When I started playing seven-string guitars, pickup options were limited. Now, there are significantly more options for these guitars, but there are still less than six-string pickups because, like it or not, the 7+ string market it still considered a niche one when compared to the standard six.
But then Seymour Duncan released a set of pickups specifically for seven-string guitars called the Nazgûl, the Sentient, and the Pegasus. Each was developed for a specific type of sound, but specifically engineered for seven strings. Popularity rose swiftly among the seven-string market and six-string players began to take notice. YouTube videos started popping up demoing these pickups and more and more six-string players found themselves occupying the same space that seven-string players usually reside: They want specific pickups, but they aren’t made for THEIR guitar.
Audiences clamored and Seymour Duncan eventually released the pickups in six-string format and I couldn’t resist the call of a Nazgûl/Sentient set. On paper they sound perfect for me. The Nazgûl is supposed to be a brutal pickup that is made for high gain and everything metal while the Sentient is designed to go with the Nazgûl power-wise so there’s no drastic drop in volume, but still steering more toward vintage PAF mixed with modern tones.
I ordered the covered set (because I thought they looked cooler) and when I found out only the UNcovered set would fit in my EVH Wolfgang Special – the guitar I ordered them for – I put them in my Les Paul instead. Initially I was worried about how the warmth of mahogany was going to skew the pickups, but after a fairly quick wiring job that was accomplished easily thanks to wiring diagrams from seymourduncan.com and an example already being loaded in my Les Paul (a Seymour Duncan Jazz pickup), I was doing the last minor adjustments for the pickup height and getting the first inclination that I loved the way the pickups sounded.
Once I had the pickup height adjusted for my ear, I plugged it into a Peavey Vypyr 15 and started rolling through the amp’s modeling options. Where most bridge pickups are very bright, the Nazgûl was loaded with way more bass, but there were still highs coming through nicely. It was articulate, with no fuzzing of the notes when I played single-note lines unless I wanted them to blend, and everything had an authority – an oomph – to it. When I started playing punk power chords, I fell in love with the pickup. It’s exactly what I look for in a bridge humbucker when distorted.
Because the Nazgûl was meant for high-gain duties, clean settings were pushed by the pickup outside normal headroom levels, giving quite a bit of overdrive if you used anything but the lightest touch and your guitar’s volume knob to to tone it down. I wasn’t upset, though, because where the Nazgûl starts to show weakness in clean settings, the Sentient jumps in to help.
Like I said, the Sentient was designed to be a mixture of vintage PAF and modern sounds, and it’s obviously not their more vintage-minded pickup, but it blends nicely with the Nazgûl to smooth some of he rough edges the Nazgûl is capable of delivering alone, but when you switch to the Sentient alone, that’s where I found some sweet sounds. Where the Nazgûl and it’s mission are simple to wrap your head around and achieve as a player, I found myself spending a lot more time dialing in the Sentient to see what it can do. Every guitar I have will eventually do jazz, and it needed to figure out how close to my dream jazz tone I could work this pickup. The result was pretty surprising. For a pickup that was mainly meant for rock, I was able to adjust my attack and work my volume and tone knobs to get a really nice jazz sound that worked for single notes and chords. I’m not saying it turned my Les Paul into an ES-350, but it made for a very serviceable clean sound in what would be tasked 90% of the time to do rock and metal tones.
The Nazgûl and Sentient go together incredibly well and I found myself using my pickup selector a LOT more when playing because the difference in tones are so great between them, that they lend themselves to specific passages. When anything does that, it opens up new doors writing-wise and is very exciting to me. The Sentient has a great deal of potential for a player willing to experiment with it because it can function in a variety of tones. The Nazgûl is just flat-out fun. There’s a lot to be said about chugging away on power chords and having them sound full and thick rather than thin and whiny.
Just listen to these sound samples I recorded to demonstrate how the pickups sound in different applications:
Here is a sample of single notes played without distortion:
Here is a sample of chords played with as little distortion as possible:
Here is a sample of single notes played with distortion:
And finally, here is a sample of chords being played with distortion:
If you’re looking for high-gain alternatives to install in your guitar, I recommend these wholeheartedly.
Be sure to visit your local Seymour Duncan dealer to order yours!