Picking up some pick ups and understanding the 80's metal sound

ElectricSaga

Bearded person
#1
Hey there,

Ever since I got that nice new RG I've been thinking about upgrading some of my other guitars to make them more enticing to play, and I would like to start with one of my favorites: an S-series Ibanez with Quantum pickups. I actually really like this guitar, it is very comfortable to play (being so light and all) and to be honest the Quantum pickups don't sound too bad at all, but they do seem to lack just a bit of definition. I would like to make this my "80's guitar". Can you guys recommend some pickups, preferably DiMarzio, that sort of go in that 80's rock and metal direction? Unlike guitars, it's hard to just go to a store and "test" pickups.

I am not sure how to describe the "80's rock" sound I'm looking for but I suppose I could contrast it with what people call "modern metal". "Modern" pick ups tend to have either a flat or a treble-leaning EQ and this thing people call "responsive low end" (possibly a faster attack-sustain-release?). More traditional pickups I think tend to be mids and bass heavy and possibly not as "dry". Not sure what I am talking about to be honest.

Long story short. I have been thinking about a PAF Pro / Super Distortion combo, or an Air Norton / Tone Zone which is the standard Ibanez setup. Any suggestions? This is a mahogany body guitar btw, in case that actually matters.

Thanks!
 

Sustainerplayer

On the edge of breakup
#2
The PAF Pro/Super Distortion combo is all 80's to me.

Actually anything PAF-ish will get you there. I have the PAF Pro in a couple of my guitars.

If you are looking for a slightly more modern version then the Satriani signature pickups like the Mo'Joe and PAF Joe are also good candidates to get the 80's on.
 
#3
For a late 80s mordern metal sound you can't go wrong with a set of EMG pickups. 81/81, 81/85 and 81/60 were popular setups.

Personally I have the EMG HET SET in both my guitars; and I've installed the EMG Solderless kit in both of them.
The only limiting factor really is making sure you have enough space to clip in a 9V battery.

I've put a DPDT latch switch to totally isolate the battery to stop it draining when not in use on both guitars; negative switching alone isn't enough in my experience.

Should be noted: I have bias towards ESP and EMG - Not tried any other not likely to :D
 

ed lespaul

Well-Known Member
#4
I've been down that rabbit hole, and bought a ton of pickups, looking for "my sound". I went through a bunch of Dimarzio pickups, since they are basically in my backyard. I eventually got tired of the low end in Dimarzios and found the Seymour Duncan JB/TB pickups. All my humbucker guitars have them in the bridge, with the exception of my Schecter, which has EMGs and a sustainiac.

To save time, I would record a track with your existing pickups, and see where they are in the EQ world. Use an EQ to find your sound. Use the settings for low, mids, and highs to find what you like, and look on Dimarzio's (and Duncan's) site to find which pickups match what you're looking for.
 

SemiCullen

Still haven't got the hang of Thursdays
#5
I've been down that rabbit hole, and bought a ton of pickups, looking for "my sound". I went through a bunch of Dimarzio pickups, since they are basically in my backyard. I eventually got tired of the low end in Dimarzios and found the Seymour Duncan JB/TB pickups. All my humbucker guitars have them in the bridge, with the exception of my Schecter, which has EMGs and a sustainiac.

To save time, I would record a track with your existing pickups, and see where they are in the EQ world. Use an EQ to find your sound. Use the settings for low, mids, and highs to find what you like, and look on Dimarzio's (and Duncan's) site to find which pickups match what you're looking for.
I second the Duncan JB for your bridge and add to try the 59 for the bridge.
 

ElectricSaga

Bearded person
#6
Thank you all for your input. Some Seymour Duncans I have heard sound really great, maybe I'll give those a try. Funny how Duncans vs. DiMarzios seem to be a bit divisive huh.

I also really like the sound of *some* EMG's, I think the 81/60 set maybe, but my plans already include a 7-string with EMG's in the near future so I'll skip those for now. Not to mention, I don't think there is much room inside an S-series for a battery!
 

ElectricSaga

Bearded person
#7
Quick update: been listening to some demos and I really, really like the Duncan Distortion and Custom Custom. That's pretty much the sound I'm after. Which neck pickup would pair well with either one of these? Still the 59?

I've always been more of a DiMarzio person but these totally rock for 80's metal.
 

Wade Garrett

I am the projectionist.
#8
Quick update: been listening to some demos and I really, really like the Duncan Distortion and Custom Custom. That's pretty much the sound I'm after. Which neck pickup would pair well with either one of these? Still the 59?

I've always been more of a DiMarzio person but these totally rock for 80's metal.
I had a guitar with a custom custom in the bridge and a 59 in the neck. You can't really go wrong with that combination, I was playing in a hard rock band with a JCM 800 type sound so very much in the 80's rock vein.
 

ElectricSaga

Bearded person
#9
For reference, this is somewhat the sound I have in mind:


Not as much the first solo (as a guest with At The Gates), but his stuff with King Diamond. Andy La Rocque apparently used the JB and the Custom Custom.
 

Felix

Addicted to Grunge
#10
One thing to remember when going for the 80's sound is that most of the gear the big bands used, would be stuff from the 70's, as it would typically be 2nd hand as that's all they could afford.

I would think something like a D'marzio super distortion pickup that were very common to find in most guitars of that era.
 

ScutMonkey

Well-Known Member
#11
Thank you all for your input. Some Seymour Duncans I have heard sound really great, maybe I'll give those a try. Funny how Duncans vs. DiMarzios seem to be a bit divisive huh.

I also really like the sound of *some* EMG's, I think the 81/60 set maybe, but my plans already include a 7-string with EMG's in the near future so I'll skip those for now. Not to mention, I don't think there is much room inside an S-series for a battery!
Part of that is the men themselves. Larry DiMarzio and Seymour Duncan HATE each other, apparently.

The JB/59 combo, the DiMarzio Super Distortion, and the EMG 81/85 pickups ruled the 80s. You really just need to decide if you want Alnico (JB/59), Ceramic (Super Distortion), or active pickups (EMG).
 

Tankman

Subtly not giving a F*ck
#12
For a Mahogany guitar I would go Dimarzio Super Distortion for the bridge and something like a PAF 36th in the neck. Don't forget that your gain tone, be it amp or pedal is also important. Go with anything hotrodded Plexi or JCM800. Not sure if you mentioned. What amps and effects are you using?
 
#13
For a Mahogany guitar I would go Dimarzio Super Distortion for the bridge and something like a PAF 36th in the neck. Don't forget that your gain tone, be it amp or pedal is also important. Go with anything hotrodded Plexi or JCM800. Not sure if you mentioned. What amps and effects are you using?
Well I'm not trying to start a 1980's revival or cover band, just want to do some upgrades to my older gear and thought that having an "80's inspired" guitar might be cool. I thought the S-series might be great for this. I have another upgrade coming up for an older Epi Les Paul I have in storage once I manage to bring it back (I moved and couldn't bring it with me). I thought the LP would work great with the Super Distortion and a PAF, so I think I'll go Seymour Duncan for the S-series.
 

SemiCullen

Still haven't got the hang of Thursdays
#14
There are tons of pedals out there that'll do 80s metal tones without having to buy an entirely new amp. I get a great hair metal tone using a Wampler Tumnus pushing a TC Electronic Mojo Mojo into a clean amp.
 

SemiCullen

Still haven't got the hang of Thursdays
#17
I'm going to need to try this because...hair metal.
I find the Mojo Mojo alone can do a really great AC/DC tone and some hair metal. I didn't like it when I first bought it and almost sold it a while ago. I'm glad I didn't, though. After taking the time to actually dial it in, I really love the thing. Add a little chorus and your're gold.
 
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