Pretty, Pretty Pickup

The Dynasonic: one pretty pickup!

Take my advice: When MJ says she has something cool to show you, drop everything and investigate.

MJ, of course, is Maricela Juarez, the longtime manager of the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop. And the item in question was a clone of the DeArmond 200 pickup, also known as the Gretsch Dynasonic®. Predating the Gretsch Filter’Tron, the Dynasonic provided one of the key sounds of classic rockabilly, and was used at times by Cliff Gallup, Eddie Cochrane, and Duane Eddy. It’s also just about the prettiest-looking pickup I’ve ever seen.I’ve always wanted to try a Dynasonic, but I never owned the right Gretsch guitar for it. But MJ had created a version designed to fit a standard humbucker rout, so I gratefully scurried home with it and popped it into a Guild X-150, a single-pickup archtop. Not a Gretsch by any stretch, but a cool, old-fashioned guitar with a great acoustic tone. I strung it with heavy-gauge flatwounds—the strings just about 1950s player would have used.

Genius at work: Maricela "MJ" Juarez

And dang, does it sound cool. Not for everyone, mind you—unlike humbucking Filter’Trons, the Dynasonic is a single coil pickup with individual pole piece magnets, à la Fender. That means it can get a little noisy at high gain settings. But I love its tactile and three-dimensional tones. They sound so organic, with lots of nice “stringiness.” Does that pickup sound as pretty as it looks, or what?

Dynasonic Pretty

As you listen, keep in mind those flatwound strings and the old-fashioned wooden bridge—if you used roundwounds and a brighter guitar, you’d get to Twang City real fast. But I still liked playing rockabilly and Travis-style licks with this warm, beautifully round tone.

Dynasonic Rockabilly

Dynasonic Travis

You don’t usually think of an old-school archtop as a great distortion guitar, but I dig the primitive grind that unfolded when I cranked the combo amp. There’s an infectious “birth of rock and roll” quality to the crunch, a throwback to a time when distortion was less about science and more about reckless behavior.

Dynasonic Distort

But then you can just turn down the amp, dial back the guitar’s tone control, and bask in a rich, classic jazz tone.

Dynasonic Jazz

Did I mention that it’s pretty?

 

Guild on a bed of green: not just a great salad topping!

 

7 comments to Pretty, Pretty Pickup

  • DohminSemper

    Hey, Could you do me a big favor?

    Could you record a heavy metal or punk rock clip with the Dynasonic and the flat wounds?
    I always would like to hear how the flat wounds sound for metal, but with that pickup it will be more interested, lol.

    • joe

      Well, check out the distorted clip I posted. It’s not punk or metal stylistically, but it shows you how it sounds through a maxed-out amp.

      Unless you’re pretty masochistic, you probably wouldn’t use a hollowbody with a floating bridge for metal. It going to howl like crazy as soon as you pile on the gain. But some psycho will try it and get great results — how about YOU? ;)

      But yeah, I should do something soon on flatwounds on solidbody guitars. Most players won’t like it — there’s a reason hardly anyone uses flats these days. The sound is relatively dull and “plunky,” with less sustain than usual, and a lot fewer highs. On the plus side, the tone is incredibly even throughout the guitar’s range — you don’t have that huge change in timbre you get when crossing between wound and unwound strings. Also, I’ve discovered that flatwound-strung guitars, minus spiky highs, have a real nice ability to “sit in a mix.”

      I’d love it if readers chimed in about their flat wound experiences (though “chimed” is a terrible verb to use to describe these decidedly un-chimy strings). Or better yet, post links to clips!

      • DohminSemper

        Ah good answer but I still would like to hear some very high distorted tones in the mix with that guitar. I mean, you will not get the classic nice distorted tones but It will be interesting. There are not rules, right?

    • Hmm bit of a bizarre request really! Sure, there are no rules, but if you’re using names of genres you want to play, you are probably interested in fitting in in some way. This kind of set up is not, as Joe said, the kind of thing you would probably want for metal. Think of Elvis Costello on ‘I Want You’, which would not sound the same on, say, an Ibanez RG with EMGs. There are so many permutations of guitar and pickup that you could find a better suited instrument for what you want to do.

  • El reclusa

    Is this pickup commercially available or a one-off kinda thing? Does it have the huge “elevator mechanism” of polepiece adjustment, and would it fit in a solidbody? I LOVES me some Dynas, and a humbucker-sized replacement that’d fit a solidbody would be the greatest thing since sliced cheese!

    • joe

      It’s a Custom Shop product, so you’d need to order it from them. And I confess I’ve never messed with an original outside a guitar, so I can testify to how the housing compares, beyond the fact that this is humbucker-sized and should fit most standard routs. If you’re curious about whether it’ll fit a particular guitar, just call (805) 964-9610 and ask them to connect you to the Custom Shop. They’re nice, and they can answer any questions. :)

  • Gore-geous tone! (sorry, couldn’t resist, it just came out…)I could listen to that first clip all day. Is there an Extended 12″ remix version being released? I’d like to order the picture disc vinyl limited edition please.

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