In this ongoing saga of testing out Duncan humbuckers in my trusty rebuilt vintage Kramer Voyager, I’ve been through quite a few bridge pickups all paired with the ’59N, which is a great neck pickup. Not just great but super versatile, and able to blend with every single bridge pickup I tried. Great cleans, killer vibe for soloing, you could not go wrong with it. But – what if there was something equally cool, but with a different flavor?
Something that had a similar vibe, but more of a unique personality? Y’know, one much like the Pearly Gates bridge does compared to the ’59B? Why not try the Pearly Gates Neck? The neck model of the set originally wound for the Rev. Billy G, yes? It’s worth a shot, right? Especially since discovering the PG bridge’s vibe is so cool, there’s possibly a neck pickup that has that much mojo? Uh, WANT!
Looking at the two pickups on the Seymour Duncan Tone Comparison Chart, surprisingly the ’59N is the ever-so slightly higher output pickup of the two compared to the PGn, though both still hover in the “vintage” realm in that regard. What really sets the Pearly neck pickup apart is an Alnico 2 magnet as opposed to the A5 of the ‘59N. A2 has a slightly more mellow character with a bit more give in the bass, pronounced mids and softer highs. This is as opposed to the A5’s almost brash by comparison character. You couldn’t really say the ’59N is brash at all, but hypothetically the PGn will sound warmer and smoother still? Oh yeah. The Pearly neck is definitely going to be a completely different animal from the ’59N. Count me in.
I continued with the similar theme for the test Pearly as the other pickups in the Kramer Chronicles: Zebra coils, 4-conductor wiring and Trembucker spacing. TB-spacing isn’t necessary in most cases for neck ‘buckers, but they’re great if you have big hands and use wide necks like I do, and fortunately Duncan will make them by request. As for companion bridge pickups? Left the JB from Volume V in. I already know the PGn would sound great with the bridge counterpart, but I wanted to see if it could get along with another fairly opinionated Duncan bridge humbucker. Out of all the others I tried, the JB would qualify as “most opinionated,” so if I figured if there was a chance of the “odd” pairing, that would be it. Besides I really like the JB in the bridge of this guitar (the Custom being second favorte at the moment), and didn’t want to change it just yet. Turns out I wouldn’t have to, they paired up well!
The Pearly Gates neck really does the moniker justice – a little more so than its bridge counterpart, unless the PGb is “bad cop” to the PGn’s “good” or something like that. That scenario would explain the bridge model’s “I’m being nice, but I WILL hurt you” vibe. The neck model, however, is indeed as heavenly sounding as the name implies! Upon plugging it in with a clean sound I immediately noticed the tone was warmer and seemingly fuller than the ’59N that formerly occupied the neck slot in the Kramer. This allows for luscious chordal rhythm comping that darkens nicely rather than getting muddy when you roll back the tone control. The single-coil tone is great too. I really like the clean tone, which is a good sign. I was hoping the “sweet, but slightly rude” character would be apparent in the tones, and it is. Under heavier gain for soloing the vibe is simultaneously smooth and bright.
Like the bridge counterpart, it also has an undercurrent of “danger” depending on how you hit it. The pickup is very responsive to how and where you pick, and there’s an interesting characteristic “cluck” to your pick attack. The pickup has incredible note definition, and is very articulate.
The tone is warm and pleasing, but there’s still some noticeable highs with the tone control maxed, giving the pickup’s voicing an interesting character. The key word here may actually be “voice” because that’s what the PGn has going for it that other neck pickups usually don’t. It can be smooth and singing, but if you dig in there’s some attitude going on. There is definitely the perception of a “personality” for lack of a better word; exactly like the bridge counterpart in that respect. Everything the ’59N is, the PGn is and more. If it were a milkshake, it would indeed bring all the girls to the yard. Just sayin’.
What you play on it will stand out, it’s up to you to make worthwhile use of the gorgeous tone you will be rewarded with. Myself, I do believe this puppy is staying in the neck position of this guitar! At least until someone asks to hear a Jazz model in this guitar – ha! No, seriously, I am digging this pickup. And, total win, because I’ve achieved the original goal of the series: coming up with a versatile, killer-sounding set for this guitar. A pair of pickups that while splitting and cleaning up well, are also both equally capable of handling gain and dishing out as much punishment as desired. The JB in the bridge handles all the ROCK and the Pearly Gates neck can handle warm cleans all the way up to sustain-soaked shred fests!
And here’s a video of the Pearly Gates neck in a Mayones, where you can hear the focused midrange: