The Virtual Hot PAF is a cool pickup! This one was brought to my attention about 3 years ago by one of my pals on the inside of the pickup business. Yep, I’d never heard of this one before. I was talking to him about going through a lot of the Van Halen-themed pickups, and he got right to business by pointing out this one. Virtual Hot. VH. EVH? Get it? Yeah, he had to spell it out for me pretty much the same way. Haha!
How about I get the disclaimers out of the way. First, it’s not an “official” VH product. It’s simply a hot-vintage humbucker that has some characteristics that fit well with a player in a SoCal band that released a debut album in 1978. There is talk that the Super Distortion was on tap (ha! a pun!) for a while. And the official Ernie Ball Music Man EVH humbucker set. But this Virtual Hot PAF? No official connection I know of. So… if I can get past avoiding letters from Larry and Eddie, that’d be cool!
Seconly, it’s not “officially” available. You used to be able to find the Virtual Hot PAF brand new in the box at several totally well-known and reputable outlets. They are getting pretty rare as of late. Most people that have them don’t want to give them up, so the used market is just as barren.
Moving forward, this one goes in the bridge position of that same guitar I’m use for all the VH-themed bridge pickups. The Virtual Hot PAF is wired to a p/p pot for series/parallel. It’s just like every other DiMarzio, so it installed without a hitch and we were off and running.
First off, this is a great rock pickup. Focused, articulate, raunchy, edgy, biting, and powerful. The name of the pickup lays it right out there. It’s a hot PAF-style pickup. But it’s not just an over-wound PAF, which can lead to a voicing quite the contrary of what I just described. What you get with this pickup is a pickup that’s designed to be hot. Yeah, I know that might appear to be double-talk. But talk to any good pickup winder and they’ll agree that over-winding does not always mean more output/volume. Also, some guys like this pickup with a 250k pot. I can see where some players would get down with that. A 500k works fine for me.
On a dirty amp setting, the Virtual Hot PAF is right at home. It sits well within the mix and it can easily jump right out for lead work. Riffing is punchy, chords are open and lead work has edge. All the harmonics I tried were quick to chime or ring or squeal with presence and sustain. This would easily be a top pick for me to bring life to a set-neck 24.75″ scale singlecut guitar.
On a clean amp setting, this pickup is a spanky. It is ready to break up in series mode, and going in to parallel mode delivers heaping helpings of snap.
Now, I know that there is a big school of thought on what DiMarzio production models can be put in place of the pickups that DiMarzio makes for the EBMM Axis/EVH. I can dig where the numbers are when comparing to a few pickup models. On paper, the Virtual Hot PAF does not match up. But using my ears, I do think the Virtual Hot PAF tone comes closer that many may realize.
And speaking of being close, if you ask DiMarzio about the Virtual PAF or the Virtual Hot PAF, they will direct you to the PAF 36th Anniversary Bridge DP223. So how about we look at those specs:
Series – 9.822k
Inductance – 5.234
Split north – 4.872k
Split south – 4.959k
Parallel – 2.457k
Output mV – 265
Treble – 5.0
Mid – 6.5
Bass – 6.5
Magnet – Alnico 5
Series – 9.376k
Inductance – 5.467
Split north – 4.745k
Split south – 4.62k
Parallel – 2.34k
Output mV – 285
Treble – 5.0
Mid – 6.5
Bass – 6.0
Magnet – Alnico 5
That’s pretty darned similar. I’ve played them both in the same guitar back to back. They can be considered very synonymous. Admittedly not a carbon copy, it’s the closest that is currently available from DiMarzio.
There are no official videos of the Virtual Hot PAF that I can find. However, you can find some unofficial offerings online.
For reference, this DiMarzio Virtual Hot PAF DP214 humbucker evaluation was conducted with a Fractal Axe-Fx II XL+ featuring Celestion Impluse Responses and Fractal MFC-101 MIDI Foot Controller. Real cabs are Marshall 1960B cabs loaded with Celestion G12-65s, Vintage 30s and G12M Greenbacks.