Originally released only in Scandinavia in January of 2013, the Black Winter pickups were designed for extreme metal players, providing a sound that was suited to the sorts of metal coming out of this region of Europe. The public interest was so high that the Black Winters received a world-wide general release soon afterwards. Let’s take a look specifically at the neck model for now – we’ll circle back and check out the bridge version later.
The Black Winter is listed as having an EQ scale of 6 (bass) , 6 (mids) and 6 (treble), and a resistance of 13.00K for the neck model. Loaded with a ceramic magnet like the bridge model, the Black Winter Neck model is not at all what it seems when you read these specs. Just like I found with the Black Winter Bridge, the neck model is far more versatile than it’s name, looks and packaging would suggest.
I loaded the Black Winter Neck model into my 2003 Ibanez RG 450LTD, which has a Basswood body, Maple neck with Rosewood fretboard and an Edge Pro bridge hooked up with a brass sustain block. As usual I tested this setup through my Blackstar HT-5 head with Celestion Vintage 30 loaded 1×12″ cabinet. Just like my Black Winter Bridge review, I kept the guitar tuned to E Standard to see what the pickup was capable of in this setting.
Hitting up the dirty channel first, the Black Winter Neck provided me with an amazing lead tone that would be useful for so many applications. Where the Black Winter bridge sears and destroys, the Black Winter neck offers a fuller, more rounded attack. The neck model provides a fantastic contrast to the bridge, while still clearly showing that the two pickups are related.
The Black Winter Neck never gets muddy, even down low on the fretboard. It sounds particularly great for dirty bluesy rhythm tones, and stoner rock players will probably dig what the Black Winter Neck offers as well.
Resistance is quite high for a neck model pickup, but the Black Winter Neck still retains some nice dynamic range. It cleans up quite well when the guitar’s volume knob is rolled back. Soft picking yields some warm and juicy tones that are almost perfectly clean. Hit the strings hard and things get brighter and grittier.
Switching over to the clean channel and the Black Winter Neck provides amazing clean tones for chords and single note work alike. The Black Winter Neck is great for melancholy sounds for extreme metal tracks through to warm jazzy chord and lead work. Throw on some chorus and delay and some fantastic trippy arpeggiated sounds are waiting to be unleashed.
If you have a switching system in your guitar that offers a wide array of options then the Black Winter Neck, in conjunction with the bridge model can offer up an astounding amount of versatility. The neck model split with the bridge throws out some pretty convincing funky rhythm tones when set to the clean channel. Both pickups in full series mode offer a great in the middle sound for when you might find the bridge to sharp, and the neck is too full. The Black Winter Neck in parallel mode is a fantastic option for when series mode is a little too full-on. It sounds fantastic when clean, and works beautifully for when a slightly cleaner distorted sound is needed than the neck model offers in full series mode.
The Black Winter Neck model, like its bridge counterpart is an extremely versatile pickup, especially with various switching options added to the mix. Whilst it is a killer pickup for high gain lead guitar work, and perfect for those cleaner melancholy parts in metal, the Black Winter Neck excels at so much more. Its ability to get bluesy, and even funky when split with the bridge model make it a compelling pickup for anyone looking to make their guitar as versatile as possible. The Black Winter pickups provide so much more than their initial product descriptions may suggest, and anyone even remotely curious should definitely check them out.