A reader sent in a Tone Zone S that they wanted to see reviewed. Who am I to turn down a request? Plus, I do seem to get behind on the single-space pickup offerings.
The Tone Zone S hit the streets about 15 years back. The original full-size Tone Zone DP155 humbucker had been out a dozen years by then. And that’s groovy. In 2015, the Tone Zone DP155 was the 2nd best selling high output humbucker that DiMarzio sold, right behings the Super Distortion DP100 (Super D review coming soon, by the way). So you can figure that the Tone Zone S might fit a need to fill a demand for Strat players that prefer to not carve up their guitars.
For grins, I set up the Tone Zone S in the bridge slot with a pair of Cruisers in the neck and middle. Everything is running to a regular 5-way switch and a single 500k volume pot. The install phase is when you notice the cover is more traditional, in that is slips right off for easy replacement for another color. I find that to be Kool & The Gang, as it makes it really versatile in the event you want to try it in a different axe with a different color scheme.
Once installed and plugged in to an amp, there’s the moment of wondering about… well… the tone of the Tone Zone. There is a substantial slice of the guitar-playing pie that sort of refer to the Tone Zone as a little heavy in the caboose. It’s hard to tell when looking at things on paper. Not all pickup makers use the same scale. What looks like something on one company’s site might sound altogether different if applied to another company’s reference point.
We are off and running with a dirty amp tone. And the Tone Zone S is actually hauling the mail. The pickup has free-flowing character on tap. Plenty of rich mids and a little firm in the high end. The lows have some chunk going on, but things feel under control enough to not consider it flabby or loose.
The overall vibe of the Tone Zone S is relatively hi-fi with some extra harmonic content. I’m looking at what DiMarzio calls “dual resonance” for that. What’s that? Sometimes they even refer to it as tuning the coils of a humbucker to certain frequencies. It’s essentially having mismatched coils. Perfectly matched coils might be a little easier from a production perspective, there are instances where it can choke out certain frequencies. Allowing a bit of an imbalance will let things open up a breathe just a little more. In this case, my readings are about a 7.8% variance between the coils.
Take a listen to Richie Castellano‘s (Blue Oyster Cult) video of the Tone Zone S matched up some Area 61 pickups:
Man, that makes me want to check out some of the Area pickups as well. Hey DiMarzio, get those in the mail, would ya?! LOL!
Ready for some specs?
Inductance – 8.004 H
Split N – 5.915 K
Split S – 6.414 K
Parallel – 3.079 K
M – 8.5
B – 8.0
Output – 300 mV
Magnet – Ceramic
While people would have me believe that the bottom end of a Tone Zone would rival a Kardashian, I’m not hearing it. Even more so, as I put it in a mahogany guitar with a maple neck and rosewood board. Sure, the Tone Zone S had a little girth, but I’m finding it to be quite workable. After giving it a shot, there’s an interesting in giving some time of day to the Air Norton S, the Chopper, the Fast Track 2 and the Super Distortion S. Once again…. what’s up, DiMarzio? HaHa!
For reference, this Tone Zone S DP189 pickup evaluation was conducted with a Fractal Axe-Fx II XL+ featuring Celestion Impluse Responses and Fractal MFC-101 MIDI Foot Controller. Real cabs used were Marshall 1960B cabs loaded with Celestion G12-65s, Vintage 30s and G12M Greenbacks.