The JB: The Sound of ROCK

Originally wound as part of a pair for Seymour’s own Tele-Gib (which was built for a certain legendary British guitarist in the 70s), the JB has gone on to become one of the most iconic bridge pickups in rock music. However, even though it’s the world’s most popular pickup, you might not know it immediately. It’s kind of an unsung hero of sorts. But even if you don’t know the name, chances are you know the SOUND. Matched with the right guitar, it’s positively lethal; its character instantly recognizable. And in the hands of a great guitarist, riffs, power chords and solos sound HUGE with it.

Check out Keith Merrow‘s JB high-gain demo to hear how well it handles epic riffage:

The list of artists that have used the JB is long, but chances are if you were pumping your fist to it in the 80s or banging your head to it in the 90s, there was quite likely a JB involved. It was everyone from Steve Stevens to Jake E. Lee to Warren DeMartini, as well as the guitarists in Skid Row’s weapons of choice in the 80s, and it was Jerry Cantrell’s go-to in pickup for Alice In Chains’ groundbreaking early-90s recordings. Legend has it Dave Mustaine insisted Marty Friedman install them in his guitars to mesh with his guitar sounds (also JB-generated) prior to recording the now-classic Megadeth release Symphony of Destruction.  It’s been the base point of countless classic and in some case legendary guitar tones. In fact, it’s still standard-issue equipment in a plethora of various manufacturer’s humbucker-equipped models (Jackson and Schecter, for example). Other pickups have been and will be the flavor of the month, sure – but with a positive track record spanning 30+ years, the JB has undeniably attained classic status.


JBs, G&Ls and Bogners, oh my.

The JB uses a just-hot-enough wind and an A5 magnet to achieve the right balance of sustain and distortion. It hits the front end of your amp hard – not hard enough to kill it, just enough to get its attention. Think “hot-rodded,” not “steroid-pumped.” It’s got a singing lead tone and great harmonics due to the pronounced treble frequencies, and can go from tough and authoritative to sweet and understated. It produces big, meaty tones that can do anything from classic rock to metal and beyond.

It’s especially well-suited for warmer sounding instruments with rosewood fretboards, though in some instruments the JB‘s exuberant personality can be a bit much, however – but (unknown to some, and unlike a lot of conventional humbuckers) it’s designed to work equally well with both 250 and 500k potentiometers. This allows it to be fine-tuneable to better suit the individual guitar. A 250k pot would warm it up in a brighter instrument, and a 500k would brighten it in a darker one.


“Sounds like ROCK, doesn’t it?”

There are many reasons why the JB is and has been used by so many for so long so well. It’s got punch, output, clarity, great rhythm and lead tones – what more could you ask for? It can do country, fusion and blues too, but as far as rock bridge humbuckers go, it’s hard to beat. It’s a great stand-alone pickup for single-humbucker guitars, and when paired with a ’59 or a Jazz (its original counterpart in the Tele-Gib), or say with an STK-S6 or STK-S7 in the neck in a humbucking/single(s) configuration, the JB can be an integral part of a versatile and downright dangerous combo! It’s available in standard and Trembucker spacing, and there is also an Antiquity version available with an aged magnet for those wanting to faithfully capture the vibe of a 30-year old model of the rock classic.

Which of your guitars would you rock a JB in?


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  1. love my esp ltd ec 401 vf. didnt buy the more expensive one (ec-1000) cause it only was available with emg pu`s. the mix of a jb and a 59 in an lp style guitar combined with my marshall class 5……great!

  2. would actually like to hear it on a properly tuned guitar playing something that JB would have actually played!

  3. JB is great in my favorite stage guitar a SG Special. Matched with an Antiquity in the neck I get greats response when mixed together or separate. Also use a JB in a custom Gibson Melody Maker. Fitted with a coil tap it’s extremely versatile as a single pick-up guitar. Seymour is a genius, I’ve been his customer since he rewound my 50’s strat pick-up 30+ years ago, at this point I have no idea which of the three is a rewind. No one can match his understanding of what made the vintage stuff great and how to apply it in today’s world….. I love him!

  4. I use this pickup for everything! Its my favorite pickup and #1 choice. I use it for playing punk rock music. Also Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day’s “Blue” guitar is loaded with a Duncan JB 😛

  5. JB has always been my go-to pickup. After the magnet swaps in my Les Paul Studio (A2 in the 498T, A5 in the 490R and am happy with the neck pup sound), I am leaning toward getting a JB for it, and a mini JB for my ’85 Strat.The Custom ’59 hybrid sounds great as well and is also a contender for my LP, but I think the JB will give me better versatility.

      1. I thought he used a Gibson pickup in an old Kramer guitar? Personally, I’d use an SD Alnico II, though. I like the Duncan Alnicos more than the Gibson pickups.

  6. I have got a JB in my 90s epi LP classic plus paired with a jazz in the neck and it is s**t hot!!! i have also got push pull pots to split the pickup so its a single coil instead of a humbucker and the jb is so nice as a single coil aswell!!!!!

  7. Jerry Cantrell is the reason I got into these pickups.
    Sorry to be a complete pedant but……….. In the photo Jerry Cantrell isn’t holding a G&L, It’s a ‘homemade’ Fender style guitar.
    “I grabbed this guitar I made in high school-it’s a white Strat that I call Embo, which stands for Eat My Butt Out.”
    You’re unlucky because in 99.9% of photos where Jerry is holding a white Super Strat it’s a G&L Rampage………….

  8. I was luck enough to aquire one of the last Japanese Jackson DK2M guitars,which happen to come with a JB/Jazz Combo.What an amazing guitar ! I absolutely love it.They can be found on Ebay for pretty cheap.The new DK2M’s are now made in Mexico. I believe the Factory in Japan was destroyed by the Tsunami.

    1. Nope, the factory in Japan had its contract destroyed by GREED plus it’s tendency to put pressure on the American lines. Though traditionally it’s been “the original import” since it’s where Japan began entering industry in the 60’s and 70’s, Japan today is super-highly-skilled, top-of-the-world and staffed by hella expensive workers… while, in the words of one insider, both the Mexican and California USA lines are so addicted to exploiting their grosssly underpaid Mexican workforces that they’re actually not able to train them well even if they wanted to! Cause once trained, these guys would either demand many times the wages, or leave with their new-found skills for somewhere where they’re treated and paid accordingly.
      In Japan, that sorta thing doesn’t fly. This was messing with their model ranking within brands, since Japanese build quality was a lot more stable and reliable than USA… For a while, they got by on using lower specs like cheaper materials/hardware to keep MIJ models from being clearly the better guitars, but that began to get expensive, illogical, and finally broke down as tonewood shortages meant the American stuff had to drop their material standards too (remember stuff like “Gibson’s no-rosewood years”??)
      So these days the Japanese just build top-of-the-line & custom shop models for Japan-based global brands like Ibanez and ESP for the rest of the world, while American brands’ licensed products made in Japan are now restricted to Japanese market only or Eurasia only and no longer imported to the US.

  9. Adrenaline and around the fur by deftones displays the prowess of the JB…oh yes Scott ian all the way up to persistence of time too! Awesome.

  10. I got a Fender Floyd Rose HSS Strat in 2007 and had a JB installed in the bridge position around 2008 or so. It’s now 2014 and it’s still my favorite axe. I chose the JB because of Jerry Cantrell. The axe is restrung left-handed, tuned & intonated ½ step down w/ Dean Markley LTHB strings (also chosen b/c of Jerry Cantrell), with a tremolo stabilizer and an EVH D-Tuna on the Floyd. The thing’s a beast on harmonics. m/ Also has a Lonestar Strat pearloid pickguard, but obviously that’s purely cosmetic. Check it out:

  11. I currently have a JB in my Charvel San Dimas Tele, My pointy blue Charvel San Dimas, my Hamer Studio Custom, my American Deluxe Fender Strat… I think that’s all my JB guitars right now, but I love the pickup. I also use a Distortion, 59, Jazz and 78 Custom from SD.

    1. I read Kurt’s favorite pickup was a Dimarzio Super Distortion and his most famous jaguar has the double cream humbuckers (definitely Dimarzio) which are likely the Super Distortions. Any double cream pickups you see are always Dimarzio because weirdly enough Dimarzio patented that color scheme. Seymour Duncan offers no double cream pickup for that reason. They have double white, double black and zebra (black/cream) but no double creams. Maybe he had a JB in a different guitar but I own a JB and Super Distortion and they really sound nothing alike. I also have a Duncan 59 and Lil’ 59 mini humbucker. In my opinion, Duncans overall are harsher (brighter) and have less clarity than Dimarzio pickups in general. Kurt’s tone wasn’t that harsh, it had a nice warm tone with lots of clarity. Maybe he switched to JB on In Utero. I hate the sound of that record. Very harsh and too much treble.

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