Oct 10, 2013
It is with great pleasure that we welcome our latest contributor to the site, Mr Sean Bodley. Sean is an enthusiast for all things Ibanez, and recently had his awesome collection of RGs and JEMs shared by the official Ibanez Facebook page! Guitar teacher by day and live shred wizard by night, he’s here to share his unique perspective on the guitars he loves. ~thesamurai
Sean Bodley here again, following up my JEM70V review a while back with a pickup shoot-out.
Deciding on the right pickup for your needs can be a daunting task – it’s not like you can try it before you buy it, right? I thought I’d use my army of RGs with various different pickups to do a comparison of some of the most popular Dimarzio humbuckers, namely the Steve Vai signature models – Evo, Breed and Gravity Storm. Since most RGs are quite similar in construction, I felt like this would be as close as you could get to a direct A/B/C comparison, barring actually replacing pickups 3 times in the same guitar.
Steve Vai has been endorsing (and using!) Dimarzio pickups for quite some time now. His earliest signature model Ibanez JEMs made use of the PAF Pro which has become one of the most popular of the Dimarzio line. However as Steve drove the evolution of the instrumental electric guitar genre, his sound and tonal preferences also evolved along with him, which resulted in a whole bunch of signature pickups over the years.
The Evolution or ‘Evo’ as its come to be known, is the most powerful pickup of the Vai range. On the EQ curve, it has less bass than the others but an overall higher power output. This is the perfect pickup for soloing as it cuts through the mix in either the bridge or neck position, and has great, rich harmonic response.
This pickup can be used in any solid body guitar, including Les Pauls, etc and will compliment a mid to high gain amp well. The clean tone is warm on the bridge pickup and when split, can add that cool ‘Vai-ish’ sparkle to your tone…
Okay, let’s check out some clips. Here I’m using the Evo set in an Ibanez RG331. First up is the clean tone (with a little chorus/reverb/delay) and in 5 different positions… Neck -> Neck Split -> Both -> Bridge Split -> Bridge only:
And here is a clip with gain and a little delay to taste – first up is the neck pickup, then the bridge:
This was the second pickup in the Vai line to be released. Now a couple of years on, it has cemented itself as a popular pickup choice for rock and metal fans alike.
Output wise, it has less power than the Evo, but more than the Gravity Storm, and out of all three has the highest mids and bass with a lower treble response. It is more powerful than the PAF Pro and can most easily be classed as ‘fatter’ and ‘smoother’ than any of its counterparts.
This pickup is very dynamic and cleans up well. As I understand, Steve designed this model to beef up the sound of a 25.5″ scale, double locking trem guitar.
Okay – clips! For this one, I’m using both the bridge and neck Breed pickups in an Ibanez RG2XXV in conjunction with an HS-2 single coil in the middle.
Here it is on clean (again with a little delay/chorus/reverb) in the following positions… Neck -> Neck Split with Single -> Single -> Bridge Split with Single -> Bridge :
And an overdriven clip going from neck to bridge position:
While Steve has also released an Evo 2 (a slightly hotter version of the Evo), I felt that his latest model, the Gravity Storm marks some cool new tonal territory for a Vai pickup, and that’s why I wanted to cover it in the shoot-out.
Similar to the Breed, it is also a beefier sounding pickup, designed with 24 fret, 25.5″ scale double locking trem guitars in mind. It has a throaty, warm sound on the neck and searing highs and mids when on the bridge position. Its a very smooth pickup and if blues is your thing (but you still need your blazing shred tones), I think this one could be what you’re looking for…
Let’s find out! I’m using the Gravity Storm neck and bridge pickup in a mahogany bodied Ibanez RG321. Same drill as before. Clean:
Pickups are a lot like picks themselves… everyone prefers different ones for different reasons. Personally, I use The Breed when I play live for rock/metal based music, the Gravity Storm when I want a warmer, more blues based tone and the Evo in the studio for big, epic leads. I honestly don’t think you can go wrong with any of these pickup combos, and as with all Dimarzios. they’re easy to mix and match with other models for an endless array of tonal possibilities. I hope this has helped you a little, and good luck with that hunt for ‘your’ perfect tone!
Thanks for reading – see you guys next time!