SEYMOUR DUNCAN JB (SH-4) VS DUNCAN DESIGNED HB-102

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It’s probably a safe bet to assume that the JB SH-4 is one of the most well known, popular and best selling model from Seymour Duncan. The JB was my first aftermarket humbucker purchase almost 20 years ago, and have since re-purchased and installed in various guitar.

Only very recently, i required a bridge humbucker with a chrome cover for an ESP/LTD EC-256 AVG, and the opportunity to acquire the Duncan Designed “JB equivalent” – HB-102 for the measley sum of local postage, was too good to pass.

If you aren’t familiar, Duncan Designed are manufactured in Korea and come fitted as stock OEM pickups in many “entry  to mid level ” instruments of various brands.

Surely, if the design and specifications are good, and “fair” wages and working conditions aside, it shouldn’t matter which country of origin a product is produced. As long as there are good quality control measures in place, the end product should be of quality, if that is what the manufacturer demands.

So installed into to the bridge position, the Duncan Designed did its job well. Absolutely no complaints for cleans, crunch and lead playing. I have never been a huge fan of the split sound on most humbuckers, and these were no exception.

But curiosity got the better of me, and whilst have previously owned at least 4 JB models in the past, have not had one in a guitar for a few years and never owned one with a nickel chrome cover.

it had to be done…

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Ah the JB… i love you, yet hate you at the same time…very much the same feelings towards the Celestion Vintage 30 speaker. When playing by oneself, it has that trademark exaggerated high mid frequency spike. words like “icepick” come to mind.

However, keeping in mind that the electric guitar is a mid-range frequency instrument, these characteristics really shine through, particularly when playing with other instruments in band or recording mix. These frequencies just help you cut through. especially if you like to wind the gain on your amplifier up.

Paired with a nice thick mahogany bodied instrument (ie Les Pauls) the JB is…a godsend.

On this thinner bodied EC-256 however, results in a very bright tone. For this particular guitar, I actually prefered the Duncan Designed, with its softer, rolled off highs.

Yes, they both do sound different, but at the same time share very similar characteristics. Always trust your ears.

To summarise, for these particular pickups being tested

(keeping in mind quality control, consistency from build to build and batch to batch)

JB – brighter, more clarity in the top end

HB -102 – fatter , warmer

Comparison clips

Duncan Designed HB-102 in comparison to a Dimarzion X2N and Seymour Duncan Custom5

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