Watch Pete Thorn put 23 pickups through their paces in a bid to find the ultimate Eddie Van Halen-sounding set

Four electric guitars surrounded by 23 electric guitar humbucker pickups
(Image credit: Pete Thorn / YouTube)

Of the most sought-after electric guitar tones in the world, Eddie Van Halen’s will always rank near the very top of the list. Recreating his high-gain sounds, characterized by unrivaled sustain and exquisite clarity, has been the mission of many hopefuls throughout the six-string community.

The task, however, is a daunting one. With so many options and electric guitar pickups out there, it seems nigh on impossible to test each and every one in a bid to emulate EVH's holy grail guitar tone.

Well, luckily for you, you won’t have to, thanks to a new video from YouTube guitar ace, session player and gear guru Pete Thorn. In the 80-minute epic, Thorn puts 23 different pickups under the microscope, trialing and testing them in an effort to locate the best EVH-sounding set.

Armed with an Ibanez Destroyer, EVH Frankenstein replica, EVH Wolfgang Standard, Floyd Rose equipped “Partsocaster”, custom-made Strat-style guitar inspired by Eddie Van Halen’s original Frankie model and a battalion of humbuckers, Thorn sets out on his quest to reproduce EVH’s revered tone from the first three Van Halen albums.

Paying close attention to everything from resistance to magnet type, the video explores a huge array of products from pickup powerhouses such as T.V. Jones, Seymour Duncan, EVH, DiMarzio and Pariah, with Thorn also test driving double-coils from Suhr, Pariah, Mighty Mite, Bare Knuckle and Friedman.

Throughout the intensive research project, Thorn was supported by a production line manned by Dave Friedman and Avi Shabat, who each swapped out pickups while the guitar player went to town on a few EVH-inspired licks, riffs and progressions.

Highlights from the video include a Seymour Duncan Frankenstein, EVH Wolfgang, and Bare Knuckle VHII, as well as a Motor City 2nd Degree Blackbelt.

Of course, part of the stellar sonic results are down to Thorn’s playing, which underlines the lesson that there truly is no substitute for the work your hands do on the guitar.

“Are you still with me?” asks Thorn after the not-so-whistle-stop-tour of his pickup arsenal. “You’re crazy if you made it this far and if you got to this point in the video you are a true guitar nerd and I’m proud of you.”

Keep your eyes peeled on Thorn's YouTube channel for a follow-up installment, in which he and his collaborators will share their thoughts on the pickups that impressed them the most and the ones they thought came closest to capturing that EVH tone.

In the meantime, get stuck into the video above and marvel at the sheer magnitude of Thorn’s epic journey.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.