Bare Knuckle Pickups Forum

Forum Ringside => Pickups => Topic started by: Slartibartfarst42 on August 25, 2013, 05:49:10 PM

Title: Holydiver neck review
Post by: Slartibartfarst42 on August 25, 2013, 05:49:10 PM
In this review I am using a Holydiver neck model in a PRS SE Custom 24 that already has a Holydiver in the bridge. As regular users on here will already know, I'm a long time fan of the Holydiver bridge pickup but never really thought about the neck version. Comments about it being 'bright' and 'thin' tended to put me off. Instead, I've always paired the Holydiver bridge with an Emerald neck and it really is a magical combination. This begs an obvious question:

'If it's so magical, why did you change?'

Good question and the answer is more about chance than anything else. I ordered a Crawler set for my other PRS but while I liked the bridge a lot, the neck version didn't really light my fire as much. I was a bit disappointed because frankly, the more I play the Crawler bridge, the more I like it but after much deliberation I concluded that while the bridge Crawler had a distinctly modern edge to its vintage character, the neck Crawler was entirely vintage and I missed the 'cut' you tend to get with more modern pickups. After a lot of research I found myself increasingly drawn to the Holydiver neck but it struck me that such a modern neck pickup wouldn't sit well with a Crawler so I decided to move the Emerald in with the Crawler and use a Holydiver set in my other guitar. So far this has proved to be an inspired choice. The Emerald neck pickup is quite thick sounding so naturally sits well with the very thick sounding Crawler in the bridge. Both pickups are also very sweet and both strike a nice balance between vintage and modern. I think the difference lies in the fact that while both the Crawler and Emerald necks use AIV magnets, the Emerald uses a more modern wire and for me, that seems to make all the difference. The Holydiver bridge is often described as 'thick' but it's nothing like as thick as the Crawler, nor as dark and is also noticeably tighter so the thinner and brighter nature of the Holydiver neck seems to compliment the bridge perfectly. Clearly Tim has got it right again!

So, how does the Holydiver neck stack up to other great Bare Knuckle neck pickups like the Emerald and Cold Sweat? I couldn't honestly compare the Holydiver with the Emerald because they are very different pickups. The AIV magnet gives a smooth vintage tone to the Emerald while the Holydiver uses a more modern AV magnet and this is compounded by the use of more modern 42.5 polysol wire on the Holydiver. It is true that the Holydiver is both thinner and brighter than the Emerald but that isn't really such a bad thing because it's all relative. It may be thinner but it's not thin to the point where it has no presence and nor is it bright to the point of being piercing. When I assumed this in the past about the Holydiver neck, I was wrong. It actually has quite a lot in common with the Cold Sweat and Rebel Yell neck models as all three use AV magnets and all three use the same wire. I've never tried a Rebel Yell neck but I have owned a Cold Sweat neck pickup so I do feel I can draw some appropriate comparisons and conclusions.

Like the Cold Sweat, the Holydiver neck is fundamentally modern in its voicing and as such, copes well with modern styles from Classic Rock/Metal to shredding. Where it differs from the Cold Sweat neck is in terms of compression. The Cold Sweat has a slightly hotter wind whereas the Holydiver is almost vintage based on the DC resistance. I wouldn’t presume to suggest that this gives the Holydiver more of a PAF feel to it because I think both the magnet and wire suggest this wouldn’t be an entirely accurate description but the light wind does help to make it feel quite open compared to other neck pickups from the contemporary range and in this respect, you may notice a bit of a vintage vibe going on. The upshot of all this is that it is a very clear pickup with great cleans. While the Emerald cleans are warm and rich, the Holydiver cleans are more bright and jangly. They always seem to remind me of a Fender amp for some reason. I don’t think the cleans on the Emerald and Holydiver are better or worse than each other; they’re just different. However, I would say the cleans on the Holydiver are better than those on the Cold Sweat.

As I’ve already indicated, the Holydiver is possibly a bit brighter and thinner than the Cold Sweat and if I were to leave it at that, I’d be tempted to say that under distortion the Cold Sweat is better but as is often the case, there’s more to it than that. The Holydiver is a bit more precise than the Cold Sweat and will take shed loads of gain very well and as the gain is added, the sound seems to thicken. It’s difficult to explain but the Holydiver seems sweeter and more ‘musical’ than the Cold Sweat. There’s certainly something about it.

Downsides? Its brighter and thinner nature would mean I’d hesitate in using it in a bright Stratocaster but it will work very well in pretty much anything else and positively slay in a Les Paul. The only other possible negative I could mention is that for some, it may be a bit too much of a halfway-house between an open, vintage tone and modern styles. It’s not a problem for me, in fact, quite the reverse as I like this about the pickup but I can imagine that for some people, they may want either ‘vintage’ or ‘modern’ and not the ‘best of both’.

Looking back on the forum, it seems like the Holydiver neck was once a very popular option but in more recent times its popularity seems to have waned quite a bit, to the point where now it seems to be a bit of a forgotten hero. That’s a shame because frankly, it deserves better. If you’re after a neck humbucker that will give you good cleans that give a clear nod towards Fender style cleans and still be able to shred like a Cold Sweat with a distinct ‘musicality’ to its tone, you could do a lot worse than consider a Holydiver.

To sum up, it’s very like a Cold Sweat but a bit more open, a bit brighter and a bit thinner but equally, it offers better cleans and a sweeter musicality.
Title: Re: Holydiver neck review
Post by: BigB on August 25, 2013, 10:42:55 PM
Nice review, as usual. Thanks mate.
Title: Re: Holydiver neck review
Post by: darkbluemurder on August 26, 2013, 03:10:26 PM
I think the HD neck is a very underrated pickup for lead playing. I definitely prefer it over the CS neck.

Great review once again.

Cheers Stephan
Title: Re: Holydiver neck review
Post by: Kiichi on August 26, 2013, 05:45:31 PM
Slarti I love you, but f*ck you mate.
I thought I was decided on a HD EM combo for me 7 string, but noooo you can´t have me do that can you now....;)

Anyhow really nice comparative, analytical review as always. Great to put the usual shred suspects in perspective to each other. Also again giving a good idea of the tone, that fender things sounds very intriguing.

Really interresting to see how the HD neck went out of style here. When I arrived it was the most recommended neck PU for shred and a lot of other things alike. Then came the CSs time to shine, mostly for shred though and then recently came the time of the Emerald.
Wonder what is next. Can we get a P90 revival party maybe?^^

Keep the work coming man, I always really enjoy your reviews. No rest for you until you have written one for every PU I say!
Title: Re: Holydiver neck review
Post by: Slartibartfarst42 on August 26, 2013, 08:38:50 PM
Too many good pickups to try and not enough money (or guitars). Sadly I have no immediate need for any more pickups so I'm afraid that there are no more reviews on the horizon but you never know what the future may hold  8)

For a man who has only ever owned two guitars at a time, I suppose I've tried my fair share of Bare Knuckles and I can't honestly say that any have been bad at all. OK, so the Crawler neck, Emerald bridge and Nailbomb bridge were sent back but that's only because they weren't what I was after and it's been a learning process. When I first arrived here I knew nothing about pickups but over the years I've loved developing my understanding. I now know that I'm not keen on pickups that are too vintage, I like a bit of compression and I like things reasonably smooth.

These are the BKP I've tried so far and there should be reviews written for every one of them somewhere on the forum:

Trilogy Suite neck - Never thought I'd like a single coil but this is just incredible.
Sinner bridge used in the neck - Not remotely like you'd expect a single coil. VERY Metal.
Crawler neck - Good at what it does but the very vintage character means it's not for me.
Cold Sweat neck - Awesome at what it does. For a modern neck pickup, it would be a close call between this and the Holydiver.
Emerald neck - Awesome/incredible/fantastic - take your pick.
Holydiver neck - Early days but so far a great choice and gives a nice contrast to the Emerald.
Cold Sweat bridge - Fantastic but for me, the Holydiver has the edge.
Miracle Man bridge - The perfect Metal pickup.
A-Bomb bridge - Too aggressive and edgy in my Jackson but God was there potential there. For aggressive Metal this would be great in the right gui0 guitartar and I'd love to try it again one day in a different guitar.
Crawler bridge - The more I play it, the more I love it. This is a SERIOUSLY good pickup.
Holydiver bridge - My long time favourite, though the Crawler is pushing it close.

BKP I'd still like to try:

Slowhand - I'm never likely to as I don't really go for single coils but this one really fascinates me. If I ever bought a Strat for some Blues, this is what I'd buy.
Stockholm - I've never owned a P90 guitar yet I always enjoy playing them. If I ever get one, I suspect this may be my first port of call, or a Pig 90 if it had normal sized P90 pups.
Abraxas bridge - I've just always fancied one  :D
Alnico Warpig - I've always fancied this one and even more so after GuitarIV said it had a lot in common with the Holydiver. Comparisons to an Invader also makes it appeal.

Title: Re: Holydiver neck review
Post by: Lucas on August 26, 2013, 09:51:40 PM
Truly immense review! Keep it up!
Recently I started thinking about restoring my old guitar in near future which hasn`t been used for years. It`s a Ibanez copy (HSH) but even the fact it`s a lower middle (with emphasis on lower)  :) class instrument, it has loads of sentimental factor to me and don`t want to get rid of it at all.
And being lured by many great reviews and praises about Holydiver set, I started considering a purchase of the set myself.

But have to admit that you confused me a little bit, by saying that Holydiver is a bit bright pickup and you wouldn`t use it in bright Strat.
That Ibanez copy is quite bright due to the wood and bolt on neck and Holydived is listed on BKP website as: 'Particularly well suited to double cut solid-body/bolt-on neck guitars or brighter guitars that require a fuller tone with sweeter hi-end'.
So as far as Im concerned well tailored for that Ibanez copy, is that right?

And the other question is: What version do you have? With or without the cover? I mean for whole Holydiver set? What would you recommend covered Holydivers or open ones?

And what single coil pickup does suit the best to HD set? I mean my guitar is H-S-H and have to choose some single coil pup to fit Holydiver set. Was thinking about Irish Tour. Like Mother`s Milk a lot but it might be too vintage voiced and too bright pickup for that configuration as well as wood. So IT or something else what would work the best as a middle pickup along with HD set?

Thanks a lot, and once again, great review, great work!
Title: Re: Holydiver neck review
Post by: Philly Q on August 27, 2013, 01:02:19 AM
Another great review.  :D

I think it's confirmed my opinion that I don't like the sound of the HD neck, but that's just as useful as thinking I might want one.
Title: Re: Holydiver neck review
Post by: Slartibartfarst42 on August 27, 2013, 01:06:17 AM
OK, let's deal with the brightness issue first. The description on the website (and this is generally true of all of the pickups) only relates to the bridge version, which will certainly add body to a Strat-style guitar. In that respect, I think the description on the website is 100% accurate. The neck pickup is a little different as that is certainly somewhat brighter, partly due to the fact that it's such a light wind. Having said that, I wouldn't say that a Holydiver neck couldn't be used in a guitar like yours as long as you want a bright neck tone. As I said, it's bright but not excessively so; it's just that I don't think such a bright pickup would suit my tastes in such a guitar but I can see it working for many people. That's a little different to something like the Emerald bridge, which is seriously bright and I am sure would not work in a bright guitar for 95% of people. Interestingly, the Emerald has a similar problem on the website as the EQ chart relates to the bridge pickup, which is very bright, while the neck version is much more warm and rich. This is no doubt one of the reasons why the Emerald neck matches very well with a Holydiver bridge and is so popular on here. If you like quite a bright and open neck tone, get the Holydiver set - it will be fine. If you want a neck tone that's a bit fuller and warmer, get the Holydiver/Emerald combo instead.

As for covers, I always use open pickups because I prefer the extra cut they give me. Covered pickups tend to make things sound a little more rounded. You'll find a BKP demo on You Tube: (

Many people on the forum say that BKP compensate for the cover in the wind so there is no difference but I could tell the difference when I tried a cover. If I had a really bright and cutting guitar I'd maybe use covers to tone things down a shade but it really depends on your own tastes and the pickups you choose as well as the rest of your gear. There isn't a right or wrong answer to this question. I prefer open pickups; others prefer covered.

I've never tried an Irish Tour but I know they are a very popular option. To me, the single coil for the middle would largely be driven by the need for power. Most people have the middle pickup a long way from the strings so that it doesn't interfere with the pick but doing that means that you lose a lot of power so there is a serious loss of volume when you change from the neck or bridge humbuckers, especially as virtually any humbucker will be hotter than most of the single coils. If it was me, I'd use a Trilogy Suite. Fantastic single coil tone with a modern feel that will sit nicely with the Holydiver and have enough power.

Hope that helps.

Philly - It saves having something else under the bed  :D
Title: Re: Holydiver neck review
Post by: Philly Q on August 27, 2013, 01:15:10 AM
True, although I'm doing my best to clear a little space under there.  :lol:
Title: Re: Holydiver neck review
Post by: darkandrew on August 28, 2013, 09:44:22 PM
"Crawler bridge - The more I play it, the more I love it. This is a SERIOUSLY good pickup"
I've got a Crawler set in my ESP Eclipse 1 and I really can't make up my mind about it. Sometimes I love the way the bridge pickup sounds so smooth without all those rough, sharp edges and other times I wish it had a bit more bite. I wonder what it would sound like with a higher value cap in the tone circuit, or no tone circuit at all? Maybe that would sharpen its teeth a little.
Title: Re: Holydiver neck review
Post by: Kiichi on August 29, 2013, 07:20:15 PM
"Crawler bridge - The more I play it, the more I love it. This is a SERIOUSLY good pickup"
I've got a Crawler set in my ESP Eclipse 1 and I really can't make up my mind about it. Sometimes I love the way the bridge pickup sounds so smooth without all those rough, sharp edges and other times I wish it had a bit more bite. I wonder what it would sound like with a higher value cap in the tone circuit, or no tone circuit at all? Maybe that would sharpen its teeth a little.
You might also try to raise the pole pieces between .5 and 1 mm. That makes the sound a tad more focus and brings out some hights, cut if you will.
Rather subtle but it works.
Title: Re: Holydiver neck review
Post by: darkbluemurder on September 02, 2013, 09:18:20 AM
I wonder what it would sound like with a higher value cap in the tone circuit, or no tone circuit at all? Maybe that would sharpen its teeth a little.

If anything it would sound still smoother/darker with a higher value cap in the tone circuit, depending also on the value of the tone pot. Without a cap connected to the tone pot the pickup may sound brighter but this also depends on the pot value and the type of cap. E.g. with a 500k tone pot and a 0.022uf Xicon MPP cap you will not hear much of a difference. If you want more cut, unsoldering the tone cap is an easy mod to try and easily reversible.

Cheers Stephan
Title: Re: Holydiver neck review
Post by: darkandrew on September 02, 2013, 09:49:56 PM
Of course, you're right a higher value cap will do the opposite to what I want. Before I try a lower value cap I think I'll try your recommendation of temporarily removing it to see how that affects the sound.
Title: Re: Holydiver neck review
Post by: Telerocker on September 02, 2013, 09:55:48 PM
Another good review mate! You just convinced me that a HD-neck is not for me.
Title: Re: Holydiver neck review
Post by: ventura on September 02, 2013, 11:12:46 PM
Great review.

Having the pleasure of acquainting myself with a calibrated pair of HDs in a recently acquired ESP NT-7 (props to Nick at Axe Palace), it's nice to read others' opinions.  I'm still getting familiarized with them - the guitar, a more aggressive metal'esque guitar by nature - running through a number of different high gain heads as well as the Axe-II. 

What I've noticed thus far?  Fast tracking, great tone, decent string articulation, and still open even though their applicability in my case would seem to be more attuned to tight and compressed.  Not the case - still rich and full, but surgical with the palm mutes.

More to learn - so far so good.  I like the HDs.
Title: Re: Holydiver neck review
Post by: Slartibartfarst42 on September 03, 2013, 01:01:21 PM
Glad you're enjoyingh them, they really are great pickups. Overall, I probably prefer the Emerald in the neck but I like the fact that the Holydiver neck gives me something a bit different.

As for the Crawler question earlier, I agree with Kiichi that adjusting the pole pieces helps a lot. I have the treble side set to about 2mm from the string and the pole pieces are in their normal position. I then lowered the bass side of the pickup quite a bit but raised the pole pieces back up to 2mm. The result is that it's not quite as dark sounding anymore and has a bit more bite and articulation. I really thought that the Crawler wouldn't see as much service as my beloved Holydiver but I find I'm using it all the time. The Holydiver is certainly much better at Metal but for anything up to 80's Metal, the Crawler is absolutely superb.