“…he [Seymour Duncan] did repairs and rewinds for such artists as Jimmy Page, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, Jimi Hendrix, Peter Frampton and Seymour’s guitar hero, Jeff Beck.” – SeymourDuncan.com
Suppose one day, after plugging in and amping up, you found that your favorite electric axe had suddenly mellowed with a lackluster, maybe somewhat less-than-classic tone. The instrument didn’t cost an arm and a leg to buy, yet it still looked good and played well. What do you do in that situation? One option is to install a couple of Seymour Duncan pickups.
An Uninspiring Sound
The vintage sunburst finish on the Epiphone Dot, which was hanging around the living room for nearly ten years, had not aged a bit. The wood was as grainy and vibrant as the day the guitar was purchased; its neck was nice and straight. Made in Korea, the cherished six-string had always been the “go-to” guitar more or less, especially for working out ideas and practicing at home.
The only problem, when plugged into any small tube amp, like a Fender® Blues Junior, with or without pedals, lately the Dot seemed to lack that famous humbucker crunch and fullness. Plain and simple, the Dot’s tenor had grown short on volume and growl. F-hole cut-outs or not, it was never going to be a Gibson ES-335. That was a given.
Was there something that could rev up the Dot? Just revamping the string set-up alone was not going to cut it. That’s why it was time to swap out the existing pickups. But what would replace them?
Not Just Any Pickups
The Dot can be plugged into an amplifier made for electric or acoustic guitars, given that it’s a laminated semi-hollow body. It’s run equally well through a Marshall 50 watt AS50R, which is made for amplified acoustic models, or a 30 watt Fender®, dedicated to electric enthusiasts. Any replacement pickups should bring out the woody nature of the Dot.
After carefully searching online, the Seymour Duncan Company seemed to offer the best possibilities at a price that was still within the stratosphere. We had our local guitar shop replace the Dot’s original factory installed Epiphone 57 CH (G) humbuckers with a Seymour Duncan SH-1 ’59™ vintage output humbucker at the neck and TB-4 JB™ high output Trembucker in the bridge position. The difference was, as they say, like night and day.
Suddenly, it was as if someone flipped the on switch. When played through a Blues Junior and Boss Blues Driver BD-2 pedal, the ‘59™ had a traditional analog tone, the kind you hear on old records. It was that way with and without the pedal.
The JB™ Trembucker, though typically used on guitars with a tremolo bridge, e.g. Jeff Beck, produced a spaciously deeper sound, à la the Dot’s semi-hollow body profile. Together, the result approached the famous “Patent Applied For,” or “P.A.F.” quality that many pickers crave.
What’s more, when plucking and bending on single string runs, the note sustain was smooth with a gradual fall off. Not only that, the distortion was softer. Plus, the volume on each of the Seymour Duncan pickups was noticeably louder and plumper than the Epiphone’s were. That tired old Dot became remarkably invigorated by way of a classic combination that could make any player sound good.
Inside Tips/Helpful Hints
Since the Dot had a number of well-worn years on it, the luthier suggested changing the nut to ensure proper intonation. We also adapted the wiring to current American made standards and then had a complete set-up done. Note that none of this was necessary in order to accommodate the Seymour Duncan pickups.
We paid $89.95 USD retail for the SH-1 ’59™ Model Humbucker and $99.95 for the TB-4 JB™ Model Trembucker. A new Epiphone Dot has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $399.99 USD.
If forking over thousands of dollars for a Gibson ES-335 is not an option, think about upgrading with Seymour Duncan pickups. It might be the best thing for you and your favorite guitar.