you are looking for a single-space humbucker that is closest to the original Duncan ’59 Model.

Now, it can be said that the physical boundaries of the “rail” design presents a quandary. You have two very small coils that have to fit in the confines of a single coil pickup. This leaves little room for the selection of wire gauge and for creativity with the wind.

Seymour Duncan Rail Design Architecture
Seymour Duncan Rail Design Architecture

This leaves controlling facts such as the magnet, the magnetic field (i.e., rails or poles), and the number of turns on the wind. While the earlier “rail” offerings were ceramic magnets, alnico has been put to use as of late. And it’s still basically a rail under the cover that the screw poles attach to, making the poles as much (or more) decorative as functional.

For this testing, the install is in a 1990 American Standard Strat with maple neck and board. The same as in the bulk of coverage of single coil sets. I am using the Mojotone Solderless Strat Harness for the install. It is set up for all-series operation, although the Red Devil set does have 4-con lead wire.

Something cool about the Red Devil pickups is that each position has it’s own “calibration”. I dig that a lot more than designating the neck as for use in the middle. Opinions and needs might vary, but I personally get more versatility from a hotter middle position pickup.

The Red Devil pickups fill a long-standing gap in the Duncan company’s menu. It’s smokier-sounding than the Little ’59 but not as aggressive as the Little Screamin’ Demon. In comparison to both of those, the Red Devil a little smoother. Quite possibly from the alnico magnet selection. In my experience, you might want a bit more gain if you really want some high-octane rock from these.

A great draw to the Red Devil will have to be the versatility. If you’re a Strat player, you now have access to a much better representation of a beefy PAF. And a Les Paul style of a player can get tones they prefer in a more comfortable instrument. And no matter which side of that coin, there are three pickups to work with for maximum selections.

There is really no need to get in to cork-sniffing territory with these. If you have even a pedestrian awareness of the other models in reference for comparison, you know the score.


Let’s check out some demo videos!

Billy Gibbons Red Devil Pickups | Seymour Duncan
Billy Gibbons Red Devil Pickups | Blues Rock Demo Track
Billy Gibbons Red Devil Pickups | Slow Blues Demo Track

How about some specs?

Red Devil Bridge
Series – 13.787 K
Inductance – 12.6 H
Split – 6.833 K
Split – 6.98 K
Parallel – 3.449 K
Magnet – Alnico 5

Red Devil Middle
Series – 11.322 K
Inductance – 8.942 H
Split – 5.683 K
Split – 5.653 K
Parallel – 2.833 K
Magnet – Alnico 5

Red Devil Neck
Series – 11.078 K
Inductance – 8.262 H
Split – 5.592 K
Split – 5.498 K
Parallel – 2.769 K
Magnet – Alnico 5

You can see there is not a wild jump from one position to the next. This is helpful for that smooth vibe across all voicings. The demos do display the low-hanging fruit of what the Red Devil can do: different levels of blues and cleans. Always remember that you choice of amps and cabs and speakers can open it up to practically whatever you might imagine.

There is the inevitable question about quack in the 2 and 4 positions. Well, these are humbuckers. So it sounds like middle position humbucker tone. And I did not get in to any of the fancy wiring options that are available with the 4-con lead wire. But I do have experience splitting coils on this style of pickups. And yes, you can get a degree of quack on these in those positions when split.

Seymour Duncan Red Devil Colors
Seymour Duncan Red Devil Colors
White – Parchment – Cream – Black

For reference, this Seymour Duncan Red Devil Strat 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 used are Marshall 1960B cabs loaded with Celestion Vintage 30s and G12M Greenbacks.

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