The Screamin' Demon – One Misunderstood Pickup
If there were one pickup out there that was misunderstood it would be the Screamin’ Demon. Developed for George Lynch (Dokken, Lynch Mob, Souls of the We), many think that the Screamin’ Demon is going to be one hell of a high output humbucker. But as George explains in The Story of George Lynch’s Screamin’ Demon Humbucker, the opposite is the case. George discovered that a moderate output pickup was more suitable for sustain and playing dynamics.
With an EQ scale of 5 (bass) – 4 (mids – 9 (treble), resistance of 10K and an Alnico 5 magnet, the Screamin’ Demon very much has a hot-rodded PAF vibe. The unique combination of standard screw pole-pieces and hex pole-pieces make the Screamin’ Demon stand out visually too. While the Screamin’ Demon was designed as a bridge pickup, its moderate output makes it a good option for the neck, as some have found.
I decided to test the Screamin’ Demon in both the bridge and neck positions. I used my 1995 Ibanez RG470, which has a basswood body, a maple neck with rosewood fretboard and a retro-fitted Edge bridge. As usual I tested the Screamin’ Demon through my Blackstar HT-5 head, with a Celestion Vintage 30 loaded 1×12″cabinet.
The Screamin’ Demon is a very organic-sounding pickup. It has a very clean, woody, percussive tone that is very punchy. The name “Screamin’ Demon” really doesn’t seem to make sense at first when trying this pickup, but with a little thought, and tinkering with pedal and amp settings it all becomes clear.
By itself at home the Screamin’ Demon can seem a little lackluster. There’s not the biggest low end, and the treble is quite high. The lack of compression and sizzle makes it seem a little too clean to be great for heavy rockin’ tones. Bedroom players may very well be disappointed by it. The Screamin’ Demon isn’t really designed for this environment. But plug into a raging valve amplifier and play within a band context and the Screamin’ Demon starts to show what it’s capable of. Suddenly the clean, woody, percussive vibe of the Screamin’ Demon makes sense. The tonality of the pickup means that it cuts through the mix perfectly, and everything sounds nice and heavy. The medium output works to your advantage, ensuring everything has great clarity and presence while still maintaining plenty of grunt. If you feel you need more dirt and want to crank the amps gain control or throw an overdrive into the mix, the Screamin’ Demon makes sure your chords and notes retain their clarity, where a higher output pickup might mush up under compression.
The interesting thing with the Screamin’ Demon is that it doesn’t really clean up as well when rolling back the guitar’s volume control as you’d expect a moderate output pickup to do. There is always a growl present in the tone, which can be quite cool. It works nicely when split with a middle single coil like a Quarter Pound though.
On a clean setting the Screamin’ Demon has quite a usable punchy tone with a lot of presence. Hit the strings hard and you’ll get a little attitude, but not to the extent that you do with a dirty tone.
In the neck position the Screamin’ Demon retains the organic percussive tone, sounding very clear and defined. Compared to a 59 Neck model the Screamin’ Demon has more mid and treble presence. Even though it’s a little hotter than the 59 Neck, the Screamin’ Demon actually sounds a little cleaner. That’s not to say that the Screamin’ Demon is a softy, it’s just got more grunt than sizzle.
The attack is nice and snappy, and is well defined for single note work, even at the lower end of the fretboard. There’s great chunk and grind to the notes that sound very masculine.
Split with the Quarter Pound Flat and there are some awesome fat quacky strat tones that work equally well for dirty tones as it does for clean tones. The Screamin’ Demon in the neck also cleans up nicely, both in full series, and split modes.
So the Screamin’ Demon in the bridge is actually a pretty useful pickup if you know what you’re doing with it. It will scream with the right setup, volume and player behind it. It may not be a bedroom player’s cup of tea but a guitar player in a band is really going to appreciate what the Screamin’ Demon can do in a band context. It excels at both rhythm and lead guitar work, in a blues, rock, and heavy rock context. With the right amplifier and/or pedal combo the Screamin’ Demon can do metal, but might be a little too open and organic sounding for more extreme variants.
Throw the Demon in the neck position and it’s a pretty impressive pickup for the job. It’s a perfect compliment to a high output bridge humbucker, and is great for soloing all over the fretboard, as well as for clean rhythm and lead work. Once again it is perfect for blues, rock, heavy rock and most forms of metal. It’s definitely worth a try in the neck if you have one lying around.
So hopefully the Screamin’ Demon is a little less misunderstood now. If you are playing in a band setting, and need a bridge pickup that will cut through the mix, and sustain and sing with great dynamics, or you are after a great all round neck pickup maybe it’s time to give the Screamin’ Demon a go.