DiMarzio’s Steve Blucher on Pickup Tone

“IN THE STRICTEST SENSE, THERE ISN’T any relationship between pickup output and tone,” says Steve Blucher, DiMarzio’s R&D wizard. “It’s just as possible to make a low-output, warmsounding pickup as a high-output, bright-sounding pickup, or vice versa. However, that’s just engineer speak. When guitarists talk about tone, they also mean clean vs. overdriven sound, and a pickup’s output and tone both have a direct effect on that. Most guitar amps respond to hotter pickups by producing a progressively more overdriven sound, with more harmonic overtones as the output increases. Pickups with different EQ curves will also alter the way the amp responds. Common sense might dictate that bright-sounding pickups will be best at producing harmonic overtones, but that’s not what happens. Usually, the guitar and pickup with the most midrange emphasis produce the highest ratio of harmonics to fundamentals. This happens because the guitar is usually lo