When 11 Isn’t Enough: Active Blackouts

Pickups come in all kinds of flavors and styles. Some are tailored to do one specific style or tone while others are more versatile. To broaden the palate of choice, some 30-odd years ago active pickups hit the market. The tonal characteristics of active pickups make them a great choice for the more heavy music styles as well as the cleaner, melodic genres. They ‘follow’ your playing very accurately and precisely with little to no noise and hum, but dish out a great amount of output, perfect to drive your amp just a bit more. Unfortunately, many players feel that active pickups sound a bit too clean and too compressed. The dynamics are not what they’re used to. Some say it’s like having a compressor pedal on, all the time.
To combat the common complaints about active pickups, Seymour Duncan developed the Blackout pickup. A brand new design of active pickups, designed to bridge the gap between active and passive tone: the punch, articulation and precision of active pickups with the organic ‘bloom’ and dynamic response of passive pickups. In 2008, Seymour Duncan launched the first Blackout pickup, the first of many more to come! Now, five years down the road, let’s see how the Blackout lineup has evolved!
Blackout AHB-1  
The first Blackout pickup we made was the AHB-1. With its three-pin quick connector system, it was designed to fit in any guitar that already had an active pickup system but could also easily be retrofitted in a guitar that had passive pickups. The Blackouts first came in a black epoxy casing, but later down the road we offered them with gold, chrome and black PVD-coated covers. Some people love the tone of our active pickups but don’t like the black epoxy look, so why not simply encase them in a shiny metal cover? The AHB-1 delivers the punch, power, attack and output of an active pickup but never sacrifices the tone of your guitar and your playing. Even though the output is significant, you can always expect your tone to stand out in the mix with perfect clarity. They’re even made to fit 7 and 8 string guitars in two mounting styles.

Blackout Metal AHB-2
What to do when the answer to ‘how much is enough’ is simply: not enough? If you need more output, more aggression, more distortion and an even tighter tone than the original Blackout, where do you go? A booster pedal will just boost the signal but will not capture all the tonal intricacies of the strings’ vibration. To that end, the Blackout Metal was designed. The Blackout Metal has a redesigned preamp to maximize the tonal detail of your playing. It is also equipped with two output levels. You can hardwire it to be always on ‘full blast’, but with a toggle or push pull pot you can use the extra output as a built-in booster if you wish!

Blackouts AHB-3 Mick Thomson EMTY
Mick Thomson of Slipknot wanted even tighter lows and even more cut at the top end to cut through the dense mix of his music. So he came to us with his wish list, and we set out to create for him the perfect pickup. With its razor sharp sound, the Blackout EMTY delivers the goods like a sledgehammer! These pickups are available in Mick’s Ibanez signature models as well. Not to be outdone, seven-string guitars can enjoy the same level of power as six-string pickers who use the Blackout EMTY pickups!

Blackouts Single AS-1
Some players have a guitar that’s routed for single coils in the neck and middle position. To rout a large hole for a humbucker is a step most players don’t want to take: after all, it’s an irreversible action! To offer a complete and total package, we designed the Blackout Single. The tone is very much like a true single coil but with a bit more power than usual. Just as the AHB-2 Metal, the Blackout single coils have a dual output mode, so you can choose the perfect power level for your guitar and your playing style!
Blackout Modular Preamp and Blackout Coil Pack.
Suppose you like active pickups. Suppose you like the looks of a humbucker with exposed coils. Helas, you’re out of luck…
Suppose you like the hum-free operation and output levels of an active pickup. Suppose you don’t like the preset tone of the active pickup… Helas, you’re out of luck.
But no more! The Blackout Modular Preamp takes any passive pickup and turns it into an active one. You can even use your favourite pair of humbuckers (or single coil sized humbuckers for that matter!). With our unique solderless Liberator system, the Blackout Modular Preamp you can keep the tone and looks of the pickup you love and add a bit of the Blackout-magic. All the benefits of an active system (quiet operation, hum-free, output levels, dynamic response, harmonics) but overlaid on the tone of your favourite set. You can use any passive humbucker with this system, as long as it has a 4-wire conductor!
The Blackout Coil Pack was designed to give the looks of the open humbucker but with the tone of the original Blackout AHB-1.
Gus G. FIRE Blackout system
The Gus G. FIRE Blackout System is like the Modular Preamp with the Coil Pack, but dialled to the exact and specific tonal demands of Gus G of Firewind/Ozzy Osbourne. As Gus put it: “It responds perfectly to all my picking techniques, and more of my personality comes through than with any active pickup I’ve tried.” You can also get this model as standard equipment on several of Gus’s ESP signature model guitars.

Livewire Classic II Humbucker LW-CH2
Our classic Livewire II pickup. Expect a more beefy tone than with the Blackout, a little less sizzle and a bit less powerful but with the same amount of clarity and string-to-string definition. The tone is full-bodied with a wide frequency response and rich sustain. They have a potent sound that lets you hear every note in the chord. The 9-volt preamp gives more headroom than other active pickups for improved tonality and increased dynamic range. These humbuckers do not have a split coil mode though. For single coil tones you’ll need…
Livewire Classic II for Strat
Why should active circuitry be reserved for humbuckers only? The Livewire Classic II for Strat offers a true, vintage-voiced single coil tone but with the silence and clarity active circuitry are able to deliver! Even though it has more power in the mids and very tight lows, it always stays true to its single coil roots, delivering very traditional, bell-like tone with Alnico II rod magnets. And it’s available with black or white covers to match the look of your guitar.
Livewire™ Dave Mustaine Model LW-Must
Dave Mustaine approached us with the request of having a custom set of pickups built which started where his favorites left off but with more slamming output and …silence! He was getting fed up with the ambient noise the surroundings would give. In order to combat the issue, Seymour Duncan created the Dave Mustaine signature set of Livewire pickups. Dave’s pickups are inspired by the JB and Jazz but further refined and revoiced for his particular needs.

4/5 string Blackouts for Bass ASB-BO-4/5
Why should all guitarists have all the active fun?! Bass players can now enjoy the same clarity, harmonic and dynamic response and power of active pickups, but tweaked to their tonal needs! The lows are chunky and tight and the highs are pronounced and clear. They’re even available for basses with 5 strings!

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1 Comment

  1. Great article. The typos drove me nuts. Please reedit. “Why should have guitarists all the active fun?”

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