DiMarzio Tone Zone

The Tone Zone is one of DiMarzio’s best-selling high-output humbuckers. Right up there with the Super Distortion. Since the 1991 release, it is a mainstay of the company’s catalog. Let’s take a look at what’s going on with that.

It is a fact that the Tone Zone is one of the two bridge pickups in front of Eddie Van Halen around 1990. Well, two of the DiMarzio bridge pickups. This is when Eddie is moving away from Kramer and getting in to development of his Ernie Ball Music Man guitar. By this time, there was also a CA-based pickup company still in the running. As an aside, from my understanding of what is in front of him, I do sympathize with how Eddie is opting for the DiMarzio submissions.

The benchmark is a damaged Duncan JB model in Eddie’s 5150 Kramer guitar. It’s down to the two DiMarzio bridge models under consideration. It is Steve Lukather that makes the final call for an indecisive Eddie. The winner has the new “airbucker” technology and goes on to a history all it’s own. But what of the runner up? Turns our that it’s already a favorite within the corridors of DiMarzio. So much so that it gets a release a year later, as… wait for it… the Tone Zone.

DiMarzio Tone Zone DP155 Paul Gilbert Ad
DiMarzio Tone Zone DP155 Paul Gilbert Ad
Dual Resonance?

Yes. Dual Resonance is also one of the gifts that keeps giving from the EVH Music Man pickup demos. To be clear, this is what the Tone Zone has. And not the airbucker tech. The final EVH selection has the air tech, but not the dual resonance.

Dual Resonance is basically mis-matched coils. Coils being imperfectly matched is not all that much of a big deal. It’s common for several pickup companies to allow about a 5% variance. But dual resonance is an intentional mis-matching of the coils to produce a specific “tuning” of the pickup’s voice.

Sometimes that can be using different sizes or different types of wire. Other times that can be just putting more or less wire on one coil than the other. Trust me on this one. Don’t waste too much time trying to figure out how they make the sausage on this one. Just enjoy your tasty meal and move along. LOL!

DiMarzio Tone Zone DP155 Yellow w/ Black Poles
DiMarzio Tone Zone DP155 Yellow w/ Black Poles
Installation

For this assessment, I am installing the Tone Zone in a single-hum guitar. The wiring harness on this guitar has Bourns 500k push-pot and Switchcraft 1/4″ jack.  The push-pull is connected for series-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.

Evaluation

This is based off the Duncan JB. So how do you think it’s going to sound? HaHa! Yes, all the archetypical mainstays of one of the best selling humbuckers are here. But remember, it’s based off a broken one that also happens to be one of Eddie’s favorites. And then it had to run the gauntlet to get beyond Eddie’s discriminating ears to make the final two. So it’s not like any off-the-shelf JB.

The Tone Zone has a strong low end that retains definition, so that it’s not flubbing out. There is no droning low-note boom when throwing out some 80s-style riffage. Across town on the treble side, high notes step up with a bold presence that actually bring a lot of range to a single-pickup shred-stick. That variance in the wind of each coil allows for a dynamic and versatile midrange. I think that might be the strong point in the dual resonance humbuckers that I’ve tried to date: how they open up the middle section for more harmonic complexity.

Clean amp settings are about what you might expect from a high-output beast like this. Even if you split, there’s still a lot going on. Parallel mode tames it a little, but there’s still some sass on display. Pick attack and amp setting are going to make all the difference, but it’s possible. The following demo by Paul Gilbert gets into how the Tone Zone can respond to some cleaner settings.

Demo

Are you ever in luck this time! We are starting with a piping-hot fresh demo from Paul Gilbert

How to make your guitar better … with Paul Gilbert.

But wait! There’s more!

DiMarzio Air Norton and Tone Zone Demo

You say you are in to 7-strings? Here’s a demo of that one too!

Angel Vivaldi demos DiMarzio Air Norton 7 and The Tone Zone 7 pickups
Specs

Since we are talking about Dual Resonance a little in this article, I’m going to have some fun. Let’s throw in the inductance for each coil! And how about we compare it to the MM/EVH Bridge humbucker?

Series – 17.906 K
Series Inductance – 8.423 H

Screw Split – 8.385 K
Screw Split Inductance – 3.456 H

Slug Split – 9.543 K
Slug Split Inductance – 3.889 H

Parallel – 4.466 K
Magnet – Alnico 5
Output – 375 mV

DiMarzio Tone Zone v MM-EVH
DiMarzio Tone Zone v MM-EVH
(click to enlarge)
Conclusion

The Tone Zone is going to be good for hard rock, shred, progressive and tech metal, early thrash, 80s metal, death metal, hard rock, garage, punk, fusion, grunge, blues rock, hardcore, classic rock, alt rock, pop, djent, nu-metal, and more. It is available in over 2 dozen color and cover combinations, 3 pole piece colors, and in either standard or wide pole spacing.

I am finding it to be a totally serviceable humbucker with enough range to warrant it being in most player’s bag of tricks. If you cannot use it now, you will at some point. So keep one on-hand and ready to go. Be sure to buy one from one of the Amazon links below. DiMarzio doesn’t do me any favors, so buying from my links throws a buck or two (literally! LOL!) my way so I can keep chasing the tone dragon for you guys.

For reference, this DiMarzio Tone Zone humbucker 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 1960BMojotone British, and Peavey 6505 cabs loaded with Celestion Classic Series Vintage 30s and Classic Series G12M Greenbacks.

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