The Air Classic humbuckers are from 1995. And quite possibly the best PAF style repro that DIMarzio currently offers. Let’s dig in to that a little.
The mid-1990s are a heady time for DiMarzio. You can see that in all the releases of that era. The Chopper. Cruiser. Pro Track. Norton. Air Norton. Air Zone. Super 3. Evolution. All examples of some of what is hitting the streets during that time.
Let me get this out of the way. DiMarzio’s range of PAF offerings does not particularly impress my sonic palate. They get all the marketing right. Words like sweet, balance, clarity, defined, transparent, dynamic, and so on. And they even try to reference Seth Lover. They even manage some fan favorites, such as the discontinued Virtual PAF series and the current 36th Anniversary line.
On the flip side, there are some grave disappointments. Those can include the PAF Master set and the PAF 59 set. I should be on the DiMarzio Christmas card list for not sharing my thoughts in an article on the PAF Master. HaHa! Also, how many times will the use “Larry’s own 1959 cherry sunburst Les Paul” as the reference for products that don’t even sound related to each other. LOL! In a twist of circumstance, the marketing for the Air Classic doesn’t go there.
For this assessment, I am installing the Air Classic set in a double-hum guitar. The wiring harness on this guitar has Bourns 500k pots, a Switchcraft 12120X 3-way toggle, and Pure Tone 1/4″ jack. Each pickup is wired to an independent 3-way mini-toggle so that each humbucker can go from series to split to parallel. During installation, I hit the friction points with some Lizard Spit Slick Nutz. The guitar is tuned to E standard with a regular 9-42 set.
What is Airbucker technology?
Good question! I’ve only touched on it once before (that I can remember! LOL!). And then it is on the AT-1 humbucker. Since the AT-1 also uses the Virtual Vintage tech, there is a light skimming over both tactics. Going full-on deep-dive on both is a heavy read. HaHa!
So let’s have a primer on the Airbucker tech, since I think you will see/hear how it applies to this pickup.
In short, it’s putting air between the humbucker’s bar magnet and the pole pieces. This might surprise some, but the pole pieces are not magnets. At least not in the traditional humbucker design. But they can be magnetized. Remove the baseplate on a regular humbucker and you’ll see those poles literally touching either side of the magnet. For those that remember science class, the proximity to the magnet charges the poles
By putting a little space between the magnet and the poles, it reduces the strength of the magnetic field that is affecting (and being affected by) the strings. This means that DiMarzio can use an Alnico 5 and can approximate the softer magnetic pull of, say, an Alnico 2. There are a few ways they can make that space, but let’s keep on-track here. Why not just use an Alnico 2? What other magnets do they do this with? Again, that’s a different conversation! LOL!
How does they sound? Imagine a good-sounding set of PAF replicas. Now imagine them coming from DiMarzio. HaHa!
But seriously, the Air Classic set is an inspiring pair of humbuckers. A very present voice with lots of character across the frequencies. Chords have warmth and punch. Single notes have depth and an edge. Sustained notes bloom with an organic nature. On a clean amp setting, things are open and offer lots of headroom. Going to a split or parallel selection and you have so many options for most any style.
Jumping over to a dirty amp channel can be the proof in the pudding. The Air Classic holds it together like a champ. The articulate and transparent nature are on full display with a high-gain amp setting. Things retain focus while holding on to the sweeter vocal quality. That means you can throw out some pedal note riffs while managing huge open arena-rock chords.
The cool thing about a good PAF clone is the ability to get that chimey, airy, almost singlecoil brightness. It’s cool because it has a lot more range than an amped-up over-wound affair. Having more room to work with allows it to be so versatile and capable of doing so much. The rest is up to your hands. I know… that’s the part some players don’t want to hear. LOL!
DP190 Air Classic Neck
Series – 7.753 K
Inductance – 3.724 H
Split – 3.815 K
Split – 3.932 K
Parallel – 1.9364 K
Magnet – Alnico 5
Output – 206 mV
DP190 Air Classic Bridge
Series – 7.921 K
Inductance – 2.909 H
Split – 3.983 K
Split – 3.933 K
Parallel – 1.98 K
Magnet – Alnico 5
Output – 226 mV
Yep. Those specs are a little different from what DiMarzio has on their website. The pair I have here are also relatively newer ones. So I don’t have an answer as to how the wheels came off that wagon. LOL!
Once again, DiMarzio is unfortunately lacking in official demos for this model. I do find this set to be something I want to encourage others to check out, so I am throwing out a few videos that you can find on YouTube. Not a fan of that practice, but desperate measures and all..
If you like those clips, be sure to peek around their other content to give them some clicks, and so on. I don’t know them, nor have any affiliation with them, but kudos to them for putting out the effort.
The Air Classic humbuckers are going to be good for blues, funk, indie, reggae, pop, garage, punk, alternative, classic rock, heavy rock, 80s metal, country, jazz, and more. DiMarzio offers these in over a dozen bobbin color options, 4 pole piece colors, and standard or wide pole spacing. There are also about 10 styles of covers that you can choose. Interesting note is that prior to being able to order those customizations, the Air Classic (DP190 and DP191) also went by PAF Classic (DP194 and DP195). Which is just the Air Classic with a cover on it.
For reference, this DiMarzio Air Classic humbucker set pickup 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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