Seymour Duncan’s Prodigal Sons: the SH-7 and the SH-9
If you were to take a close look at the lineup of pickups from Seymour Duncan, you might notice a numbering system for the humbuckers: SH-1 (’59), SH-2 (Jazz), SH-3 (Stag Mag), all the way up to SH-18. This nice line of sequential pickups gives you an indication how old a specific design is. For example, it’s pretty commonly known that the SH-2 Jazz and SH-4 JB were developed simultaneously, in the late 1970s. But look again and you might notice two gaping holes in the lineup. The SH-7 and SH-9 are missing! I never gave it much thought but I was interested to find out what happened to them when I had a talk with co-founder of Seymour Duncan, Cathy Carter-Duncan. She explained to me what the idea behind the numbering system used to be. But that left me curious to investigate the fate of the SH-7 and SH-9.
There’s a bit more information out there about the SH-7 than the SH-9. This pickup was designed around 1980. It wasn’t really a super-hot pickup. The common name for it was the Seymourizer II. The term “Seymourizer” was coined when Seymour W. Duncan rewound pickups and would ship them back to the customer, having ‘Seymourized’ the pickup. The Seymourizer II was around 12k DC Resistance, had a conventional look (one row of slugs and one row of fillister screws) and had a thick ceramic magnet, just like the SH-6 Distortion. Since the SH-7 Seymourizer proved to be an excellent neck pickup for high gain applications, the pickup was frequently paired with the SH-6 Distortion as a great set for heavy metal and other styles that require a tight, articulate, grinding tone. As a matter of fact, the SH-6/SH-7 combination proved to be so popular, the SH-7 became re-labeled as the SH-6n! So even though the SH-7 may seem to be discontinued, it’s still available through the ‘regular’ shop and it can still be bought.
Personally, I actually like this pickup in the bridge better than in the neck. In the bridge position it feels like a tighter SH-10 Screamin’ Demon, but with more scream and less ‘growl.’ It sacrifices the glassy transparency of the Screamin’ Demon in favor of (how ironic!) scream! I tried to categorize this pickup once: is it an underwound version of one of the ‘custom’ pickups? An overwound PAF? I actually have no idea, and honestly, why should I care? I know what it sounds like and I know it’s a great base for many hybrids, too!
Seymour Duncan Technical Lead Scott Miller says: “It made sense to give the Distortion a neck pickup that could be a go-to in terms of matching it up. One interesting thing is that even after it was switched to the SH-6n, the production sticker remained the same. So for a period of years, if you purchased an SH-6n, the sticker on the bottom would say ‘SEY’, which stood for seymourizer.”
The SH-9 is a bit more of a mystery. I went through piles of old magazines, ads and ebay listings to find an SH-9, and this is what I found.
It was initially called the Silverbird, and this pickup was supposed to go in an obscure Gibson guitar. Unfortunately I was unable to discover which guitar. I spoke with some guys at the R&D department of Seymour Duncan and one thing that stands out in all stories is that this humbucker was comprised of two Tele bobbins and had two Alnico II bars as pole pieces. The Silverbird was quite hot for the day, but with pickups like the Alternative 8, the Blackout series, the Parallel Axis Trembucker II and the visually similar but tonally different El Diablo, the Silverbird can be considered a medium hot pickup by todays standards.
I’m saddened by the cancellation of this pickup, because it looked quite cool and I suppose the tone is awesome too. However, I do have a hard time figuring out exactly how this pickup would sound. Some say the SH-9 sounded bold, articulate and bit fat. Others say it was very clear with lots of treble. All I know is that I’d love to see the SH-9 in one of my guitars! I could wait for it to pop up on eBay, but why wait? The Custom Shop can make almost any pickup you can dream of!
This leaves just one more question: why were these pickups renamed in the chase of the SH-7, and discontinued in the case of the SH-9? In case of the SH-7 Seymourizer, I suppose they renamed the pickup to streamline the line-up. I guess it was convenient to make matched sets because the market kind of demands it. So many humbuckers in the Seymour Duncan lineup come as a set: the ’59, the Jazz, the Invader, the Distortion, the Pearly Gates, the Alnico II Pro, etc etc. And of course the JB is available with its friend the Jazz as the Hot Rodded Humbucker set.
Scott Miller says: “I think the main reason this one was discontinued is that it was too big for a lot of guitars. It was built with two Tele Hot Stack bobbins, and there is no way that pickup could ever fit into any humbucker mounting ring (and we did not provide one that would fit). And, in a lot of cases, the mounting ring was a moot point because the pickup wouldn’t even fit physically into the route. Size is definitely the issue on this one.”