Polishing a turd, or how to improve Ibanez V7/V8 pickups

The V7/V8 pickup combo found in many mid-range Ibanez guitars.

Many mid-range guitars come with pretty average sounding pickups. Ibanez is no different to anyone else, and the V7/V8 humbuckers found in the neck and bridge positions of RG  series guitars from the mid-nineties onwards are no exception.

I ran a poll on Jemsite.com to find out how people felt about the V7 and V8 pickups, and asked what people wanted out of them. The general consensus was that they lacked clarity, were too bassy/muddy, and too harsh. People wanted more clarity and note separation.

Stock, I felt that the neck pickup was a bit too hot and muddy. There was no clarity or note separation. It needed to be toned down a bit. The V8 was just too muddy, and lacked something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

The V7 neck pickup has a ceramic magnet, and the V8 bridge pickup an alnico 5 magnet. I thought this seemed a little back to front, and that the pickups would sound a lot better with the magnets reversed. I also had a request to try an Alnico 3 magnet in the bridge V8 pickup, so I ordered one to try in each pickup for testing purposes.

I didn’t have one of my Ibanez RGs free to do the tests on so I used my Saga PRS/LP style kit guitar as the test bed. I figured that this guitar was made of similar woods to an RG (basswood body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard), so even though it has a shorter scale than an RG the tones I’d capture wouldn’t be too far off the mark.

V8 Bridge

First pickup up for testing was the V8 bridge pickup. I installed a ceramic magnet, and was I impressed with the difference it made!

In my opinion the V8 bridge should have always had a ceramic magnet. The pickup was searing, perfect for high gain shredding. It actually had a boost in volume, and any mud that was present in the stock Alnico 5 configuration was gone. The ceramic magnet gave the pickup far more clarity, and even a little twang, which was quite cool. One member of Jemsite felt that it was similar to a DiMarzio Fred. I’ve not played one myself so I can’t really comment on that.

After that I tried the alnico 3 magnet. It was quite a nice change for someone who might want a more medium output humbucker. The tone was very similar to ceramic, but with less output and volume. It had lots of clarity and definition, and a neat clean crunch. I’d consider it tonally similar to a DiMarzio PAF Pro perhaps.

Here are the basic samples of the V8 magnet changes. Please excuse the not so good recording, and my rough playing. I flared up my carpal tunnel quite badly just before I recorded these:

V7 Neck

Next up was the fat, muddy V7 neck pickup. Ceramic magnets are typically thought to give a pickup more treble response, and make them a bit brighter. I felt that the V7 was wound far too hot, and even the ceramic magnet couldn’t pull enough treble out of the pickup.

I hoped that putting in an alnico 5 magnet would lessen the output, and hopefully make the pickup sound a little cleaner. The alnico 5 didn’t disappoint in that respect.

An alnico 5 magnet not only cleaned up the V7, but it gave it a nice smooth buttery tone. It didn’t get too muddy since the pickup wasn’t such a high output pickup anymore. Through my IC Big Muff clone it was awesome pickup for sludgy stoner rock grooves.

I tried alnico 3 next. I personally felt it was too weak, bland and shrill. Some may like it though. I’m not much of a vintage pickup guy, so it wasn’t really interesting to me.

Here are the basic samples of the V7 magnet changes. Please excuse the not so good recording, and my rough playing. I flared up my carpal tunnel quite badly just before I recorded these:

Conclusions

At the end of the day the stock configuration of the Ibanez V7/V8 humbuckers aren’t that bad, they just aren’t that great either. I simple zero cost upgrade of swapping the magnets around results in an awesome pair of pickups. They may not sound quite as nice as a quality pair of DiMarzio/Seymour Duncan/EMG, etc, pickups, but for no cost they are pretty damned awesome.

If you have a small amount of coin, and want a lower output bridge the V8 sounds amazing with the alnico 3 magnet. It really gets close to PAF Pro territory, which is a great thing in basswood body RGs.

Now remember this isn’t something that can only be done with the Ibanez V series pickups. You can try this on any pickups you may have. You can usually find out what they are online, and work from there. Use any of the tutorials I have in my DIY section and have fun. Let me know how you go! 🙂

If you haven’t changed pickup magnets before, check out my video below. 🙂

UPDATE

Thanks to one of my readers ViTAR I can add an animated GIF showing you the way to swap the magnets around so you should get the polarities correct first time every time. Thanks to ViTAR for creating this.

v7-v8-magnet-swap

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