Yngwie Malmsteen is best known for introducing to the world his own brand of neoclassical shred. Many imitators followed, but Yngwie is still unleashing the fury around the world. His tone is built on an alder Stratocaster with scalloped maple fretboard, vintage six-screw bridge, brass nut, and of course his signature YJM Fury pickups. I decided to try the YJM Furys in my Strat, but not just on their own: I loaded up the Seymour Duncan YJM Prewired Pickguard Set.
The set consists of the YJM Fury pickups, as well as Yngwie’s signature high speed volume pot, high quality tone pots and a pickup selector, all immaculately wired. This pickguard fits any Stratocaster with the standard US-style 11 hole pickguard with no modification, and is simple to install for those with basic soldering skills. I’ve previously written about the installation of the pickguard, so I won’t go into great detail about that here.
I tested the YJM Fury pickups in my custom built ‘partscaster’ (from the Building a great Strat on a budget article), and ran it through my Blackstar HT-5 head with a 1×12″ Celestion Vintage 30 cabinet.
The YJM Fury bridge model is an interesting beast. With a resistance of 25.65K, Alnico 5 rod magnets and an EQ curve of 7 (bass) – 8 (middle) – 7 (treble) it has a very high output, even for a hum-cancelling stacked single coil pickup. The Fury is a very full sounding pickup shares only a slight resemblance to a traditional single coil pickup.
Starting on the dirty channel of my HT-5, I was impressed with how well the Fury handled high gain tones. With a moderate amount of dirt the Fury produced some awesome chunky rhythm tones which were a nice cross between a humbucker and a single coil. Even with its high resistance it’s quite a touch-responsive pickup, so picking softly or rolling the guitar’s volume down cleaned up the tone considerably. Single note runs were full-sounding well up the fretboard, with a great response to picking dynamics. Pinch harmonics were surprisingly easy to pull out of the bridge pickup, something I was not quite expecting from a single coil-style pickup.
I threw my MXR Custom Badass Modified O.D. into the mix to boost things a bit harder. With the right settings I was able to get some pretty convincing high gain humbucker-style tones that were perfect for almost the heaviest of metals.
YJM Fury Neck
The neck model YJM Fury continues along the same lines as the bridge model. With a resistance of 25.45K, Alnico 5 rod magnets, and an EQ scale of 7 (bass) – 7 (middle) – 6 (treble), it’s once again quite the beast. In the loaded pickguard you get the neck model loaded in both the neck and middle positions. The YJM Fury Neck very full sounding, but with a much more rounded high end, giving the pickup a very fluid tone, perfect for legato work. It’s a very articulate pickup, and is very responsive to picking dynamics.
This response to picking dynamics also allows the YJM Fury Neck model to clean up fairly well when the guitar’s volume control is rolled back. The Middle position YJM Fury Neck pickup when lowered a little more than the bridge and neck pickups does a great job of clean tones, even with such a high resistance wind.
But like the bridge model, the YJM Fury really excels with some dirt on tap. The more dirt thrown in the more the neck model sings and sustains into sweet sounding controlled feedback.
With the EQ scale it has you’d think that the YJM Fury Neck in the neck position would sound pretty muddy at the lower end of the fretboard, but it doesn’t. With high gain lead notes continue to flow out like water, and with lower gain it’s possible to get some really sweet and juicy heavy blues rhythm tones.
The YJM Fury Neck in the middle position, lowered a little more than the neck makes for a great platform for clean guitar parts. Adding a little modulation and delay to taste gives some fantastic textured guitar sounds.
With some gain the middle position is a nice change from the neck and bridge models, with a little less distortion being created, and a snappier sound. It works well for heavy funky rhythm parts.
The split positions are what really make the YJM loaded pickguard shine. They offer enough versatility that a Strat loaded with this pickguard perfect for almost any kind of music. Split bridge and middle offer up a great twangy sound that would work well for country, blues and probably even some funk. The split neck and middle offers a fuller sound that works nicely for clean rhythms, and with some dirt on tap covers wailing blues solos beautifully.
Wrapping it all up
Being that the YJM Fury set up pickups was designed for Malmsteen, it wasn’t all that surprising that it excelled at high gain tones. What really impressed me though was their versatility. It isn’t the greatest at strictly clean tones, but try some heavy blues, classic, hard, garage rock, etc and the YJM Fury just dishes out excellent tone in spades. The complete pickguard assembly is nice and simple to install, with high quality electronic components and wiring work. This makes it a perfect upgrade for many Strat players.