Guitar Pickup Review

Bare Knuckle Black Dog Humbucker Set

You see ‘Black Dog’ and you tend to imagine sweat & groove and burn & sting. Your ears fill with Jimmy Page taking a John Paul Jones riff and fleshing out a timeless hard rock staple. Recorded in late ’70 to early ’71, Led Zeppelin IV engineer Andy Johns supports what Page says about the tracking of Black Dog. It’s a Les Paul hitting the mic amps on the mixer. Going through a pair of 1176 compressors in series. Triple tracked and mixed big.

Given the time of the recording, any pickups in use were most likely all stock Gibson PAFs. Of course, there are so many fanatical theories about Page’s tone that I’m not going to be the guy to stick a pin in it. LOL! So, yeah. I’m saying the Black Dog might take a license with the naming. HaHa! But that’s not a bad thing. The dense spectrum that the Black Dog covers means you won’t have to triple track! LOL!

BKP Gold Covers
BKP Gold Covers
Related to The Mule?

Bare Knuckle advertises that the Black Dog uses poly wire to match the offset coils of The Mule while adding “output and grind”. That might not be taken as making it a clone of the Plain Enamel-based other. However, consider a few things. There is less than a 10% variance in the DC resistance between the two, which is within reasonable tolerances of most pickup manufacturers. Inductance readings are within spitting distance. And the coil offsets are in the same neighborhood.

To be clear, that is in no way saying the same winding pattern is in use. Maybe it is, but that’s not my point. HaHa! Even if it’s only a little similar, I think it’s an interesting study in the possible differences between PE and poly insulation. So enough of the uber geek deep dive. LOL!

BKP Aged Nickel Covers
BKP Aged Nickel Covers

For this evaluation, I plant (get it?) the Black Dog set in a double-hum axe. Connections are Bourns 500k pots, a Switchcraft 12120X 3-way toggle, and a Switchcraft 1/4″ output jack. I like my humbuckers with short legs, to fit in most any guitar humbucker cavity. You can find or order yours with the full range of accouterments that I will touch on a little more further down in this article.

The Black Dog pickups in use here are uncovered black bobbins. The welcome fragrance of butyrate is to the nose as what the tone is to the ears! HaHa! These have 4-con lead wires, as it should have if you are withing throwing distance of anything that invokes Page. Things are wired for series/parallel. No getting in to the phase end of the pool on this one. LOL!


Throwing down on a dirty amp tone, I am digging it. Seriously. This is a pickup that was of concern to me for a long time. Common descriptors such as deep and smooth and weight and extended bass are prone to give me a little pause prior to a purchase in many instances. Rolling the dice on the Black Dog is a gamble that pays off.

There is an overall throaty characteristic to the voice. A welcome focus on the lower mids that also allows the low end to be bold and still defined. The Black Dog has a broad sonic footprint that fills the room while resting firmly within the mix.

The high end struts on to the scene with a confident weight that delivers punch and presence to lead work. Notes higher up on the neck will cut through strongly without a shrill harshness.

Working with a clean amp setting, the fuller body of the Black Dog really works with the inherent clarity to spreads out and display big open chords like a tapestry. Going with some of the 4-con wiring options can turn clean amp settings into even clearer characteristics presented with a smidge of authority.


Ready for a bit of a demo? Here is Bruce Dickinson throwing down with a Black Dog bridge and a Riff Raff neck. The action starts at about 1:46!

Bare Knuckle Pickups Official : Bruce Dickinson Black Dog/ Riff Raff

Want some specs? You are at the right place!

Black Dog Bridge
Series – 9.106 K
Inductance – 5.03 H
Series – 4.685 K
Series – 4.413 K
Parallel – 2.272 K
Magnet – Roughcast Alnico 5

Black Dog Neck
Series – 7.745 K
Inductance – 3.76 H
Series – 3.929 K
Series – 3.811 K
Parallel – 1.9342 K
Magnet – Roughcast Alnico 5


Take my own reticence as a cautionary tale, in as much as not all descriptions are equivalent. People might say some model from some brand has lots of grunt and you find it to be a congested mess. Another brand’s grunt might be your happy place. LOL! You should find the Black Dog quite serviceable for blues, classic rock, punk, hard rock, grunge, heavy blues, and even some hair rock and a little metal.

And the obvious question. Is it like Page? My opinion is that this is more like that 80s and 90s Page era more so than the very early 70s Page. If you recall, that is my same take on the Duncan Custom Shop Jimmy Page set. In fact, I think they are similar enough to consider my next comment. The BKP products are generally much easier to find than the other, which can run in to months of wait times. BKP has also proven themselves to be pretty darned responsive to communication. And the price points are close enough to be relatively in the same bracket.

The Black Dog humbuckers are available in 6, 7, and 8-string variations. You can get long or short mounting legs and vintage braided or 4-conductor lead wire. There is a selection of over a dozen bobbin colors, different pole screw selections, and scores of cover options to customize your purchase.

For reference, this Bare Knuckle Black Dog 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 are Marshall 1960B cabs with Celestion Vintage 30s and G12M Greenbacks.

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