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December 2014
more... GearGear BlogPickups & AccessoriesSeptember 2010Larry DiMarzio

Go Ahead And Ask: Larry DiMarzio

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Go Ahead And Ask: Larry DiMarzio
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.
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