At first glance, the Silverbird might make people think it’s the old Iommi model that the Duncan company makes that is currently known as the El Diablo. Preceding the Iommi by a solid decade, the Silverbird provides a little of the DNA for what followed. Mostly when it comes to the bobbins and the magnets.
The bobbins are Tele bobbins, which might have someone thinking they are too big. Fret not (ha! a pun!), I had no issue fitting them into a humbucker cavity. It is also generally found with it’s own fitted pickup mounting ring, but a trem-spaced ring should also do the job.
What looks like big thick rails are actually the magnets. The Silverbird has a pair of Alnico 2 magnets, right out there to grab a hold of that energy firsthand.
If you’re looking for a hard-to-find Duncan pickup, it doesn’t get much better than this. Even so, the Silverbird is almost as scarce as any hands-on evaluations.
That’s right. Of the guitar gear curiosities that some send me to check out, the Seymour Duncan SH-9 Silverbird humbucker is one.
Generally speaking, the pickups that follow in the same basic design of the Silverbird are known for having a pretty heavy and dark character. So I’m not sure what to expect. Still, not to be too terribly confused for a trained monkey, I install the Silverbird into my main test guitar. It has 4-con lead wire, so I go with the typical (for me) series/split/parallel wiring. And away we go.
The lion’s share of the SH-9 models that you can find on the internet seem to be 9BJ. That means Maricela (MJ) Juarez made it/them. It also means there’s a metric ton of mojo going on, because 1) MJ made it, and 2) it was made during what some are starting to consider the Duncan company’s Golden Age of everything always sounding good.
You know, it’s a pretty interesting pickup. A big bold low end that stays firm (is that a JLo reference?) and doesn’t get muddy. The mids are pretty even, with a bit of a grunt in the low mids and a bit of a snarl in the high mids. And the highs are chirpy and airy while retaining a bit of the A2 sweetness.
For dirty amp settings, the Silverbird can go vintage “brown” and it can do prog metal. Slight adjustments to the pickup height reveal a little more of a shift that I see in some humbuckers in this class. I’m still have a little shock over how much articulation there is in the punchy lows, which gives riffing a rhythm work plenty of authority thanks to the natural compression of the pickup.
The Silverbird has a little more push to it than a vintage style option, so clean amp settings might require a of a rolloff on the volume (at the guitar or at the amp). On split and parallel options, it blended really well with a P.A.F. style neck humbucker. By itself in series mode, you’ll easily get a usable crunchy clean.
This bad boy is so few and far between that I really can’t find a usable video. But you know I have specs:
Series – 14.29 K
Inductance – 5.608 H
Split N – 7.188 K
Split S – 7.109 K
Parallel – 3.565 K
Magnet – Alnico 2 bars
This pickup does show up for sale online from time to time, albeit not often. For what it’s worth, my experience would suggest going for the real deal original SH-9 with the 80s era sticker on the baseplate. In the event you find someone that doesn’t know what they have, the DCR specs clearly give it away.
The SH-9 is more of a mystery.
It was initially called the Silverbird, and this pickup was supposed to go in an obscure guitar. Unfortunately I was unable to discover which guitar. I spoke with some guys at the R&D department of Seymour Duncan and one thing that stands out in all stories is that this humbucker was comprised of two Tele bobbins and had two Alnico II bars as pole pieces. The Silverbird was quite hot for the day, but with pickups like the Alternative 8, the Blackout series, the Parallel Axis Trembucker II and the visually similar but tonally different El Diablo, the Silverbird can be considered a medium hot pickup by todays standards.
I’m saddened by the cancellation of this pickup, because it looked quite cool and I suppose the tone is awesome too. However, I do have a hard time figuring out exactly how this pickup would sound. Some say the SH-9 sounded bold, articulate and bit fat. Others say it was very clear with lots of treble. All I know is that I’d love to see the SH-9 in one of my guitars! I could wait for it to pop up on eBay, but why wait? The Custom Shop can make almost any pickup you can dream of!
This leaves just one more question: why were these pickups renamed in the chase of the SH-7, and discontinued in the case of the SH-9? In case of the SH-7 Seymourizer, I suppose they renamed the pickup to streamline the line-up. I guess it was convenient to make matched sets because the market kind of demands it. So many humbuckers in the Seymour Duncan lineup come as a set: the ’59, the Jazz, the Invader, the Distortion, the Pearly Gates, the Alnico II Pro, etc etc. And of course the JB is available with its friend the Jazz as the Hot Rodded Humbucker set.
Scott Miller says: “I think the main reason this one was discontinued is that it was too big for a lot of guitars. It was built with two Tele Hot Stack bobbins, and there is no way that pickup could ever fit into any humbucker mounting ring (and we did not provide one that would fit). And, in a lot of cases, the mounting ring was a moot point because the pickup wouldn’t even fit physically into the route. Size is definitely the issue on this one.”