Some of us make gear, some of us play it, and, in our case, some of us
work at a media network that aims to keep everyone informed. That’s
why we facilitate this discussion every month. There are certain conversations
that need to take place just between us gearheads. This month, we
wanted to give you a chance to ask Larry DiMarzio a few questions.
Not only is DiMarzio a significant manufacturer in the pickup world, he
was the first gearhead to figure out how to mass-market replacement
pickups. Starting with the introduction of the Super Distortion and
Dual Sound pickups in 1971, players could finally swap their guitars’
stock pickups for something different. You could say that changed
everything. Think about it: A new world of drive and power was just
a quick modification away—you no longer had to buy a new amp,
pedal, guitar (or all three) to try to change the fundamental tone that
served as the basis of your sound.
DiMarzio produces nearly 200 pickup models now and offers a full line
of cables, straps, and hardware. The company boasts a who’s who list of
endorsers that includes notable guitarists and outright guitar gods, many
of whom have been instrumental in the development of their signature
pickups. It isn’t too hard to connect the dots and realize the impact that
Larry DiMarzio has had on guitar-driven music in general. As if that wasn’t
enough, the man behind the company is also a well-respected photographer
who has created a number of iconic images that any guitarist would
recognize in a heartbeat.
Below are 10 of the questions you submitted to us, along with answers
from Larry DiMarzio.
1. I have had Dual Sounds in my Les Paul for 25+ years. I
remember when imports like Hondos and Curlees had
DiMarzio SD-2s in them (which were basically budget Super
Distortions) from the factory. Are you considering reissuing the
SD-2 or similar pickups any time soon?
—John Seetoo, New York, NY
You have a good memory. The pickup you’re talking about was our
K-10, which was a lower-cost, OEM version of our Super 2 that had
nonadjustable pole pieces. But there’s no need for a re-issue, since the
Super 2 has sounded basically the same as the K-10 since 1977.
2. How different do rail-humbucker versions of DiMarzio pickups
sound than their standard-humbucker equivalents (like
a Tone Zone S vs. a Tone Zone)?
—Ethan Munter, Richmond, VA
They’re very similar in terms of tonality. The main difference is in terms
of output. We had to sacrifice a little power in the case of the Tone
Zone S and several other [rail-humbucker] models in order to maintain
the characteristic sound of the full-size humbuckers.
3. Hey Larry, love your pickups! I was wondering, is DC resistance
the main factor in whether a pickup is high, medium, or
low output? I have a Super Distortion and an Air Zone, and
I’ve noticed the Air Zone is classified as medium output but has a
DC of 17, whereas the Super (which is high output) is only 13. Or is
it because of ceramic versus alnico magnets?
—Craig Jahns, Englewood, CO
DC resistance by itself has nothing to do with output level, for several
reasons. First, it doesn’t take wire gauge into account. The thinner
the wire gauge, the higher the resistance. So fewer turns of thinner
wire can produce the same resistance as more turns of heavier wire.
Fewer turns would produce less output. Second, the type and size of
magnet will have a major effect on output level. It’s true that a Super
D is louder than an Air Zone, but it’s not really about ceramic versus
alnico—we have some ceramic-powered humbuckers that are not
as loud as some alnico-equipped models. The only accurate way to
directly compare output level (loudness) is to check the output spec,
which is measured in millivolts and published for each pickup model
on the DiMarzio website.
4. Hi Larry. I was told that if you wrap the coils of a pickup
with copper shielding tape and solder the ground to it, it
will shield the pickup from outside interference. Is this just
a myth, or is there some validity to the idea? Thanks,
—Ed Baumgarten, Covington, LA
It’s not a myth, but shielding the coils isn’t always as effective as you’d
like it to be. Ideally, the entire pickup would have to be enclosed in
shielding, and that isn’t practical for a lot of pickups.
5. How do you come up with your unique names for pickups (specifically,
Norton, Breed, Fred, Steve’s Special)?
—Cameron Johnson, Greensboro, NC
Norton and Fred were the creations of Steve
Blucher, whose mind sometimes has the ability
to go off in strange directions. One of
those directions also produced the Steve’s
Special, which wasn’t supposed to be manufactured
until John Petrucci tried it and called
it “Steve’s Favorite Pickup”—which was obviously
too long to put on a label. The Breed
was named by Steve Vai.