Purchased from: Tommy's Guitar Shop, and the Trading Musician
Sound — 9
In a way, this review is a continuation of my Hondo Paul Dean II review - but this time will focus more on the pickups!
The DiMarzio Super II was introduced in the late 1970's by Larry DiMarzio's company as a neck position pickup (primarily) due to it's trebly character.
The guitar I put it in is a all original, bone stock, 1983 Hondo Paul Dean II - which in 1983, was originally available with the stock Hondo pickups, a pair of open-coil ceramic magnet affairs rating in at around 7.16K Ohms, and pretty sharp sounding, if a bit microphonic with certain amps.
But in 1983, if you bought a Hondo Paul Dean II (which was the Japanese version of the Vancouver hand-built Odyssey Paul Dean guitars he used on the early Loverboy records) - they came available with the exact vintage pickups I sourced locally - the DiMarzio DP104 Super II Humbucker - the full cover, plastic shell version - which basically just looks like a plastic block with allen poles sticking out of the top. You got one in each position. This version of the Super II was sold between 1979 and 1987ish or so.
Here's a rundown of the Paul Dean's specs, you can see me review that guitar on my review in the guitar section.
- Japanese built at Tokai, Samick, or Matasmoku in 1982-1984
- Sen Ash Body with a bulbous Strat-style shape
- 3 Piece Maple Neck, Maple Fingerboard, 21 jumbo frets, 24.75" Scale
- elongated Tele-like headstock with sealed tuners & 10 degree tilt
- STOCK PICKUPS: Hondo Humbuckers, Ceramic, 7.16K Ohms, Open Coil
- THESE PICKUPS: DiMarzio DP-104 SUPER II, availibe originally on these guitars at a $60 upcharge from the original $349.99 price in 1983 dollars
- ABS haircell plastic anti-scratch pickguard
- 1 3-way switch, 2 500K pots (volume/tone), Tone recovery cap on volume
- Leo Quan Badass Bridge
I'm using this guitar with a Bugera 333XL with a Peavey 412M Cabinet, a Blackstar IDCORE 10, and a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier head into a Orange 2X12 Cabinet.
I think Paul's reason for using these pickups in his Canadian home built originals was as an upgrade from the P-90 pickups he had in the original prototype, just without the noise and hum of a P-90 in a time when things like the P-100 and Dream 90 were not invented yet.
Overall, the pickups are not at all noisy, and have a very balanced sound, sort of like a thicker version of what my Fender Jaguar with cool rails sounds like - thick, fat, nice midrange spike, good treble, but not flabby, blatty, or muddy - these pickups stay TIGHT, even when the gain is cranked to hell and back....honestly, I think this is how Paul Dean had such a killer tone on the old Loverboy records - trebly humbucker + super-high-gain amp setup (except he was using ganged channeled, modified Hiwatts and Marshalls) and you get a sound that's just as at home playing "1000 Horsepower" as sit is playing "Turn Me Loose".
In the bridge, the treble sting, combined with the chambered neck and body of the Hondo, is still there, actually somewhat rectified by this pickup. If it sounded vocal before, it REALLY sounds vocal now. It's got also what I call the "DiMarzio Grind" there, sounding like a augmented Cobain Jaguar in some cases and sounding like a treble heavy death machine when the gain is cranked and the mids removed - or like Loverboy on steroids - hehe - Haterman... I might have to use that as a band name someday.
In the neck position, there's a very warm/tight response without getting muddy or flabby, which is the whole point to this pickup. With both on with great gain, and a good chorus, it can do the "Always on my Mind" intro and hold those notes in a very psycho way.
Clean, it sounds like a very sharp, tight, but warm Les Paul with a little bit of the Stratty "Chime" there in all positions, with a fruity "both on" setting, a almost Jazzmaster-like response on the neck, and a very clacky, snarly, midrangey bridge position tone.
Either way, very satisfied with the outcome sound-wise. This pickup really enhanced the unique sonic capabilities of Paul's guitar design.
One other thing - with this guitar - SUSTAIN FOR DAYS! The first thing that happened putting it into the Mesa at 90's band rehearsal was practically a poor-man's E-bow. I could hold notes for an eternity with the pickups just the right distance from the amp and could let that red and black monster sing - Winton Marsalis would run out of breath on his trumpet before this guitar does!
The only problem I had was with the Mesa Boogie, some microphonic activity that does not happen with my Bugera, especially on the neck pickup which I had not re-potted. I give em' a 9.
Reliability & Durability — 9
These pickups are built REALLY well for road use being epoxy sealed like EMG's. Just as long as you pot them and don't let a lot of sweat or moisture buildup inside the covers I suppose, but I've never hard of that happening to these pickups. Because they are enclosed, wax potting them is a piece of cake when they get microphonic after years of service, just stick em' in face up and the wax will fill the whole thing up.
Wiring them can be tricky for the inexperienced, but being DiMarzio's, the wiring codes are well documented so it should not be too bad. These are 4 conductor and can be split, I chose not to because the guitar originally did not have that operation. It's not like another project of mine where I'm wiring in a third lead to coil split some cheap First Act humbuckers or something.
The only caveat of these pickups, especially on the Hondo guitar, or any guitar that has a "cut to fit open coil pickups" setup (another example would be a Fender Jag-Stang or Lonestar Stratocaster) is that you WILL have to enlarge the pickup holes to fit these pickups in. You can't just square them off, they need widened by about 1/16 of an inch before they fit. I actually did this using some scissors, nail clippers, and files, and got a professional looking result. It was a bit more tricky because of the warped pickguard (a problem with the Hondo Paul Dean II's with the anti-scratch guards on them).
Overall Impression — 9
I've been playing about 22 years, and own a metric ton of gear you can see on my profile (including the guitar I installed these pickups into).
I play a lot of different styles. In general I'm a heavy metal guitarist, I have the technical lead abilities, and know some theory, but I also have very holistic/chaotic Punk/Grunge-type leanings and some Pop/New Wave/Post-Punk leanings as well.
the only thing I wish I'd done before buying this was thought and measured more about the pickup holes, but since I bought this guitar to PLAY rather than hang around and say "look at this cool old Japanese only signature model Hondo ever made" thing, I decided sacrificing one to the period correct pickups that would have come in the guitar anyway, and were available aftermarket, is just fine.
That Hondo is not going anywhere - not with out a fight! If it were lost or stolen, I'll have templates made soon so I can copy it in my own shop.
Can't find anything I hate about the pickups. Pretty much my favorite feature is how these pickups - probably due to them being an element of this guitar's original design specification - really bring out the unique and special voice it has. I did consider buying the newer pickups and installing those, but that would mean buying TWO pickups instead of one to go with the one I bought 10 years ago.
Overall, a 9, great value, neck or bridge, and on these rare and weird guitars, they were a part of the original specification, and while the Hondo pickups sound great, these do boost it up quite a bit, especially in the low-end and overall grind department. Weather playing Loverboy or Linkin' Park - these pickups will go the distance.