For years, I felt the DiMarzio Air Norton was my ‘to go’ pickup. It is fat in the neck position, great for leads, but retains some clarity under high gain. It’s got a lot of crunch in the bridge position: open, cutting, a bit clear but not bright, and a chewy midrange for leads. Yeah, the DiMarzio Air Norton was my ‘to go’ pickup. It was just a bit boring, lacking in dynamics, and was overall serviceable but not great. I went on to other pickups I love but never one that kept me as engaged as the Norton.
Then I took it upon me to see what I could do with Duncan parts to get to the DiMarzio Air Nortons territory. Let’s break it down.
The DiMarzio Air Norton has an alnico V magnet; I believe the ‘air’ technology of the DiMarzio Air Norton is there to emulate an alnico II with an alnico V magnet and since I can’t replicate that part I have to work around that. I’d say, use an A2 (the air technology also gives for a weaker string pull) and get shorter polepieces to lower the inductance. The weaker magnet would also allow for a lower string pull for added sustain and harmonics.
The DiMarzio Air Norton has two asymmetrically wound coils, clocking in at 12.6K. I can use a Custom coil (7K) plus a screaming demon coil (5K) but I don’t have that yet. I would also rather not use coils that are so severely mismatched for this round. I have used a Demon coil plus an Seymour Duncan SH6 Distortion and that yielded great results but for now, I’d stick to what I feel comfortable with. Making a hybrid isn’t difficult perse, it’s just a lot of work. So, I opted for a Custom coil plus a Pegasus. I now have a bit more copper on the coils than a DiMarzio Air Norton but we’ll see how far we can go.
The DiMarzio Air Norton uses regular fillister head screws and slugs. Slugs, fine. No biggy there. The screws, that’s a bit of a pickle. I have an alnico II to get into the air-bucked A5 territory but I have a hunch that this still might induce too much compared to the airbucked Alnico V. Also, an Alnico II is notorious for giving you squishy midrange and attenuated highs and spongy lows. The Norton does not have that; not really, anyway. So… Short poles it is! Lower inductance in that particular coil (custom coil, lookin’ at you, just to even out the inductances between the coils even more, if that makes sense?) so the pick attack is super-accurate in the final tonal product, just like the Norton.
Tone and Final Verdict
What the actual… This pickup is so, so, so bonkers I can’t wrap my head around it. It’s been such a long time since I’ve been surprised.
Did I succeed in my goal of making a DiMarzio Air Norton with Duncan parts? No. I got a pickup that has the basic idea of the DiMarzio Air Norton, in its rearview mirror. It’s got much more grind than the DiMarzio Air Norton, a LOT more power (oddly enough, despite having a weaker magnet and only being 0,75KOHms hotter: see? DCR doesn’t tell the full picture!) but it’s not like the buzzsaw-cut’n’grind of the Seymour Duncan SH6 Distortion for example. The rhythm tone is tight, aggressive even slightly percussive but never harsh: the top-end cuts but never pierces, the midrange is huge (and then consider that I mid-scooped my amp, simply because I forgot to dial in a neutral tone at that moment: even then, the midrange was huge!) and the lows are so, so tight but not boomy.
If I were to make a tonal curve on a scale of 0 to 10 it’d be like this:
lower mids: 6
upper mids: 8
For example, I’d value a JB like this:
lower mids: 6
upper mids: 9
This Pegasus Custom Hybrid is approximately as hot as a JB but so much more aggressive and dynamically rich but without that odd upper mid spike of the JB which makes the JB so annoying and makes the JB only work in Tele’s in my humble opinion
It’s not as nasal or honky as a Perpetual burn, it’s more open and ‘forward’ than that (compare it to the mid-shift on those old Boogie Mark amps, where you can place the midrange ‘forwards’ or ‘backwards’). But it does have a vocal quality so leads, and solos jump out like crazy.
I don’t know, guys, but this pickup feels like a winner to me. The Pegasus itself is too percussive, tight, and slightly nasal to my taste. The custom Alnico II (Custom Custom) is too spongy for my taste, but this combination works immensely well. However, I have to admit, I haven’t tried this in the neck position because I matched it with a Pearly Gates-N/59N Alnico II hybrid, which is by itself an amazing pickup (glassy and clear but with boldness and richness to the tone that works very well with the tone pot to fatten it up for thick, fat leads or clean, warm but clear and open chords with low gain).
Special thanks to guest contributor – Orpheo Guitar Design for this post