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  • Writer's pictureBarış Şahin

Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates Humbucker Set SH-PG1 TB-PG1

Updated: May 9

Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates Humbucker Set SH-PG1 TB-PG1

Let me introduce you one of my personal favourite mass production humbuckers from Seymour Duncan. Pearly Gates (SH-PG1) is an Alnico 2 PAF clone. But they are exact clones of a Les Paul named “Pearly” that belongs to a Texas Sizzler Billy Gibbons from Z.Z.Top

Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates
Pearly Gates the original 59 Les Paul of Billy Gibbons

Story goes like this; Billy Gibbons used to play his '59 LP, which he affectionately named 'Pearly' (this is where pickup's name comes), but over time, the guitar gained significant value and became too precious to take on long tours. Too risky with it’s value since it could be stolen, broken or something. Naturally, he came to Seymour Duncan in his search for right pickups that would impart a similar tone to his own recently made Les Pauls. At Seymour Duncan, extensive analyses were carried out on the pickups without causing any damage, and finally, these amazing pickups were created. We're fortunate that they were created, and today, we can install those pickups on our own guitars.

Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates Humbucker Set
Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates Humbucker Set

After the history part, let’s see the techical specs;

Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates Bridge (SH-PG1b) by MJ

Magnet – Alnico 2

Advertised DCR: 8,20K Ohm (Series)(it was 8,35K)

Measured DCR: 8,38 K Ohm (Series)

Measured DCR: 4,20 K Ohm (Slug Coil)

Inductance @100Hz: 4,720H (Series)

Inductance @100Hz: 1,990H (Slug Coil)

Advertised Resonance Peak: 6,50kHz

Measured C: -34,5 nF

Output: Vintage

EQ (B/M/T) – 6/5/9 (advertised)

Wire Gauge: 42 AWG plain enamel

Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates Neck (SH-PG1n)

Magnet – Alnico 2

Advertised DCR: 7,3K Ohm (Series)

Measured DCR: 7,21K Ohm (Series)

Measured DCR: 3,57K Ohm (Screw), 3,63K Ohm (Slug)

Inductance @100Hz: 4,10H (Series)

Inductance @100Hz: 1,64H (Screw), 1,86H (Slug)

Advertised Resonance Peak: 7,50kHz

Measured C: -40,7 nF

Output: Vintage

EQ (B/M/T) – 6/5/9 (advertised)

Wire Gauge: 42 AWG plain enamel Gauss: 360G slug, 330G screw

Well, first of all, keep in mind this humbucker as an Alnico 2 PAF clone. What does it mean? Lots of round and spongier bass freqs which are not as tight as ’59 with Alnico 5 magnet in, softer low mids, plenty of detailed, mellow/bright, lively hi-end response which never goes too harsh. Yes, PG has it all, plus, it is, actually, clear and un-muddy humbucker. But not only being a very good Alnico 2 PAF, PG has a speciality. The key factor lies on its hi-mid and mid-mid frequencies. That’s where the beauty of “Pearly Gates” lies. PG, has more pronounced hi-mid character compared to other paf clones like ’59 or other A2 PAF clone like Seth Lover. I mean, you have PAF style tone from your neck or bridge position but hear mids like a cat purr in the tone mix relatively clearer than the others i’ve mentioned. JB, too, on the other hand, has lots of screaming mids, you might say but, hey, tricky part of PG is, while screaming nasal mids are inevitable (you can’t hide, you can’t run from those mid attacks) with the JB, not happening with the PG because they are not that prominent. I mean, you still have the smooth “Texas Sizzle” sound but you are not the slave to that tone. I must add, PGs are pretty responsive to phrasing and playing manipulations which is great and important to me. I hate dull and “No matter whatever you do, I’ll sound the same, you moron” humbuckers, you know.

Pearly Gates - Pickups - Seymour Duncan
That's the Pearly Gates

Satch Pearly Gates

Want to imagine how it sounds? It’s simple. Think about nasal brown sound of ZZ Top’s “Brown Sugar”. There you go. Anyway, we should also remind Dickey Betts, Warren Haynes and Joe Satriani as other users of PG.

Surprised to hear Joe Satriani? Watch his wonderful “Live in San Fransisco” DVD more carefully. Close attention when he plays “Crush of Love”. He plays one of his chrome js guitars named “pearly” which is still stolen now. That “pearly” has Seymour Duncans on it and they are Pearly Gates as told by Evan Skopp (former vice president of SD) on S. Duncan forum. Coincidence? I don’t think so: Billy Gibbons is Joe’s favorite guitar player.

Joe Satriani as a user of Pearly Gates from Seymour Duncan
Joe Satriani and Pearly

Generally speaking PG set is very ideal from Texas blues to heavy rock or from blues to jazz/fusion stuff. It is categorized as “vintage output humbucker” but PG set has more balls to cutting the mix.

I’ll also add three additional field of application beyod the expectations from classic PAF humbuckers: first, just as Joe Satriani, PG set is very good for light or melodic shredding. They are not muddy, they are responsive, powerful enough and its natural light compression especially under mildly distorted amp settings makes you feel so good while playing.

Another suggestion is about the PG bridge model. If you have a moderate/high output humbucker on the bridge and you need a humbucker for the neck which is not too powerful, not weak, clear enough and also want more balance with bridge pickup, PG Bridge model is very great choice as a neck hb. On the other hand, if the need for slightly less power to the neck position is more important, PG neck is more preferable, btw. That’s how you can achieve a great shred neck humbucker.

Pearly Gates Bridge works perfectly on my Ibanez RG
Pearly Gates Bridge works perfectly on my Ibanez RG

Personally, I really do like the sound of mid 90s John Petrucci of Dream Theater. So, i like Air Norton as a neck humbucker. But even though it is fine tuned by “airing”, Air Norton still can be “relatively dark” for the neck position which is naturally warmer position already. PG bridge model is the cure for that issue. It has enough mids just like Air Norton but much more clearer and controllable. Lastly, when you put a PG bridge on the neck and wire a push pull switch to operate the screw bobbin alone, you can get very stratty neck tones, depending on the guitar.

Moreover, PG works excellent with fat strats, too. Just take care of this video:

Best suitable strat combination with PG, IMO, is to set it with relatively stronger single pickups like Texas Specials of Fender. They fit like gloves to me. Fender used to pair Texas Specials with an alternate version of PG in the mid & late 90s; “Pearly Gates Plus” which has Alnico 5 magnet within instead of Alnico 2. My preferance is always positioning the PG neck for the bridge of a Strat, btw. Needless to say but PGs work well with 250K pots, too since they are bright.

As a note, official DCR values of PG are tend to be lower than advertised. I haven't measured 500 PG bridge and necks in the raw but i could have tested over 20 PGs and all of them but one wound by MJ has lower DCR than the advertised numbers.

There is a senario i would like to try someday; swapping magnet from A2 to A8 so that i can have a screaming bridge tone like late 70s Van Halen, just like Ibanez Super 70s. I’m sure it will sound awesome.


As a result, Pearly Gates is literally wonderful PAF clone that serves impressively on Les Pauls. On the other hand, have balls to make pretty good noise on Stratocasters and superstrats. If your guitar is warm tone, it fits like a glove. But if you have bright and screaming sound already and don’t want for more, you may have other options.

Pearly Gates is slightly more expensive than regular Duncan humbucker line, okay, but still cheaper than many “boutique” humbuckers which Pearly Gates can easily overcome. Going straightly for the expensive boutique humbuckers instead of trying Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates would be a loss. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

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