Saturday August 27, 2011

Dimarzio PAF Pro Review

DiMarzio PAF Pro

DiMarzio PAF Pro

In 1986 DiMarzio designed the PAF Pro (DP151) and since then has become a standard in modern voiced PAF pickups. Utilized by many of today’s pro guitarists the PAF Pro has found its way on many a guitar from Dweezil, Satriani, Paul Gilbert, Vinnie Moore to Vai.

By today ’s standards the PAF Pro comes in at a scanty medium output of 300mV, a DC Resistance of 8.4K and uses Alnico magnets.
For my basswood Ibanez RG1570 I’ve installed them in a very straight forward H-S-H configuration. Nothing fancy at the moment with coil-splitting or wired in parallel, mainly because I can’t be bothered getting a push/pull knob. The comes with 4-conductor wires for coil splitting. Most Ibanez guitar’s have the standard 3 wires so you need to wire the green to the earth and the black and white together. Ibanez’s already have a 500K pot so you don’t need to change this but do buy the F-Spaced pickup.

DiMarzio PAF Pro as a Bridge Pickup

I first installed the PAF Pro in the bridge position. I wanted some of the tones of Paul Gilbert around his Racer-X days and since his PGM’s were equipped with these in the bridge as well it must be a good call to do this. The first thing I noticed was the shrill highs of the V8 were gone and the PAF Pro’s screaming fatter rounder tone was more apparent. Bass notes were also a bit tighter.  The mids were about the same as the stock V8 pickups. The vowel sounding “aw” was more slight than I was expecting, either that or the V8 already had it and my ears were used to it by now. But largely the tone was actually similar to the V8.  Most of the improvements were very subtle. If I was hearing the pickup as opposed to listening to it I wouldn’t be able to differentiate the two. There is one thing however that no YouTube video or MP3 sample can show you. It’s that the thing has a lot more punch than the stock pickups. However, I wanted something more aggressive in the bridge that had more harmonics and was fatter so I’m now considering a Tone Zone, Fred, Super Distortion or Norton (the non-Air version). The bridge Fred with a neck PAF Pro is winning as it’s a combo that Satch has used in the past.

DiMarzio PAF Pro as a Neck Pickup

IBZ V8 with DiMarzio PAF Pro underside

IBZ V8 with DiMarzio PAF Pro underside

The next step was to move the PAF to the neck. Supposedly, this is its rightful place. Again it was very close the V7. Not much in it except the singing high notes were rounded and better. Actually not just better they were addictive! The notes scream and cry just with a lot more finesse. It wails and yet is smooth with a full of flavour 80’s metal tone. The mids are about the same as the V7, I wasn’t really hearing too much of the “aw” either. There was an unfortunate side effect of putting this in the neck – the bass booms a lot more and sent my practice amp to crackle city. I checked the wiring and volume pots to make sure it wasn’t an install problem but it wasn’t. My 10” speakers just couldn’t handle the deeper bass when in the neck. The pickup is actually already low as it can go in the neck cavity without stripping out some foam so the only remedy is to buy a new amp. I was planning to anyhow just another good excuse! Overall in the neck position the PAF Pro can do all the metal lead stuff, blues to jazz you want.

DiMarzio PAF Pro With the Middle Pickup

This actually isn’t so subtle. The is massively better when out of phase with the middle pickup. You now get a Stat like quack. With the stock V7 and S1 middle pickup it was very dull to say the least. It’s nowhere as nasally as a real Strat but leans towards the warm side.

PAF Pro Vs IBZ V7 and V8 Pickups

IBZ V7 and V8 with DiMarzio PAF Pro at bottom

IBZ V7 and V8 with DiMarzio PAF Pro at bottom

Most people have discounted the stock Ibanez IBZ V7 and V8 as being either too muddy or not enough character. I’m guilty of this as well.  But in comparison to the PAF Pro they aren’t too far away. The PAF is just very subtly refined mostly on the higher notes and has a deeper bass. On the whole the tone is so similar it’s hard to tell without listening closer. I only found out later that the V7 and V8’s were based on the PAF Pro. I experimented again with the V8 in the bridge after putting it back there. This time I lowered it as far as it could go and actually got a pretty good singing screaming tone out of it. The V7 and V8’s need a lot more air in the middle to breathe to get a good tone. Too close to the strings and they sound fizzy, muddy or screeching. If you don’t like the tones of the V7 and V8 already you may want to look elsewhere from the PAF Pro if upgrading. There isn’t enough difference in voicing if you are after an extreme change to your axe.

Everything you have read regarding putting a higher output humbucker to pair with the PAF Pro in the neck is true. I think in this day and age the PAF Pro is a little too polite to sit in the bridge position. I will definitely consider putting something else to pair with the PAF Pro that is a little more brutal but matches the PAF’s character. In the neck it’s a very versatile pickup that has rightfully earned its place in the annuals of rock.

See the DiMarzio PAF Pro Info

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