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Thread: Devils, Demons and Duncan Designed: The "El Diablo", "Iommi" and HB-104 Explained!

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    Mojo's Minions masta' c's Avatar
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    Default Devils, Demons and Duncan Designed: The "El Diablo", "Iommi" and HB-104 Explained!

    The El Diablo, the "El Diablo", the "Iommi" and the HB-104:

    All of these pickups have been out of the limelight for quite some time. However, due to the subtle resurgence of interest in them by forum members over the past several months and the 10+ years of misinformation, assumptions and speculation posted on these forums, I wanted to take a moment to clear a few things up.

    The most important thing to realize when discussing the El Diablo, the "El Diablo" and the Iommi is that we are really only talking about 2 pickups:

    1) The "El Diablo" (original)
    2) The "El Diablo"/"Iommi" (SH-TI, SHTI-1B)

    Confused? Most are! This is because 2 completely different pickups have been sold by Seymour Duncan under the "El Diablo" name and, oddly enough, both versions have also been associated with the same artist, muddying the waters even further.

    For those who can settle for a simple explanation, it goes like this:

    The first "El Diablo" was a traditional style pickup designed for Scott Ian as a less shrill, higher output version of the existing "Screamin’ Demon" production pickup. The second version was a special model designed for Tony Iommi, which was later reissued and rebranded as the "El Diablo" for marketing purposes when used in the signature guitars of various other artists, including Scott Ian.

    If you're still confused, then read on…


    The Original EL DIABLO:

    The original "El Diablo" was inspired by and directly based on the Screamin’ Demon. From the outside, you can't tell the two apart. Like the Demon, the Diablo featured a coil with 6 adjustable hex screws mated to a second coil with traditional fillister type pole pieces. Both the Demon and the Diablo housed an A5 (Alnico V) magnet at their core. However, the coils of the Diablo were wound to a much higher resistance than the Demon’s typical 10K range.

    When I spoke with MJ about the design close to a decade ago, she said the goal of the El Diablo was to increase the output and tame the sometimes harsh top end of the Screamin' Demon without losing its tightness, drive and clarity.

    This "original” El Diablo was designed at the request of Scott Ian, but is not the model most SD fans associate with him because it was not the pickup found in his signature guitars. For the handful of non-believers out there who have posted in the past about the "supposed" and "alleged" existence of an "original" El Diablo, here it is in real life:





    The IOMMI:

    In the mid-90s, Trevor Wilkinson got in touch with Evan Skopp about having the SD Custom Shop design a very special set of pickups for guitar legend Tony Iommi to be used in his Patrick Eggle signature guitars in England.

    The pickups that resulted featured a twin rail design and were unique in that the "rails" or "blades" were exposed A2 (Alnico II) bar magnets, where most other "rail" type pickups used metal "blades" and placed the magnets in a more traditional configuration beneath the coils. The coils of the Iommi were wound on elongated bobbins to a hefty 21K+ resistance in the bridge!

    Cosmetically, the Iommi pickups resembled the older SH-9 “Silverbird” model, a pickup SD had introduced some 11-12 years before in the early '80s. However, while they certainly looked similar, the tone between the 2 models couldn’t be any more different.

    Iommi's signature Patrick Eggle guitars were launched around 1995, but suffered lackluster popularity. Production ceased around 1997, at which point Tony signed an endorsement deal with Gibson for both a new signature guitar and a new signature pickup.

    Despite the switch away from Eggle and Seymour Duncan, Tony’s signature Duncan model remained available as a little-known Custom Shop offering and found its way into a few obscure places, including the guitars of Scott Ian (via Mike Tempesta, his tech at the time).





    The IOMMI as the "EL DIABLO":

    The significant confusion over the years has largely stemmed from the fact that, in the early 2000s, Scott Ian signature guitars were introduced featuring a set of twin-rail SD Custom Shop pickups advertised as “El Diablo” models. These are the pickups most SD fans think of when they hear the term "El Diablo", but they were really the older “Iommi” models, reissued and freshly marketed under the new name.

    As Scott Ian was using the pickups regularly at that point and Tony Iommi already had a different pickup being touted as his signature model through Gibson, it made more sense to relabel them as the “Scott Ian” signature pickups, particularly since they were going into Scott Ian's signature Washburn guitars and die-hard Ian fans already knew that he had used a custom SD pickup called the “El Diablo” in the past (which was actually the "original" El Diablo design explained above).

    Washburn continued to market the Iommi pickups under the “El Diablo” name when they introduced the Dan Donegan signature guitars and when Dan eventually moved over to Schecter, they, too, stuck with the “El Diablo” branding. In the past, some members have felt that, because the Scott Ian/Dan Donegan signature models were marketed with “El Diablos” and the Kevin Bond signature guitar, which was manufactured during the same period by Jackson, was advertised as having an “Iommi” pickup, that the "El Diablo" and "Iommi" pickups must have been different. Ultimately, the naming difference was nothing more than marketing strategy. It would have been counter-productive to promote the pickups in the new "Kevin Bond" guitar as “Scott Ian” signature models readily available on their competitor’s guitars, so Jackson marketed their installation of the pickup under the original “Iommi” designation...a smart move for sales, but one that only further confused the pickup addicts of the world.






    The HB-104:

    During the lull in manufacturer demand for the expensive Custom Shop version of the Iommi/El Diablo, the imported “Duncan Designed” HB-104 set came to be. These were “based” on the Iommi Custom Shop models, but only in a very very loose sense.

    They briefly appeared in the early 2000s Jackson WRXT Warriors (before Jackson switched over to the HB-108 "Detonator" set) and a few other rarities, such as a short-lived 5-string Schecter guitar (not bass).

    The HB-104 set featured a more traditional construction with oversized Ceramic magnets mounted below the bobbins and the “rails” or "blades" were chrome plated steel, rather than using exposed bar magnets like the original Iommis.

    The resistance specs were also more in line with the other popular Duncan Designed pickups, such as the HB-103, with the bridge coming in at 17K and the neck wound to around 8K.

    It's important to note that the tone of the HB-104s is significantly different than any of the true "El Diablo" models.





    One last thing...

    For anyone who still doesn't get it, this is from Evan Skopp, the man who was there when all these models came to fruition:

    Quote Originally Posted by Evan Skopp View Post
    There are two Scott Ian El Diablos...

    The first is a hotter SH-12 Screamin' Demon. That was the original El Diablo and the name is related to the Screamin' Demon. A hotter Demon - El Diablo.

    The other El Diablo is the old SH-TI pickup, which was originally created for Tony Iommi when he was working with Patrick Eggle guitars in the '90s. That pickup went out of production when Tony canceled his SD endorsement to pursue a Gibson endorsement. Through Scott's then-guitar tech, Mike Tempesta (who later went on to Powerman 5000 and Human Waste Project and who is now heading up artist relations at Yamaha), Scott learned about the defunct SH-TI pickup and he started playing them. So, Scott plays both pickups and he refers to both as “El Diablo”.

    ...I hope that clears things up.

    Me, too


    -----


    ADDITIONAL INFO: The Jackson T1000 Scott Ian signature Soloist model has been advertised on Jackson's website and on some retailers' spec sheets as having an "El Diablo" bridge pickup. This is incorrect! All versions of the T1000 come equipped with a trem-spaced JB (TB-4) in the bridge, which is what Scott Ian has been using since the very first prototype of the T1000 that was made for him a couple years ago. Thought I'd mention it, as I've seen this questioned elsewhere and recently saw someone who had removed the TB-4 sticker (you could still see the faint outline on the baseplate) trying to sell their regular JB pickup as an "El Diablo" on a popular auction site. Be warned...if it doesn't have hex poles or twin blades, it's not an "El Diablo".


    .
    Last edited by masta' c; 03-12-2018 at 12:55 PM.

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    Ultimate Tone Member VHTJay's Avatar
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    Default Re: Devils, Demons and Duncan Designed: The "El Diablo", "Iommi" and HB-104 Explaine

    Masta'c this is a GREAT thread; one which will clear things up for a lot of people curious about the El 'Diablo story! Also gives me an idea for a thread of my own. Maybe I'll do that tomorrow.

    Funny, the last pickup I ordered in December was the OG 'Diablo. I phoned MJ and was like,"I want a Screamin 'Demon with smoother high end and a little more output." She goes,"No problem. You want the El 'Diablo." Now, I own the Iommi/diablo and was a little confused; then she told me that what I was asking for was the OG El 'diablo.....an overwound 'demon!!

    Just to add now that I own both: the fact the two are constructed VERY different should tell most folks that they sound different. But in case any are wondering, the Iommi/diablo is NOT an overwound 'demon with blades!

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    Ultimate Tone Member CountFeedback's Avatar
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    Default Re: Devils, Demons and Duncan Designed: The "El Diablo", "Iommi" and HB-104 Explaine

    awesome inside story

    hhhmmm??? makes me wonder how close the original Scott Ian pickup is to a SH-10b Full Shred with hex screws switched for regular screws on one side, which I’ve often considered trying

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    Super Toneologist elelpe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Devils, Demons and Duncan Designed: The "El Diablo", "Iommi" and HB-104 Explaine

    Great story, Masta'c. Thanks! Now, I want the hotter Demon - El Diablo and combined it with Demon in the neck

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    Mojo's Minions
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    Default Re: Devils, Demons and Duncan Designed: The "El Diablo", "Iommi" and HB-104 Explaine

    I'm digging this info. seems like the old original El Diablo might be something of interest.

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    Bacteriaolgoist GuitarDoc's Avatar
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    Default Re: Devils, Demons and Duncan Designed: The "El Diablo", "Iommi" and HB-104 Explaine

    Wow! Great info. Thanks for that post. Now I want to get some more pups to try. Which means I'll have to buy a few more guitars. Oh, darn.
    Originally Posted by IanBallard
    Rule of thumb... the more pot you have, the better your tone.

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    Default Re: Devils, Demons and Duncan Designed: The "El Diablo", "Iommi" and HB-104 Explaine

    The HB-104 has limited appeal. A weird pickup.

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    Default Re: Devils, Demons and Duncan Designed: The "El Diablo", "Iommi" and HB-104 Explaine

    awesome thanks !

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    Default Re: Devils, Demons and Duncan Designed: The "El Diablo", "Iommi" and HB-104 Explaine

    Great info !!

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    Default Re: Devils, Demons and Duncan Designed: The "El Diablo", "Iommi" and HB-104 Explaine

    decided to come back to this thread and see if anyone could offer more specifics on the older Diablo version. for those that have time with it, how much of the highs does it roll off?...compared to something like the high end of the JB? if you are in to harmonics and pinches and squeals (Vai, Dime, Gillis), does it deliver or should introducing a little more highs be requested? and does the higher output affect the open quality or does it start to compress?

    and with regard to the newer/current Diablo... how could that tone be described? tight? open? big? compressed? growl? bite? grunt? snarl? highs? lows? mids? etc....? MJ steered me toward this one, but the older style keeps barking at me.

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    Ultimate Tone Member VHTJay's Avatar
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    Default Re: Devils, Demons and Duncan Designed: The "El Diablo", "Iommi" and HB-104 Explaine

    Quote Originally Posted by darthphineas View Post
    decided to come back to this thread and see if anyone could offer more specifics on the older Diablo version. for those that have time with it, how much of the highs does it roll off?...compared to something like the high end of the JB? if you are in to harmonics and pinches and squeals (Vai, Dime, Gillis), does it deliver or should introducing a little more highs be requested? and does the higher output affect the open quality or does it start to compress?

    and with regard to the newer/current Diablo... how could that tone be described? tight? open? big? compressed? growl? bite? grunt? snarl? highs? lows? mids? etc....? MJ steered me toward this one, but the older style keeps barking at me.
    Hey Darth,

    I will compare the OG Diablo I have with the JB....which I know you are very familiar with. So, first off....this is still what i would consider a "bright" pickup. Think more of re-voicing the highs as opposed to subtracting. I can certainly tell you that a standard 'demon has a kind of single coil twang to it. The Diablo doesn't. That is gone, but the increased mid range and lower frequency highs make the overall tone more aggressive sounding and in your face. That said, while it doesn't have quite the upper mid kick of the JB, I would say it is still brighter overall. As for harmonics...absolutely NO problem getting them with this pickup...they pop! As for compression...obviously more than the stock 'demon but to my ears not quite as much as the JB. More than enough for some fun legato runs and a nice even attack when you rip an alternate picked run.

    Ok...The OG diablo sounds nothing like the blade diablo! Haha! The blade one is pretty balanced tonally and hot but not insane hot. The OG Diablo in comparison is tighter, brighter and absolutely much more aggressive sounding. Hope that was helpful!

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    Mojo's Minions
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    Default Re: Devils, Demons and Duncan Designed: The "El Diablo", "Iommi" and HB-104 Explaine

    thanks for the follow up. the more I've been digging around, it does seem like the blade Diablo is going to have more girth and be a little more of a skull-crusher that would be fitting for something more on the thrash side of things.

    I had a number of Demons and ended up getting rid of all of them, due in part to the output. the tone was fine. since a lot of peeps here find the JB to have the ice-pick highs that I don't hear (probably from starting with a JB and setting my amp to it), so a concern popped up with the concept of trying to "tame the sometimes harsh top end".

    are there other production models that you could compare it to? DD? Dimebucker? CC? 59/C Hybrid? PATB-1? Alt-8? etc.?

    thanks

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    Default Re: Devils, Demons and Duncan Designed: The "El Diablo", "Iommi" and HB-104 Explaine

    Nice. So the OG Scott Ian one is a hotter Demon while the one with the bars is the Iommi model that Ian also uses. Cool its all clear now. Didn't know about the original one, thats really cool. I wonder what the Iommi would be like with different magnets in it. Or even mixed magnets.

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    Ultimate Tone Member VHTJay's Avatar
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    Default Re: Devils, Demons and Duncan Designed: The "El Diablo", "Iommi" and HB-104 Explaine

    Quote Originally Posted by darthphineas View Post
    thanks for the follow up. the more I've been digging around, it does seem like the blade Diablo is going to have more girth and be a little more of a skull-crusher that would be fitting for something more on the thrash side of things.

    I had a number of Demons and ended up getting rid of all of them, due in part to the output. the tone was fine. since a lot of peeps here find the JB to have the ice-pick highs that I don't hear (probably from starting with a JB and setting my amp to it), so a concern popped up with the concept of trying to "tame the sometimes harsh top end".


    are there other production models that you could compare it to? DD? Dimebucker? CC? 59/C Hybrid? PATB-1? Alt-8? etc.?

    thanks
    Hmm...I have never had a problem with the JB's highs or the 'demons. That said, when I ordered the OG diablo, I was ordering for a specific guitar that was really bright and of course, MJ suggested the OG diablo. Honestly, it really doesn't sound like the other models: it sounds like a demon with more output, more aggression (the mid and high end shift I talked about) and no "twang" haha! That increased aggression and output from the extra winds does give it some traits you would find in the DD or JB, but overall its tonality is still very 'demon so to speak. I am actually curious....I am betting with a hot magnet like a ceramic, oversized ceramic or A8 it would be a full on...and very clear/tight...distortion class bruiser!

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    Mojo's Minions
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    Default Re: Devils, Demons and Duncan Designed: The "El Diablo", "Iommi" and HB-104 Explaine

    Quote Originally Posted by VHTJay View Post
    Hmm...I have never had a problem with the JB's highs or the 'demons. That said, when I ordered the OG diablo, I was ordering for a specific guitar that was really bright and of course, MJ suggested the OG diablo. Honestly, it really doesn't sound like the other models: it sounds like a demon with more output, more aggression (the mid and high end shift I talked about) and no "twang" haha! That increased aggression and output from the extra winds does give it some traits you would find in the DD or JB, but overall its tonality is still very 'demon so to speak. I am actually curious....I am betting with a hot magnet like a ceramic, oversized ceramic or A8 it would be a full on...and very clear/tight...distortion class bruiser!
    I'm with you, I find the highs in those models to be just fine. maybe it's just the guys that are into grandpa rock. lol!

    anyway, I'd be probably be putting it in alder with maple board and rosewood neck... they typical for me. maybe a poplar. depends. but no ash or solid maple or anything really bright (the bright guitars are already taken! lol!). so it's got me wondering if I'd need to ask for the older Diablo with a smidge of highs put back in. since I was super thoughtful to the little lady on the anniversary, she's OKd another CS pup, so I've been gearing up. it's tempting to get another Dokken bucker, but I'm a little more interested in a bit of variety while staying in the same territory, so to speak.

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    Ultimate Kitten Puncher King IzzO)))'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Devils, Demons and Duncan Designed: The "El Diablo", "Iommi" and HB-104 Explaine

    I wonder how close a FS with one row of regular screws is.

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    Ultimate Tone Member VHTJay's Avatar
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    Default Re: Devils, Demons and Duncan Designed: The "El Diablo", "Iommi" and HB-104 Explaine

    Quote Originally Posted by King IzzO))) View Post
    I wonder how close a FS with one row of regular screws is.
    Hmmm....I have a FS trembucker just sitting around here. What the heck, I'll give it a whirl. My hunch: it will still sound much more like a FS than the OG Diablo. That said, I am curious!

    Darth: The OG Diablo would be right up your alley I think. Another thing you COULD investigate when you call: I know you are diggin' the '78....you should ask MJ if Lynch has ordered any modified/souped up '78's. Just puttin' a bug in your ear.

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    Ultimate Tone Member CountFeedback's Avatar
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    Default Re: Devils, Demons and Duncan Designed: The "El Diablo", "Iommi" and HB-104 Explaine

    Quote Originally Posted by King IzzO))) View Post
    I wonder how close a FS with one row of regular screws is.
    me too

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    Mojo's Minions
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    Default Re: Devils, Demons and Duncan Designed: The "El Diablo", "Iommi" and HB-104 Explaine

    Thanks Jay, but I'm not a huge Lynch head guy. I'd tries the Demon before and moved on over the output. MJ is out of the office the next two weeks so ill follow up later. When I did an inventory, I'm actually in a bind for a place to put it. I'm already looking at having a spare CS pup sitting on the workbench. lol!

    Also, I'm thinking that most CS pups aren't simply a matter of being able to mod an existing production line. Of for simply that way the CS pups are wound vs the way production pups are wound.


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    Ultimate Kitten Puncher King IzzO)))'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Devils, Demons and Duncan Designed: The "El Diablo", "Iommi" and HB-104 Explaine

    Quote Originally Posted by darthphineas View Post
    Also, I'm thinking that most CS pups aren't simply a matter of being able to mod an existing production line. Of for simply that way the CS pups are wound vs the way production pups are wound.
    I'm sure, I just wonder how much alike they would be, possibly a reasonable cheaper alternative. It looks like they're really close spec-wise.

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