S.B. Zoo






Early work

Seymour Duncan
Guitar Pickups


A new perspective on pickups

I always liked to take apart old pickups to find out what made them sound so different from the newer ones. I used to spend hours unwinding old Strat and Tele coils turn by tum to learn the layering techniques on all the Fender pickups.

So by the time I looked into Robbie Robertson's Telecaster, I knew enough to identify the difference between the magnetic pole pieces on his pickup and mine.

And then I made one like his for myself.

I found that the windings and magnets and kinds of wire and insulation all could change the sound of the guitar.

That's why today, after fifteen years of research and study, I make more than 30 different kind of pickups, each with a distinct and different sound.

Now you can select your own unique sound.

Telecasters and Stratocasters

STL-lB: Vintage "Broadcaster" Tele Lead
STR-l: Vintage Tele Rhythm

Leo Fender's 1948 Broadcaster solid-body guitar revolutionized music. The magnetic pole pieces in the pickup magnetized the strings, so when the strings vibrated, they moved a magnetic field through the coil windings at the same frequency. That set up an alternating current that went to the amplifier to be changed back into sound.

Today those vintage instruments are in great demand. Masters like Roy Buchanan and James Burton like the rich distinctive sound they get from their ancient Telecasters (for legal reasons, Fender dropped the name "Broadcaster" in 1950).

The pole pieces in the pickups on those vintage instruments have slowly lost magnetic strength over the years, and that's part of the reason for the perfect blend of top and bottom frequencies.

If a pickup is supposed to be a "vintage", it should be exactly like the original, down to the smallest detail. That's why I magnetize all my pole pieces myself, instead of using pre-magnetized Alnico, and I've developed a two-stage Duncan-Aged process that gives my pickups the same field strength as the originals.

The Broadcaster had a ferrous elevator plate on the bottom of the pickup to reflect the magnetic field up to the strings, and so my STL-lB does, too. The STL-lB duplicates the fatter, most sought-after early Telecaster sound.

STL-l: Vintage '54 Tele Lead
STR-l: Vintage Tele Rhythm

In 1954, Fender made some changes in the Telecaster lead pickup. He extended the two center pole pieces closer to the strings. He used smaller diameter magnets too; the result was a strong clear response to higher notes, a bright and biting sound.

The STL-l has the same distinctly vintage look as the "Broadcaster", with black waxed string wrapped around the coil and fibreboard bobbins lacquered for insulation. And the magnets are Duncan-Aged. The STR-l rhythm pickup is wound and magnetized to perfectly balance either the STL l or the STL-lB.

STL-2: Hot Tele Lead
STR-2: Hot Tele Rhythm

I worked for a few years at the Fender Service Center in London and repaired guitars and pickups for musicians like Jeff Beck and David Gilmore. I learned how to wind a really hot Tele, one with high resistance and high output. My STL-2 sends a lot of current into the amp. It delivers a fat full punch on the low frequencies, while still retaining "the edge" many players want. The coil is extra sensitive and, combined with custom-length flat pole pieces, it picks up the faintest string vibrations for great sustain.

STL-3: Quarter Pound Tele Lead
STR-3: Quarter Pound Tele Rhythm

I wanted a Tele pickup with enough power to compete with humbuckers, and so did a lot of other musicians. I tried many methods, but all the extra windings necessary changed the size and shape of the-pickup. The ideal unit would plug into an ordinary Telecaster without modification.

I found a way to do it, after a lot of research. I discovered that the stronger and wider magnetic field created by quarter-inch-thick pole pieces increased the output, while letting me use a special winding that wouldn't sacrifice the high end or make the sound muddy.

The STL-3 has great treble bite and a full powerful midrange; it's the sound I always knew I wanted but couldn't get, and it's one of my most popular pickups today. It's unmistakably different. I hand- polish the Quarter Pounder pole pieces so people can see the difference.

SSL-l: Vintage Staggered Strat

Fender introduced his 3-pickup Stratocaster in 1954. The modern guitars look the same, but the pickups-and the sound-haven't been the same since CBS bought Fender out in the early 60's. Fender cut the pole pieces to different lengths for each string to get the maximum of both sustain and tone; the unexpected interphasing of the staggered magnetic fields gave birth to the unique vintage Strat sound.

My SSL-l has the exact appearance and the elusive sound of those early Strat pickups. I hand grind a bevel on each pole piece. I wind the coil with the same gauge wire Fender used, with the same film insulation, and I keep the wire tension balanced during each carefully counted turn. Every detail is important to get the fat full sound, the smooth unharsh top end, that made the vintage Strat famous.

Telecaster and Stratocaster


Custom rewinding