Which pickups for RG520? - Jemsite
All Other Guitars (including Prestige) Discussion about other Ibanez Guitars not covered in the above topics. Includes J-Custom, USA-Custom, Prestige subforum.

View Poll Results: Which pickup color combination works best with this guitar?
Black only (bottom-left photo) 2 11.11%
Black & creme (top-right photo) 7 38.89%
Creme only (bottom-right photo) 7 38.89%
None of the above (another color choice/combo?) 2 11.11%
Voters: 18. You may not vote on this poll

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post #1 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-06-2011, 01:14 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: IL, USA
Posts: 56
Which pickups for RG520? Vote for best pickup color combo!

EDIT: I just updated this opening post to add the following photoshopped images of different pickup colors. The TOP-LEFT corner is the original v7/v8 pickups. The other images are all "fake" photoshopped images of black/creme color combos. Use the poll above to vote for which one you think is best.

And close-up...

...And here's the original post (before I added the images):

Hi everybody,

Background: I have a RG520. It's a dark brown-colored quilted sapele top with mahogany back. I've had it since I bought it brand new in 1997-98, and it's been my main guitar until I bought a JPM100 P3 few years ago (from someone on this board, actually). That guitar is superior to the RG520 in every way (which is to be expected), so going back to the RG has been, well, disappointing, to say the least. But, considering I can't really afford another guitar in that range, I've started thinking about investing a little bit more into the RG. I use both of them in my current band. JPM is tuned to drop-C while the RG is in standard-D, going into Mesa Boogie Mark V.

Don't get me wrong, the RG520 is a fine guitar, and probably the best bang for the buck. But next to the JPM, and especially now played through Mark V, I think the V7/V8 pickups are just not cutting it. So I thought that would be the next meaningful upgrade.

The JPM has Steve's Special in bridge and Air Norton in neck position. I like how they sound but the JPM is also a basswood guitar, so I can't just assume that those two would work great in the RG520. I've been searching on the forum and I see a lot of recommendations for ToneZone for the bridge. It's probably my main candidate right now. Not sure about the neck one yet.

As far as the style of music.... In my current band I play mostly metal. Nothing too brutal, mostly melodic stuff. We cover things like Dream Theater, Metallica, Killswitch Engage, Avenged Sevenfold, Tool, etc. But I'd say that I wouldn't want pickups that are exclusive to metal, because I like to play some rock, blues, and other stuff from time time. So I like the idea of versatility, with that sort of Dream Theater type "progressive metal" being the main focus. So the pickups have to be able to handle some mean sounds, but they don't have to be the most "metal" they can be. I mean, I'm happy with how "metal" my JPM sounds. And the V7/V8 haven't been bad, either. They just don't have that nice, tamed growl of the DiMarzios in JPM, I'm finding...

I don't think I'd like to go "active," by the way...

Oh and another thing... I liked the versatility of the V7/V8 configuration with the 5 way switch, where you can get single-coil-ish sounds in position 2 and 4. So if possible, I'd like to maintain ability to do that with new pickups. But if that's asking too much, I'd be fine without that feature.

So there ya go... What would you guys recommend? Is ToneZone still a good choice? Yes no? What about Neck?


Last edited by Jiveman; 02-08-2011 at 12:45 AM.
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post #2 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-06-2011, 02:34 PM
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Cali
Posts: 357
Re: Which pickups for RG520?

It's never a bad idea to go with the same pickups in multiple guitars if you're playing live a lot. Makes the switch a lot easier because you don't have to adjust levels and stuff, even if the sound is slightly different because of the wood.
Foulacy is offline  
post #3 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-06-2011, 04:21 PM
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: kc, mo
Posts: 571
Re: Which pickups for RG520?

i found the tonezone to be a bit sterile sounding. i just bought a breed set to put in an RG570. the project is not complete so i dont know the final outcome.

the breed neck is quite good. i had that in an RG in the past.

the crunch lab and liquifire is quite popular right now. if you do alot of down tuning go for one that is made for that. deactivators?

good luck. take advantage of the 30 day return policy.
scottop1972 is offline  
post #4 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-06-2011, 04:21 PM
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Location: kc, mo
Posts: 571
Re: Which pickups for RG520?

i didnt adjust the height of that tonezone though. i heard that was the trick.
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post #5 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-06-2011, 05:06 PM
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Raleigh, NC
Posts: 666
Re: Which pickups for RG520?

I've a brown RG520 just like yours (one of the blue ones as well), and It sounds like we have similar tastes in sounds/styles.

I can safely say that the Air Norton in the neck is awesome in these guitars. Awesome enough that I have no desire to try anything else.

The bridge took me a while, but after several bridge swaps, I've finally settled on a D-sonic in the bridge of my brown one. I have the blade facing the bridge.

When picking between the two, I use this guitar for anything less than METAL metal, and is currently tuned down one full step. The D-sonic sounds very nice.

As for the TZ, I've had/have them in numerous guitars, and as much as I love them in alder or basswood, I've never liked them in any mahogany guitar I've owned. IMO they have a tendency to exacerbate the darkness and thud of mahogany.

Other folks may disagree, and Ibanez certainly has (and continues to) put them in literally almost every high end mahogany bodied Ibanez, including their fanciest J-Customs. Maybe my ears are shot to heck, but I just don't get why.

Alternately, for my blue 520qs I have a Bill and Becky Lawrence XL500 that I think sounds pretty amazing, and gets a wrap for being alot less versatile than it actually is. I typically use it for heavier stuff, but it can definitely do more.
DaylightDies is offline  
post #6 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-06-2011, 06:12 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: IL, USA
Posts: 56
Re: Which pickups for RG520?

Thanks for the great and fast responses, everybody! You all got me thinking and looking into various pickup choices.

So I like the story I'm hearing so far on Crunch Lab and D-sonic. Yes, I'm in standard D tuning right now, and chances are I'll stay that way for a while. So it's good to know that these pickups do well with dropped tunings. But, if I DO go back to standard tuning, would I be losing something? For example, would the D-sonic work equally well in standard tuned guitars, as well as dropped ones? My guess is that there are no issues, but it's worth asking.

Also, great to hear that Air Norton works well in RG. And I know I like it in my JPM, at least, so I suppose I'll just stick to that! Cheaper than LiqiuFire, too, which would probably be my other choice for neck. One down, one to go! :-)

Some additional/general questions... I assume I need an F-spaced pickup for bridge, right? I know that it doesn't make a whole lot of audible difference, if any (according to what I've read so far), but if I'm buying, I might as well get the most "appropriate" one. But what about the neck? Standard or F-spaced?

Another question... Does it make sense buying used pickups, at all? I mean, this is an older, mid-range guitar, so I'm basically just seeing if I can invest a little more to bring its tonal quality up a bit. So if I could save some money, that wouldn't be a bad thing exactly. That's probably a dumb question, but I've never purchased pickups separately before, so I just don't know if that's a "smart" thing to do, generally speaking. I'm not against buying them new, too. Just looking at different options.
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post #7 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-07-2011, 06:46 PM
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Location: Raleigh, NC
Posts: 666
Re: Which pickups for RG520?

1) They should still sound good in standard tuning (I know the d-sonic does, and since the crunchlab is supposed to be an improved version of the d-sonic and Petrucci uses it in all his guitars, including those in standard tuning, I'd say it's a safe bet it does too )

2) Get both bridge and neck f-spaced for proper pole/string alignment

3) I buy/trade used pickups all the time, just make sure there's plenty of lead wire left, and there are no missing pole pieces or severely damaged looking parts, and you should be fine. The one thing to remember is that if you buy a used one you don't like, you can't exchange. Dimarzio's awesome about letting you swap for another pickup if you buy them new.
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post #8 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-07-2011, 09:35 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: IL, USA
Posts: 56
Re: Which pickups for RG520?

Cool. Thanks, DaylightDies! I'll look around for prices on used pickups, but if the difference is not too big, I'll probably just get new ones. I see that mFriend is listing AirNorton, for example, for $65 with free shipping.

Oh, another thing I was gonna ask is the wiring options. Can D-sonic and AirNorton be wired with the current pots and the 5-way switch on the RG520? Some pickups need specific volume/tone pots, I believe. And also, V7/V8 have positions 2 and 4 sounding like single coils (I assume only a half of each pickup is used to get that sound). What do I need to be able to wire them like that?
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post #9 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-08-2011, 07:25 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: IL, USA
Posts: 56
Re: Which pickups for RG520?

No poll votes yet? Come on guys, I know pickup color isn't exactly the most important thing, but I might as well put some thought into it, if I'm replacing both of them. :-)
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post #10 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-10-2011, 02:07 AM Thread Starter
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Location: IL, USA
Posts: 56
Re: Which pickups for RG520?

Guys, I still need help with questions about wiring.... Let's say I go with D-Sonic and AirNorton.... Do I use the original volume/tone pots from the RG520? What about the original 5-way switch? And what do I need to be able to wire them the same way that original V7 and V8 are wired, where positions 1 and 5 are regular bridge/neck humbucking but positions 2 and 4 are strat/tele sounding?

In other words, can I simply ONLY replace the V7/V8 pickups themselves in RG520 and keep all other parts AND wire it in the original way?

DaylightDies, how have you wired your RG520's?

p.s. Oh yeah... and folks, don't forget to vote on the pickup colors in the poll at the top of the page! :-)
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post #11 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-10-2011, 02:35 AM
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: indonesia
Posts: 2,556
Re: Which pickups for RG520?

I miss my 520QS......, I had it for almost 5 years before selling it because my policy was : no dot inlays allowed.

I put SD Custom ( SH5) and SH 6N ( distortion neck) on mine.
THe SH 5 custom is good, but not too tight. Smooth high end good for soloing, but i don't feel like playing heavy percussive palm mute with distortion with this.

btw : I vote for zebra.
it looks so nice with the dark brwon finish ( wonder why Ibanez called it transparent black anyway..)
psychoshredder is offline  
post #12 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-10-2011, 03:04 AM
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Reviews: 4
Re: Which pickups for RG520?

Hi Shredinators,

I'd rather those DiMarzio pickups for a Metallica, Dream Theater etc set.

X2N or D Activator (both are very close to the EMG 81)
If you do not want it too heavy, then DONT GET THE X version of the D-Activator. They look different. The X version has blades, the normal version has pole pieces.

Humbucker From Hell (for a good clean sound and solo sound like Metallica) or
Air Norton (has more mids and less trebles, very john petrucci and anthrax).

Rock on!
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post #13 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-10-2011, 03:43 AM
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Reviews: 98
Re: Which pickups for RG520?

I like the zebra pattern best, but you need to put the neck creme pole towards the neck. What I don't see, and would look great are either chrome covers on them, or a set of pups with chrome bobbins.
Here is what I'm thinking:

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post #14 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-10-2011, 05:25 AM
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Re: Which pickups for RG520?

Originally Posted by AlaskaBat View Post
I like the zebra pattern best, but you need to put the neck creme pole towards the neck. What I don't see, and would look great are either chrome covers on them, or a set of pups with chrome bobbins.
Here is what I'm thinking:

thats my favorite.
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post #15 of 23 (permalink) Old 02-10-2011, 09:43 AM
Join Date: Jan 2002
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Posts: 691
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Re: Which pickups for RG520?

Voted cream.

Try the Steve's Special/Air Norton combo in the 520. I'm also a fan of the TZ/AN combo in mahogany bodied guitars. I've heard others comment that it's muddy, but I've never experienced this.
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