I was talking to some of the Seymour Duncan dudes the other day about pickups models deserving greater public awareness. One of the first names on everyone’s lips was the Alternative 8, a a high-output humbucker that uses a powerful alnico VIII magnet in lieu of the alnico II or alnico V magnets that fuel the vast majority of non-ceramic pickups.
I was intrigued, so I popped one into the bridge position of my Hamer 20th Anniversary. Yow.
If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve probably noticed that I tend to gravitate toward lower-output, vintage-flavored pickups, generating gain from the amp or a number of sketchy homemade distortion boxes. The Alternative 8, with its blistering DC resistance of 17.68k, is definitely a departure for me, but I found myself captivated by its deft balance of aggression and definition.
Have a listen and see what you think. Post-mortem after the video.
With the amp cranked and a bit of germanium overdrive, this pickup really wants to sustain. I find myself lingering on long notes rather than trying to play fast. Despite all the gain, the pickup does a remarkable job of maintaining definition on low, chunky chords, yet it doesn’t get too shrill in the high register. The crisp note attack makes this a good choice for high-gain players who play percussively, or who demand maximum rhythmic precision. With the Alternative 8, you damn well know when the notes start!
One surprise was how well the Alternative 8 blends with demo’s neck pickup, a much lower output model from Duncan’s Joe Bonamassa set (which I demoed with its official partner here.) The Alternative 8 has vastly more gain, yet I found the pair surprisingly complementary. (It’s not a discovery I set out to make — I was just too lazy to swap out the neck pickup before recording.)
Has anyone tried a pickup with an alnico VIII magnet? Or, for that matter, anything other than the ubiquitous alnico II or alnico V? (Coincidentally, I just learned that the Joe Bonamassa bridge pickup I removed to demo the Alternative 8 uses an alnico III.)
Effin’ magnets. How do they work?