Saturday August 27, 2011

DiMarzio Evolution Pickup

DiMarzio’s artist collaborations has produced some exclusive pickups such as Herman Li’s HLM, Andy Timmons’s AT1 custom and Joe Satriani’s PAF Joe and Mo’ Joe. However one of the most iconic has to be Steve Vai’s DiMarzio Evolution pickup (street $74.95).

DiMarzio Evolution Pickup

Of all the Ibanez Signature series guitars the white JEM7V is probably one of the most popular and undoubtedly Vai’s favourite. Buying an RG Super Strat and dropping in a is one of the most inexpensive ways to get that Vai tone without taking a second mortgage on a JEM. However the JEM7V body is made of Alder whereas most of the RG series are Basswood. The recently issued JEM77 now sports a Basswood body and DiMarzio Evolution pickups and also an Evo 2 in the bridge.

Steve Vai’s Ibanez JEM 7VWH "Pogo" used on the Sex & Religion tour had a prototype pickup in it which became the DiMarzio Breed. The “Evo” axe of course had Evolutions.

Prior to receiving his own signature EGEN18, DragonForce’s Herman Li used the DiMarzio Evolution pickup in his Mahogany body Ibanez S Prestige. DragonForce’s Sam Tottman also has two DiMarzio pickups installed in his current STM1 Iceman, this is a Mahogany body as well.

DiMarzio Evolution Neck Pickup (DP158)

The Neck is a medium powered humbucker pickup. It has a ceramic magnet which usually means higher output. Tonally it’s considered a midrange pickup with a very tight bass. It’s warm, punchy and clear with no shrills. Mids come through quite noticeably. DiMarzio describes this as “fat, punchy and loud”.

Steve Vai and EVO

Steve Vai and EVO

DiMarzio Evolution Middle Pickup (DPS1)

Strangely the DiMarzio Evolution Single Coil pickup doesn’t appear on the DiMarzio website. However you can still buy it from online retail stores but itself or as a set despite what the DiMarzio website says. This pickup is also referred to as the ISCV2 Single Coil. It is an Alnico 5 magnet. Sonically this pickup is bright and clean. The Evolution middle pickup is often described as very Strat like especially when used out of phase with the Neck or Bridge pickups. DiMarzio says “This pickup must be wired to a DiMarzio Evolution neck and bridge humbuckers according to the included instructions. It does not sound like an Evolution when played by itself.”  I don’t think this is really a problem. If you don’t like the nasally tone another alternative is the DiMarzio HS-2 stacked single coil wired in Single Coil mode. The output is a rather low 90mV versus the Evo DPS1’s 160mV. This pickup is no longer associated with Yngwie Malmsteen since he broke from DiMarzio.

DiMarzio Evolution Bridge Pickup (DP159)

The Evolution bridge pickup is a hot, aggressive and powerful. It is a ceramic based magnet with a “patented dual-resonance”. At 404mV it’s one of the most powerful pup’s DiMarzio offers. It can be smooth for blues to molten pig iron for wailing metal solos. Harmonics and feedback are effortlessly achieved. Sloppy picking will be quickly punished. Some find this pickup too harsh and ice-picky which then you may have to consider the Evo 2. DiMarzio describes this pickup as “the bridge pickup is tight, aggressive and louder… to reproduce more harmonic overtones than conventional humbuckers”.

DiMarzio Evolution EVO 2 Bridge Pickup (DP215)

The DiMarzio Evo 2 is a less powerful version of the original Evolution Bridge. It combines Virtual Vintage technology and weaker magnets to modify the frequency response. Still this is a high output pickup coming in at 375mV compared to the Evolution bridges 404mV. According to DiMarzio’s blurb Steve Vai wanted “the frequency response in the 4000Hz to 5000Hz range to be reduced slightly”. This is mainly the highs being cut which may explain why some have found the original Evolution too shrill for their liking and prefer this pup. These pickups are tighter in the lows and warmer in the highs, while they add high-gain sparkle and produce searing harmonics. DiMarzio describes them as " a little more complex the same basic tone with increased headroom and dynamics, so that the sound kills on 10 and cleans up when the volume is rolled down”.

Replacement Pickup

Steve Vai's Ibanez JEM7V

Steve Vai's Ibanez JEM7V

So for the love of God dump those stock pickups such as the IBZ’s, INF’s, V2 and V3, V7 and V8 and consider a drop-in replacement. Especially if you are tone chasing Steve Vai’s classic setup the DiMarzio Evolution pickups should be high on your list.




Install Problems

Some batches of the Ibanez RG1570 had a very shallow pickup cavity route, reported on JemSite and Ibanez Forum. This could not accommodate the Evolution pickups as they would be too close to the strings. The Evo's are slightly taller than a standard pickup. My RG1570 pickup route measures 12mm deep which I think should be able to take the DiMarzio Evolution pickup.


See the DiMarzio Evolution Pickup JEM Comparison Chart

Return to the Ibanez Mods Main Page


Two funny Filipino guys demo the DiMarzio Evolution, Breed and PAF Joe.



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