The new pickups in my red Gibson ES-346

Earlier on in this blog I have written about my red and my brown Gibson ES-346. I covered details about the individual models and their materials, plus how I acquired the two guitars. This post is about the new pickups and electronics I have installed in the red one and why I chose as I did.

Even though the ES-346’s were really nice when I got them, I missed the thin distinct single coil sound you can get from a Strat-type guitar. In addition to this, I started to get a little irritated with the sound of the stock pickups. The neck pickup had a boost in the upper midrange and the bridge pickup was a little too bright for my taste. I could remove the midrange boost in the mix when doing sessions, but live it really started to annoy me.

Soren Reiff got a Seymour Duncan Jazz SH-2 in the neck position
Soren Reiff got a Seymour Duncan Jazz SH-2 in the neck position

My new pickups

I started doing some research. I compared the info I could get on different brands and models of pickups that I already knew to the ones I have in my other guitars (not that I have that many … but it sounds kind of cool to write that). In my Washburn Strat I have a Seymour Duncan Jeff Beck in the bridge position, which I really like… You can achieve a high-gain tone, but also retain a distinct and defined more bluesy voicing notes when a little crunch is added. While browsing the Seymour Duncan site, I noticed that they recommend pairing the JB with a Jazz Model in the neck position, as they would match and compliment each other. When I read about this combination, I thought they had made it especially for me.

Soren Reiff got a Seymour Duncan Jeff Beck SH-4 in the bridge position

I first installed the pair in my brown 346 … actually I didn’t do it myself, it was done by Lars Vad/amp-parts – and then recently I also got Last to put them in the red one. Both are set up so I can get a single coil sound from them when I pull the tone controls. Granted, the sound doesn’t match that of a Strat, but it’s thinner and has a distinct single-coil voicing which works great for more active rhythm parts.

Another mod to the guitar

I also had the volume pots modified. This mod allows me to turn down the guitar’s volume, without losing any brightness. Before this mod, a lot of the brightness disappeared if I turned the volume just the slightest bit down. I prefer to have the same tone, no matter what… Now the amp cleans up a little bit when I turn the guitar’s volume down, but the tone remains intact.

The only difference in electronics between the two ES-346’s, is that the tone control on the red one, which I’ve set up with 0,11’s, goes a little darker… This suits the jazz vibe of the guitar.

All the very best


4 Replies to “The new pickups in my red Gibson ES-346”

    1. Dear Malle.
      Sorry for my delayed reply … I’ve been offline for some days, enjoying the holidays! Hope you had a wonderful Christmas too.
      I don’t know the one’s that are inside you Epiphone now – but I guess the ones I’m writing about will sound good in a guitar like your’s too. Let me know if you ever try something else than the ones you have now.
      All the best

  1. Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB and the SH-2 Jazz Models are a well-known combination used by so many … that’s why I reply.
    In my humble opinion these are category 2 pickups. Very good.
    Have you tried the SH-AH1 (16.2 – 16.5 k) (discontinued Allan Holdsworth custom shop)? It is basically a JB but with two rows of screws to reduce string pull. I know only of Jake E. Lee who uses them. I’m not using them anymore but still recommend them to the JB (16.4 k). I still have 4 pieces – not for sell but loan..
    If you want a bridge pickup that has a fantastic response and a very good clean sound – I know it sound weird – but try the Seymour Duncan ’78 model EVH (9 k). There are a lot of chats about it underground – is it a copy of the famous Van Halen pickup from the first albums or not. EVH – well it says Evenly Voiced Harmonics  … but we will never know – will we? It’s a low output alnico II PAF style humbucker and sounds absolutely fantastic. It’s a category 1 pickup. Outstanding.
    The Frankenstein pickup you can buy on Van Halen’s home site is good but very close to a SH-11 Custom Custom (14.4 k) just with aged magnets.
    I stopped using high output pickups some years ago. I use low output and different boosters. That way you keep the broad sound of your guitar and not that narrow sound high output pickups tend to give.
    Now – is there a “beyond categorization”? Sure there is. If you manage to be patience at the back doors, you will be able to get your hands on the custom made for the big guys. I have a few – and yes – you can put them on a $200 guitar and it sounds like something from outer space. Put them on a very good guitar and you will know why you became a guitarist. Think violin. A very good Stradivarius is not good in the hands of an amateur. But in the hands of the right one it goes through the roof.
    Just scratched the surface.

    1. Very detailed information Martin – Thank you very much.

      I don’t know that much about pickups – and haven’t tried many different brands and models, even though I know I maybe should use much more time on that.
      Of all the models you mention – the only one I know is the Custom Custom – I actually has one on another Strat style guitar I have – but I’m not that crazy about it … maybe it’s more “narrow” as you describe it, compared to the SH-4 JB … in my ears its a little bit thin or something artificial i the high end … it’s so hard to find the right words for such issues.

      It could be fun to look much more into this … I will when I got time for it. Once again thank you – and I’m sure that other readers than me truly appreciate the info you have given here!!

      All the very best

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