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Bareknuckle VHII Pickups – Gear Review

Bareknuckle VHII

Product Info

Pickup features: Calibrated Open Humbucker Set, 52mm spacing, passive. 4-conductor wiring.

Impedence or other specs: Bridge 9.2k, Neck 8.0k

Price Paid: £170

Purchased from: Bareknuckle Pickups’ online store


Model of guitar or bass: Custom Warmoth (Strat body, Jackson style neck)

Position: bridge / bridge + neck in parallel / neck

Pickup being replaced: N/A

Other pickups on guitar: N/A

Artists using this pickup: Ben Asaro from Twilight Odyssey

You musical style(s): Straight-up Rock, with elements from blues to metal/shred

Reason for pickup change: N/A


Perceived output level:

Sounds like an over-wound PAF (as you’d expect), but it stays clear and open under high gain which is great


Tight bass, complex and articulate but powerful/open sounding midrange, not trebly but plenty of good sounding high end

Sonic evaluation:

I’ve had these pickups for about a year now, and I don’t think I’d ever change them out under any circumstances. When I first plugged in these pickups to an amp, I couldn’t believe it, I was totally blown away – it was as if I was hearing the amazing guitar tone you think of in your head but assume that it’s impossible to achieve. Totally amazing, massive sounding rock guitar tone. Huge sounding, but clear and precise. Harmonically rich – it’s as if the pickup is actually looking for the harmonics and begging you to play them. If you’re looking for a Van Halen type “brown sound” with these pickups, they’ll do that in spades. Playing these through a Marshall Plexi can absolutely nail that tone, but don’t think they’re a one-trick pony. Any classic or hard rock from the 70’s and 80’s etc can be got from these pickups, for example the early Iron Maiden sound is very easy to get with these pickups.

I’ve put a coil tap switch in (that came free by sending off the BKP warranty card), and the pickups do a very convincing single coil sound. When I’m doing some home recording, I’ll usually just flick the switch to get that single coil sound instead of going out to get my Fender Strat, as the tapped VHII sounds good.

For once, I’ve found a guitar product that not only lives up to the hype but exceeds it. The only downside of the pickups are that now in comparison other brands of pickups seem a bit sterile in comparison!

For which styles and positions is this pickup (un)suitable:

I wouldn’t say it’s unsuitable for anything in terms of Rock; it’ll certainly give a great metal sound through a high gain amp, and you could use it for a clean Hendrix/SRV sound when tapped. It’s a very versatile humbucker and covers a lot of ground. The only reason why I’d use something else is because there was a different pickup made by Bare-Knuckle specifically to cater for that type of sound.

Overall Rating


The customer service at Bareknuckle pickups is absolutely top notch, and it’s great to be able to order little custom options easily on your pickups. In the UK at least, it’s like getting custom shop pickups at standard pickup prices because they don’t cost much more than stock machine-wound Seymour Duncan’s or DiMarzio’s. You can also order double cream pickups from them, as DiMarzio’s ludicrous trademark can’t be enforced in the UK. It’s also nice having a British manufacturer that sources components where it can in the UK, as opposed to using cheap Taiwanese materials or similar. The most important thing though is tone, and the pickup definately shattered my expectations on that front. Buy with complete confidence!

On a scale of 1 to 10, I give this pickup a:

10 Fantastic value

Copyright © Richard Baines 2006

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