Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates Review – The Vintage Humbucker

Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates pickups are vintage-voiced humbucker pickups that deliver a harmonically-rich tone with incredible versatility. In this detailed review, I explore its history, features, tone, and famous users, providing insights to help you decide if this iconic pickup is right for you.


A Legendary History

The Pearly Gates humbucker pickups were born out of a desire to replicate the distinctive tone of a particular 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard, which belonged to Seymour Duncan’s friend, the blues guitarist Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. The guitar, nicknamed “Pearly Gates” due to its unique sunburst finish and the miraculous way it was acquired, produced a sweet, harmonically-rich sound that captured the attention of many musicians. Here’s a more in-depth look at the history of these legendary pickups:

Birth of the Pearly Gates

  • In the late 1970s, Billy Gibbons approached Seymour Duncan to create a pickup that could reproduce the tone of his prized Les Paul, Pearly Gates.
  • Seymour Duncan carefully analyzed the original PAF humbuckers in Gibbons’ guitar, dissecting their construction and materials to understand the factors contributing to the exceptional tone.
  • After extensive research, Seymour Duncan developed the Pearly Gates pickups, which successfully captured the essence of the original PAF humbuckers in Gibbons’ Les Paul.
  • The Pearly Gates pickups featured Alnico II magnets, a slightly overwound design, and a special winding pattern, which together contributed to their signature sound.
  • These pickups quickly gained popularity among musicians seeking a vintage PAF tone with a touch of extra midrange and sustain.
  • Over time, the Pearly Gates humbuckers have been made available in various formats, including versions for both bridge and neck positions and options for different guitar types, such as Les Pauls, SGs, and even Stratocasters and Telecasters. Lets dive into the features.

Features & Construction

The Pearly Gates pickups are designed with attention to detail and quality construction. Here are some key features:

  • Alnico II magnets: These magnets give the pickups a warm and smooth tone.
  • Overwound design: This design boosts midrange frequencies, adding presence and sustain.
  • Four-conductor wiring: Allows for versatile wiring options, including coil splitting.
  • Wax potting: Reduces microphonic feedback, making the pickups suitable for high-gain settings.
  • Vintage-inspired aesthetics: The Pearly Gates pickups are available in gold cover, nickel cover, and zebra bobbins
seymour duncan pearly gates guitar pickups zebra
Pearly Gates Zebra
Seymour duncan pearly gates pickups with nickel cover
Pearly Gates Nickel

Tonal Characteristics of the Pearly Gates

The Pearly Gates pickups are known for their unique tonal characteristics. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect:

  • Warm and smooth: The Alnico II magnets provide a sweet, rounded tone.
  • Rich harmonics: These pickups produce complex harmonics, adding depth and character.
  • Enhanced midrange: The overwound design emphasizes midrange frequencies.
  • Controlled highs: The treble response is well-balanced and not harsh.
  • Tight lows: The low-end response is articulate and focused.
  • Touch sensitivity: Pickups respond well to changes in picking dynamics.
  • Versatile output: Moderate output level allows for clean and overdriven tones.

To get even more out of your Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates pickups, check out the Seymour Duncan Pickup Booster Pedal. You can see our review for the pedal here.

Things to Consider Before Purchase

Before purchasing the Pearly Gates, it’s crucial to weigh factors like guitar compatibility, desired tone, and installation. Here are some key aspects to keep in mind:

  • The Pearly Gates is suitable for various guitar types and styles, but make sure it fits your instrument and complements your existing pickups.
  • Ideal for those seeking vintage, warm, and harmonically-rich tones. Consider your own tonal preferences before buying.
  • Requires professional installation for best results. If you do want to try installing yourself, check out the video below to help you.

Pro’s Who Use the Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates

Many renowned musicians have chosen the Pearly Gates for their signature sound. Below I will list a few notable ones.

  1. Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top)
  2. Dickey Betts (The Allman Brothers Band)
  3. Warren Haynes (Gov’t Mule, The Allman Brothers Band)
  4. Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains)
  5. John Sykes (Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake)
  6. Ty Tabor (King’s X)
  7. Scott Ian (Anthrax)
  8. Joe Perry (Aerosmith)
  9. Slash (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver)
  10. Steve Stevens (Billy Idol)

Check out this awesome YouTube review of the Pearly Gates pickups to hear them in action for yourself!

The Verdict

The Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates is a versatile and vintage-voiced humbucker that offers exceptional tone, making it an excellent choice for those seeking a warm, harmonically-rich sound. With its storied history and endorsements from numerous famous musicians, the Pearly Gates is a true testament to its legendary status.

seymour duncan pearly gates pickup gold cover
Pearly Gates Gold Cover

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Are Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates pickups wired for coil splitting?

Yes, Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates pickups come with four-conductor wiring, which allows for versatile wiring options, including coil splitting. This feature enables you to access both humbucker and single-coil tones from the same pickup.

2. Are Seymour Duncan SH-PG1 Pearly Gates pickups standard on any guitar?

The Seymour Duncan SH-PG1 Pearly Gates pickups are not standard on any specific guitar model. However, they are a popular aftermarket upgrade for guitarists looking to enhance their instrument’s tone and versatility.

3. Can I put Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates pickups on a Gibson hollowbody?

Yes, you can install Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates pickups on a Gibson hollowbody guitar. These pickups are compatible with a wide range of guitar models, including hollowbody guitars. However, it’s essential to consult with a professional guitar technician to ensure the proper installation and compatibility with your specific instrument.

FAQ for Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates

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