Monday January 23, 2012

DiMarzio Guitar Pickups

With so many major players on the books, it comes as no surprise that many of Ibanez’s Signature series guitars comes equipped with an equivalent artist-based pickup. So who do you call when you need a modern pickup that produces the sonic signature of some of today’s most popular guitarists? DiMarzio of course!

DiMarzio is a top tier partner for Ibanez. They also produce the OEM DiMarzio/IBZ, V2 and V3 and V7 and V8 pickups especially designed by DiMarzio for Ibanez. However, many players will swap these out for ones in DiMarzio’s retail range. All DiMarzio guitar pickups are made in their New York factory.

EMG can also be found in some models such as the EMG 808 on the RG2228, an 8 string beast. Lesser still are Seymour Duncan pickups. However on Mick Thomson (Slipknot) Ibanez MTM1 models comes with Seymour Duncan Blackouts EMTY.

DiMarzio Air Norton

DiMarzio Air Norton humbucker

When deciding on which suitable DiMarzio guitar pickups you’re pretty much bound to the information the Web provides. Not many of us will go to a store and try every guitar for their pickups and expect to figure out what the pickup tone was like. There are so many other factors involved. And not all stores carry the guitar that we want to test. Unfortunately the DiMarzio guitar pickups websites “Sound Bytes” are not helpful either. Most of the samples of the pickups they give are so heavily processed and effects laden that it’s impossible to determine the actual sound of the pickup. I’m hoping one day that they’ll put on some controlled test samples using popular amps and guitars. Larry DiMarzio take note of Seymour Duncans website!

DiMarzio guitar pickups use several technologies to obtain their tone:

Virtual Vintage

“DiMarzio's Virtual Vintage pickups incorporate a 'U' section metallic shield (partially cut away on the bass side), within which the upper coil sits. Kinman too shields between the coils, but his design uses a more open structure for the top coil plus the addition of a partial bottom coil shield as well.” SoundonSound.
“All of the Virtual Vintage pickups have better hum cancellation than full-size humbuckers. “


“Airbuckers are full-sized humbuckers that contain a gap or space between the magnet and the polepieces. The distance is quite small, and may be filled with nothing but air or by some non-magnetic material. The purpose of the gap is to lessen the magnetic field over the pickup, which in turn lets the string vibrate more freely. This results in a purer, more open sound and improved sustain.”
Dual sound

Pickup Combination

This standard combination of pickups below appears on some of the Japanese built RG Prestige’s and also the Japanese only J. Custom series. Not only does the J. Custom RG series RG8420ZD use this but also the S-series S8570. The J. Custom’s are built from a 40mm African Mahogany body with a 4mm AAA Flamed Maple top.
Purists collectively agree that the Air Norton and True Velvet are excellent, though some have commented in forums that the Tone Zone is too muddy.

  • Neck Pickup:    DiMarzio Air Norton Neck
  • Middle Pickup:  DiMarzio True Velvet Middle
  • Bridge Pickup:  DiMarzio Tone Zone Bridge

Guitars using this pickup combination:

  • RG Prestige: RG4570Z, RG3570Z, RG3770Z.
  • J. Custom: RG8570Z, S8570.

Alnico vs. Ceramic Magnets

Alnico (aluminium, nickel, and cobalt) is a type of conductive magnet. Vintage Fender and Gibson pickups used Alnico. Alnico normally has a warm midrange and smooth distortion.

  • Alnico 2: Has the warmest, rounder and smoothest tone with softer bass and attack. It’s the weakest magnet so has the lowest output but less string pull. Examples of an Alnico 2 pickup are a DiMarzio Area 61 and 67.
  • Alnico 3: Slightly brighter with lower mids than the Alnico 2. They are a lot rarer than the Alnico 2 and 5. Examples of an Alnico 3 pickup are a Lollar Alnico 3 Tele Neck Pickup.
  • Alnico 5: This is the most common of the magnets and used in most single coil and humbuckers by DiMarzio’s. It’s brighter in tone and has tighter lows. Examples of an Alnico 5 pickup are a DiMarzio Virtual Vintage Blues and True Velvet.

Ceramic is a type of non-conductive Ferrite magnet. They more output than Alnico and are brighter than Alnico 5. They are mostly used for high output pickups therefore sound better distorted and overdriven. They are inclined to sound thin clean. Ceramic magnets tend to enhance the highs improving clarity. Examples of a Ceramic pickup are a DiMarzio Super Distortion and D Activator.

Four Conductor Wiring

“For normal series-humbucking wiring, solder the black and white wires to each other and insulate that connection with tape. The red wire is the hot output and the green and bare wires go to ground, usually by soldering them to the back of a pot. If the pickup sounds "out-of-phase" when played with other pickups, use the green as hot and connect the red and bare to ground.”


Generally, low output pickups are likely to generate a more clean tone. High output pickups produce more gain with a higher voltage signal, which can make it easier to overdrive your amps to distortion.  An example of a low output pickup is the DiMarzio HS-2 at 90mV (millivolt). One of DiMarzio’s highest outputting guitar pickups is the X2N at a whooping 510mV. Interestingly Yngwie Malmsteen uses low output DiMarzio YJM in the neck and middle and a HS-3 in the bridge while overdriving his 50watt Marshall MkII’s to create his distinctive tone.

DC Resistance

Resistance is futile! Yes, really. The DC Resistance measured in Ohms (1k = 1000 ohms), gives you some indication of how many winds and the gauge (usually 42 to 44awg) of copper wire a pickup has. The more turns the wire the higher the DC Resistance the higher the output and the lower the treble response. Humbuckers can range from vintage 7.5k to hot 16.5k. Single coils are around 6.5k to 15k. However this isn’t the whole story as Inductance plays a part.


“Inductance is the property in an electrical circuit where a change in the electric current through that circuit induces an electromotive force (EMF) that opposes the change in current (Induced EMF).” Inductance is measured in henries. DiMarzio don’t list their inductance but EMG and some others do. “The higher the inductance, the lesser the highs.” As an example an EMG H4 humbucker pickup has an Inductance of 7.37 henries.

Things you should consider when choosing a pickup

  • The style of music you play.
  • Your amp type: high gain, vintage. Tube or Solid State etc. Is it a dark amp or a bright one? Are you going to replace the amp at some stage?
  • Body and neck tonewood. What’s it going to sound like acoustically? Most Ibanez RG’s will have a Basswood body and Maple neck.
  • Often a neck pickup is used together with a hotter bridge pickup for extra versatility.
  • For a combination of pickups you should have similar the output levels so you don’t get a drop in volume all of a sudden.
  • A bright pickup can always be toned down. However a dark pickup can be equalized to sound brighter, but this will introduce hiss.
  • Ibanez replacement pickups should all be F-Spaced, given most are tremolo bridge guitars.
  • "F-spaced pickups measure 2.01" (51 mm) center-to-center from the first polepiece to the sixth. Standard-spaced pickups measure 1.90" (48 mm).” - DiMarzio.




See the DiMarzio Guitar Pickups (RG Prestige) Part 2

Return to the Ibanez Mods Main Page


For people that like reading maps...

Sitemap »
Terms & Conditions

Nothing to see here, move along...

Terms and Conditions »
Help & Support

What is the tallest mountain in the world, and other useful answers.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) »
Get in touch