The reach of Dream Theater’s axeman John Petrucci spans well beyond the prog-rock/metal scene. Petrucci is in the elite class of a player’s player that frequently sends mere mortals back to the woodshed until strings break or fingers bleed. The Illuminator DP256 Neck and DP257 Bridge were unleashed in 2013 as Petrucci’s newest (at the time) signature set of pickups.
While testing and reviewing the DiMarzio Titan 6-string set, the video of Jake Bowen and Petrucci jamming together with their respective rigs really sold me on digging in to the Illuminator set. To check out the Illuminator set, I used the same guitar used to test and review the D-Activator set, the MegaDrive bridge and the Dominion bridge… a double hum super-strat with a maple neck, maple board, a maple body (that responds like alder), and a double-locking tremolo system. I used the same clean and dirty amp settings as always.
Comparing the specs between the Illuminator set and 2009’s CrunchLab LiquiFire set might have people wondering about how similar the specs look on paper. Very similar outputs. Pretty similar DC Resistance. Slightly tweaked EQ tone numbers. Lemme tell ya, that’s about where it ends.
The Illuminators are more alive and open sounding. They breath a little more while maintaining presence that punches through the mix with authority. The lows are controlled and big… never muddy, loose or flabby… but not constricted, brittle or overly tight. The mids have a dominant roar to them that keeps the open chords clear and the lead work precise. The highs have a punch that delivers presence without being too rounded and keeps from being too sharp.
A dirty amp setting will get you most any tone you could need to get you through classic and modern rock and metal. The neck pickup delivers exceptional options on a clean amp setting… a neat trick for a ceramic-fueled pickup. Switching between series and parallel options on the neck setting, I found both to be very good at a variety of clean tones. Chimey, clear, ringing chords and single-note lines… then a little more ballsy clean-raunchy breakup vibe – all from variation in picking attack and right hand technique.
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Want some specs?
Illuminator Bridge DP257
Series – 10.936 K
Inductance – 6.769 H
Split – 5.453 K
Split – 5.506 K
Parallel – 2.74 K
Magnet – Ceramic
Output – 410 mV
Illuminator Neck DP256
Series – 10.783 K
Inductance – 6.206 H
Split – 5.52 K
Split – 5.286 K
Parallel – 2.7 K
Magnet – Ceramic
Output – 295 mV
In the years since, DiMarzio has put out 2017’s Sonic Ecstasy set and 2019’s Dreamcatcher Rainmaker set for Petrucci. As you read through those articles, you might notice that Petrucci appears to voice pickups for certain guitars for the purpose of crafting the same character hitting the amp. A bit of consistency, so to speak. To my ears, the Illuminator set is the standout the breaks the furthest from the familiar Dream Theater sound. Being more open and transparent, this set is a welcome alternative to the ultra-compressed slant of the other offerings.
The Illuminator set is available in all the fun DiMarzio colors that you can find on the DiMarzio website. Pole pieces options are nickel, gold, and black. The Illuminator also comes in a 7-string version.
For reference, this DiMarzio Illuminator humbucker set evaluation was conducted with a Fractal Axe-Fx II XL+ featuring Celestion Impluse Responses and Fractal MFC-101 MIDI Foot Controller. Real cabs in use are Marshall 1960B, Mojotone British, and Peavey 6505 cabs loaded with Celestion Classic Series Vintage 30s and Classic Series G12M Greenbacks.
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