If you go to DiMarzio’s website and read their pickup descriptions, you will find that none sports as much verbiage as the PAF 36th Anniversary pickups. They easily have three times as much descriptive text as the other products on the site. It doesn’t mean anything, really, but I think it’s kind of cool how proud they are of the amount of research and development that’s gone into the design of these pickups.
This journey started when I removed the chrome covers from the humbuckers on my Les Paul back in early 2007. It immediately made the guitar look a lot meaner and cooler. But it also exposed the bobbins to the elements – and my playing style. There are a lot of ways to hold a pick and play the guitar, and my particular way is to hold the pick between my thumb and index finger, raising my bird finger to keep it the hell away from the playing area – and then anchoring my right hand to the guitar by resting the ring and pinky fingers on the body of the guitar. On a Les Paul, this means that those fingers wind up cradling the bridge pickup mounting ring and the bridge pickup itself, depending on the situation. Along the way, a piece of plastic came off the bridge pickup, exposing the copper wire. It didn’t make a difference as far as I could tell, neither with the sound or the noise level. But it looked the very devil. Thus started a very confused series of events that eventually led to my ordering a new set of pickups for my Les Paul: the PAF 36th Anniversary and the PAF 36th Anniversary Bridge.
Now, the standard-issue pickups on a 90s Gibson Les Paul don’t exactly sound bad to begin with. Still, the folks at DiMarzio have managed to fix whatever wasn’t broken in the first place. I totally swear by these pickups. Whatever harshness was previously in my Les Paul is now gone completely. What’s left is a whole world of creamy, juicy humbucker sweetness, no matter what kind of amplifier you’re playing through. Even though DiMarzio themselves classify the PAF-36:s as “vintage output” (as opposed to “medium” or “high” power), this pickup set can easily put any input stage into full saturation. You get a full tone with scary distortion and a bright, snappy clean sound. And that’s just the bridge pickup. The neck pickup sounds exactly like I imagined a neck pickup would on a Les Paul: mellow, expressive and with that womanly roundness.
I repeat: do not allow yourself to be fooled by the “vintage” description! This is a muscular set of pickups that will fatten up your Les Paul in a way you didn’t think was possible. I have been able to wring just about any sound from this combination: anything from the smoothest jazz tones to 60s blues to modern progressive metal. I have even better sustain now than I had before. Yes, they are that good. And the aesthetic factor is also not to be overlooked. If I owned a sunburst Les Paul, I would probably have gone for the zebra (cream + black) version. But for my black Studio, with no distracting cream or white binding on either neck or body, the black metal covers make it look like the baddest metal axe this side of BC Rich.