Guitar Pickup Review

DiMarzio UtoPIA Pickup Set

The UtoPIA set of pickups are stock in Steve Vai’s most recent signature Ibanez guitar. The PIA. To begin with, think about that. The JEM is a model with 30+ years of vigorous road testing by some of the most demanding hands in the business. That accumulation of experience culminates to the next functional level with the PIA. If you’re here for the DiMarzios and might not be up-to-date on the PIA, check it out:

Pretty cool, right? One of the key components is that the UtoPIA set has elements of the Evolution set as a baseline. And like the Evolution, as well several of the Vai humbuckers, the UtoPIA humbucker use DiMarzio’s Dual Resonance tech. There are examples of Airbucker tech and Virtual Vintage tech in some of the other Vai models. But I’m not currently seeing any indication of anything other than Dual Resonance going on with these humbuckers.

DiMarzio Utopia Blue Powder
DiMarzio Utopia Blue Powder
Dual Resonance Tech

Dual Resonance is basically mis-matched coils. 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. According to the patent, it is pretty much about putting a similar number of turns on each coil. But with different wire gauges.

DiMarzio Utopia Gold w Black
DiMarzio Utopia Gold w Black

This set is going in to my 1990 Fender American Standard Strat, loaded with an 80s German Floyd Rose. This is a bright-sounding guitar and aligns more with the tonal shift from the JEM to the PIA guitars. The harness is a CRL 5-way switch, a DiMarzio EP1201PP 500k Push/Pull volume pot, a DiMarzio EP1033 .033 cap, and a Switchcraft 1/4 jack. Guitar has E standard tuning with 09-42 strings.

The Push/Pull and the .033 cap is to facilitate the same high pass filter that comes with the PIA guitar. It also has the stock PIA switching, which auto-splits in the 2 and 4 positions.

DiMarzio Utopia Gold w Pink
DiMarzio Utopia Gold w Pink
Ibanez PIA Switching System
Ibanez PIA Switching System

The UtoPIA set struts on to the scene with loads of authority. But also with a curious overload of nuance as well. Let’s take a peek at the path it’s taking to get there. More than anything else, Vai is wanting something to make the new PIA be a familiar stomping ground. Since the PIA has different acoustic properties than the JEM, a goal of the UtoPIA pickps is to bridge the variables.

If you are a Vai disciple and coming from the Evolution set, imagine the low end being as bold but slightly more precise. The low-mids are going to be a more noticeable variation, with a slight bump up to add a throaty distinctiveness. A nicely firm high end delivers a strong presence that can also be taken as a sweetening. The upper-mids in the bridge give the position a bit of snarl. Where as in the neck, the upper-mids are dialed back to compliment a vocal character with added clarity.

The middle position UtoPIA single coil is also new. My only experience with the Evolution single coil is in a JEM with the Gravity Storm humbuckers. I’m finding the UtoPIA single coil to be just as versatile and dymanic. It’s obviously not a traditional vintage-spec classic-sounding single coil from the 50s or 60s, as one would surmise. It’s louder than the Red Velvet, but not as loud as the SDS-1. If I’m not mistaken, I think it has some characteristics of the legendary FS-1 with tighter lows and more highs. Plenty of chime and sparkle while offering some quack in the 2 and the 4 positions.

DiMarzio Utopia Blue

Cameron Cooper is kind enough to allow me permission to share his demo video. Check it out and definitely visit Cameron’s social media channels (listed below)!

The DiMarzio/Steve Vai UtoPIA Pickups Are AMAZING!

Series – 13.121 K
Inductance – 7.819 H
Split – 6.004 K
Split – 7.138 K
Parallel – 3.26 K
Magnet – Ceramic
Output – 411 mV

Utopia Bridge Tone Guide
Utopia Bridge Tone Guide

Series – 12.929 K
Inductance – 2.009 H
Magnet – Alnico 5
Output – 185 mV

Utopia Middle Tone Guide
Utopia Middle Tone Guide

Series – 12.696 K
Inductance – 6.676 H
Split – 7.088 K
Split – 5.633 K
Parallel – 3.137 K
Magnet – Ceramic
Output – 315 mV

Utopia Neck Tone Guide
Utopia Neck Tone Guide

If you compare those specs to the Evolutions, you will see that aside from mV output and from DCR, the UtoPIA set has a slightly higher induction that contributes to the tweak in the authoritative throaty roar of the lower mids.

DiMarzio Utopia Green

This set of pickups is impressive. It has passion and it has warfare – see what I did there! LOL! It’s a harmonically rich character that is flexible enough to sling the fire and to sate your inspirational overload. It stands up to every riff, squeal, lick, and trick that I can manage only to ask if that’s the best that I can do! HaHa! It’s a very capable set for hard rock, garage, progressive rock, fusion, shred, 80s metal, rock, progressive metal, shred metal, heavy rock, blues rock, tech metal, classic rock, hardcore, and more.

The UtoPIA pickups are available in F-space only with an assortment of custom laser-cut covers, a half-dozen traditional covers. And if you want them to fit into your JEM, there are over a dozen different bobbin colors to choose from as well.

For reference, this DiMarzio UtoPIA set 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 loaded with Tube Amp Doctor ECC83 Premium Selected tubes, using the 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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