I'm on a tone quest yet again. I want to know what the most beautiful, transparent (yet still organic) sounding pickup is on the Seymour Duncan line. I have played the Zach Wilde Epi Sig and I did like the HZ passive pickups it had, but somehow it was like they're just "too" transparent. They didn't have soul, but they were very transparent in sound.
The reason I ask is because, again, I'm never satisfied with my sound (in a good way). Right now the Hot Rodded set in my Schecter C-1 Classic is doing good, and I like the Jazz neck a lot, but somehow it just lacks a transparent sound. I like its vintage output, and it's the best neck sound I've played. However, I'm still working with my effects (Boss ME-50) and amp (Fender Pro Junior). At times I get a slight bit jealous with the sound (when in overdrive or distortion) that those with Fender American Standard single coils get, and that some players using Ibanez, Dimarzio, or EMG pickups have, only when it is very transparent. I like my Fender Lite Ash, however, a lot, but I will be installing 250k pots and pickups eventually.
The best sound that I get so far is in Tube Screamer mode with the neck. When I pluck strings gently, it sounds so sexy. But when I dig in, it gets a bit muddy. Also, it's almost as if it has too much mids and not enough highs.
What I want is a sound with authority (power), but as clear and articulate as possible. A pickup that makes me sound bad (i.e. makes flaws in technique very noticeable). One with a very sexy lead tone (more like Zaza) when used with Fender clean amps, or a high-gain type amplifier (Fender SuperSonic, Mesa, etc). I also am more traditional in that I play all my rhythms from the neck pickup, and almost all my leads from the bridge pickup.
If I go strictly by "How To Pick A Pickup" (tm) I would prefer vintage neck output but medium to high bridge output. I would prefer Alnico II simply because there is less string pull. However, this is negotiable because I know that (usually) Alnico II tends to have a more "bell curve" EQ (high mids, sloppy lows, round highs). I like that on single coils, but I don't know if I will like it with humbuckers.
All of these observations are incomplete, in the sense that I will again try stuff out tonight on my amp and see if I can get it the way I want it. Thanks for bearing with me, and thanks for reading all this.
For what it's worth, I tried a Fender American Standard Stratocaster and I absolutely loved the tone it gets in stock form. I don't know if this will help you understand how my ears work.