Sunday, April 2, 2017

Seymour Duncan: California 50s set

Greetings, tone hounds. How's the weekend coming along? A little too brief, yes? Anyway, it's been a while since I've done a 'formal' product appraisal so here goes... 😉

The product in question is Seymour Duncan's California 50s single coil set. The 50s monicker there is a little evasive because the pickups in question feature an Alnico V magnet, leaning more towards a contemporary voicing rather than a strict vintage articulation. These pickups are mounted onto my Fender American Special Stratocaster featuring a rosewood fretboard.

We renew our belief that Alnico magnets are the best in this turf, regardless if they are of the stronger variety. In all positions, the C50 set successfully captured the inherent instrument twang. It's like hearing amplified wood in action- almost, very convincing. The manufacturer did well in maintaining the EQ settings for all positions, we don't hear a selected frequency excess coming from any positions. With that in mind, do note that the neck position is the least performer in terms of sharpness but it won't blur into mud.

The first drive test involved an amp source; a Marshall JVM 410H. The crunch & OD1 channels were used. Crunch settings brought out the best from in-between positions. In addition to the jangle, there was a firm, organic, clunky voicing that we all love to hear, especially Neil Rodgers-type funky chords. Tame the volume & we are in blues territory; this is the versatility of the C50s that make them a good buy. The harder drive settings brought out splendid individual performances. If you are the solo type, the drive experience here should be rewarding. Both the neck & bridge pickups have impressive clarity, nothing too saturated & we have the alnico magnet to thank for that. The fact that it's an Alnico V means we need not try too hard to get the drive going. There you have it, a good balance for both clean & driven tones.

The next drive test involves an OD pedal in booster mode to accentuate the amp's drive performance. The neck pickup suffered a little mushiness due to saturated drive responses. The bridge counterpart fared better here, in fact, I could push it into pseudo-metal territory with no issues in terms of clarity. Not forgetting the middle pickup, it inclined towards its bridge bother's performance; a more ready player when push came to shove.

Lest we forget, the C50s are actually...

... the SSL-1s as depicted above 😁 The fact that they had been re-introduced as a collective trio under the 50s slant (whatever that means to you) made you think in vintage terms which they are not. But in some settings, they sound more vintage than some other Alnico V manifestations. I'm going to recommend these to those in search of untainted cleans but at the ready for some contemporary drive tones. On a side note, I've pushed these pickups into hyper-metal territory with good results (unlike the SSL-5 in action, but that's for another appraisal episode) but the hum was just not worth it.

Rating: 8.5/10 👍

The California 50s are available at both Davis GMC & 35 Guitar Avenue

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