The Super Distortion. The Super D. Actually the most searched for product on my site that had not been reviewed. Suppose it’s time to give the devil it’s due. LOL!
Introduced in the early 1970s, the Super Distortion is on many of the albums we have all raised our fists to. One of the most noted uses is throughout the explosive catalog of licks of Ace Frehley (KISS). The prince of the pentatonic. Considering the selection of amps and overdrive pedals at that time, Ace’s use of the Super D pushed his tone in to a place where it annoyed parents across the land.
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. Considered a 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. 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”.
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 sticks. Mahogany body, thin maple top, thick maple neck, maple board, German Floyd. Due to the sustainer circuit, it’s connected in series mode only. Speaking of the Super 3, I think it gets a lot of misunderstanding from people. And I think that’s something it has in common with the Super D. Here’s why…
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.
Believe it or not, it 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
Inductance – 6.728 H
Split north – 7.537 k
Split south – 7.516 k
Parallel – 3.76 k
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.
The Super Distortion really needs not all that much of an introduction. It should be considered the flagship of the DiMarzio menu. It’s also offered in 7-string humbucker, 8-string humbucker, and hum-canceling strat sizes. It comes in many colors, including… wait for it… double cream!
For reference, this DiMarzio Super Distortion pickup set 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.