Seymour Duncan Little 59 Strat Pickups

The Little 59 is a humbucker in the size of a single coil. Sort of the same thing as the Hot Rail or the Red Devil design. At least with regard to fitting humbucker-style side-by-side coils into a single coil space. Although, technically, the design of the Little 59 is more like the Red Devil than the Hot Rail. The “Rail” type does have a blade in each coil that goes all the way down to connect to the magnet. In the Red Devil article, we did look at the insides of the “screw” variation of the single-space humbuckers. Here’s a reminder:

Seymour Duncan Rail Design Architecture
Seymour Duncan Rail Design Architecture

That’s the “new” style that took over in 2005. The big difference in the “old” style is a more traditional flatwork vs the PCB. Either way, those are not 12 individual pieces going down to the magnet. Each side is also fundamentally a rail that just happens to become one piece just below the plane of what is visible in the photo. So yeah, essentially it’s as much of a rail as… well, the rail models. LOL! The poles are more or less for aesthetics, shaping the tone much less than the screw poles on regular humbuckers. There’s just not enough mass in those poles.

Looking at the size of those coils, it’s important to understand there’s only so much that can be done by wrapping wire on a coil that size. The lion’s share of distinction between the different models has to do with the amount of the wind. You can hear it a little more in the “old” style models of similar DCR. Part of the introduction of the PCB in 2005 allows the ability to fine tune (ha! a pun!) with the addition of resistors and/or capacitors. Still, what I am suggesting is that there are some of these single-space humbucker models that sound an awful lot like other models that may or may not even have the same appearance.

And why do I say that? For starters, the Little 59 does not sound like the Duncan 59 Model. Any more than the JB Jr or the Little Screamin’ Demon sound like their full-size namesakes. Moreover, each of the smaller (i.e., Little, Jr.) versions also use ceramic magnets instead of the alnico magnets of their big brothers. A ceramic magnet to replicate PAF characteristics?!? That’d get someone tarred and feathered in some parts of the world. HaHa! Alnico magnets are in use with some of this style, but mostly in some Custom Shop models and also in the Red Devils.

Believe it or not, the Little 59 has more PAF traits going for it than the regular 59 Model. If you remember, the 59 Model is more of a late-1970s hotter and beefier take on a PAF. But not as PAF-accurate as the Seth Lover or the Antiquity models. You’re really looking for a woody, clear, articulate character that can even also be considered chimey.

I’m here to declare that the Little 59 does indeed have more of that going on that the full size 59 Model.

The Little 59 has been in a few different guitars. One is a mid-level basswood body with maple neck, rosewood board, and tremolo. Another is a mahogany body with a maple top, maple neck and board, and also a tremolo. The 4-con lead wire in in use for series/parallel and series/split options. During the install process, I take advantage of the opportunity to hit the frets with the Lizard Spit Fret Polishing System and to apply Lizard Spit Slick Nutz to relevant friction points.

Seymour Duncan Little 59 Set (White)
Seymour Duncan Little 59 Set (White)

Having put all of the regular production floor Duncan “rail” style single-space humbuckers to use, outside of the Duckbucker, I consider the Little 59 to be the most versatile. In my opinion, it goes back to possessing more of the flexible traits of a PAF than the contemporaries.

On a regular dirty amp channel, every position can hold up to a high output conterpart. It can also do that while not overpowering something with less power. The vibe is open with slightly controlled lows and crisp highs. The resonant peak is shifted just a little more toward the upper mids than the Hot Rails or JB Jr, by comparison. That helps to make things not too compressed.

Full series mode is alright when in a clean amp setting. But going with split or parallel is really where it’s at for immaculately pristine results. I know that it’s virtually impossible to get a split humbucker to sound like a single coil on paper. But in application, the Little 59 just might be the closest you’ll get in this class of pickup offering.

As a nod to the multifaceted voicing of the Little 59, check out this application. A hum-single-single guitar is going with some pretty high octane pickups choices. The neck position is giving all sorts of fits. Hot Rail neck. JB Jr neck. Even the Little 59 neck. All of those work perfectly well in other scenarios. Then I put a Little 59 bridge in that neck position. Boom! It’s like it belongs there, fitting well with the powerful companions while delivering a tasty result that still doesn’t overpower. A fitting reminder of how a classic PAF humbucker would be randomly put in any position and yield winning results.

Ready for some demos:

Little 59 for Strat in the Bridge Position
Little 59 for Strat in the Neck Position

Want to see some specs?

Little 59 Strat Bridge
Series – 11.615 K
Inductance – 7.481 H
Resonant Peak – 3.2 KHz (advertised)
Split – 5.647 K
Split – 5.985 K
Parallel – 2.905
Magnet – Ceramic

Little 59 Strat Neck/Middle
Series – 9.659 K
Inductance – 5.237 H
Resonant Peak – 3.93 KHz (advertised)
Split – 4.835 K
Split – 4.838 K
Parallel – 2.416 K
Magnet – Ceramic

As you can see from the demo videos and from the specs, there is all sorts of room for the Little 59 pickups to work in many genres. In many cases, riding the guitar’s volume pot will make it work. And if you were coming here to look for something that sounds more like the Duncan 59 Model humbucker, the Red Devil set will get you much more closer to that tone.

The Little 59 Strat pickups are going to be good for Blues, Country, Jazz, Funk, Reggae, Classic Rock, Pop, Heavy Rock, Garage, Punk, Alternative, and even some Metal. Available colors include black, cream, parchment, and white.

For reference, this Seymour Duncan Little 59 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 in use are Marshall 1960BMojotone British, and Peavey 6505 cabs loaded with Celestion Classic Series Vintage 30s and Classic Series G12M Greenbacks.

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