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Pick-up Newb Wanting To 'hot' Up His Axe


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hey dudes

yeh im seriously electronically (for lack of a better word) retarded when it comes to the finer aspects of Pick-up specs. Basically i have an Ibanez RG 1570 Prestige, and i ran into a bit of money recently and im in the market for scrapping my stock pups, coz they sound utterly shithouse now even tho its only been one year - i dont think i treat them that well. Anyways i want to get a new set of pups to turn my mediocre RG into a beast, but i seriously don't noe where to begin. Ok basically im looking for sum pups that sustain like crazy, are really sensitive to light touch, but have a unique tone all wen switched to distortion. In a nutshell Steve Vai/Petrucci/Holdsworth type tones (And yes i noe that most of their tone comes from their amps etc). I also want a really good bluesy tone 'SRV'-esque (yes i also noe his tone is impossible to get).

Thanks try your best to understand my dribble

PS. What are single coil pickups??? i used to see my old guitar tutor pull his tone knob up on his own RG and it wood sound like a strat????

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Petrucci and Vai use DiMarzio pickups, the Evolution, Breed, Norton, and Tone Zone model, I think. The Evolution is one of the hottest pickups you can buy and will cover just about any kind of shredding you can handle. The Breed is slightly lower output and has a much cleaner, less wooly sound when used for clean tones. Vai uses his Breed-equipped guitars for just that purpose or softer, less hardcore overdrive.

Petrucci uses the Air Norton and Air Zone, I believe. His sound isn't necessarily over-the-top speed shredding, either. His guitars have to sound good both clean and overdriven, so the Air pickups are a little kinder to clean amps.

Alan Holdworth is now an endorser of Carvin guitars and they make replacement Holdsworth pickups for any humbucker-equipped guitar.

Personally, I think Vai/Petrucci/Holdsworth are completely different animals compared to SRV. SRV's tone came from beat-up old Strats with overwound single-coils and Dumble/Matchless amps. The idea was not over-the-top shredding. You can come close by coil-splitting the pickups with switch or push-pull pot, but your basswood guitar and distortion-oriented pickups are going to sound significantly different no matter what.

Here's what I prefer: vintage-style, lower power pickups and a hot amp. Slash, Hendrix, and Page made do with relatively weak but clean pickups and still managed to lay down some hot licks. Sensitivity to attack is great if all you're going to do is shred, but IMHO you can't beat a set of SD Alinico II Pros or Pearly Gates for TONE.

I watched Vai accompany Nelly Furtado at the Grammys a few years back and his clean tone just sounded too sterile and cold even with running a Breed-equipped JEM.

Since you sound like more of a metal fiend, I'd go with a Seymour Duncan JB bridge/'59 neck combo and a Classic Stack in the middle pickup position. That'll get you Dave Mustaine and Phil Collen's setup. You can also coil-split the JB as well. Or the ever classic EMG 81/S/81 combo. Active electronics give you sensitivity and cleanliness , but the tone can be a bit brash.

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I'm kind of partial to the DiMarzio FRED that Satriani uses along with the other one that I can't remember. I have an FRED installed in one of my guitars, on the bridge. It has a pretty hot output and it's a nice sounding pickup, IMO.

i used to see my old guitar tutor pull his tone knob up on his own RG and it wood sound like a strat????

It sounds to me like a coil tap. Basically, a coil tap grounds one of the coils in the humbucker and you then have a single coil pickup.

Edited by Paul Marossy
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yeh my mate has fitted his 1570 with evolution and i hear nothing but good reports.

im actually not a big metal fan, im into sweeter harmonies with awsum vai-like leads and melodies, despite the fact i enjoy the occasional metallica solo my musical pallete (if thats how u spell it) is more centred around jazz/blues and mahavishnu orchestra lol

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yeh but thats the thing, as much as i love traditional jazz like the unparalleled virtuoso Joe Pass, im more of a jazz fusionist (despite the fact im as dumb as dogshit, in terms of jazz theory to craft holdsworthian type interval leads) so im really not after a traditional jazz sound, rather a 'newskool' metal sound to burn over a jazz harmony

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Don't worry--either of those combos will still burn hot enough to get the sound you're looking for. The key is they blend power with clarity, something rather difficult to get in high-power passives. If you want to spend some money and go active, check out the EMG 85.

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I truely believe that you are looking for an alnico pickup.

I honestly believe that the greatest sounding pickups use alnico magnets. Sure, there are a lot of good ceramic magnet pickups availible, but I would recomend an alnico humbucker to you.

It seems that you do want a fairly versitile humbucker- if you want Vai sounds AND SRV type tones.

All of the players you mentioned used high gain pickups (well, the SRV pickups are said to be hot, if not high gain).

Therefore, it seems that you are looking for a 'hot' sounding pickup (more winds- more DC resistance, I believe).

I admit that I am VERY biased, but I think that you can get a great high gain sound out of an alnico humbucker, but not a great clean-ish sound out of a ceramic (I am sure that there are exeptions, but as I said, I am VERY biased). I dont think you could get an SRV type sound with ceramic pickups, but I think Alnico may get you in the similar ball park.

Therefore, if I were you, I would look for a high DC resistance rated alnico pickup (an alnico 5 would probably be most suitable).

If possible (an if money permits)- I would have it scatterwound.

Both Dimarzio and Seymour Duncan have the criteria I mentioned for each pickup availible on their respective sites.

I hope thats a help,

good luck man,


Edited by LukeR
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Try www.bareknucklepickups.co.uk they have distributers most places tho. I had a Miricle Man made slightly custom made. If you talk to him he is EXREMELY helpful and knowledgeable!!!!!!!!!! he can wind exactly what you want and if you dont like it then you can send it back to be replaced. They do quite a range and I have to say Im VERY pleased with the miricle man- great harmonics, great tone and high output.

I had a Kent Armstrong Motherbucker before and that was Hot!! 27.5k!!! but it was a sounded to cold compared to the MM, and didnt have as good harmonics.

Even so check out there whole range, plus their all scatterwound.


PS this is to anyone wanting PU's

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Well, active pickups use batteries, and passives do not :D. (there is obviosly alot more to it than that- circuits as well as batteries, but the battery is the giveaway)

The batteries power extra tonal control ability (do to the circuitry). More tonal flexibility.

That said, a common complaint about active pickups are that they can sound sterile- not warm. I dont know if i nessesarily believe that myself- I think, like graphite guitar necks, you just have to mess around with your amp settings.

With active pickups, there is also the issue of having room to install the battery in the controll cavity- you may not have room- although i assume that you probably would.

EMGs make great active pickups; I dont think I know of any other notable active pickup manufacturers myself, but I am sure that there are.

There was an aussie company run by Tony Snape called Mastertone pickups- i am not sure if they are around anymore, but they made GREAT actives.

Personally, I have only used passives myself (MANY differnt pickups) and have discovered through trial and error what I do and dont like. I think try a few differnt types of pickups, and see what you like.

Dimarzio and Seymour duncan have sound samples at their sites as well, which is a help.

Hope thats a help


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yeh i checked out the active EMG's (i went to the site and had a read) and despite the fact i still don't know what im looking at because all this electronic crapola excedes my mental capacity for logical comprehension, im sorta leading in the active EMG direction (well i gotta start somewhere). I read the active EMG humbuckers and P-90's are really sensitive, and i was wondering wat you guys thought.

Also is it possible to combine active pickups and passive pickups eg. have a active EMG as your neck and say a DiMarzio Evolution as your bridge????

peace out


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