KSEjunkie2468
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#1
The title ^^

I'm considering this Dimarzio Bridge pickups in my Mahogany body, ebony fingerboard, floyd rose, guitar.

I want pickups that can have a beautiful clean tone (bridge) sparkly maybe w/e, but also function great with high gain, whether it be modern heavy metal, or a Joe Satriani like rock-high-gain tone.

I've had an EMG 81 and 85 set, and they sound a bit sterile, nice sounding, but without the warmth of the Seymour Duncan Invader (bridge). Do the D-Activators have a warm sound to them?
jeleopard
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#3
A lot of people also put the D Activator Neck in the bridge slot, and that kicks ass.

But D Activators in general kick ass.
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KSEjunkie2468
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#4
Quote by jeleopard
A lot of people also put the D Activator Neck in the bridge slot, and that kicks ass.

But D Activators in general kick ass.


Yea some people do that with the EMG 85 (normally in the neck), they put it in the bridge, but I tried that and it sounded weaker, didn't have the pinch harmonics.
MrFlibble
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#5
The SD Invader really doesn't have any 'warmth' in the usual sense, it's just so bloated that the treble is overpowered.

D Activators aren't much better. What you're basically looking at is a regular, generic, high-output humbucker with a ceramic magnet, but with the coils slightly offset so you get a little wider response at the cost of some added low-level hum. It's a pretty standard design, really, and not something that should blow your mind unless you have very low standards. With a Floyd Rose bridge and an Ebony fretboard, they're going to be very bright and brittle-sounding. You know how you thought the EMG 81 and 85 sounded 'sterile'? Imagine those with the treble knocked up, that's the D Activator sound in that sort of guitar.

First thing I'd suggest you look at is the EMG X-series pickups, specifically the 60AX. It's clearer than the 85 whilst being smoother than the 60 and warmer than the 81. It does have lower output than the other three main EMG humbuckers, but it's still much hotter than any passive pickup. Most importantly, it will stay sounding fairly warm even with a Floyd Rose. It's basically made to be the most all-round balanced pickup possible.

Second choices for a Floyd & Ebony combo would be the SD Alternative 8 (basically a less muddy Invader, and warmer than the D Activators) or a DM Tone Zone (same as the Alternative 8 but to an even greater degree; much less treble).
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#6
Dude, a warmth comes from the magnet more than anything. The only problem here is that if you want a pickup that is really good for high gain, you typically go with ceramic. And A8 pickups might be better than ceramic if you are looking for warmth, but there are few on the market. I believe the Tone Zone handles gain very well while having an A5 magnet, but I personally don't like the Tone Zone for metal. Also, "sparkly" is just a terrible way to describe a tone, imo. I don't even know what you mean when you say that.
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#7
Quote by W4RP1G
"sparkly" is just a terrible way to describe a tone, imo. I don't even know what you mean when you say that.

That's how I feel anytime people discuss pickups or I read reviews on tone.
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VVolverin3
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#8
Quote by MrFlibble
Imagine those with the treble knocked up, that's the D Activator sound in that sort of guitar.


Basically that. Moreso like the 81 model than the 85. Personally I reckon the D'Activator is a fantastic bridge pickup in mahogany for playing metal BUT it has really unimpressive cleans so if that's a deal breaker then I would suggest you avoid it.
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jeleopard
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#9
Quote by VVolverin3
Basically that. Moreso like the 81 model than the 85. Personally I reckon the D'Activator is a fantastic bridge pickup in mahogany for playing metal BUT it has really unimpressive cleans so if that's a deal breaker then I would suggest you avoid it.


Tosin Abasi, Phil Collen, and Chris Broderick beg to differ.
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#10
Alright let me rephrase. It has really unimpressive cleans imo


I'm sure you *could* get a decent sound out of it, particularly when you're playing with something like an Axe-Fx but I found that it doesn't naturally sound as nice as other pickups I've used on the clean channel - it sounded a bit lifeless. Don't really know how else to describe it. Didn't sound much better in the neck position either.


Again... IMO
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KSEjunkie2468
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#11
Quote by MrFlibble
The SD Invader really doesn't have any 'warmth' in the usual sense, it's just so bloated that the treble is overpowered.

D Activators aren't much better. What you're basically looking at is a regular, generic, high-output humbucker with a ceramic magnet, but with the coils slightly offset so you get a little wider response at the cost of some added low-level hum. It's a pretty standard design, really, and not something that should blow your mind unless you have very low standards. With a Floyd Rose bridge and an Ebony fretboard, they're going to be very bright and brittle-sounding. You know how you thought the EMG 81 and 85 sounded 'sterile'? Imagine those with the treble knocked up, that's the D Activator sound in that sort of guitar.

First thing I'd suggest you look at is the EMG X-series pickups, specifically the 60AX. It's clearer than the 85 whilst being smoother than the 60 and warmer than the 81. It does have lower output than the other three main EMG humbuckers, but it's still much hotter than any passive pickup. Most importantly, it will stay sounding fairly warm even with a Floyd Rose. It's basically made to be the most all-round balanced pickup possible.

Second choices for a Floyd & Ebony combo would be the SD Alternative 8 (basically a less muddy Invader, and warmer than the D Activators) or a DM Tone Zone (same as the Alternative 8 but to an even greater degree; much less treble).


Well the EMGs were with a rosewood fingerboard and an alder body, different guitar. And the alternative 8's treble is horribly high for me. I have the SD fullshred now, and I think the treble is as high as I would want it.

The alternative 8 is almost a LOT more trebly then the D Activators according the each site's respective equalization chart. And the EMG-60AX, I are two mild in output.

Aren't passive pickups supposed to be really versatile? Why would their be a problem with the clean tones with high gain pickups? Do you know of any passive DM or SD pickups with high output and better cleans?
KSEjunkie2468
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#12
Quote by VVolverin3
Alright let me rephrase. It has really unimpressive cleans imo


I'm sure you *could* get a decent sound out of it, particularly when you're playing with something like an Axe-Fx but I found that it doesn't naturally sound as nice as other pickups I've used on the clean channel - it sounded a bit lifeless. Don't really know how else to describe it. Didn't sound much better in the neck position either.


Again... IMO


Thank you all for your responses. A question VVolverin3, what pickups did you had in mind that sound better in clean than the D Activator?
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#13
D-Activators are essentially Dimarzio's answer to active pickups. Same sound characteristics, but as a passive.
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#14
The DiMarzio Super 3 has warm tone to it though it's middy as **** and highs are dark.
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#15
Quote by KSEjunkie2468
Thank you all for your responses. A question VVolverin3, what pickups did you had in mind that sound better in clean than the D Activator?


I'd love to help you buddy but in all honesty I don't know. I've not yet found a bridge pickup that I'm totally happy with. I would potentially think about putting a D'Activator in the bridge and then a different pickup in the neck for cleans. Again, which one? I dunno sorry
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RJH11
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#16
Id try some invaders yes they can be muddy but with a good amp and some propper eqing
you can get a decent clean tone and they work great for metal. And yes i use them so thats
my experience with them.
KSEjunkie2468
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#17
Quote by dark Mass
The DiMarzio Super 3 has warm tone to it though it's middy as **** and highs are dark.


Hmm yea I see on Dimarzio's site that pickup has

Mid: 8.0

Bass: 6.5

Treble: 5.0

For the EQ chart.

Are the mids too much do you think, and is it good sounding more metal? (I don't like scooped mids)
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#18
Quote by KSEjunkie2468
And the alternative 8's treble is horribly high for me.
Er, the Alt 8 has very little treble detail. I don't know how anybody could think it has too much treble. The only pickups which have that sort of output and less treble are the DM Tone Zone and Breed pickups.

The alternative 8 is almost a LOT more trebly then the D Activators according the each site's respective equalization chart.
You can't compare chart-to-chart, and in fact those sorts of charts tell you nothing anyway. There's no way to test a pickup's EQ other than by playing with it and hearing, then judging it based on your previous experience with other pickups. DiMarzio and Seymour Duncan could create exactly the same pickup but because SD test their pickups in standard Fender and Gibson guitars into Fender and Marshall amps, and DiMarzio mostly demo theres in Ibanez and Music Man guitars into Peavey, Mesa Boogie and Randall amps, the two companies could come to completely different conclusions about the EQ of the pickup.

And the EMG-60AX, I are two mild in output.
They have about two and a half times the output of DiMarzio D Activator pickups and more output than a regular EMG 81 or 85.

Aren't passive pickups supposed to be really versatile?
No. Versatility comes from the amplifier mostly, and second to that it depends on the exact model of pickup in question, not simply whether they are passive or active. In fact, if anything, the vastly wider response range, lower noise and lower impedance of most active pickups makes them far more versatile than any passive pickup can ever be.

Why would their be a problem with the clean tones with high gain pickups? Do you know of any passive DM or SD pickups with high output and better cleans?
The most commonly-loved clean tones come from lower output pickups. By using softer-sounding magnets and cooler coil windings you expand the response range of the pickup, increasing its dynamic range and giving a generally more balanced tone. When you make a high-output pickup, you have to sacrifice stuff. The higher the output goes the more dynamic control you lose and the more the pickup will start to respond to one particular area of tone. This is why lower output pickups are generally rated as having quite even distribution of bass, mids and treble while higher-output pickups are almost always really highly rated on one thing, rated medium for something else and rated very low for the third part.
There's also the problem that the vast majority of high output pickups use ceramic magnets, and this is what gives the typical sterile tone. Ceramics give you more power but they don't really enhance the EQ like various alnico magnets can.

This is why I suggest a pickup like the EMG 60AX. The active design means it has a wider and more dynamic response than any lower-output passive pickup so cleans sound very detailed, the alnico magnet keeps it sounding smooth and not overly-bright like a ceramic-magnet high-output pickup would, and yet it still has more output than any high-output passive pickup. The 60AX has become my 'default' pickup for this very reason; out of all the high-output pickups I have, it's the only one with truly tasteful clean tones. Of all the low-output pickups I have, the EMG is still more dynamic.


What I'd suggest is you think hard about what sort of tone you're trying to get and how a pickup change may help you. Bear in mind how different a pickup can sound in different guitars and through different amps. Ultimately it is your amp that defines your tone, then the guitar, then the pickups a distant third place. And rather than think about pickup choices in terms of what the manufacturer's websites say or which famous people use them or what you think you've heard in other peoples' guitars, think about your current rig, think about how the whole thing sounds and in which direction you'd like it to change. Don't think "waaa er well I guess I'll use D Activaors because of REASONS". Think (for example) "okay, my tone with this guitar is a bit too thin and lacks character, so I should look for something with an alnico magnet and medium-hot coils".

Stop worrying about model name and marketing talk, just check out the magnets, the coil winding style and think about how that will interact with your guitar's construction and your amp. It makes choosing pickup s lot easier and you'll often find that the best thing for you is something you would have never thought of if you only thought about pickups in terms of the manufacturer's EQ ratings and the model name.
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KSEjunkie2468
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#19
Quote by MrFlibble
Er, the Alt 8 has very little treble detail. I don't know how anybody could think it has too much treble. The only pickups which have that sort of output and less treble are the DM Tone Zone and Breed pickups.


No, the invader has little treble, the Alt 8 is very high on treble, this can be observed from pickup comparison videos switched in and out of the same guitar, and SD's chart has a high treble rating, plus I've heard it in person and its way too trebly.

Quote by MrFlibble

They have about two and a half times the output of DiMarzio D Activator pickups and more output than a regular EMG 81 or 85.


A D Activator has an output of 470 mV. So you're saying the 60AX has an output of "about" 1175 megavolts? Isn't that a bit high XD?

"if anything, the vastly wider response range, lower noise and lower impedance of most active pickups makes them far more versatile than any passive pickup can ever be."

Then why is the EMG 81 a one trick sterile pony? XD My invader is superior-ly versatile to the 81, it sounds warmer and less thin.


"There's also the problem that the vast majority of high output pickups use ceramic magnets, and this is what gives the typical sterile tone. Ceramics give you more power but they don't really enhance the EQ like various alnico magnets can."

But my invader using a ceramic magnet sounds warmer than my full shred which uses an Alnico 8 magnet.

"This is why I suggest a pickup like the EMG 60AX. The active design means it has a wider and more dynamic response than any lower-output passive pickup so cleans sound very detailed"

My guitar only works with passive pickups

"Of all the low-output pickups I have, the EMG is still more dynamic." Isn't the 60AX higher output than an active 81?


For a tone I want, higher gain than the full-shred, a warmer sound (maybe not the same warm that other people call warm, because a lot of people call neck pickups warm and I think of those as toneless and sterile), so a "hotter" sound would be a better term. And I want a decent clean tone too as well.

You've helped very much thank you! But do you know of any passive pickups that would suit such requirements other than the Alt 8?
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#20
Quote by KSEjunkie2468
A D Activator has an output of 470 mV. So you're saying the 60AX has an output of "about" 1175 megavolts? Isn't that a bit high XD?


I really have nothing to contribute to this discussion on the whole but I did laugh at this
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#22
1175 megavolts would be the equivalent of a couple of nuclear power stations mate.
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MrFlibble
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#23
I use an Alternative 8 to warm up an all-maple, ebony-fretboard guitar. The result is similar in tone to my Les Paul with BurstBucker pickups. So... yeah. Warmth and thickness is what it's all about, not treble in any way.

Also, output can't be measured in mV. Well, technically it can, but those ratings are meaningless in practical applications. A Seymour Duncan Hot Stack, for example, will give you a much hotter reading than a SD Hot Rails, but when you stick them into an amp or mixer you'll find the Hot Rails has absurdly high output while the Hot Stack has barely more output than a regular Tele pickup. Again, this is why you shouldn't pay much attention to spec sheets and what the manufacturers say. Actually using lots of different pickups in the same or similar rigs is the only way to really tell what's going on.

This is also the very first time I've heard anyone call an Invader 'versatile'.

And the Full Shred doesn't use an Alnico 8, it has an A5. The reason the Invader sounds 'warmer' to you is because it's wound so ridiculously hot that almost all treble detail is lost, while the Full Shred is made to be more responsive so the coils aren't wound as hot, retaining more treble.

And of note,
Isn't the 60AX higher output than an active 81?
Yes, I worded myself poorly. I should have said compared to all the low-output pickups.



But anyway.

You don't really get "higher gain" than a Full Shred in a passive pickup. Mostly because gain is something on the amp, not related to the pickup But I knwo what you mean, and really the point is that output only really matters at the most extreme ends and with low to medium-gain amps. If you're using high gain on your amp then the pickup output won't matter much whe you're talking about passives. Actives have such a huge jump up that they will make a difference, but in the world of passives the output difference between something like, for example, a JB and an Invader is virtually nothing, unless you run quite low gain.
But a hotter sound, we can certainly do. Leaving aside the Alt 8, the regular ol' SD JB would be a good place to start - it's simply a Full Shred wound for a little more output with more mids and bass. An SD Custom may also do the trick, check out some Nightwish songs for an idea of what that sounds like with a metal-meets-prog-rock tone in a Floyd/ebony guitar. It's ceramic, so it can be a little harsh if you run your amp with the treble control pushed up, but it's got a much smoother tone than most high-output pickups; of all 'metal' pickups, it has some of the best traditional clean tones. The SD Distortion Parallel Axis would also work well, though its clean tone is rather bizarre with some amps; if you run your amp with scooped mids or with very high treble/presence, it's going to sound too responsive, if that makes any sense.
DiMarzio do make a few pickups that will do what you want, but generally Seymour Duncan are the kings of smoother and warmer tones. The DM Evo 2 is basically the same as the SD Custom, but a touch more transparent - there's a risk it will make your guitar sound like a Telecaster, its an odd trait and quite unpredictable. A standard Super Distortion may work out for you, I do think the Tone Zone or Breed would be a better fit for ebony/Floyd, but the Super Distortion does have more output if that's something you're really fixated on. If you can tear yourself away from super-high output - a good idea if you already run your amp with a lot of gain - then the DM AT-1 could work. I'm not a fan of it myself as it occupies a weird space between medium output and true high output, but tonally it does what you're after; slightly more output than a Full Shred and with a bigger focus on the low-mids than the treble.
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jeleopard
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#24
Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
1175 megavolts would be the equivalent of a couple of nuclear power stations mate.



... You DON'T have Uranium-powered pickups? SUPER ACTIVES!
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#25
Quote by KSEjunkie2468
Hmm yea I see on Dimarzio's site that pickup has

Mid: 8.0

Bass: 6.5

Treble: 5.0

For the EQ chart.

Are the mids too much do you think, and is it good sounding more metal? (I don't like scooped mids)

I have this pickup installed on my RR24 it's great though you'll need a bright amp to get it sounding right.

It's also not a friendly pickup in mahogany as it's way too dark on the top end.
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KSEjunkie2468
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#26
I use an Alternative 8 to warm up an all-maple, ebony-fretboard guitar. The result is similar in tone to my Les Paul with BurstBucker pickups. So... yeah. Warmth and thickness is what it's all about, not treble in any way.

Also, output can't be measured in mV. Well, technically it can, but those ratings are meaningless in practical applications. A Seymour Duncan Hot Stack, for example, will give you a much hotter reading than a SD Hot Rails, but when you stick them into an amp or mixer you'll find the Hot Rails has absurdly high output while the Hot Stack has barely more output than a regular Tele pickup. Again, this is why you shouldn't pay much attention to spec sheets and what the manufacturers say. Actually using lots of different pickups in the same or similar rigs is the only way to really tell what's going on
.
Quote by MrFlibble

This is also the very first time I've heard anyone call an Invader 'versatile'.

Compared to the EMG 81 bridge I meant XD. Which, turning rolling back the volume just gives the same tone but quiter.

"And the Full Shred doesn't use an Alnico 8, it has an A5." My mistake there, it is an A5 XD.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZYDYiOIuC8

at 1:19, the Alternative 8 plays, and I feel like its too trebly. XD Comparing to the Duncan Distortion and Invader.

Quote by MrFlibble
You don't really get "higher gain" than a Full Shred in a passive pickup. Mostly because gain is something on the amp, not related to the pickup But I knwo what you mean, and really the point is that output only really matters at the most extreme ends and with low to medium-gain amps. If you're using high gain on your amp then the pickup output won't matter much whe you're talking about passives. Actives have such a huge jump up that they will make a difference, but in the world of passives the output difference between something like, for example, a JB and an Invader is virtually nothing, unless you run quite low gain.


I don't know, when I play a moderate output pickup vs, a high input pickup, I can get both of them to have the same gain, but I need to turn up the gain control on the amp for the lesser output pickup, resulting in more noise and hum. The higher output doesn't need as such a high setting on the gain knob I've found. And doesn't output matter with passive pickups? I switched a full shred from a full shred in the neck of one guitar, to a distortion in the neck, and the fullshred sounded weak in comparison like it needed more gain from my amp. And yea the Invader and JB did have tonal similarities in that Ytube video I linked you to.

Quote by MrFlibble
But a hotter sound, we can certainly do. Leaving aside the Alt 8, the regular ol' SD JB would be a good place to start - it's simply a Full Shred wound for a little more output with more mids and bass.


But you said there was virtually no difference between a JB and invader.


And thanks for the other recommendations, I will consider those pickups!
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#27
The Alternative 8 has a prominent high mids.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryzie8mham8

EDIT: Ola used a Axe FX processor in the video you posted so it's going to have a better high end clarity since it's digital.
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Last edited by dark Mass at Nov 19, 2012,
KSEjunkie2468
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#28
Yea, I definitely prefer the tone of the JB here compared to the Alt 8. The Alt8 seems to weaken everything in accordance to my idea of the tone I'm looking for.

The JB and Duncan Custom sound pretty similar, and I find that the Distortion annihilates the Full Shred, which is what I have now, but the Distortion is supposed to have piss poor cleans.

The sound of the Custom and Distortion sound pretty similar, the distortion having a bit more oomph, but that that much more oomph. If the Custom has the best cleans of these pickups, then the custom looks like the way to go. But I do feel conflicted because Dimarzio's D Activator, Super Distortion etc., seem to have quite good reviews describing the tones I'm looking for. It'll come down between those pickups in the end I anticipate.

Does anyone know of Dimarzio videos where pickups are compared back to back?