The tone of a Mini-Humbucker has been described as somewhere between a full sized humbucker and a single coil. Originally developed by the Epiphone company in the ’50s, they were brought over into Gibson models with the purchase of Epiphone in 1957. They are lower output but tend to be brighter, with more chime and less openness and rudeness than P-90s (which have a little more “spank” to them). Even so, there are multiple variations on on the Mini-Humbucker that were developed throughout the years.
The most popular of those variations involved a coil wrapped around a bar magnet, as used in the Gibson Firebird. This tone should be familiar if you’ve ever listened to Johnny Winter. Pete Townshend also used Mini-Humbuckers in his Les Paul Deluxe through most of the ’70s, and you can hear plenty of Firebird mini humbucker tones in Govt Mule’s music.
Options for those wanting to upgrade or retrofit their existing guitar:
Over the years Seymour Duncan has created a number of vintage replica and modern takes on the mini-humbucker. First up was the classic replica Vintage Mini-Humbucker (SM-1) which was designed to sound just like the original Firebird mini-humbuckers.
These are the same pickups that Johnny Winter uses in his Firebird. For a mini-humbucker that can do everything from classic rock to metal, the Custom (SM-2) is well suited, with a ceramic bar magnet to produce great upper mid detail. For those looking for something with a little more growl there is the Seymourized (SM-3) Mini-Humbucker, which is hotter than traditional mini-humbuckers.
The Antiquity II Mini-Humbucker comes in a P-90 Soapbar so you can easily replace your soapbar pickups with it. While it’s possible to get a special mounting ring for a Mini-Humbucker to fit into a humbucker cavity, this is the easiest choice for those who already own a Firebird, a guitar with P-90s or one that comes with a mini-humbucker stock like the Fender Vintage Hot Rod ’52 Telecaster.
For those that have tried a Mini-Humbucker, what did you think of the tone?