Guitar Gear Review: DiMarzio DP220 D Activator Bridge Pickup

A few weeks back, I grabbed the DiMarzio DP219 D Activator neck pickup and I do really like it quite a bit. I’m not really known for getting “matching sets”, but a pal grabbed a full set of the 7-string models and can’t say enough good things about the D Activator.

Since one of the big-name companies said they don’t want my business, I’d been really giving the DiMarzio catalog a close look and trying to get a bead on how their tone chart translates to what my ear is used to hearing. I mean, the DiMarzio “pickup picker” is probably the best and most accurately updated tool of its kind that I’ve seen. And DiMarzio seems to have really hit a nice stride of finding new voicings that really seem to be appealing to players. So…good for them.

The D Activator bridge is installed in the same guitar as the D Activator neck. A maple super strat with a maple neck and an “Official” Floyd Rose trem. I think I mentioned in the previous review that this maple is a softer variety and not quite as bright, putting the tonal response a little closer to alder or poplar. I also wired it to switch between series and parallel, the same as the neck position.

This pickup is quite dynamic. I find it very touch sensitive and responsive to pick attack. I was not aware the coils were asymmetrical and the results are impressive. Most impressive. Harmonics pop out with ease and have plenty of drive to sustain. It has a midrange roar/growl that I always look for in a bridge pickup…a smidge throaty, but far from overbearing. The high end is defined and has lots of cut, but it not too sharp and does not suffer from the “ice pick” syndrome that some players don’t like in a pickup. The low end is what really lured me in further….I just do not care for boom or flab or mud in the low end of any pickup in any position. And this pickup does not have any of that. But it is not crisp or rigid or brittle in the lows either. Instead, it has a nice deep rich low end that retains more focus than you’d expect for a pickup with that much presence in the lows. It’s a design that I find pretty innovative in a pickup like this.

The description on the DiMarzio site talks a lot about trying to being the best qualities of an active to a passive and that’s all good and I can dig where they are coming from. But when a player reads “active” it can color their perception. I’ve played several active models across a few brands and I don’t hear anything in the D Activator that should be any concern for players that just don’t like “active” characteristics. A bit of a shift in the marketing of this model could be relevant.

Something that really hits home with this pickup is how the DC Resistance would imply a “hot vintage” output, for those that subscribe to the fallacy of DCR = Output. The output of this pickup is up there past the DiMarzio “Super” series. But as I’ve found, it is not a muddled uncontrollable gain monster. The way a pickup is voiced is everything. The alchemy of the materials and the way it is wound trumps the DCR.

series – 11.11k
split north – 5.38k
split south – 5.74k
parallel – 2.78k

Darth Phineas is a long time music industry insider who provides his readers with unbiased reviews on musical instrument and guitar gear. You can read more of his reviews and check out industry news on his Facebook community Darth Phineas