DiMarzio Virtual Solo DP420 Review & Comparison - Excellent Strat Bridge Pickup
I've been searching for a better Stratocaster bridge pickup for years and finally found one... DiMarzio Virtual Solo.
I have two great playing Strats: a 1990 USA Standard & a 2009 Mexican Standard. I love both of those guitars, but the stock single-coil bridge pickups sound weak clean, lacking bass and low mids. Plus they hum badly with heavy overdrive or distortion. In short, stock Fender bridge pickups simply do not work for me clean or distorted.
DiMarzio Area 61 - way too bright & weaker than stock pickups!
DiMarzio Virtual Vintage 54 Pro - similar to Area 61
DiMarzio Virtual Vintage Blues - still too weak & lacks complexity of true single coils.
DiMarzio Chopper - good alone, but doesn't combine well with single coils
DiMarzio Pro Track - like Chopper, but a little warmer & smoother
Duncan Little 59 Bridge - upper mids sound too brash & raw
DiMarzio Virtual Solo - GREAT! Retains the Strat sound, but adds bass & low mids, & eliminates hum
The stock 250K volume pot works well with all pickups. The Area 61, VV 54 Pro, VV Blues, and Chopper all seem to benefit from a 250K Tone pot, which smooths out the bright highs a bit. The Pro Track & Little '59 get a little duller sounding when a tone pot is added. The Virtual Solo sounds about the same with a 250K tone pot turned all the way up as it does without any tone pot. One cool thing is that the Virtual Solo sounds like a very beefy humbucker when you roll the tone pot down to about 60%. [Note: I used a .022uF tone cap.]
1. DiMarzio stacked single coils (Virtual, Area, Injector, etc.) have South Up magnet polarity. Both of my Strats use North Up in the bridge & neck, and South Up in the middle. I wired for auto-tapping of the VS in position 2 (bridge + middle) to preserve the classic Strat quack, so I had to swap the stock neck & middle pickups in order to retain hum cancellation.
2. The VS comes wired as reverse polarity to my Mexican Strat. So I had to splice extensions to the black & white wires, (which are cut short & soldered together by DiMarzio), to make Black hot, Red+Green the series connection (tap point), and white ground.
Aside from some installation complications, I found that the Virtual Solo is a great Strat bridge pickup. It's hum-free, and it has all the nuances of a good single coil pickup plus more bass and low mids. It's level balances perfectly with the middle & neck positions. Clean tone is punchy, dynamic, and bright, with a good balance of bass. Overdrive tone is fat & crunchy. Heavy distortion yields a nice growl & definition on the low strings & warm, singing high notes reminiscent of early Van Halen tone. Harmonics & sustain are great too. I highly recommend this pickup if you want to retain the character of your Strat, but make it better.