Conventional wisdom has it that so-called "high output" pickups and good tone are mutually exclusive. As with all conventional wisdom it is grounded in some level of truth or practical experience. The David Allen HellCats set firmly bucks conventional wisdom by provided both great clean tone, and solid rock and roll crunch that is tasteful and musical. We dropped a set into our Godin Core test mule and ran it through our Mesa Stiletto head and Tone Tubby pine cab with a Weber 12F150B speaker.
David Allen does not say much about these pickups other than the neck is wound to 9.4K and the bridge is 16.6K. This places them in the relative vicinity of the the classic Duncan 59/JB set. However, resistance really does not do much to describe how a pickup sounds; but going back to conventional wisdom, more resistance generally equals more ouptut.
The neck pickup has very good clarity, and a beefy warmth that signals that it's on the higher end of the output scale. There is more midrange heft than for example his Alley Cat or P-51 models, but it's rich and buttery in a way that makes the tone sound full but not congested. Mild distortion still retains very good note separation, and with higher levels of overdrive they really start to sing without getting too mushy. HellCats love bright gain channels such as the Stiletto or a Marshall, and paired with such the neck pickup is perfectly suited for lead work.
If one were to compare the HellCat bridge pickup to a JB, our first impression is that it sounds "less hot." The high end is a little sweeter, and there is less of an upper midrange emphasis. Clean tones were as good as anything, and there's and absence of hardness/stiffness that often characterizes higher output pickups. Roll off the volume a little, and the clean tones shimmer with a surprising level of depth and detail.
Using a variety of overdrives -- Voodoo Lab Sparkle Drive, Lovepedal Kalamazoo, and the Stiletto's gain channel -- the HellCat bridge pickup produced ripping rock crunch that was both tightly packed and remarkably articulate. Strumming through chords slowly and letting them decay revealed many layers of detail and harmonics that was habit forming. It's hard to explain how good distortion sounds musical -- and not like circular saw -- but the HellCat sounds really good.
The HellCats are somewhat of an enigma: They feed a big, fat honking signal into your amplifier, but the resulting tones are way more musical and flexible than you would expect. No single style of pickup can do everything, but the HellCats do clean tones as well as many "clean" pickups, and they're insanely good for classic rock, hard rock, or progressive styles. Don't get hung up on the resistance readings, just play them.