Humbuckers are defintely my favourite type of pickup. But your favourite guitar may only come routed for single coil pickups, so how are you to get your humbucker fix? Well you could modify the guitar by routing out the body and pickguard if the guitar has one, but that’s pretty extreme. This is where single coil sized humbuckers come into play. Seymour Duncan have a range of single coil sized humbuckers that offer all sorts of flavours, from vintage-spec through to fire-breathing modern models. The Seymour Duncan Custom Shop can also make pretty much anything you can dream of. I recently completed a custom guitar build with a humbucker/single (HS) set up. I wanted a single-coil-sized humbucker for the neck, and the first pickup I’m trying in this position is the Little ’59 for Strat.
The Little ’59 for Strat is listed as having an EQ scale of 6 (bass), 5 (mids) and 7 (treble) with DC resistance of 11.78K for the bridge model. With an ceramic bar magnet and two rows of small filister screw pole-pieces, the Little ’59 bridge model provides a classic PAF-type humbucker tone in a single coil sized pickup. I’ve tested out the full-sized 59 in the past, so I was curious to see how the smaller version fares.
I loaded the Little ’59 for Strat into my custom Musikraft guitar, which has an Alder body with flame Maple top, Maple neck and fretboard and a Floyd Rose 1000 series bridge with 37mm Killer Guitar Components brass block. As usual I tested this setup through my Blackstar HT-5 head with Celestion Vintage 30 loaded 1×12″ cabinet.
Starting off on the dirty channel, the Little ’59 for Strat is just like its full-sized counterpart. It has that classic PAF sound, albeit with a touch less low end than the full sized humbucker version. This is due to the Little ’59’s smaller footprint. It has a warm and rounded tone that stays clear and articulate, even under massive shovel-loads of dirt. I like my neck pickups to have a bit of punch, and a little edgier sound, and by raising the pole-pieces a little I was able to achieve this sound. Sure it doesn’t push the Little ’59 for Strat into modern neck pickup tonal territory, but it helps tighten things a little, and provide a little extra brightness.
Lead players looking to get that single-cut style classic rock and dirty blues sound from their Strat style guitars will enjoy playing the Little ’59. The dynamic nature of the pickup allows the player to really work the strings. Picking softly yields an almost clean sound, and really digging in brings out the attitude required for snarling bluesy licks. Artificial harmonics, tapping and legato work require excellent technique or a decent amount of gain, but if you can aim for the technique as it’s ultimately more rewarding.
Rhythm players looking for thick creamy blues rock tones tones, or sludgy metal and stoner rock tones will love what the Little ’59 does for their Strat-style guitars. Its thick and round tone gives you a wall of sound, while still giving subtle hints of single coil vibe. The Little ’59’s vintage output and relatively low resistance provides single-channel amp players with the perfect pickup to switch between clean and dirty tones via the guitar’s volume control.
Switching over to the clean channel, the Little ’59 for Strat provides a warm and smooth clean tone that stays clean even with some heavy hitting. It’s rounded tone sounds fantastic for clean bluesy leads, and satisfyingly smooth for rhythm work. Add a little grit with your favourite overdrive pedal and some beautiful edge of breakup blues tones jump out of your amplifier.
If you’re looking to add a little vintage humbucker warmth to your single coil routed guitar then you can’t look past the Little ’59 for Strat. It’s warm, smooth and organic tone is perfect for rock and blues players, and it also offers a nice contrast against a higher output modern sounding bridge humbucker for metal players. But don’t just take my word for it. Check out Richard’s review of the Little ’59 in both Strat and Tele formats.