The Éclair is a humbucker set I’ve had on-hand for about a decade or so. This was before it was even on the official Duncan company website, as has been the case with a few models you see on this site. Later on, I even grab just a bridge model to put in my hum-single-single late-80s Kramer Stagemaster. You know, the ESP ghost-build real thing, not these current Gibson knock offs. LOL! But that’s another story. Anyway, with the Éclair…
What About The Éclair?
It starts with a call to the custom shop, looking for something new. “How about the Éclair?” Oh, what’s that? Turns out that it is Seymour’s favorite dessert. Being the one that’s been working with Seymour for 30 years (at that point), who would know better than the custom shop on how to dial in something to Seymour’s preference? Alight then, let’s give it a go.
Interesting reference points with Duncan brand pickups will generally refer to the iconic JB bridge and the Jazz neck. While the company will say this is NOT different magnets in a JB and Jazz set, they do acknowledge some of the same DNA. And no, that is not because the DCR is relatively close. HaHa! But do remember how many iterations of the JB that’s out there. The JB Model. Antiquity JB. 35th Anniversary JB. Concept JB. And then the variations and modifications. The Distortion. Invader. Holdsworth. Stag Mag. Thrash Factor. LOL! You get my point. And I’m sure people make arguments for the Bug-Sey Bucker, the Dokkenbucker/Hunter, the Jake E. Lee, the Super V, and the RTM.
The factors that I am seeing would be a thicker insulation and roughcast alnico magnets. As we’ve discussed on this site before, thicker wire insulation sort of mimics aspects of scatter winding. For starters, if the wire is guided by hand, it should be considered a scatter wind. The appeal of scatter winding, outside of marketing hype, is the distributed capacitance. A CNC will lay down 3500 turns (a random example) of wire perfectly side by side, layer after layer, with a minimal amount of space. The random imperfection of the human hand (i.e., a scatter wind) allows for all those tiny pockets of space. More space is less capacitance and a more transparent and airy character. Back to the point, a thicker wire insulation also gives more distance between the actual wire. OK, school’s out. HaHa!
From before, I’ve had just a bridge model in a Kramer Stagemaster for over 8 years. That is a maple neck-thru with alder wings, ebony board, 25-1/2″ scale, and German Floyd Rose. The complete set has been a few guitars over the past 10 or so years. As such, comments on this will be coming from the perspective of multiple platforms more than just a single test guitar.
The Éclair neck is a delightful refinement. The alnico 4 magnet brings a balance to the voice with a little more even midrange. There is a sweetness to the high end edge that is an asset to lightning legato leads as well as bold bluesy bends.
Playing the Éclair bridge is like a JB Model player finding a new familiar pair of favorite jeans. It has the accouterments that is the foundation of your tone. Just different. Although it has the engine of an alnico 2 magnet, the highs are still focused and precise. Just with a bit of candy-coated richness to smooth out the edges. The mids have more of a growl, if you are expecting the roar of the JB. To maintain the comparison, players that find the JB’s low end too boomy will appreciate the bold yet genteel firm lows of the Éclair.
Something that I recall saying early on that still holds true today is that the Éclair can be considered a more polite Hot Rodded Humbucker Set. Not quite as raucous and prone to running over the mail box when arriving to take the daughter on a date. Imagine the Éclair as the race-certified street-worthy Lexus LC500 to the JB as the 1932 flathead V8 Ford 5-window Coupe (<- bonus point if you catch the reference!).
If you catch Seymour out at any industry events, ask him what his favorite Duncan pickups are and he will tell you he has the Éclair set in his main guitar. Check out this demo of Seymour getting busy with some Beck-ish volume swells:
Series – 16.478 K
Inductance – 7.53 H
Split – 8.241 K
Split – 8.281 K
Parallel – 4.128 K
Magnet – Alnico 2
Series – 7.329 K
Inductance – 3.824 H
Split – 3.643 K
Split – 3.684 K
Parallel – 1.8319 K
Magnet – Alnico 2
The Éclair set is going to be an option to consider for players that think the JB Jazz set is too much. It can respond to guitar wood selection a little more than the JB Jazz set does. A brighter guitar will definitely bring out some strident characteristics. However, this set is a little more about tone and a little less about brute force.
For reference, this Seymour Duncan Custom Shop Éclair humbucker set evaluation was conducted with a Fractal Axe-Fx II XL+ featuring Celestion Impluse Responses and Fractal MFC-101 MIDI Foot Controller. In addition, 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.
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