Gear talk for the GAS-afflicted.

REVIEW: Epic DiMarzio PAF-off – PAF Master vs 36 Anniversary PAF

REVIEW: Epic DiMarzio PAF-off – PAF Master vs 36 Anniversary PAF

Oct 12, 2014

Hot on the heels of the universally loved 36th Anniversary PAF set – based on Larry DiMarzio’s personal 1959 Les Paul Standard, no less – DiMarzio recently released a new PAF-styled set, the PAF Masters.

Considering how well-received the 36th Annis have been, pretty much everyone was both excited and intrigued at the announcement. However, a lot of people also were a little bit confused when they were confronted with an official demo featuring Paul Gilbert and an Ibanez superstrat.

Let’s face it – the only real benchmark for a PAF-style humbucker is a Les Paul.


Unfortunately, I don’t have a 1959 LP Standard. I’ve asked Santa numerous times, as well as his anagram Satan (I heard that one might be able to exchange things for souls? 36 months deferred payment of course) but neither one of the sad bastards has returned my calls to date.

Fortunately, I was recently overcome by Les Paul GAS, and landed this beauty:

NZ Rockshop were kind enough to furnish me with both the bridge and neck PAF Master and 36th Anniversary sets… and thus the PAF-off began.

Guitar guts

I… hate soldering.

It’s really weird because by day I work in a highly technical profession, but as a guitar player, I’m as caveman as they come. I’m really not the kind of person who loves to twiddle around and wire up new switching combinations, or setup my own guitars to the nth degree… I just want to play.

So… if you hear about a house being burned down, and the fire being traced to some brand new DiMarzios, well, that was probably me.


Help. me.

Shut up and show us the clip!

Alright alright. No need to get rowdy.

It’s quite a long clip so let me break it down for you. Start with the first clip for the PAF Masters. Skip to this one if you want to hear the 36th Anni set:

If you want to hear both of the tracks isolated, this is the one you want:

The PAF Master set, clean as a bell, is here:

Chimey clean 36th Annis:

And the winner is…

Well, the winner is you, really. Yet another great flavour of PAF now exists in the world, and at non-insane prices.

The PAF Master set seems just a tinge hotter, to my ears, compared to the 36th Anniversary set. The bridge pickup has a much more immediate attack, and a bit more body to the tone, and as a result it’s just that little bit beefier. However, personally I preferred the more classic attack of the 36th Anni bridge. Both neck pickups sound gorgeous, and again the PAF Master neck pickup just seems a little bit hotter, and has a great, “tubular” sounding honk to it.

As for clean tones… well, I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy with a humbucker-based clean tone! Both sets balance warmth and chime perfectly, as befits a PAF, or what I think a PAF sounds like in my head, anyway. The bridge positions are, understandably, a little bit weedy, but combine it with the neck pickup and the result is a full-bodied, chimey clean that’ll knock your socks off. I’m really starting to understand now why the magical PAF tone is so coveted.

If I had to choose one word to compare the two sets I’d call the 36th set “sweeter” and the PAF Master set “raunchier” – but keep in mind that this is still within the PAF-style wheelhouse, so it’s not like I’m saying the PAF Masters sound like Super Distortions. The differences are reasonably subtle, so it’ll just come down to personal preference at the end of the day.

At the end of the day, I couldn’t really decide which one I wanted to keep in my Les Paul. I prefer the feel of the 36th set but listening back to the recordings, I almost prefer the PAF Masters by a hair.

What do you think? Which one sounds better to you, and which one would YOU keep?



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