This is my first post, I have read you for years, but I only decided to start posting now as I can't seem to find a definitive answer to my problem.
Sorry for the length of the post.
I have 3 guitars:
1 Flamed Koa Carvin DC 727 with direct mounted CL/LF combo (Great PU IMHO, the stock ones were very good though)
1 RG520QS (MIJ) with an EMG 81/89R combo, 24 volts. These were on my S540 before, but switched it to the RG as I wanted to convert the S back to passive. My wife plays the RG now and doesn't let me touch it anymore.
The problem is with my 1997 S540LTDBK (MIJ), this guitar always sounded amazing until I switched back to passives. For the neck the Air Norton is okay, not quite the clarity of the Liquifire and a tad too high output (I prefer low output PU for neck), but it'll do the job OK, but not as good as the 89R. The problem is with the bridge PU. Guitar is Mahogany, Maple neck with Bubinga stripe, Rosewood fretboard, Lo pro edge bridge. Funny note its serial number is F975150... I have been lucky on this one...
I play Megadeth, Vai, Satriani, Pantera, 80s/90s metal stuff.
I am not fan of Dream Theater at all, but I do like Petrucci's tone, as I like Patrick Rondat's tone on Amphibia. Mark Morton's sound is great too.
I am playing through either a Digitech 2120 --> Provalve RT4250 (with JJ 6L6s in it) --> Custom Closed Back Stereo 2X12 with Avatar's V30s 8ohms.
I hate EL34s and GT12-75s.
As a preamp I also use an ADA MP1 3.666 with Mallory caps (dead silent under the highest gain without a noise gate) along with a Rane Pe15 for some Pre-EQ the ADA.
With the right V1 tubes, both preamps (2120 and 3.666) are amazing, so the problem is not there.
So my problem is S540 bridge pickup selection.
When I removed the EMGs, I did put a Custom Aged nickel Tone Zone: Waaaay too bassy/muddy. Lead tone was fine, nice smooth mids, but to me it is a lead only pickup unsuitable to palm mutting heaven.
Why did I remove the EMGs?: I wanted a tad more bass than the 81 and have a more natural clean sound although the step up from 9 to 24V did a world of difference to these pups (FYI most of the difference is from switching from 9 to 18V, almost no difference from 18 to 24V except space saving in the S body as 18V is too tight and 24V is smaller than 9V...).
Disgusted by the muddy tone zone, I chose to take a BKP Warpig Ceramic.
Better crunch than the Tone Zone, not as nice lead sound, but still: waay to bassy/muddy + slow response to pick attacks. To try to solve this I put a 1 Meg volume and more aggressive sounding caps (don't remember the values): it made it better, but not quite as precise as I like/am used to.
It is like these pickups try to cover my playing mistakes by wrapping them with a muddy towel if you see what I mean.
So yesterday, I went to 2 guitar stores and had 3 different advices:
- Put a JB (TB4) as it will pull the mud out (!), I am afraid not to have enough gain and definition on these. Your thoughts?
- Put a D-activator (not X) as it is supposed to be close to actives
- Put a crunch lab as I do like its 7 string brother and don't require fancy EQ changes when switching guitar.
I do find the PU tone quest expensive and time consuming.
So I am asking for your help
Other option is to put a BL 500XL (the becky one, not the fake), or.... to put it back with a 81/89R set and say f**** passives.
Thanks for your time