I recently purchased a stock ibanez rg920qm.

My "main" guitar is a Epiphone Les Paul Custom 50th Anniversary 2002.

I picked up the Ibanez because I need a backup and figured why not get a whammy and a neck that is easier to play on the higher frets. So I bid on this for $300 with never a thought that I'd actually win it for that price.

The two things that bug me about the Ibanez are the pickups and the volume knobs.

I want to get a sound similar to my epi lp. I need the Ibanez to sound a little fatter on the bridge for dirt (but not too muddy when playing a low F) and just a little bright for clean. I like nice warm tones on the neck.

I play through a vox nt50h.

The volume knobs on the Ibanez pretty much go from 0 - 7 and I get a little play between 7-10, which means I don't get jack sh*t. On dirt I like to turn the knob down and get a decent cleaner tone and with this guitar I can't even do a simple volume swell.

The 3rd thing working against me is that I'm just plain ignorant when it comes to the technical aspects of guitars, thankfully forums and fine folks like yourself exist. ;-)

I've listened to some pickups on the seymour duncan website and have read about the APH-2s Alnico II Pro, and the hot rodded set. Either of those sets seem to have positive reviews.

Any feedback on what to do about my pickups and volume knobs? Thank you!
I was going to maybe recommmend TB-11 but the Alnico II may work perfectly. I think you'll need the Trembucker version. As far as the 'volume knob' problem - that is actually more of a function of the volume pot (potentiometer). Pots themselves are not that expensive actually but may require an hours worth of labor to swap out. It is also possible that volume pot you have now is dirty. But with new new pickups and labor you may be looking at $150-$200 anyway so the question becomes 'what's the point'? I mean, if you really like the guitar and don't mind investing time and money into it then go for it but personally, I would have gone out and played an RG first. Does this have a Floyd Rose on it?

Also, if this has quilted maple I want to see a picture of it
As far as pots go, it really depends how you set your amp up. Volume pots on guitars can be used to control how loud you are if you have your amp set for quite low gain and if you use an audio taper (logarithmic) pot. They can also be used to control how distorted your sound is if you use medium gain and a linear taper pot; in this way it is better to think of them as an output control, rather than as a volume control. You can't really do both in one set up and if you're playing with high gain (whether that's just high preamp gain or you're using medium preamp gain but also cranking the power amp high) then the pot taper becomes almost irrelevant, since the sound will be so compressed you'll be getting uneven, sudden changes in sound regardless.

So, have a think about how you set up the rest of your rig and how you play and switch the pots for a taper that suits you. Do bear in mind that if/when you change pickups—and therefore the output of your guitar—the taper of the volume control may feel different. It's quite possible to get pickups with so much or so little output that nothing you do with any volume control is going to make much difference.

As for the pickups, what you're currently getting is more output but from a guitar that has a naturally far, far brighter tone than your Epiphone. I can tell you now that no matter what pickups you put in the Ibanez, it will never sound the same as an pi LP. Ibanez make some of the brightest-sounding guitars on the planet; Epiphone make some of the darkest-sounding. Pickups can only compensate for so much. Ultimate, your amp dictates your overall tone and your guitars' construction is what mostly defines their tone. Bear this in mind and adjust your expectations accordingly.

To that end, SD Alnico II Pros are the worst thing you could use. They are designed for a very clear tone to let the guitars' construction and amp really dominate the sound; they don't compensate for anything. Yes, they sound very thick and warm in a Les Paul, but they sound very thin and cold in a super-Strat. The Hot Rodded set (JB and Jazz) is the same deal. They're higher output but very, very bright pickups, which will exaggerate the natural characteristics of the guitar you put them in.

Try a SD 59/Custom Hybrid in the bridge. This is a thick-sounding pickup in almost any guitar and it has enough output to give you good range when rolling the output down to clean up, without being a very hot metal-only monster. An SD Custom 5 could also be a good option, as again it is hot without being untameable and its tone is warm enough to somewhat balance a bright guitar. DiMarzio Tone Zone and Breed pickups will thicken up the sound of a super-Strat considerably, but they are also very high output and rolling them back to a cleaner sound can be hard unless you set your gain very low.
For the neck, take a look at the SD Pearly Gates. It's your typical PAF copy but wound just a bit hotter with slightly stronger mids, so it can thicken up the neck position of any guitar without relying on huge output, which can be muddy in the neck. If you did want to risk higher output at the neck, try a DiMarizio Breed Neck, or even an SD 59/Custom Hybrid.

You should also see if you can replace the nut and bridge saddles with graphite compound ones, such as the String Saver line from Graph Tech. This will warm up the sound a lot. Tuning a half step down and/or using a string gauge .0005 thicker (e.g. .0105 instead of .010) will help reduce the extra brittle bite you get from the longer scale length.
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Last edited by MrFlibble at Apr 1, 2013,
Which volume pots to buy depends on whether the pickups you buy are tapped or not. A switched pot will cost you more. Still should only cost about $10 for something good like a Bourne. Ebay is your friend, just search for "Bourne 500K audio pot." Replace all the pots, get whatever switched ones you may need - put some good pots in there.
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It has an Edge-Zero II tremolo. I have the red quilted maple, just search for ibanez rg920qm to see it.
Thx MrFlibble for the detailed response. I'm going to look in to those pups you recommended.