Tech Tips

Humbucker Modifications

by Professor Guitarism

Humbucker Modifications: Dimarzio/IBZ and Ibanez V1

Achieving exceptional sounds by modifying the pickups is fun. It’s budget friendly and not as hard as most of you may worry. Naturally, the first rule of humbucker modification is understanding the basics; how does a pickup work, what kind of magnets can be used, what are the roles of inductance, capacitance and resistance, what importance does the material of baseplate, magnet type, strength of magnet, pole pieces etc. have? Well, it’s not necessary to be a rocket science professor about it but information will not hurt anyone, right?

Humbucker Parts (exploded view)
Humbucker Parts (exploded view)

I’ll tell you what’s my purpose on modifying my Dimarzio/IBZ and V1 as a beginning. My RG550 had V7 and V8 humbuckers and i really don’t like them. Buying a brand new pair of humbuckers would probably save me from lots of work but it is not fun at all. Moreover it’s not economic (being thrifty is fine, ladies and germs) and won’t give you the joy of exploring to make something useful or special. So I’ve considered what i’d got in my inventory first.

I got Dimarzio/IBZ neck model which i like but i hadn’t got a pair; just neck version. I had also V1&V2 and V7&V8 sets available. V1 was around 10K DCR and preferred it for trying on the bridge position and didn’t want to go on with V2 which reminds me Seymour Duncan JB (not too close but just resembles me, you know). But!!! According to the technical specs they seemed incompatible with each other; Dimarzio is wound around 8,5K and had a thick ceramic magnet while V1 is wound 10K and had Alnico 5 magnet. How could I make them compatible with each other?

Dimarzio/IBZ (Neck)

Generally speaking i find Dimarzio/IBZ (shortly Dibz) pickups very underrated. I see many people swapping their Dibz with aftermarket humbuckers as soon as they got a new Ibanez. This may be necessary for some certain tastes which is okay but for many players, you know, not truly necessary at all. On the other hand, in my situation, modification was required because in their original state V1 would be weaker than the Dibz owing to its thick ceramic magnet. Hence i took its ceramic magnet out carefully and placed an Alnico 5 (2.5″ x .5″ x .125″) that i’d acquired from a Seymour Duncan PATB-3.

Removing the magnet from Dimarzios is tricky because they tend to glue the magnet with a hot silicone to the baseplate. I used a razor blade knife and it worked pretty well. Then placed the A5 magnet in its place then reassembled the bobbins. You need to keep in mind for those two issues; i) minding the polarity of the bobbins and ii) since the gap between the bobbins and the baseplate decreased (you took the thick magnet and put thinner magnet instead) the rise of the pole pieces which you can’t lower from the top because they have not enough space to rid of.

Dimarzio/IBZ (Neck)
Dimarzio IBZ Humbucker

Final sound is very dynamic, breathing, less-compressed, slightly mid scooped (but still has some) tone. What amazes me is the clarity even while playing with wound strings. Apparently weaker than its original state with ceramic magnet, naturally.

Ibanez V1

Again generally speaking Ibanez has some good stock pickups while some very bad ones, either like V7&V8 or “Inf” models. V1 and V2 are in the” good type” camp. DC resistance values of V1 is ~10K and V2 is ~15K (they come from my RG570 made in 1991). Because of my naughty sympathy for 10K overwound PAF bridge humbuckers, i always thought that V1 might work very well in the bridge position. Furthermore i decided V1 to be equipped with a fully charged Alnico 2. With the contribution of A2 magnet, pickup should be advanced to the “brown tone” level and that’s what exactly happened. I can summarize briefly as “early Eddie Van Halen” 🙂 Not 100% purely but way closer than you may expect from an Ibanez V1.

DiMarzio IBZ V1 Humbucker

The result is much better than my expectations. Very very nice. Even its split coil sounds are so good, especially 2nd position, you can hear it “quack” by rolling the tone pot down.

Roughcast A5 (L) & Polished A2 (R)

About Professor Guitarism:

Fan of electric guitar, metal, rock, progressive rock, blues, fusion jazz and classical music, Star Wars & Lord of the Rings (books), The Alien, Marillion, Iron Maiden, Dream Theater, Frank Zappa etc.

Columnist since 2005-2016. Published many interviews made with Seymour W. Duncan, Steve Blucher, Lindy Fralin, Yuriy Shiskov, Steve Morse, Guthrie Govan, Bill Nash of Nash Guitars, Joe Satriani, Dave Weiner, Tony Macalpine, Alex Skolnick, Dream Theater, Ian Anderson, Tim Mills etc.

Fields of interest: Once had a humble custom shop but now only medium to advanced level electric guitar modifications at home, electric guitar pickup modifications and sometimes even winding them, trying to play guitars never done before and, naturally, achieving more and more guitars.

Professor Guitarism Website | Facebook | Instagram