Mini-Humbuckers vs. Firebird Pickups: A Head-To-Head Comparison

Man, I’ve been wanting to do this experiment for ages — and largely because it’s been a black hole off ignorance for me. As mentioned in the video, I used to think they were the same pickup. But as you can hear, they’re quite distinct, and the differences are far from subtle.

Polly’s Firebird is a 1960s original.

Until now I’ve never owned a guitar with either pickup type. My chief experience with mini-humbuckers was when I demoed a set in this sane Strat for my Strat replacement pickups comparison. I liked them there as well, though I was using a set of Seymour Duncans, while these are Lollars. (I’d be cautious about making tone comparisons, since the two videos were recorded using very different tone chains.)

Annie Clark designed her own signature guitar.

I once played Polly Harvey’s original reverse Firebird on a gig, and I wasn’t that blown away at the time. (Though there were many other variables at play.) But I adored the way the Firebird pickups in Annie Clark’s Musicman St. Vincent model sounded, and I gave the instrument a rave review for Premier Guitar. I was struck then, as now, by their extraordinary dynamic response. Small variations in touch yield big tonal contrasts. My hope was that they’d sound like Fender pickups on steroids in a Strat, and to my ear, they do. (By “steroids,” I don’t mean high output — I generally recoil from extra-hot Strat pickups. Tones are simply fatter without neutering the high end as super-hot single coils tend to do.

I liked both pickups sets a great deal, but the Firebirds are a better match for my fingerstyle playing. What do you think?

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