Guitar Pickup Review

DiMarzio X2N Set – Vivian Campbell

1983 is a seminal year for the release of ground-breaking rock albums. Robert Plant, AC/DC, U2, The Police, YES, David Bowie, Stevie Ray Vaughan, KISS, Paul McCartney, Rolling Stones, R.E.M., and ZZ Top all come to mind.

Yet thanks to Quiet Riot’s Metal Health, hard rock and metal is suddenly more mainstream. Metallica, Ozzy, Motley Crue, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard (wink, nudge), and Billy Idol release career-defining albums. The one we are going to reference here will be Dio’s debut, Holy Diver.

For Dio’s solo venture, he recruits the young Irishman Vivian Campbell. And by young, that means that he wouldn’t be allowed to legally drink by current standards. But isn’t it Irish law that a newborn’s first bottle is a pint of Guinness? That’s all a different story. LOL! Vivian is using his 1977 Gibson Les Paul for the recording of Holy Diver as well as the subsequent tour.

Going back for several years now, I am fortunate enough to have visited with Vivian a number of times, as well as a few phone conversations. Being the gear nerd that I am, you know for certain that I’m asking about guitar setup. I honestly did not know, as I’d never seen it mentioned anywhere, so I was truly surprised when he confirmed using DiMarzio X2Ns on that album. That’s right, as in more than one. One in the bridge and one in the neck! Holy diver… um, er… I mean holy cow! HaHa! I know that I have to try that out in one of my Lesters.


A set of tasty-looking X2N humbuckers go into a Les Paul with the Mojotone Premium Historic Les Paul Wiring Harness. That’s vintage taper CTS pots, Luxe Sprague Bumblebee paper and oil caps, Switchcraft 3-way toggle, and Switchcraft 1/4″ jack. It’s 50s wiring set up for independent volumes in the middle position. Neck cap is .015 uf and the bridge is .022 uf.

Disclaimer: by a “set”, I am talking about 2 (two) of the DiMarzio DP102 X2N humbuckers. In other words, two of the same thing. There is no “bridge” X2N and no “neck” X2N. Just the X2N. This is Vivian taking two of the same thing and loading both positions with the same thing. Just want to be clear. LOL!

DiMarzio X2N Vivian

The X2N is a powerhouse in a big slab of timber like a Les Paul. There’s no denying it. In a Super-Strat application like Cinderella’s Jeff LaBar, imagine the surgical precision a tactical combat jet fighter. But Vivian and a Les Paul and a X2N is a bunker-buster of richly saturated tone.

Putting a X2N in the bridge position of a Lester is the feeling I imagine pirates had when loading up the cannon balls prior to a skirmish on the high seas. LOL! It’s a heavy hitter that makes its presence known. And it can be devastating to those that know how to use it. A durable hunk of wood is a great match for the X2N, as also seen with the mahogany-backed Jackson PC1. The richness of the guitar and the in-your-face character of the pickup yield an excellent balance. Riffs that are big and precise. Lead lines and solos that pose and extra purchase of presence.

It is the X2N in the neck position that is the most surprising to me. One might expect everything to be just too much. But only if you are expecting too much of a good thing. The twin blades conduct a balanced magnetic field with more focus than the chaotic domain of traditional poles. The resulting definition presents much more emphasis and less murky mud. The X2N recipe bakes in a responsiveness for jaw-dropping sustain that caters to power-blues types of lead work.


The proof will be in the pudding here. The examples are pretty much Vivian going into a boost pedal (generally believed to be an overdrive pedal or an EQ pedal) and into a tube amp. You should be able to easily hear the signal saturating the tubes in these videos.

Here are some the actual songs that Vivian recorded 40-some-odd years ago using the X2N set:

Dio – Holy Diver (Official Music Video) [HD]
Dio – Rainbow In The Dark (Official Music Video) [HD]

DiMarzio X2N
Series – 15.527 K
Inductance – 10.151 H
Split – 7.769 K
Split – 7.784 K
Parallel – 3.887
Output – 510 mV
Magnet – Ceramic

DiMarzio X2N Tone Guide
DiMarzio X2N Tone Guide

DiMarzio’s highest output humbucker has about 16 k DC resistance at 510 mV. Remember that the 435 mV Super 3 is about 25 k and the 425 mV Super D is about 14 k. Again, DCR is not output. HaHa! Incidentally, Vivian is known to use the Super 3 and the Super D in his Les Pauls for the Def Leppard gig.


Previously, I was trying the X2N in an old school shred stick. Actually, a lightweight 7/8 scale body with a Floyd Rose. While effective for the purpose of a guitar like that, it is a horse of a different color in a guitar of any magnitude. It’s clearly an option that I am happy to put a new set of ears toward.

The X2N is going to be good for hard rock, shred, metalcore, prog rock, doom, thrash, extreme metal, hardcore, classic rock, punk, djent, nu-metal, 80s metal, blues rock, garage, prog metal, fusion, grunge, heavy metal, and more. The X2N is available in over a dozen bobbin color combinations. You can choose from nickel, gold, or black rails.

For reference, this DiMarzio X2N evaluation was conducted with the following: Fractal Axe-Fx II XL+ featuring Celestion Impluse Responses and Fractal MFC-101 MIDI Foot Controller.  ADA MP-1 Tube Pre-Amp with ADA MC-1 MIDI Controller. Fryette LX II Stereo Tube Power Amplifier. Physical cabs 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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