Thursday, 27 May 2010

DiMarzio DP408 Virtual Vintage '54 Pro

Sometimes I don't know who is more particular about the particulars; physicists, art collectors, or Blues Guitarists. I can't even begin to count how many times I've had to referee a near bare-knuckle brawl over which was better; "Ceramic" Capacitors or "Paper in Oil". Holy Moley, the level of detail that is debated about guitars.... so, am I completely out of my mind to even bring up the topic of "Best Blues Guitar Pickup" ?


But first, we must take a moment for my disclaimer: Discussions of guitar pickups are more subjective than that of lovers and football teams. Everything that follows here is merely my opinion. I do not claim to be right, smarter than the average bear or more experienced than the next civilian. I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on T.V.

Ok, disclaiming done.

That all said, I am much more of a 25 1/2" scale kinda guy; hence my Les Paul with hardly a scratch on it, and my pile of Tele & Strat bodies that look like they go back to the Johnson administration. So, my taste in pickups tends to meander more into single coil territory. Although, a pair of early to mid '70s T-Tops are also very very nice to sprinkle on your Cocoa Puffs in the morning. But I digress.

Today I ask permission to rave about the DiMarzio DP408 Virtual Vintage '54 Pro. I have gone 'round and 'round on the subject of Dimarzio pickups ever since I bought my first X2n in 1979...or 1980... it's all getting a bit fuzzy... and what the heck was I thinking buying an X2n? (answer: I was young and stupid), but I digress again. After all the back and forth with
Dimarzio pickups, never hating, just flip-flopping on how much I liked 'em, I came across the Virtual Vintage series. I stopped, stomped out my cigarette, got down on one knee, and proposed on the spot.

I just can't find anything to not love about these puppies. Loud, Snappy, Crisp and no hum.... my kinda girl. And when I say no hum, I mean 4-trackin' late at night,
plugged into your overdrive, pro-tools fired-up, your guitar a mere one inch from the monitor... no hum. Now that's a bit extreme.... but y'know, there you are on stage, playin' louder than you know you are supposed to, you stomp on your favorite OD, kick into your big solo, and no screech, no hum, just really great tone. Sold, I'll take two... no wait, I'll take three.

I think these are particularly outstanding because while they do nail the vintage thing, they also handle serious drive with no problem. They are excellent in a set and play well with other kids too. Some say that all the members of the Virtual Vintage series are too bright. Well, I have always felt that it is a bit easier to darken up a bright pickup than it is to accomplish the opposite. Personally, I don't think it's an issue at all. These darken up very nicely and I believe that most amplifiers built in the last 70 years have at least one or two knobs that allow you to adjust your tone.... unless I'm missing something.

I know... someone is gonna chime in here that "XYZ Bonker Rails" or the "Acme Jilbo 5000" is a better pickup for Blues. See my rambling disclaimer at the top of this post please, and then come back. Of course I love a bunch of other single coil pickups for Blues. I've only written about a gazillion articles about how great Fender Texas Specials are, as well as the very cool Seymour Duncan SSL-5, Maybe "Best" is to much, who knows. I will admit that I get a little over enthusiastic about pickups sometimes (yet if you ask me when is my Sister's birthday is I will will draw a blank). That is my cross to bear, I just love pickups.

In summary, I do hate to sound like a paid endorser of this Staten Island marvel, but what a great pickup. Bell like chime? you got it. Thick / Leathery / Creamy molasses? You got it. Serious Grindage when you pull the tap off the keg? You got it. Not every pickup is gonna be everyone's cup of tea, but if you are still in search of one damn fine vintage & noiseless Strat pickup for Blues, this one is definitely worth a try. If you don't love it, fine, just throw it up on eBay and you'll get most if not all of your bucks back. You gotta really try pickups before you know if they are right for you. If you are looking for a new one (or set of three) to try, these are highly recommended. And if you want a low-maintenance way of dippin' your toe in the water, check out pre-wired assemblies, they really make your life a lot easier when experimenting with Strat or Tele pickups.

Kevin Chisholm

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