Guitar Pickup Review: DiMarzio Illuminator Humbucker Set

The reach of Dream Theater’s axeman John Petrucci spans well beyond the prog-rock/metal scene.  Petrucci is in the elite class of a player’s player that frequently sends mere mortals back to the woodshed until strings break or fingers bleed. The Illuminator DP256 Neck and DP257 Bridge were unleashed in 2013 as Petrucci’s newest signature set of pickups.

While testing and reviewing the DiMarzio Titan set last Fall, the video of Jake Bowen and Petrucci jamming together with their respective rigs really sold me on digging into the Illuminator set.  To check out the Illuminator set, I used the same guitar used to test and review the D-Activator set, the MegaDrive bridge and the Dominion bridge… a double hum super-strat with a maple neck, maple board, a maple body (that responds like alder), and a double-locking tremolo system.  I used the same clean and dirty amp settings as always.

Comparing the specs between the Illuminator set and the CrunchLab-LiquiFire set might have people wondering about how similar the specs look on paper.  Very similar outputs.  Pretty similar DC Resistance.  Slightly tweaked EQ tone numbers.     Lemme tell ya, that’s about where it ends.

The Illuminators are more alive and open sounding.  They breathe a little more while maintaining a presence that punches through with authority.  The lows are controlled and big…never muddy, loose or flabby…but not constricted, brittle or overly tight.  The mids have a dominant roar to them that keeps the open chords clear and the lead work precise.  The highs have a punch that delivers presence without being too rounded and keeps from being too sharp.

A dirty amp setting will get you most any tone you could need to get you through classic and modern rock and metal.  The neck pickup delivers exceptional options on a clean amp setting… a neat trick for a ceramic-fueled pickup.  Switching between series and parallel options on the neck setting, I found both to be very good at a variety of clean tones.  Chimey, clear, ringing chords and single-note lines…then a little more ballsy clean-raunchy breakup vibe – all from variation in picking attack and right-hand technique.

Illuminator Bridge

Series – 11.16k
Split- 5.55k
Split- 5.61k
Parallel – 2.79k
Output – 410mV

Illuminator Neck

Series – 10.98k
Split – 5.61k
Split – 5.37k
Parallel – 2.75k
Output – 295mV

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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, Twitter or his website is