Hells Bells! A New Angus Pickup…Sort Of

October 13, 2009 | By | 4 Replies More
Seymour holding Angus' main SG (seymourduncan.com photo).

Seymour holding one of Angus' SGs (seymourduncan.com photo).

If you follow all things Seymour Duncan, you will have seen a couple weeks ago that the company announced that Seymour himself has been working on Angus Young’s guitars. Here’s what was said:

“We’ve been working behind the scenes with Angus Young for the past year. His tech, Takumi Suetsugu, contacted Seymour Duncan about dialing in the sound of Angus’ road guitars. Takumi had already been to a few pickup builders before he came to us.

“He worked with Seymour, Evan [Skopp] and Scott Miller, our technical lead, to come up a variation on Pearly Gates that really worked great in Angus’ performance guitars.

“Once AC/DC’s world tour ended, Takumi came up to the factory with Angus’ ‘Number One’ road guitar along one of the other road guitars in his arsenal. The problem with Number One is that it was recently caught in a torrential downpour at an outdoor concert and it wasn’t working right. Furthermore, the other road guitars didn’t sound as good as Number One.

“Our challenge was two-fold: get Number One up and running, and make the other road guitars sound as good as Number One. The first thing [Seymour] did was a complete set of measurements. Then [Seymour] started listening to pickups and winding special humbuckers.

“Meanwhile, [they] were doing repairs to Number One to restore it after the moisture damage. That’s it for now….”

The PG and Gibson Angus Pickups

The Pearly Gates pickup referred to above is a standard (non-Custom Shop) Duncan pickup made to Billy Gibbons’ specs and named after his famous Les Paul. Here’s what Duncan says about this pickup:

“Warm, slightly-hotter-than-vintage humbucker. Great for blues, classic rock, southern rock…. Originally designed as a recreation of the pickups in the ’59 Les Paul Standard that defined the raw, rebellious sound of Texas blues-rock. The Pearly Gates is sweet, but slightly rude, with great sustain and a bright top end that make harmonics jump out of the guitar.” It also notes that the pickup is “for brighter-toned instruments.”

The Pearly Gates uses an Alnico II magnet (usually perceived as “warmer” than an Alnico V magnet), and its DC Resistance (bridge position) is 8.35K, which is right around “vintage” (PAF) level.

You may recall that Gibson makes a signature Angus Young SG which has an Angus Young Special Pickup in the bridge and a Gibson ’57 Classic. Here’s all the info Gibson released about the signature pickup:

“With enamel-coated wire, special Alnico V magnet and matched coils, the Gibson Angus Young Signature humbucker provides a one-two combination of vintage-style punch and ripping tone that will sear through almost anything. Gibson wax-potted the Angus Young Humbucker twice to eliminate unwanted microphonics.”

No idea what a “special” magnet means.

In any case, “vintage” and “hot” appear to describe both pickups, with the biggest apparent difference being the magnet types – though I’m sure there are other differences.

Close-up of Angus' main SG (seymourduncan.com photo).

Close-up of Angus' main SG (seymourduncan.com photo).

I’m not sure whether Angus has been using his signature Gibson pickups on his stage guitars, but Duncan’s Skopp had this to say about them: “The pickups Angus has been using in his touring guitars are very similar to the Pearly Gates.”

So there you have it.

Which Pickup Can You Get?

It looks like from Gibson’s website that it no longer sells the Angus signature pickup (though you can get one on sale at Musician’s Friend) – which may mean that it’s out of production.

Skopp said that Duncan won’t be producing a signature Angus pickup (which the folks on the Duncan forum dubbed the ‘Hells Bells’), BUT I’ll bet you a dollar that if you call the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop and ask them to build you a repro of the pickup Seymour wound for Angus, they’ll do it. They’re nice folks that way!


Skopp also said this about what Duncan is doing with Angus’ guitars

1) The #1 Black guitar squeals and had some other problems. We’re fixing that.

2) We’re doing a duplicate bridge pickup for the #1 Black guitar in case it goes down.

3) We’re matching the red guitars to the #1 so he’ll have more “go to” live guitars.

Hells Bells, Largo, MD, 1981
[Listen to how bell-like Malcolm’s tone is here compared to Angus. That’s true of the three live vids I listened to on this tune.]

Category: AC/DC, Gibson, Seymour Duncan

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  1. WoodyTone! - What To Learn from the New Angus SG | November 23, 2009
  1. Johnny says:

    That article is a little confusing. The first picture has Seymour holding Angus' "main guitar" and it is red. A little later they start referring to his #1 black guitar as if it is his main guitar. As far as I know the red one (lightning bolt inlays, cream switch ring) is Angus' main SG. Now there are two of those running around. The original, and a copy that the Custom Shop made him. The original had PAFs in it, and the copy has Yomanos in it.

  2. Dusty says:

    I was thinking the same thing, but as I studied the guitar a little more, I noticed that the color doesn't look quite like Gibson's SG Red, I wondered if it could be black with a bit of reflection in the finish?

  3. AndersP says:

    I think.

    …that his main guitar is the very dark red cherry close to black with lightning bolt inlays. But, it is too valuable to play regularly on tours so there his number one is the black one with small pick guard.

    The reference to “red” above may be about any standard cherry red SG that Angus most certainly have available, but may not like.

    If I understand correctly Angus´ is using the lightning bolt worn and torn guitar for a lot of recording.

    I guess at the time of Gibson launching the 250 limited edition guitars he played the lightning bolt one a lot when there was filming present. I think there was a plan behind that he used it on both the Live in Munich and Circus Krone shows. Promotion sort of.

    I’m one of the lucky bastards owning one of the Gibson replicas, though the VOS model (one of 200), not the aged and signed (just couldn’t afford it).

    I also have an SG with a Pearly Gate, an SG with a Gibson Angus Young p/u and an SG with a 498T. Yes I like SGs a lot :-).

    The lightning bolt SG with the modified Pearly Gate is the best sounding of them, hands down. Whether it is only because of the p/u or the fact that the neck is made from maple or a combination, I don’t know.

    This SG is so special so it is virtually impossible to compare it to any other SG, stock or modified.

    Try finding an SG with a one-piece mahogany body, a maple neck and an ebony fretboard – good luck. You have to build one yourself nowadays or look at ebay. The ones that went onto the market from Gibson sold out very fast.

    Next best to the one above is one of the “old” (the first series) Angus Young signature models. My son has one and it sounds fantastic. Again a one-piece high grade mahogany body, but mahogany neck and a Gibson Angus Young bridge pickup.

    The “new” AY model with the wimpy little acrylic lightning bolts, black and small pick guard is essentially a SG 61 RI. Haven’t played one, words say it sucks from a looks perspective though.

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