Price paid: $ 140
Purchased from: Online
Sound — 9
First of all, Let it be known that I installed thes pups in my ESP F-2e with a locking trem and coil splitting. The body is mahogany for the most part with an awesome neck-through design and 24 extra jumbo frets which make the guitar buzz a lot as I have the action pretty low.This also pushes the neck pickup closer to the bridge, making it not as warm sounding as a Strat or Les Paul with fewer frets. You could say this is slightly compensated for by the longer scale length(25 1/2) The strings I use are 9-42 gauge. The stock pickups sounded pretty dry and lifeless, and worse when coil-tapped, so I decided to replace them. I got these pickups at a reasonable price online(about 70$ each) and chose them in F-spacing. I was going for a good all-around sound of hot output pickups without too much low end and good harmonics, good for leads, clean sounds, and even a little rhythm playing on distortion, but no batteries.These Pickups are very balanced and open sounding.They come with those adjustable pole pieces DiMarzio Pickups have on some of their models. I didn't really bother with those. After I installed them(which took a little time to figure out because of the coil tapping), I noticed first the transparency of the guitar on a clean setting. Both pickups sound just as good clean as they do distorted. The lows were not beefy at all, probably due to the lower resistance than usual High output passive pickups(these are around 11.4 K for the bridge and 7.2 for the neck.)This could be a good thing or bad thing depending on your playing style, but I already have all the beefiness I want on an Epiphone Les Paul with Seymour Duncans(JB and Jazz). The guitar has a natural brightness that isn't thin-sounding or harsh sounding. The 9-42 gauge strings only add to the brightness and they really glisten, especially when coil-tapped. The neck pickup isn't very warm or fat sounding, but it is just enough so that it sounds good in contrast to the bridge pickup yet still matches its sound character. This makes these two pickups a perfect pair. I'll bet they would sound even better in a guitar with more bass like a Les Paul: they would really bring out the brightness but with a more moderate fatness to it. Still, when you crank it up, the sound of these pickups Is not exactly what I expected. To be honest though, I expected an EMG-like pickup that's got more headroom and has the tighter lows and brightness DiMarzio pickups are famous for, like a cross between an EMG1 and a PAF Pro. The sound could probably be described this way, but not quite as focused, and a little more noisy, like an Evolution pickup. On the two crunch channels of my amp, I tested the pickup's reaction to differen't levels of overdrive/distortion.(All I have tested them out on is a Crate 120 watt three channel with shape controll. Solid state.) I found that It can really push the rhythm channel into total overdrive, with a unique type of crunch to it that accents the upper midrange and high end and leaves the bass present but in the background. It's very sensitive to pick attack, and the guitar is almost clean on 1 but screams on 10. There is lots of treble though, which I like, but could probably be remedied with a 250K pot(instead of the usual 500K) for the tone control or something. The neck pickup will keep up with the bridge pickup and even can get some decent harmonics which is pretty rare. When the two pickups are together though, the harmonics are hard to get and sound muffled. Dive bombs and squeals on the bridge pickup are exceptional. And the best part, it makes your wah come alive! On the heavier channel, the distortion is so thick It can get a bit over the top at 10, but because of the tight low end, It won't get muddy. Not even on the neck pickup. The wah pedal doesn't sound as raw and expressive on this channel, but what wah does sound good on a lot of distortion? Also, the midrange gets really crazy in this amount of distortion, so It's probably best to scoop or shape it out. On lots of overdrive, you better have your palm muting the strings you aren't playing at all times because these pickups will hear everything.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall I would rank these pickups a nine. I really think it is a nice, clear, transparent sounding pickup that will open up the sound of a guitar that you like the sound of to start with; If you have a crappy guitar, these pickups won't fix it(well maybe they'll help...) and If you like the power and beefiness of guitars with fat-sounding low end, these pickups aren't for you. They offer crunch easily and readily, but still have a very good, if not better, clean sound.
Reliability & Durability — 9
The pickups were constructed like they were meant to last. I don't really think that it needs to be durable because it's just a pickup. It just sits there in the center of your guitar under your strings. If you are careful with your guitars like everyone should be, there shouldn't be a factor of dependability as long as it is wired correctly and sounds good.