PAF MASTER NECK & BRIDGE REVIEW
So… I woke up on my birthday to the sound of the mailman knocking on my door to be pleasantly surprised by a parcel from DiMarzio. It turns out they were nice enough to send me an evaluation set of the awesome new PAF Master humbuckers!!
PAF Master neck with the worn nickel cover and the bridge in the ever elusive double cream bobbins. Both standard spaced with vintage long legs and single conductor cables. Basically, a true vintage set.
Side note: This is the first time I’ve ever got the worn nickel covers from DiMarzio and I gotta say, I kinda like them!
Seeing that the majority of my guitars are either routed for the triangular ears that are standard on most DiMarzio pickups, the number of guitars I could fit these pickups in were pretty slim. Since the pickups were probably a perfect fit in an old Les Paul that I don’t own. I decided to put them in the next best thing, My ESP Potbelly!!
The setup: ESP Potbelly, 9-50’s, tuned E-Standard to a concert pitch of A432 (yeah, I’m weird). The amp is my ever trusty Egnater seminar amp I built a few years back with a DiMarzio cloth covered cable in between. No effects, amp EQ set wide open.
Time to plug in the guitar, turn the amp to 11 and whacking the E power chord!! My first impression is…. 😀 (yes, the smiley face is the first impression. If a picture is worth 1000, an emoticon is worth at least 200). It’s got some really nice crunch, tight bottom end and enough roar to scare away little animals in the vicinity or at least my dog. It’s 110% Rock N’ Roll attitude.
In more detail
Compared to the PAF 36th, the bridge is definitely brighter with more bite and definition. The added upper mids gives the illusion of having more output than the 36th. The bottom end feels more defined and rounded than the 36th but doesn’t quite have the body that I’m used to having with the custom DiMarzio on the EBMM EVH. It’s great for everything from blues to Hard Rock but not so much for modern metal but definitely can pull off more of the vintage metal stuff.
I’m really impressed by how well the bridge pickup reacts to pick dynamics. Easing up on the attack almost feels like I’m rolling down the volume or cutting back on the presence, making it really easy to take everything down a notch or building up energy in a song really easy. What I used to do with my volume control with the higher output pickups I’m used to, I can do with my picking alone.
Switching over to the neck pickup with a decent amount of gain, the first thing that came to my mind oddly enough was… Slash.
I’m normally not one to refer to Slash and his tone but busting out pentatonics high up the fretboard just had a tone that screamed Sweet Child o’ Mine. Which is great for those that wanted that Slash sound but wanted to stick with the DiMarzio family of products. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the PAF Master was really DiMarzio’s take on the Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro Slash pickups. It’s got nice body but with enough bite for a really smooth throaty tone. Dig the pick harder and you can hear the tone get a bit more aggressive, lighten the attack and it gets rounder. Very nice!!!!
It’s not quite as smooth and liquid like the Air Norton or liquifire but definitely can hold its own with the shredders. Especially for those looking for something closer to what Joe Satriani has without being too much like Joe, although I can totally see him using the bridge pickup in the neck position.
Going to the clean channel and staying on the neck pickup, it has the same bell like top end I found in the PAF 36th but with more body. Very nice for blues and jazz without any harshness. The low notes are clear and well defined without getting muddy. Multi note chords ring through without the notes getting lost. This gives the bluesbucker a run for the money as my go to pickup for clean tones.
The bridge on clean is a bit harsh as most bridge position humbuckers normally are, but crank up the gain on the clean channel and it’s got this fantastic sound when you just want a semi-clean tone with just little bit of break up. Here I can really feel how much my picking affects the tone. The notes break up while picking harder and then quickly clean up as I ease up. Normally I don’t typically use the bridge pickup on clean much but the PAF Master is slowly making me change my mind.
That’s it for my initial impression of the pickups. I’ll definitely have to give it another go, but I can definitely see the PAF Master set as having a permanent home in my guitars and definitely a pickup I’ll be recommend to others. If you wanted something like the PAF 36th bridge with a bit more attitude and bite while still maintaining that vintage PAF vibe, this is it!! Now if only they made a 7 string version.