Pickup choice help - custom build
I'm trying to decide which pickups I'd like in a Daemoness build that I have coming up in 2017.
The issue I am having is that there are aspects of the different pickups I own that I like, which I wish I could combine, and a whole host of pickups I'd never tried. With the ability to try high end pickups seemingly limited in the part of the UK I live in, I'd like some of your opinions.
I like the Bogner Ecstasy/Carvin Legacy flavour: dark, low-mids heavy, big thick sound, as a general rule. Crystal, bell-like cleans, crunchy rhythm with good note separation, and super importantly a big fat lead tone with plenty of sustain! I play through a Legacy 3 and I really like it. I have done some side-by-side pickups comparisons between Dimarzio Evolutions and Bareknuckle Nailbombs (alnico version). I do also own Dimarzio Tone Zone/True Velvet/Air Norton combo but I've written that off early as a "perfect pickup" choice, because with the Legacy it just feels too warm and balanced a pickup-combo with too warm an amp.
My observations are as follows:
Cleans: BKPs win hands down. My favourite Evo PU position for cleans is split between the neck and middle, so this is in comparison to that. There's no middle pickup on my BKP guitar, just two humbuckers on a 5-way switch, and the single coil neck position option is absolutely godlike. The alnico magnets are probably also helping to create the pure, clear warmth. Single notes sound great too, and have enough presence without popping out in the mildly irritating way they do with my Evos. I also tried a split-coil neck position with the Evos (my Jem90Ham has a coil tap), and even this did not top the amazing cleans the Nailbomb single-coil neck produced.
Rhythm: Either will do, but the Evos tend to be easier to fit in with the gain structure of the amp and my pedals. If the Nailbombs were a little higher output, they'd probably be preferable to the Evos. Not a deal-breaker.
Leads: They are similar tonally, through my rig, the Evos are slightly fatter and the Nailbombs are a little less compressed and more organic. The Nailbombs react better to variances in pick attack, but the Evos are much better on pinched harmonics. The Evos probably edge forwards in this match up, but again if the Nailbombs were a little hotter for the pinched harmonics and to have a similar fatness to the Evos, I think they'd clinch it.
Something that has become really important to me which is perhaps the main reason I am finding this predicament so difficult is how the pickups react to changes in gain and react to guitar volume. The Nailbombs are godlike when rolling off the volume - they react superbly, the tone sharpens up a little bit and becomes sweeter. You can do that marvellous Shawn Lane trick where you have tonnes of gain on, overdrive over your dirty channel, and get an almost clean sound out of low volumes. I think this is more down to the alnico vs ceramic difference than anything else. The Evos have less character in this regard, they're flatter dynamically, and when I roll off the volume on the Evo-equipped guitar it feels like a purely practical reduction in gain rather than a new interesting sound that has its own character.
Another thing which I hear a little bit, but bothers others more (as far as I can tell from forums) is that Evos and perhaps Dimarzios in general have a kind of fizz on the top end which rears its head when you reach a certain level of presence with your rig. The BKPs do not remotely have this problem, they totally retain all their organic goodness.
If I could have a hotter, more pinched harmonic-rich Nailbomb, I'd have it in a heartbeat, but does such a pickup exist? Am I asking for too much, some kind of a combination of alnico and ceramic traits? The character of the alnicos which seem sweet at lower guitar volumes and big and warm for cleans, plus the punch of ceramics for distorted tones? What about having a ceramic bridge pickup and the alnico Nailbomb in the neck for cleans and low volume stuff? The latter seems to be a nice, creative idea but I have never tried it and know no-one who has - would such a combo be too different in terms of output to work?
All thoughts welcome, sorry for the long post but when you're spending so much $$$ on a custom build that you have a 2 year waiting list for, you wanna get the specs absolutely perfect!