Purchased from: Amazon.com
Sound — 8
The DiMarzio PAF Pro is a moderate output pickup designed as an "either position" type of humbucker for players who are looking for more cut and articulation in the mix. I am using this in the neck position of an ESP Eclipse II with a DiMarzio D Activator bridge humbucker, and the amp is a Marshall JVM 410H with a 1960 Vintage 4x12 cab.
As I said, I have this installed in the neck position, so the entirety of my review will be relative to that.
I have rarely used anything but vintage-output pickups in the neck position (the only exception being a DiMarzio Air Norton), but sometimes the rounder, fuller, and warmer character of vintage-style PAFs can lead to losing "cut" and can often times get lost in a loud, high-gain mix. So to achieve the best of both worlds, I decided to give this one a shot. I haven't been disappointed so far.
The lows are big and retain warmth and body, and the highs will definitely cut through a dense mix a bit better than vintage voiced neck pickups. I play a lot of heavy metal, ranging from Iron Maiden, Dio, and Metallica, to Ozzy Osbourne and Black Label Society, and this pickup has not done me wrong in any setting. High-gain leads are smooth, fluid and warm, but I will say that if you're looking to retain the fatter top end that comes with vintage PAFs, the highs with this pickup might feel and sound a bit thinner than those. Cleans are big-bodied and clear, but the pickup's hotter nature has led to a tone that breaks up a bit more easily on a clean setting than most other PAFs.
Reliability & Durability — 10
DiMarzio quality from start to finish here, kids. High-quality bobbins, well set lead wire(s), sturdy legs, Alnico 5 magnet, and a solid baseplate. The pole pieces are hexagonal, so it came with an Allen wrench for any fine tuning or adjusting that the player might deem necessary (I left mine at the factory height settings). Follow your wiring schematics, and installation is a breeze that requires only basic soldering skills.
I've never had anything happen to a pickup that was so drastic as to make it stop performing its intended function, so tens all around, right?
Overall Impression — 8
I have used close to fifty different pickups over nearly two decades of playing, and this one is not my favorite neck pickup, but it's a very good one that fills a need for players that want hotter output and overall cut and note separation. It's louder and a bit grittier than an Air Norton - there's noticeably less bass and an audible drop in the mids as well. It's not as fat as a 36th Anniversary or Seymour Duncan '59 or Alnico II Pro. I'd be interested to hear if anyone has used this in the bridge position and what their opinion is of it. I do wish that the cleans didn't break up quite so easily, but that can be skirted with slight technique adjustments. I play a lot of metal, but it also easily fits in with the blues and classic rock that I occasionally dabble in.
Bottom line: this pickup has a thirty-year history of doing exactly what it does. Were it not adequate or satisfying to the player, I can only imagine that it would have likely been phased out. So if you need more output, cut, and articulation from your neck pickup, this is a great choice.