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Author Topic: Alnico Black Hawk review  (Read 1474 times)

Dave Sloven

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Alnico Black Hawk review
« on: May 29, 2018, 02:23:06 PM »
Okay this is the first pickup review, I'm not very good at this but I hope that I can give enough information to make this worthwhile for someone considering the Black Hawk set.

I fitted these to a Schecter Stiletto FR-6 (2008) which has been routed for a HH configuration and fitted with a full set of Gotoh hardware in cosmo black finish, including a GE1996T tremolo (with the standard 33mm brass block), MG-T locking tuners with Grover-style buttons, and a FGR-2 locking nut. The original pickups were an EMG-HZ HSS passive set consisting of a H4 humbucker and two S1 single coils, with 500K Alpha pots and an Asian style 5-way selector switch.  The original HSS pickguard has been replaced by a new HH pickguard with an Black Hawk pickup set (Alnico 5 bridge magnet), a Jensen 0.022uf PIO capacitor, two 550K CTS pots, a CRL 3-way blade switch (all from BKP), and a Switchcraft output jack.  Strings are D'Addario EXL 117 11-56, tuned to C standard.

This guitar has a mahogany body with a very thin lacewood top, and a bolt-on maple neck with a 14" radius rosewood fretboard and what might be described as a 'thin U' neck profile with a 42mm nut.

One thing that should be mentioned is the pickup placement.  The rout for the neck pickup essentially expands the neck single coil slot toward the bridge, so that the coil closest to the bridge is in the same position as the original single coil.  The guitar is a 24 fret design and the neck pickup is in a bit of a strange place even for a 24 fret guitar, but I figured that Schecter must have tested this and I sent with that as the best spot.  In order to ensure a good split coil sound the neck pickup was rotated so that the slug coil is closest to the neck, just like the bridge pickup.  I did this after checking with Ben French that the Black Hawks are a symmetrical wind.  On-On toggles were fitted for both pickups so that when the switch is engaged only the coil closest to the neck is functioning.

This brings me to my first point, that regarding the coil splits.  The sound is generally excellent and while the output is obviously reduced there is still a strong signal as these are very high output pickups (don't pay attention to the DC resistance rating).  I have found these to be higher output than my Nalibombs (Alnico) and Warpigs (Alnico).  The sound is very full and powerful and harmonics are easy to come by.  It doesn't sound like an EMG to me, even though EMG 81s are what Black Hawks are generally compared to.  The bridge pickup has a throaty purr - one might even say a roar - in the mids and a rolled off top end, while the bottom end has a lot of punch and depth.  Having used both A5 (Warpig, Nailbomb, Emerald, and Stockholm) and ceramic (Cold Sweat and Miracle Man) BKPs I knew the A5 version would be better for my application, which is sludgy doom  metal.  I will include a link below to a video of me playing it live recently so you get the idea.  It's just recorded with a regular Sony RX-100 handheld camera.

I use a lot of power chords that consist of the root, octave, and the fourth for deep drones and also arpeggios on the same notes.  The A-Hawk brings out the droney roar of those chords in C standard tuning very well, and after lowering the bridge pickup slightly I have been getting excellent sustain on chords and notes, which is important in doom metal.

I have also adjusted the neck pickup but I am not sure that I have adjusted it enough and played with it enough to give a good assessment.  I am not really a user of neck pickups and rarely use them in songs.  In one song I use the neck pickup for a lead line on the first string, and I use it in a clean intro to the set in coil split mode with the volume rolled off slightly and a lot of delay.  What I have noticed though is that the basic tone is similar to that of the A-Hawk bridge, a fact that is perhaps enhanced by the pickup being close to the bridge than normal.  I had played single note lines on it with success and also some industrial style chord work that is very reminiscent of Justin Broadrick's work in Jesu, consisting of a lot of minor and major thirds, minor seconds, and so on.  I found that the lower output and sometimes bell-like sound of the neck pickup in high gain settings is quite interesting as I said I am not a neck pickup player nor much of a soloist.

Overall I am very satisfied with these pickups and they represent a massive improvement over the EMG-HZ in terms of tone, power, and sustain.  This is obviously enhanced by the replacement of the Schecter licensed hardware with high quality Gotoh hardware but the bridge and hardware upgrades were completed weeks before the pickguard could be done (there was a four week wait for the pickups to be made, due to the launch of Boot Camp and snowfalls making the team behind on orders).  So I played the guitar with the same hardware with different pickups/pickguards and I can say that the pickups themselves made a dramatic difference,  A guitar that was not even slightly heavy and could not drone became a metal beast with the Black Hawks.  I sent the video below to the previous owner of the guitar (a 17 year old kid) and he was blown away: "Wow man!!! That tone is incredible."  He was playing it through a small solid state amp at home in standard tuning, not on stage through a Peavey 6534+ in C standard, but I think the pickups have a lot to do with it.

video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiLL1rz1rDI

« Last Edit: June 11, 2018, 11:26:57 AM by Dave Sloven »
BLACK HAWKS
NAILBOMBS
WARPIGS
STOCKHOLM
COLD SWEATS
MIRACLE MAN

https://slovendoom.bandcamp.com/releases

Kiichi

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Re: Alnico Black Hawk review
« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2018, 11:58:32 AM »
Thanks for the writeup. I added this one to the sticky thread so it is easy to find. Cheers!
BKPs in use: 10th set / RY set / Holy Diver b, Emerald n / Crawler bridge, Slowhand mid MQ neck/ Manhattan n
On the sidelines: Stockholm b / Suppermassive n, Mule n, AM set, IT mid

Dave Sloven

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Re: Alnico Black Hawk review
« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2018, 02:22:57 AM »
Thanks.  We are very happy with the sound of these pickups.
BLACK HAWKS
NAILBOMBS
WARPIGS
STOCKHOLM
COLD SWEATS
MIRACLE MAN

https://slovendoom.bandcamp.com/releases

Dave Sloven

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    • Get our album here (alnico Black Hawks)
Re: Alnico Black Hawk review
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2018, 01:10:24 PM »
I've added another photo that gives a clearer view of the pickups and shows how nicely the BKP blade pickups match the colour combinations on this guitar, especially the black pickguard with the Cosmo Black Gotoh hardware.
BLACK HAWKS
NAILBOMBS
WARPIGS
STOCKHOLM
COLD SWEATS
MIRACLE MAN

https://slovendoom.bandcamp.com/releases