John Petrucci has used a wide range of pickups over the years, and even been given a signature set, the DiMarzio Crunch Lab bridge and Liquifire neck. These have been very popular with guitar players all over the world. But John decided that he wanted a different sound when recording the last Dream Theater album.
With a ceramic magnet, and a DC resistance of 10.56 KOhm, the Illuminator bridge model follows in a line of recent DiMarzio creations that are high output and low resistance. The EQ range of 5.5 (bass) , 5.5 (mids) and 5 (treble) gives the Illuminator bridge a nice balanced tonal setup, which should work great for a variety of guitars. John was after an increased mid-range hump and to bump the highs and tighten the lows a little over the Crunch Lab.
I loaded the Illuminator bridge into my 2003 Ibanez RG 450 LTD, with basswood body, maple neck/rosewood fretboard, and Edge Pro bridge loaded up with a Killer Guitar Components brass sustain block. As usual I tested the Illuminator bridge through my Blackstar HT-5 head, running into a 1×12″ cabinet loaded with a Celestion Vintage 30.
Starting off on the dirty channel, the Illuminator bridge provided a very full, balanced tone. It has a raw crunch that is reminiscent of a classic PAF style pickup, while still within the modern realm. The Illuminator bridge has a really open sound thanks to its moderate resistance, and a hard hitting attack thanks to its tight low end provided by the ceramic magnet. Unlike some higher output pickups the Illuminator bridge doesn’t get all fizzy on the high end. Power chords sound very muscular and have a real punch to them. Some very heavy sounds can be conjured without having to dial in too much distortion.
The Illuminator 6 has a great deal of clarity and presence that allows it to really sing. Complex chords ring out with every note clearly making its mark. There is a real dynamic quality to the Illuminators too. Pick or strum softly and the volume and tone roll back a little, dig in and the tone ramps right back up with more punch and presence.
Switching over to lead duties and the Illuminator bridge becomes like a scalpel, ready to cut through the mix. It’s tight low end and full balanced tone ensures that it doesn’t get too thin or shrill on the higher end of the fretboard. There are plenty of harmonic overtones that pop out when playing, which only get more prevalent as the gain goes up, making natural and artificial harmonics easy to find and utilise.
Over on the clean channel the Illuminator bridge is very bold and brash sounding pickup. Chords sound muscular and are on the verge of breakup when hit hard. The tone is fairly bright and quite balanced, but may be a bit full on for ‘proper’ clean tones. Roll the guitar’s volume knob back a little and the tone hit’s a sweet spot with a warmer edge and almost Tele like spank when doing single note work.
Splitting the Illuminator bridge with the neck model takes you closer to Strat territory with a pretty bright quacky tone that works great for funky and bluesy stuff. The split setting also works brilliantly for those clean metal sections using some subtle chorus effect.
Overall the DiMarzio Illuminator bridge is an incredibly versatile pickup that will cover a wide range of rock and metal styles. It won’t do a strictly clean sound without rolling the guitar’s volume back a little, but pairing it with a suitable neck pickup and perhaps splitting the coils will give you everything else you need, and even give you the ability to create some pretty convincing funk, blues, and probably even country tones. If you are looking for a bridge pickup that can dish out heavy muscular rhythm tones, and sharp leads without getting too mushy then definitely check out the DiMarzio Illuminator bridge.
Edit 9 November
Finally made a demo of the Illuminators, using BIAS Desktop for my guitars for the first time.