Friday, December 29, 2017

Still Misunderstood? - Seymour Duncan's Screamin' Demon


Back in the early 1990's, Seymour Duncan released the George Lynch (Dokken, Lynch Mob, KXM, etc) signature pickup, the Screamin' Demon. Just by the name you'd think it would be a scorching hot pickup, but it's not. See, when George was working with Seymour on this, he wanted a hotter pickup but Seymour sent him one that was much lower in output. After prototypes and trial and error, the Screamin' Demon was born. It's winding comes in at 10K DC resistance. DC resistance is not a pure indicator of a pickup's output and this is truly the case here. A stock '59 Model bridge has fuller coils but less winds. Why? Because of the thicker wire (42 AWG vs the Demon's 43 AWG). Wait, 43 AWG at 10K? Yes, that is true. The coils of the Screamin' Demon seem underwound for that wire gauge, but it works here. It's actually an overwound P.A.F. with thinner wire. The Screamin' Demon is exactly what it's product description on the Seymour Duncan site says:

"The idea was to create a pickup that had the articulate airiness of an old-school P.A.F., but with more growl and sizzle. We designed slightly overwound coils, an alnico 5 bar magnet, and used a mix of pole pieces that included one row of standard adjustable screws, and one row of shorter Allen head screws. What you get is a big, open tone, with a treble emphasis that keeps your pick attack sounding articulate at any level of distortion."

There are some who say that it's too bright, too mid-scooped, or not hot enough, or all three. After having this pickup in several guitars over the years, and playing through different style amps, I've discovered where it's misunderstood. The answer is pretty simple really, and it's all a matter of looking at the application for who it was designed for. At the time, George was playing through Soldano voiced amps; high gain saturation with a mix of vintage Marshalls (modified, no doubt). This is where the Screamin' Demon excels, in the high gain amp arena. It was designed for that. This is why when I hear that it's too bright or not hot enough, I ask what style amp the player is using and it always ends up being a vintage Fender or stock vintage Marshall. This is not to say that it won't sound good through them, because it can. It requires a few EQ tweaks on the amp to get there.


Something else I've discovered recently is that more mids can be brought out with one simple change on the guitar - the volume pot. It's become commonplace to use 500K volume pots with humbuckers. However, there are many humbuckers that can benefit the player with lower values. Some like 250K (like the JB) and some like 300K. For the Screamin' Demon, I like 300K. The perception of more mids is created due to the highs and lows being slightly rolled off and the resonant peak frequency changing. There's still that growl and sizzle, but fuller sounding to my ears, yet it's still open with plenty of harmonics. Another discovery with this setup is it's more friendly to those vintage voiced amps. Granted, I play through a modelling amp but it is all analog and gets pretty darn close to capturing the essence of those it models (Vox AV30).

There's one more wonderful thing about the Screamin' Demon that I wish more people would try. It makes a GREAT neck pickup. In my Number 1, I have two Demons installed. A hotter bridge pickup such as the Custom, Custom 5 or JB would match great as well. I was pleasantly surprised how great it sounds in the neck after reading about it on the Seymour Duncan Forums. If you're looking for a hotter neck pickup, try the Screamin' Demon.


I personally love the Screamin' Demon. The articulation, the growl, the harmonics, the openness, it's all there for me. My first experience with it came back in the 1990's when the ESP Skulls and Snakes Lynch Signature model starting coming with it stock. At that point, I knew I wanted to use it myself. It took a lot longer than I had expected for that to happen but I've been using it since 2009 in multiple guitars. For my tastes and rig, it's about perfect.

Hopefully all this helps with understanding the Screamin' Demon a little more. I've always felt it as being underappreciated. Sure, the name may seem misleading, but it certainly can scream.

More info on the Screamin' Demon:


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