Jumbo Sunshade - Ezine
|Music Gear Review -
DiMarzio Virtual Solo (DP420) Hum-Cancelling Strat Pickup
[DiMarzio DP420 Virtual Solo]
replacement pickups come in two flavors: true single-coil pickups,
and hum-cancelling stacked dual-coil pickups. The DP420
Virtual Solo is a
strat pickup of the dual-coil variety.
For those who don't already
know - these stacked pickups do sound like single-coils, but they
are alot less noisy than true single-coil pickups. They're
ridiculously quiet. With my 90's high-gain amp cranked, i can hold
the strings and get no howl, which is something i can't do with the same
guitar's humbucking bridge pickup - a 1980's Jackson J80 alnico.
Of course the DiMarzio pickup has a more restrained output than that
J80, so that's a factor.
Two of my go-to gigging guitars had Carvin
AP11 (true single coil) pickups in them. They'd already been
sounding less good to my ears over the past few years so i was on the
lookout for something new. [anybody
interested in what type of material i'm using this pickup for, please
scroll to the bottom of the page]
I'm already familiar with DiMarzio's HS3, which has been a great pickup
for me at the bridge; but with alot of the more clean material that i'm
doing i wanted a SC pickup that was a little less "bitey" than the HS3.
I have to say that the AP11s were a decent match with other
high-output pickups in a high-gain rig. Balance was perfect when
switching from one to the other (and with both). The AP11 is very
warm for a single coil, which for years i did like, but i'd been wanting
to get back to more of a classic SC sound. The big problem with
these Carvin single-coil pickups is that they are really noisy,
especially in high gain situations. I'd always just put up with it
but then i was really looking forward to going with a stacked humbucker
(in these two particular guitars) after so many years.
It's cool that i have friends who trust me enough to lend me
equipment, let alone allow me to take their guitars apart! But if
you really want to know what a pickup is going to sound like when paired
with another, you have to install it; and they all add up
to alot of work.
Other DiMarzio stacked pickups i tried:
* Virtual Vintage Heavy Blues (DP409)
* Virtual Vintage 54 (DP408)
* Area 58 (DP415)
* Area 61 (DP416)
* Area 67 (DP417?)
The "Area" pickups all sounded good in friends' guitars through my
rigs, but when paired with some of the pickups in my own guitars (i'll
get into that below), they were just not a good match for what i had
I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with the Area pickups; but for my taste
they were actually worse than the HS3 when placed at the neck and paired
with a high-output humbucker at the bridge.
The DP408 (vintage 54) was better than any of the Area pickups, but it
was still not even as good as the HS3.
THE GUITAR RIGS
|Before i had a chance to really try the DP409; somebody online
convinced me that i really needed to try the DP420 (Virtual Solo). Problem is, nobody
that i know had one so i had to actually buy it before i could try it.
Installed it and was jamming for less than an hour before i was on the
phone ordering a second one! :)
[DP420 without plastic cover]
I basically use some combination of the same three amps for just about
everything i do, from jamming with friends, to playing originals, to
covers, to recording. Amps are: mid 90's high-gain boutique
60/120-watt; early 70's Twin Reverb; solid-state poweramp & modeler. Cabinets i use are: 4x12/EV,
4x12/Vintage 30; 2x12/EV closed back, 2x12/Vin 30 open back,
1x12/Celestion closed, 2x10 closed. I rarely use the 4x12s for
All by itself, the Virtual Solo pickup sounds equally good in either the
neck or bridge positions. I didn't put it in the middle; i just
never use a pickup there.
Pairing this pickup with itself just sounds badass for super
heavy rock, seriously. [i should mention that in the bridge
position i mount single-coil pickups perpendicular to the strings; not
at the usual Stratocaster angle]
The problem in going with the DP420 (at the neck) for me personally
was balancing it with any of the other pickups that i'm used to using
(and have access to). Here's some of what i found...
|DiMarzio DP420 & Carvin
Tried the Virtual Solo with the AP11 at the bridge and the neck.
Results were really bad; these two pickups are just a complete
mismatch for each other in every way that is important.
It's weird to say this, but honestly it was easier to dial in a good
compromise tone when using a humbucker in a high-gain
situation -- what sounded good for that warm AP11 just
sounded terrible for the midrange-y DP420, and vice versa.
neck / higher output bridge:
This group of pickups are all the highest output pups that i have.
I do have access to other humbuckers but i wasn't looking to
purchase two new humbuckers so i didn't see any point in trying them
Here's what i did try...
[AP11 & DP420]
1980's Jackson J80, J80c (ceramic), &
J90; Carvin M22SD; DiMarzio Super Distortion.
With high-gain all of these combinations sounded great for what i was
looking for. With crunch (rhythm) the J80 alnico still sounded
great but i liked the rest of the pickup combinations alot less. Clean the
DP420/J80 combo was still really good but i just couldn't get a
compromise tone that was useful to me with the rest of these humbuckers
at the bridge.
DP420 / Carvin M22 (alnico):
I would call the Carvin M22 a medium-output pickup but it's subjective. This
combination sounded alot better at all gain levels than the
higher-output pickups did with the Virtual Solo at the neck.
[Carvin M22 & DiMarzio Virtual Solo]
|DP420 / Carvin C22
(vintage); Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates:
These two sounded the best at all levels of gain, with the C22 being
a better match with the Virtual Vintage from a standpoint of output
I did end up getting to try the DP420 at the bridge with a DP409
(DiMarzio vintage blues) at the neck, and oh my God what a
brilliant combination! I wouldn't say it was 'better' than
DP420/DP420; just different. But if i had to choose between these
two combinations i would absolutely go with the DP420/DP409. If i
can find them (and if i'm motivated enough) i will post some audio
recordings of this combination through the Twin Reverb and a closed back
1x12. Just amazing. I also tried the DP409 (neck) with one of
the 80's Jackson pickups but i preferred the DP420 for the material i'm
playing with these guitars.
So of course what i settled on is the DP420 at the neck with the
Carvin C22 at the bridge.
To my ear the C22s sound most like
PAFs. They're not at all aggressive, and, in fact because
of some of the harder rock material that i use these guitars for, the rhythm/crunch channel on my high-gain amp is
lacking in sustain.
[80's Jackson pickups]
Solos are fine but with those rhythms it was enough of a problem that i
ended up having to get an overdrive pedal, which really does the trick
with both the C22 and the DP420. The OD pedal ended up being an
advantage with its High and Low eq options.
All of the DiMarzio hum-cancelling (stacked) Stratocaster pickups
that i tried sounded great on their own. Some of the differences
between them are subtle, and this is especially true at high gain
levels; as always it's just a matter of personal taste.
For my specific need, the DP420 Virtual Solo is an awesome pickup at the
neck. It's a lower-output pickup than the AP11s i was replacing, and so of course i had to
meet it halfway by replacing my bridge humbucker, but the DP420 is
aggressive enough for the type of hard rock material that i'm doing
with it. The fact that it's so quiet is a huge bonus.
For clean material the DP420 is outstanding in the neck position.
Very dynamic; clean but still with an aggressive punch/pop.
It's worth noting that of all the DiMarzio stacked Strat pickups, the
DP420 has the highest output. I think that anybody looking for that super super clean, thin as a
sheet of ice, "Jive Talkin'" tone will be unhappy with the DP420.
Likewise, if you're looking to get some Stevie Ray Vaughan tones, you
need to look at a completely different pickup.
But for those who are more into some 70'-era hard rock tones along the
lines of Gary Moore, Ritchie Blackmore, or Uli Jon Roth: I promise you
that you will love a DiMarzio DP420 (Virtual Solo) hitting your high gain amp,
with or without ground FX.