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Lace Matt Pike Dirty Heshers (Heavy Overdrive, stock Gibson 4989T, then Bridge Dirty Hesher)
As one of the most important guitarists to emerge from underground metal over the last two decades, Matt Pike has influenced a generation of players with his crushing yet uniquely melodic songwriting and playing. Armed with a Les Paul, Green Matamps, and a Soldano X-77 preamp, Pike worked in the ’90s with the legendary band Sleep, and his sound—a monstrous wall of fuzz that harkened to Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath—was a huge departure from the processed rock of the era.
His style got faster and more aggressive with his next—and current—outfit, High on Fire. Jeff Lace, chief designer at Lace Pickups, is a big fan, and he recently teamed up with Pike to produce the company’s first-ever signature set. The Dirty Heshers are designed to produce the massive tones Pike is known for, only bigger and richer than you’d expect from super-hot humbuckers.
The passive, coil-splittable Heshers are based on Lace’s fire-breathing Nitro Hemi humbuckers. Their windings have been tweaked, per Pike’s specifications, to expand midrange presence and response. Each pickup uses not one, but 10 barium ferrite ceramic magnets, which makes each pickup nearly double the weight of a set of Seymour Duncan or Gibson humbuckers. Interestingly, the magnetic field is emitted from the edges of the coils rather than the center. Don Lace Sr. pioneered this process with his Lace Sensor pickups years ago, and it significantly increases the string surface area the pickup detects. The chrome covers are emblazoned with Pike’s last name, and they’re also epoxied to reduce squealing and feedback. Four-conductor, vintage-gauge wire enables series, split, parallel, and out-of-phase wiring.
The Dirty Heshers have a very wide and powerful tone quite different from other metal-oriented humbuckers. I expected a more focused and compressed tone, similar to a Gibson 500T or Duncan Invader. But the Heshers hit your amp with incredible force without automatically overdriving it, which means you can crank the amp without muddying your tone. And the dynamic response when you move from chords to single notes is remarkable—single notes offer almost as much volume and girth as power chords.
Mounted in a Les Paul Traditional driving an overdriven Orange TH100, the 19k bridge-position Hesher delivered dirge-like rhythm tones with a forceful upper midrange. Sleep’s “Dragonaut” tone was easy to get by dropping the guitar’s volume knob about 30 percent. Maxing the volume takes you to fuzzier High on Fire territory, and tight, Motörhead-style riffs delivered percussive, thrash-friendly response.
The 15.8k neck pickup yields a forceful, refined low end that opens up when you pile on the gain. Roll down the volume, and the mids morph from round and fat to focused and biting. The upper-mid presence is so strong in these pickups that it’s hard to dial it out if you don’t want it, a property that might confound metal players used to scooped tones. But the rich midrange also lends definition to clean tones and makes room for the deep and resonant low end—all of which creates impressive sustain.
Lace’s Dirty Heshers stand out as some of the most distinctive humbuckers in the heavy metal pickup world. They’re loud, brash, and powerful. But they’re also organic, dynamic, and responsive—qualities a lot of hotter humbuckers can’t deliver. The robust and wide midrange make them a less ideal choice for scooped Meshuggah-style extreme metal. But for doomier, sludgier styles—where loud mids play a crucial role—the Dirty Heshers deliver the raucous, mid-heavy wall of sound those genres demand.