The Seymour Duncan Custom 5 Pickup

While I went on and on in one of my previous articles about the Custom Custom bridge pickup, I’d love to introduce one of its fraternal twins, the Custom 5.

I think of it like this: The Custom Custom is like a bowl of clam chowder: rich, and creamy. The Custom 5, while the same pickup in every respect except the magnet, is more like a fine red wine: some body, and a taste that stings a bit going down.

The SH-14 Custom Five might look like many other pickups, but you can order it to look almost any way you want.

Yes, it is true: The Custom 5 has the same wind as the Custom Custom and the less-obviously named Custom. It came into being by members of the Seymour Duncan forum’s Pickup Lounge. Here, members took these well-loved pickups and wanted to see what would happen if the magnet was switched to an Alnico V.

A Word About Magnets…

According to Scott’s excellent article on pickup magnets, a ceramic magnet, as used in the Custom, is very bright and strong. It retains clarity under lots of gain, so it is a great choice for heavier styles.

Like many of SD Pickups, the Custom Custom is available in a variety of colors.

The Custom Custom uses the same wind/wire as the Custom, with the exception of the magnet. Here, an Alnico II magnet is used. This magnet is known for having lots of mids and warmth. Besides being my favorite bridge pickup, it seems to add body to bright sounding guitars, and takes up a lot of ‘sonic space’ in power trios or 1 guitar bands.

The Custom 5 changes the magnet again to an Alnico V. This scoops out the mids, tightens up the bass, while keeping some sparkle for solos and power chords. It is a great pickup if a Custom is too powerful or bright, yet a Custom Custom is too mid-heavy or squishy in the bass.

The Custom, Custom Custom, and Custom 5 use the same wind, but different magnets. This makes a big difference.

So, if you have either the Custom, Custom Custom, or Custom 5, you can transform it into another pickup with just a magnet swap! Magnets are cheaper than pickups, and after reading Stephen Smith’s great article about magnet swapping, you can be a pro in no time.*

*Don’t do this if you have any doubts about your mechanical ability. It isn’t hard, but be honest about your skills.

 

Who Would Choose the Custom Five?

People who need a beefier bridge-position PAF tone in warmer guitars would be good candidates for the Custom Five. It has a lot less distortion than the Custom, and matches well with a PAF-alike in the neck position. It keeps the dynamics of a vintage-output pickup, while keeping the bass tight for heavier sounds. It splits well too, and the split sound matches well with single coils in the neck & middle.

 

The Clips

My clips below are recorded with a Custom Five in a Warmoth Strat guitar with a swamp ash/maple body and a wenge/ebony neck. Not exactly traditional, but that was the point when I put it together.

Here is the clean Custom 5, playing some chords:

 

Clean, with single notes:

 

Now some power chords:

 

A little solo over a loop:

 

But wait, there’s more! The Custom Five splits well too! I have it split in combination with my middle pickup, a Five-Two.  My favorite true single coil, I have it reverse/wind/reverse polarity when combined with the slug coil of the Custom Five. It has a great sound, and the Custom Five when split is close to a single coil’s output. This is a great combo for an HSS Strat, and this combination gives me a pretty awesome ‘notch’ sound.

 

Some clean chords:

 

Some clean single notes:

 

Power chords!

 

A solo over a loop:

The Custom Five is the pickup that straddles the vintage and high gain worlds. It is versatile and dynamic enough to play convincing for classic rock, and tight enough for modern high gain without sounding too warm or mushy. The bass is retained under palm muting, and single notes have enough brightness to get through a dense mix.

It is available in stock form with 4 conductor wiring, in black, with logo. It can be ordered with or without a cover, without a logo, normal or trembucker spaced, and in many bobbin colors.

The Custom Five puts the ‘Super’ in Super Strat. This is my Warmoth guitar.

 

Model: SH-14
Category: Seymour Duncan Humbuckers & Trembuckers
DC Resistance: Bridge: 14.4 k
Resonant Peak: Bridge: 5.4 KHz
EQ: 8 / 3 / 6 (Treb / Mid / Bass)
Magnet: Alnico V Bar

 

Listen to Ola Englund tear it up with the Custom Five:

What is your favorite bridge pickup? Do you aim for versatility or one very specific tone in your bridge pickups?

Dave Eichenberger

About Dave Eichenberger

Guitarist Dave Eichenberger composes ambient music using guitar technology and looping, yet still has time to record and perform with international jazzy soul artist Julie Black. Follow him @Zoobiedood on Twitter.
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  • Rob Dotzler

    So, for us newbs, for example: I was 50 last year and for my midlife crisis, I bought an Epi Les Paul Junior on a whim. Got a great deal on a multi effect DigiTech RP90 and free DG15 amp. I still suck profoundly at 51, but I’m trying. The thing is, I hated the sound of the 400T pup no matter the setting I put on the medal. So, I bought a used unspecified model 2 lead SD pup off of eBay (I’m not even sure if it’s a real SD after all), when I was just learning how that could change things. Anything is better than the crud the 400T was giving me. I still can’t find that Tony Iommi or Buck Dharma sound I’ve been craving. Obviously, I can’t reproduce what they are playing, but I can fake the Laney or Marshall amps with the RP90. Is it more than the pick up? Which pup works best for a 1 pick up guitar and the sound I’m shooting for? Should I also spend time thinking about a bumblebee or Russian pio cap? Or should I just do some one stop shopping here. I’ve been looking around, but I haven’t explored everywhere here at SD yet.
    Thank you for the tips, as any will be welcome. There’s just too many options for a new guy who isn’t familiar enough with everything that’s out there, but I also don’t want to mortgage my retirement over something I may never quite master.

    • http://www.daveeichenberger.com/ Dave Eichenberger

      First off, I wouldn’t mess with caps, chances are what you have is fine. If you like the guitar, then changing the pickup is the next step. Iommi uses really powerful pickups with thin strings, downtuned. He plays very lightly as well. You may want to take a pic of your pickup and post it in the SD Forum for an identification. Then go from there. Pickups can change the sound of a guitar wildly, but we have to know when to start. Also, try to get a sound you like without the Digitech first, and then add it later. Program your own sounds, and start with effects only. For Iommi’s sound with SD pickups, I’d recommend El Diablo or the Invader. For Buck Dharma, I’d go with something less powerful, like a Custom or 59/Custom Hybrid.

      • Rob Dotzler

        Interesting and excellent tips. I can’t post a pic for now, made the mistake of loaning our camera to an adult child, I should have known I’d never see it again. When I remedy that, I’ll add them. BOC has been my favorite band since the 1977 Rich Stadium SummerFest show(Orchard Park, NY) with Sabbath being a very close second. But to honest, I’ve been listening to a boat load more Sab the last few years, so I guess I’d be better off going in that direction.

        I’ve been very aware of Iommi’s slender strings for years and now know about the drop tuning as most tabs reference it. I appreciate the mentioning of it in case I wasn’t aware.

        In addition, I’ve been up close and center stage for many of the 60 or so BOC shows I’ve been to and I’m sure I’d be better off waiting to learn many of Bucks’ tunes as it is. As easy as he makes it look, he’s profoundly talented, though shockingly underrated (at least in some circles). That’s not to say Iommi is a slouch, but he’s a much bigger guy than Buck so he’s less likely to use his pinky anywhere nearly as much. I’ve got a long way to go when it comes to using my pinky in anything but a supporting role. I’m just trying to be pragmatic.

        So, thanks very much Dave. What I’ll do moving forward is try to hear both the El Diablo and the Invader. I’d thought about getting a Iommi pick up but, as I’m doing here, I had done my due diligence in research. It seems that the consensus is the pick ups, and his signature guitar for that matter, seems to have been a money grab and very few people have high opinions of either the pups or the guitar.

        Buffalo has few music box stores, both a good thing and a bad. The mom and pop stores have very limited stock to experiment with and our first Guitar Center had just recently opened up. The good thing about GC is the variety, but being a new location, the staff isn’t as well rounded as the one that’s been in Rochester forever and yet, they already have the some of the snobbishness the Rochester store has (which actually put me off so much that I never went back after just 2 visits). But, at least they might have one or the other of these pick ups installed in one of their guitars.

        Again, thanks much Dave, at least I have someplace to start with. Also, I’ll leave the cap alone for the time being.

  • https://plus.google.com/communities/113252326043973101081 Stryker

    I’ve installed the Custom 5 in my ’97 Epiphone Les Paul. While not quite up my alley, I’m learning to adjust to the scooped mids. It fits my needs on a few levels, especially as a 4-wire pickup that I love splitting. It truly adds a nice single-coil sound to my Les Paul when coupled with a ’59 Model.