Seymour Duncan JB vs Distortion Pickups: Which Is Better? (2023 Guide)

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If you’re curious about Seymour Duncan JB vs Distortion pickups and which is better for you and your situation, this is the post for you!

For context, I’ve played the guitar since 2003.

And although I certainly don’t have this instrument and its associated gear all figured out, I’m happy to share what I know here on the blog!

So let’s get down to a comparison of these pickups!

Seymour Duncan Pickups

Sure, Fender and Gibson defined the electric guitar. But they’re not the only ones innovating in this space. Another name that pops up is Seymour Duncan.

The company goes all the way back to the 1970s when the founder, after whom the company was named, started making pickups for everyone’s taste.

Seymour Duncan makes classic single-coils for Telecasters and Stratocasters and Gibson-style humbuckers. They even have P90s and Jazzmaster single-coils.

Of course, they also make other stuff. There are guitar pedals, pedal-sized amps, and even piezo pickups.

There’s a lot to be said about Seymour Duncan. But one thing remains; plenty of famous guitarists would agree that Seymour Duncan changed the world of guitar with its gear.

Seymour Duncan JB vs Distortion

So how do JB and Distortion humbuckers compare?

Well, there are some similarities. For starters, they are both passive high-output humbuckers. But let’s look at each one individually.

Seymour Duncan JB

There’s a myth going around that JB stands for Jeff Beck. This, of course, isn’t true. The real meaning most likely refers to jazz and blues genres.

And, in some way, this describes Seymour Duncan JB pickups. Interestingly enough for this context, they’re high-output humbuckers. But they’re useful for a wide variety of genres. This is exactly why they’re the most popular Seymour Duncan pickups.

Seriously, they can really cover almost anything. The pickup is oriented towards the high mids and high-ends. The resulting tone is crisp yet controlled. This helps you get some expressive qualities with an awesome dynamic response. That’s all enabled with its Alnico 5 magnets. 

Pairing it up with different pots can also alter the tone. As the company recommends, use 250k pots to smooth out the tone. But no matter the setting, it always pushes those punchy mids into the mix.

What’s also awesome is that there are a few variants to it. Of course, this is a bridge pickup. But you have both 6-string and 7-string variants. And both of these come with regular or slightly wider spacing between the poles.

There are two names for this pole spacing. The standard spacing one is SH-4 and the wider spacing one is TH-4. The latter is intended for guitars with tremolo bridges. 

Overall, this is one of the most versatile bridge humbuckers on the market. Seriously, if you love humbuckers and want to upgrade your guitar, this is a safe bet. Whatever genre that you play, it will probably sound good.

It’s also very popular in pair with Seymour Duncan’s Jazz or ’59 in the neck position. Together, they make one very versatile team.

Here’s how the pickup sounds in action. Check out the variety of genres featured here.

The JB (SH-4) Humbucker

Seymour Duncan JB Jr.

I should also mention that Seymour Duncan has the JB Jr. variant. This is a single-coil-size humbucker. If you have a Strat or a Tele, this one can beef things up.

The only difference is that there are two variants. One is for the bridge position and the other is for neck and middle positions. But other than that, you have very similar sonic characteristics.

Here’s how it compares to the classic Hot Rails pickups.

Seymour Duncan JB Jr vs Hot Rails Demo

Seymour Duncan Distortion

But then we have Seymour Duncan’s Distortion pickup which is a bit of a different story. Sure, this is yet another high-output passive pickup. However, what’s interesting is that it comes with ceramic magnets.

So what’s so special about it then? Aside from a different construction, this gives it a significant boost to high-ends. You may also notice tightness in the bottom ends. And it also has a really hot output.

Just like most ceramic pickups, Seymour Duncan’s Distortion is associated with metal music. Now, it doesn’t necessarily mean that this is a metal-only pickup. But it’s somewhat specific.

Your pedals and amps will react differently to it. This is especially the case if you have a tube-driven amp. It can easily push it into distorted territories. You should probably dial it back a little with such a pickup.

What’s awesome is that it has both bridge and neck variants. The neck Distortion pickup has a slightly milder output. Then both of these come as 7-string options and you also have the Trembucker variant for all of these.

But at the end of the day, I’d recommend this one to metal players. It’s useful for other genres, but only if you like a harsher tone.

Here are a couple of videos showcasing what these pickups can do.

'76 Ibanez Les Paul with Duncan Distortion pickups
Seymour Duncan Distortion - Metal

Seymour Duncan JB vs Distortion: How Do These Two Pickups Compare?

With all this said, it shouldn’t be that hard to compare these pickups. In short, it all depends on what you’re aiming for. And differences between Seymour Duncan JB and Distortion are pretty distinct.

The JB is one of the more versatile humbuckers on the market with punchy mids and dynamic responsiveness.

The Distortion is a bit more specific. It has a ceramic magnet, making its tone more rough. While you can use it the way you prefer, I’d recommend this one to metal players. You’ll get some awesome results without having to use active electronics.

Just make sure to dial down on gain and volume controls on pedals and amps. Things can sometimes get pretty wild with the Distortion pickup.

If you want a new humbucker but don’t know what to choose, get a Seymour Duncan JB. No matter the genre, you’ll fit in nicely. It’s probably the best option for blues rock and hard rock, but it can handle almost anything.

But if you want something heavier, Seymour Duncan Distortion is worth checking out.  


I hope this article has helped you decide which of these pickups better suits you and your needs!

As usual, if you have any questions about this or another guitar-related topic, please let me know in the comments!

And if you want to read more about distortion on this blog, then check out:

2 Responses

    1. Thanks for sharing that, Gerry! That appears to be the case. In this YouTube video, Seymour Duncan talks about the first humbuckers he made, for Jeff Beck, and calling them “JB.” We’ll update the post. Thanks for your input!

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