When it comes to classic pickup combinations the Seymour Duncan JB and 59 combo have to be right up there. With the ability to provide searing heavy tones from the JB and smooth clear tones from the 59, you will end up with one incredibly versatile axe.
I loaded the JB/59 combo into my custom Ibanez style guitar (with an alder body, maple neck/rosewood fretboard and double locking bridge) to see what all the fuss was about.
“The archetype hot-rodded humbucker”
The JB is considered the most popular aftermarket pickup in the world. It’s easy to see why when you look at its specifications. With a a resistance of 16.4K, an EQ scale of 5 (bass) – 6 (mids) – 8 (treble), and an Alnico 5 magnet, it’s hot but not too hot. It’s compressed, but you can still roll your guitar’s volume back and get a reasonable clean tone. The JB is designed to cut through a mix and give your amplifier the kick it’s begging for, while still being incredibly versatile. This is the reason you’ll find it on so many albums from so many genres from over the past 30-odd years.
I was immediately impressed with the sound of the JB through my amp’s dirty channel. It had the ability to sound big and heavy, and nice and organic at the same time. The lows are present without getting flabby, and the mids and highs are searing without getting too shrill. If you’re looking for sweet sustain and rich harmonics the JB will deliver in spades.
The JB cleaned up quite well when rolling back the guitar’s volume knob, but like many moderate to high output bridge humbuckers it doesn’t provide the best clean tone when the pickup is in full series mode. Split it with another pickup and you’ll find some great twangy tones that are perfect for clean and lightly overdriven bluesy tones.
Some have found that the JB can get a little too shrill and nasally in their guitars, and that may be attributed to the choice of potentiometers in their guitar. Many humbucker equipped axes come stock with 500K pots. The JB was initially designed to be used with 250K pots, which cut some of the higher frequencies when compared to their 500K counterparts. Using the two stage potentiometer I recently designed I was able to test both settings. I found that the mids and highs were a little more prominent at 500K. The switch to 250K provided a subtle, but present cut that helped fill out the tone a little. If you have tried the JB with 500K potentiometers and not been completely happy, definitely give either the two stage potentiometer mod a go, or switch to a 250K pot.
“Versatile P.A.F.-type humbucker”
The 59 is Seymour’s take on the classic Gibson PAF humbucker. With a a resistance of 7.43K (for the neck model), an EQ scale of 6 (bass) – 3 (mids) – 8 (treble), and an Alnico 5 magnet, the 59 is a sweet, clear sounding PAF-style pickup that is perfect for many styles of play.
The first thing that is incredibly noticeable is the lack of mud. The 59 remains clear and well defined, even with plenty of distortion. Players looking for a thick rhythm sound that still has plenty of definition will really dig the 59 in the neck, and single note work sounds sweet and clear with a great percussive pick attack.
Roll the guitar’s volume back down or switch to the clean channel, and the 59 delivers beautiful, sweet tones. Open chords, barre chords and single note work all sound fantastic. Hit the strings hard and the 59 will give you a little attitude, without being too over the top.
I like to wire my guitar up so the neck humbucker can be switched to parallel mode, and the 59 provides a fantastic clear single coil-style tone with some extra beef. It sounds great clean or with a little dirt.
Put them both together…
…and you have one incredibly versatile guitar. The JB-59 combo is capable of covering everything from country to blues, through to rock, punk, and even most forms of metal. These two pickups offer so much to any guitar player, and it’s definitely worth trying both of them out in any humbucker-ready guitar.