Review: EVH Frankie Pickup Worth Every Penny

March 30, 2009 | By | 16 Replies More

Ed’s Sound: Priceless

evh_frankie_humbucker_boxIf you’re a fan of Edward Van Halen, ask yourself this question: How much money would you pay for a pickup that EVH personally designed with Seymour Duncan?

Bear in mind that good humbuckers can cost anywhere from $40-$50 made by single-person boutique shops to $75-ish for a Duncan or DiMarizio, to around $150 or so for a Duncan Custom Shop wind.

A higher-end stomp box costs anywhere from $150 to $200 on up. Even cables can cost that much now.

So what would you pay?

Back in the day – the ’80s – I bet your answer would’ve been “a lot.” It might be the same answer now. So what’s a lot?

How about $140? That’s what I paid for the EVH humbucker through the Van Halen store, which is the lowest price I’ve found (and it was shipped promptly). And, pretending for a moment that there isn’t a recession, after installing that pickup and hearing it with my own ears, it’s easily worth at least twice that much – to me, anyway, for what it did to my tone.

How it Sounds

In a word, the Frankenstein pickup sounds great. Awesome. It’s the best pickup I’ve ever heard.

Why do I say that? I’ll do my best to explain it. Notes are clear and big. The chords in each note are clear (and big). So I guess it sounds “vintage” – or rather, those are properties of good PAF-style pickups. But the Frankie pickup also sounds F-ing great distorted. Clear, great mids and upper mids, no boominess, no harshness, nothing bad anywhere. In fact, it sounded so good I didn’t even adjust it (height). Just kept playing.

And yes, it made the guitar I stuck it in sound much more EVH-like.

Guitar specs: homemade super Strat, alder body, maple neck with hard ebony fingerboard, original Floyd Rose bridge and nut, one 500K volume pot connected to a two-way switch that can be switched to a single-coil in the neck.

I’ve stuck with this body – which is about half unpainted, so it breathes – through the years because it just sounds great. Always has. I’ve thought about getting a hard ash body like Frankie supposedly has, but hey, it’s wood: You never know how a piece will sound. The same-shaped bodies from the same manufacturer cut from the same wood lot might sound totally different.

So rather than take a chance on a new piece of wood, I’ll stick with this one. I can get EVH-like sounds from this guitar, so it works for me.

The pickup I had in it was a Seymour Duncan Screamin’ Demon, George Lynch’s first signature pickup. Before I took that pickup out and stuck the Frankie in, I played the guitar through my plexi clone for a while – longer than I planned on because it sounded so good.

The Screamin’ Demon is very similar to Duncan’s ’59 Model PAF-style pickup, which lots of people like for getting the EVH sound. Here’s what the Duncan website says about the Screamin’ Demon: “Moderate output, P.A.F.-style with added ‘growl.’ This pickup was designed in the Custom Shop for guitar legend George Lynch. It has the big open sound of our ‘59 Model with a little less bite and a little more growl. The tone is big, percussive with a defined treble response that doesn’t get harsh. It uses one row of allen screws and one row of standard slotted screws for a unique ‘airy’ sound.”

After playing for a while, I was kind of bummed. I didn’t think there was much chance that the Frankie humbucker, which I paid $140 for, would sound significantly better than the Demon. Nevertheless, I dutifully headed down to the basement to swap pickups.

That done, I returned to the plexi, plugged in and started playing – and was simply blown away.

I can’t say the Frankie pickup sounded 100% better or 50% better or whatever. All I can say is it sounded fuller (not necessarily fatter) than the Screamin’ Demon, clearer and basically gave me a woody. I was not driving a semi at that point.

The best way to say it is, It sounded like I always wished my guitar would sound like.

Pickup Specs

Here are the publicly-available specs on the EVH Frankenstein pickup:

> Magnet: Degaussed Alnico 2 [degaussed means making the magnet less strong, which means “sweeter,” “mellower,” more even, depending who you talk to]
> Wire: Poly
> DCR: ~ 14K [some people have reported a DC resistance in the high 13s]

Here they are for the Screamin’ Demon:

> Magnet: Alnico V
> DCR: 10 k

Here are the specs for the Seymour Duncan ‘78 Model, formerly known as the Duncan EVH but never endorsed by Edward:

> Magnet: Fully Charged Alnico 2
> Wire: Plain Enamel
> DCR: ~ 9.0K

After some reading on the subject over the years, and a good recent education by the guys on the Seymour Duncan forum, it seems like:

a) Alnico 2 (or II) magnets accentuate the mids and upper mids, both of which are key for the EVH sound. This may be because the bass, in particular, and treble are weaker with an A2 mag compared to other magnets.

b) Alnico 5 (or V) magnets accentuate the highs and lows, both of which are tight, but thus is a little scooped in the mids. Has better “bite” than an A2.

c) Some people swear by an A5 for the Van Halen sound, and some swear by an A2. Don’t think I’d swear one way or the other, but right now I’m in the latter camp. And apparently EVH likes an A2 magnet too.

Bear in Mind

Please bear in mind the following:

1.  I am not a pickup expert. I’ve been playing guitar 30 years and have read and talked to enough people that I’m comfortable about my pickup knowledge, but I’ll never be one who obsesses over DC resistance or who regularly shells out $50+ to try new pickups.

2.  Every guitar sounds different. So obviously a pickup that sounds good in one guitar won’t necessarily sound good in another, and vice versa.

3.  The Frankenstein pickup was designed for the $25,000 Frankenstein replica guitar, which allegedly has a northern ash body. Northern ash is heavy, but the replicas are supposedly light weight, which could mean hyper-aged (dried) northern ash or swamp ash or alder. The Frankie also has a Floyd Rose. So if your super Strat has super-dense hard ash and vintage trem, you may not get what you’re looking for out of this pickup. Similarly, if you have a 24 3/4-inch scale length guitar (vs. the Frankie’s Strat-like 25 1/2-inch scale), this pickup might not be your cup of tea.

4.  I have not yet played this pickup in a band situation, but with good mids and upper-mids – and the fact that it was designed by “a working musician” (hah!) – I’m not too worried about it.

Last but not least, the above is my first impression of the pickup. I can hardly imagine feeling anything but better about this pickup the more I play it, but you never know.

I also really want to try the Frankie pickup in my Les Paul (since the this pickup is NOT trem-spaced), but buying another one will have to wait. I think.

Category: Edward Van Halen, George Lynch, Pickups, Seymour Duncan

Comments (16)

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  1. CaBaGu says:

    I have an EVH pickup coming in the mail as we speak, to put in a Frankenstrat I am building. I would like to liven up the neck pickup and switch it on stealthily with a push-pull pot. You have a single coil in the neck position on your guitar – how does it match up with the EVH at the bridge? Any recommendations for a good companion neck single coil pup?

  2. admin says:

    At the neck posn I have a Seymour Duncan single-coil, standard Strat-type, not stacked. It matches output-wise with the EVH Frankie pickup, but if your question is about sound, I don’t know how to answer. The EVH sounds like VH, the single coil sounds like Jimi, SRV, etc., which is what I want it to sound like. Also don’t know what the magnet is in the single-coil, but I’d guess A5. Re: recommendation, I’d like to get a stacked single-coil. If I did, it would be a DiMarzio YJM or HS3, or maybe a Duncan Classic Stack. Otherwise, any decent Strat pickup for the neck posn will do. Hope that helps.

  3. CaBaGu says:

    Nope, that’s what is was looking for – output, not tone. Now time to go shopping. Thanks!

  4. Ed hunter says:

    I really want to try out one of these after reading your review here!

  5. CaBaGu says:

    I came back to this article as I am assembling a project guitar using the EVH Humbucker and I was wondering where you ended up setting the pickup to string distance? I am looking for the elusive brown sound and I know this will affect it.

  6. admin says:

    I don’t think it’s super-critical what the distance is, and it may depend on the body wood (ash you want the mids boosted, alder maybe not so much, etc.) — it’s a mid-heavy pickup in some guitars. Just experiment. I just eyeballed it, and it was great right off the bat. Could it be better? Probably, but I haven’t messed with it yet — afraid I’ll mess it up!

  7. Yek says:

    Hi, I installed the EVH F’stein humbucker in my Strat’s bridge position.
    While I love the sound of it, I’m amazed by the lack of highs (treble) in its sound. I wasn’t planning on using the pickup at clean settings, but it wouldn’t work anyway since it’s “darker” than the neck and middle pickups (single coil Lindy Fralins). Can other users confirm this?

  8. Yek says:

    Problem solved by disconnecting the wire to the tone control. Somehow they didn’t get along. I don’t use the tone control anyway.

  9. Trev Morson says:

    Based on your review, I just purchased the EVH Frankenstrat Humbucker and coincidentally.. it is replacing my George Lynch SH12 (screamin' demon), same as yours. I sure hope it works out for me, my Frankenstrat Replica has a body made of mahogany and the SH12 was little too bass'ey sounding. Seems the EVH pickup is hotter and I hope it has a brighter sound for me. Question: Can pickup's over time lose there magnetism and become microphonic?

  10. Trev Morson says:

    I just swappeed out my George Lynch SH12 Seymour Duncan Screamin’ Demon for the EVH Humbucker.. and OMG!.. this

    review was right on. I tested it first through a cheap 5-watt practice amp with no effects or pedals. And wow!… I

    have the EVH Brown Sound instantly!!

    Next, was through my Peavey 6505+ rig and effects for gigs.. .. this thing is totally phenominal !! – All I had to

    do was turn down the gain (PRE) on my two channels and adjust slightly, the pole pieces (higher) on the bottom end

    strings. Natural Harmonices, tap harmonics and squeels etc.. ring out like a charm. I did notice I lost my 100%

    clean sound and it is now a little dirty, but for me, that’s absolutey ok.

    One thing I really like, is when you turn down the volume using the guitar volume knob, if you do the whole

    extended “live” Eruption thing as I do in my band, then you start with the nice 316 with volume turned down and it

    is quite exact tone/sound that Eddie uses.

    Incidentally, I used a 500K linear POT – perfect for Catherdral etc..

    My EVH Frankenstrat replica has a mahogany body, most humbuckers I have used over the years are on the low end and

    a lot of bass.. but not the EVH Humbbucker.. it works perfectly with an excellent Brown Sound tone!!

    Easy set up too, usual nickel betwwen high e-string and pole piece when pressed at the highest fret, and two

    nickels for the low E. The EVH has a mystery ingrediant that my previous Seymour SH12 did not.. it oozes the

    Eddie Van Halen sound PERECTLY!!

    I am not just very pleased, I am 200% ecstatic.. no more tone chasing for me!!

    Go get it, WILL NOT be dissapointed !

    And thanks for the review here.. I purchased it based on this review alone.

    Trev Morson (Guitarist – Clasic Rock – gigging for 32 years)

  11. Jon Hepworth says:

    got mine today after reading this and am blown away. Im normally a neck position Single Coil fan (Blackmore, Uli Roth etc) but also love the brown sound and am over the moon with this. Has transformed an RG partscaster I put together to replace the jem I sold. Am thinking of getting another to put into one of my strats now!! Also gout the Suhr Doug Aldrich neck pup to go with it and they combine like a dream!!!

  12. @Bob453 says:

    Just a late followup on my original post. Got the pickup. Installed in an Ash-bodied, maple-necked Franky-style guitar, mounted on an angle in front of the bridge, no tone, 500k pot on the volume, OFR bridge. Dang it sounds nice! It loves it if you turn it up and hit it hard! I dial in my amp / tone by playing the first couple of bars of the main riffs from Mean Street (after the intro) when you hit that first open chord, it sounds really brown….and that's just on my Roland Cube!

  13. A&Z Guitar Repair says:

    I’ve installed this in an ESP George Lynch Serpent guitar. It was also replacing the Screamin Demon. Has made a world of difference. Guitar is swamp ash with maple neck/rosewood fretboard.

    Amazing is all I can say. I had a Robin Medley, with a swamp ash body, and it didn’t like the pickup, but the ESP does. Works well for all types of music. Sounds great overdriven, and cleans up well with the volume knob.

    Planning on installing this in my Jackson PC1 next.

  14. A&Z Guitar Repair says:

    Installed the Frankenstein pickup in my PC-1. I like. Not quite as gainey as the Super 3 that was OEM on the guitar. The guitar is mahogany, with maple top and maple neck/fretboard and floyd rose bridge.

    As stated, not as gained out as the Super 3. Notes tend to be more clear and less compressed. Harmonics are great. Cleans up with ease by simply rolling volume down on guitar.

    I run a Soldano Hot Rod 50+ head thru a Dual Rec 2×12. Guitar covers alot of ground and the pickup compliments the setup well.

    If you can justify the additional cost, I believe you’ll possibly find a new favorite pickup.

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