The Alnico II Pro
The Alnico II Pro is currently my neck pickup of choice, because it does so many things so well. Probably the most famous with its association with Slash, it is the inspiration behind the APH-2 Slash pickup. Both are constructed with a weaker Alnico II bar pickup, which immediately softens the mids compared to Alnico V-based pickups. The APH-1 is a great choice for jazz, blues or classic rock or a few other things, as we will see in a minute. I’ll concentrate on the neck model, since that’s what I have.
So why would we want a weaker magnet? Strong magnets mean a stronger signal, right? Yes, they do. They tend to add mids and tighten up the low end too. While this is great for certain styles (mostly heavier music), it isn’t so great with traditional forms. Stronger magnets also can influence the vibrating pattern of the strings, causing a lack of sustain. Fortunately the APH-1 lets those strings ring, and the vintage output allows the players’ dynamics to come through. You know all those little slides and bends and dynamic changes you do with your fingers? Instead of compressing the signal like higher output pickups will, the APH-1 lets those things come through, just like you played them.
I use this pickup in the neck of most of my guitars, which gives off a really beautiful slightly darker clean sound, and a buttery, vocal distorted sound. I think this is probably why Slash used it as his main pickup for many years, but it does the clean jazz thing well too:
Power chords? Well as long as you aren’t going for modern metal, it does classic rock to classic metal really well.
They say it is wonderful going into an already overdriven amp (and it is), it is also great with a good overdrive into a clean amp. The bonus is that unlike higher output pickups, you can play more complex chords with overdrive and it doesn’t end up a muddy mess. All of the dynamics were done with picking attack.
The APH-1 is a four-conductor pickup, which allows easy splitting as well. I won’t say it sounds exactly like a single coil (no split humbuckers do), but it is a great sound that works well for cleaner styles.
Of course the solo thing is what this pickup is famous for. Here is a piece of music that I wrote specifically to showcase the warm sound of this pickup in a song context. It is used for all of the guitar parts. There is also some guitar synth and looping going on here as well.
While we see this is a great pickup for classic styles, it is ‘neutral’ enough to get creative with it. I use it exclusively when I am playing my ambient music. Here is a pickup demo I did showcasing the other-worldly sounds I create with loops and lots of reverb and delay:
Slash Version (APH-2)
Since this is my neck pickup of choice, I tend to use it in many guitars. The examples here were recorded with a Brian Moore Custom C-55, which has a mahogany body and maple cap, and a maple & rosewood neck. However, I also use it in maple and graphite Steinbergers as well, and of course Slash used them in his Les Paul. This is a pretty wide range of instruments.
It is available with or without a cover, with or without a logo, trem-spaced or not, in a variety of colors. If you play many styles like I do, you will appreciate its warm sound and translation of dynamics. I think it might be the MVP of the Duncan line.
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