These babies are sexy and loud. The passives sound pretty active! With only 1 new unit available via suppliers in the whole South Africa end last year I had to have these DiMarzio D’Activators imported. Honestly, when I read about these I never truly knew what the whole “sounds bright and warm” thing meant. Until I installed these PUPS!!
So why did I install these? Cause yours truly decided to by the lower end version of the Xiphos range guitar that includes the high range Ibanez PUPS as stock. Now just to clarify, the stock PUPS were insane for standard rock and – ibanez’s specialty – blues. They were warm, but honestly they weren’t tight. And tight is exactly what you need when playing Trivium or Bullet for my Valentine. But this isn’t a Xiphos review, so let’s ask the question again. Why did I install the D’Activators? Cause I needed “more” from my Xiphos and had heard that Ibanez had worked the Xiphos to sound great with these DiMarzio’s on the high end version of my axe.
But I don’t just play heavy, I play a whole range of styles from Punk, Soft Rock, Pop / Rock to Metal. I needed something that sounded great for all. I found it in the DiMarzio D’Activators.
The D’Activators came packaged in super awesome plastic casing with a plastic holder that firmly held the PUPs snug inside. This meant that these babies were safe and sound the entire flight. Also the slick black finish on the ceramic magnet and the silver-esque coils really look bad-ass!
This is an issue I had. The installation guide that comes with the pickups does not help at all unless you’ve done pickup installation before. If you’re reading the guide you probably haven’t… Like me. Searching on the Ibanez and DiMarzio sites I couldn’t find any guides. Searching some forums brought me to the Seymour Duncan site. Seymour Duncan had an installation guide for generic humbucker layouts for various Pup’s. DiMarzio included. This was strange that I would find my solution on the competitor site, but hey, at least i got the info right!
In all fairness though, I see that DiMarzio have since updated their site with complete instructions for various guitars and layouts.
Installation was pretty straightforward if you take out one stock pickup at a time and replace the wires accordingly however, so I guess I didn’t truely need the instructions if for any other than to be on the safe side.
The tone was amazing as soon as I set up the D’Activators. However, with the stock Xiphos XP300FX Volume and Tone adjusters:
a) Maxing out the Volume decreases the unwanted string noise removal tremendously.
Example, I use my strumming hand palm to kill the sound of the lower strings while i play a lil higher, but if the volume control is maxed out you’ll hear a palm mute when changing strings, which is not what you want when doing tight Trivium-esque scales.
I found that to fix this I had to lower the volume control slightly, only just a teeeny weeny bit before the noise removal kicked in. Problem with this is if you go too far low you lower your ability to do great sounding Pull Offs, Hammer On’s and tappings, so finding a balance is important.
b) Maxing out the Tone adds a natural harmonic sound when changing frets.
Also a very simple fix, just turn the tone down just a bit and this removes it without sacrificing much tone at all. I believe this to be the Tone adjusters problem as it only happens when you max out the tone, meaning that its probably just allowing too much into the sound mix-up. But that’s just my non educated guess.
I’m going to be honest and say that I was quite suprised at how much these babies cost me. At just over a grand in ZAR (7ZAR ~ 1USD) I could increase my low end Xiphos into a goddess!! This was totally worth it.
These pikups are worth the buy and can turn even a low end guitar into a beast without breaking the bank, I’d probably get these Pups again if I get a non-Gibson guitar next. But even then I’d still test out to see if the Gibson tone is what I want.