The Super Distortion. The Super D. It is the most searched-for product on my site that had not already been reviewed. Suppose it’s time to give the devil it’s due. LOL! The Super Distortion really needs not all that much of an introduction. Many consider it to be the flagship of the DiMarzio menu.
With an early 1970s introduction, the Super Distortion is on many of the albums we all raise our fists to. One of the most noted uses is throughout the explosive catalog of licks of Ace Frehley (KISS). The true one-and-only Prince Of The Pentatonic. Considering the selection of amps and overdrive pedals at that time, Ace’s use of the Super D pushes his tone in to a place where it annoys parents across the land. HaHa!
Compare that to the sounds of Boston’s Tom Scholz. An engineering wizard in his own rights, Tom’s lush signal processing would still suffer if not for the Super Distortion. Tom has what player’s considered a be tone sweet enough to play in church. The Scholz sound is one of the best examples of the Super D’s versatility.
A lot of my own curiosity about the Super Distortion has to to with how the specs line up with the Super 2 and the Super 3. The quick version is that they are all in a similar high output range, but with vastly different DC resistance readings. So let’s look at the advertised specs in descending order. The Super 3 is 25.0 k, the Super Distortion is 13.68 k, and the Super 2 is 8.7 k. About halfway down in each step. This is my go-to example of “DCR ≠ Output”. It’s about the wire gauge and how much is on a bobbin.
After a few amusing hurdles from the sales department, the Super Distortion arrives and swaps out with the Super 3 in a Jackson PC1 shred stick. Mahogany body, thin maple top, thick maple neck, maple board, German Floyd Rose. Due to the sustainer circuit, it’s connected in series mode only. Too much going on with the stock harness of the PC1, so it’s staying stock. Tuning is E standard with 10-46 strings.
Aside from running the Super Distortion in the Jackson PC1, it also comes stock in the Jackson Limited Edition San Dimas SD22 JB. In this config, it pairs with a DiMarzio PAF Pro in the neck position. By comparison to the mahogany and maple of the PC1, this one is an alder body with a maple neck and maple board. The harness has a tweak with a Bourns 500k pot and a Pure Tone Full Contact 1/4″ output jack. Tuning is E standard with 09-42 strings.
One of the things I am expecting to hear from the Super Distortion is a big low end. It’s something that’s been going around for so long that people just take it as canon. Sure there’s a little going on. But maybe more like a Kourtney, rather than the Khloé or the Kim that people make it out to be. No clue as to why the Super D has been made out to be so thick in the lows. I’m just not hearing it. Maybe it’s the way the DiMarzio ‘tone guide’ shows it. Which I can honestly say does not always bat 1000.
What I do hear from the Super D is a pickup built for rock music. The lows are powerful but not flabby. There are a lot of mids, and they take up a good piece of real estate. That helps a little with certain harmonic content. The highs are bigger and a little full. People shouldn’t be whining about any ice-picky tone. LOL! I did find the voicing of the high end to walk on some of the tapped harmonics here and there.
However, there is a general overall compression going on that gives things a tighter voice. Not tight, as in a fast response. But tight, as in a Force Choke Hold. HaHa! In the SD22 JB, things pair reasonably well with the PAF Pro neck. Especially by comparison to the DiMarzio HS-2 in the middle of the PC1, where it is hit was brutality from the Super D. I suspect that it more a matter of a specific need for a very weak single-coil next to a powerful humbucker. As such, it’s all about what suits the player’s needs.
Believe it or not, the Super D works out pretty well on a clean amp setting. Roll back the guitar’s volume knob on the Super Distortion and you have it going on. Or maybe a few tweaks at the amp and you are into the dulcet tones of “More Than A Feeling”.
Here’s a video from DiMarzio of the Super Distortion being discussed and played by Def Leppard’s Phil Collen:
Yeah, I get ya. The sustainer
wankage usage distracts from what the Super Distortion brings to the table. Sorry, my young disciples, the selection of official videos for this one is a bit slim.
Let’s take a look at some specs
Series – 15.027 k
Inductance – 6.728 H
Split north – 7.537 k
Split south – 7.516 k
Parallel – 3.76 k
Output mV – 425
Treble – 5.5
Mid – 7.5
Bass – 8.0
Magnet – Ceramic
And like many pickups that have been around for a while, there are plenty of players that think the Super Distortion of years gone by is better than the current production model. So much, that there are boutique winders that offer replicas of the “classic” Super D. I’ll be seeing if I can lay hands on some of those older ones as well as some of the replicas.
This pickup is available in 7-string humbucker, 8-string humbucker, and hum-canceling strat sizes. It comes in many colors, including… wait for it… double cream! LOL! Of course, standard and f-spacing are options, as well as nickel, black, or gold poles.
The Super Distortion is going to be good for hard rock, shred, metal, grunge, progressive rock and metal, garage, thrash, classic rock, and punk.
For reference, this DiMarzio Super Distortion humbucker evaluation was conducted with a Fractal Axe-Fx II XL+ featuring Celestion Impluse Responses and Fractal MFC-101 MIDI Foot Controller. In addition, 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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