MANUFACTURERS HAVE SPENT decades trying to create a pickup that has all the attributes of a great single-coil, with none of the hum and noise. DiMarzio's quest resulted in the HS and Virtual Vintage series low-noise single-coil pickups. These, in turn, have led to the company's new Area '58 and '61 pickups, which produce the same benchmark tones of the single-coil pickups offered in Fender's 1958 and 1961 Stratocasters, with practically zero noise and hum. In fact, they produce less noise than full-sized humbuckers.
Typical side-by-side humbuckers cancel hum by connecting adjacent coils that produce equal and opposite voltages. The Area Series pickups utilize two coils as well, but stacked vertically, so that only a single row of magnetic poles lies under the strings. This maintains the narrow magnetic window that is heavily responsible for a single-coil's cutting tone.
DiMarzio's pickup guru, Steve Blucher, won't divulge all of the Area pickups' secrets, but a few things are apparent about its construction. Instead of using two coils with equal windings, the DiMarzio lets the fully wound top coil dictate most of the pickup's character, while the lower coil features very few windings. The lack of wire here produces very little resistance and therefore does not interfere with the upper coil's clarity and tone. Along the base of the pickup, a row of ferrous metal slugs increases the magnetic power of the lower coil without robbing the dominant coil of its clarity. A specially shaped steel shield further isolates the upper coil from any noise.
I put these pickups to the ultimate test, by installing them into my best-sounding Strat and pitting them against their 1958 and 1961 vintage counterparts. All factors considered, the Area '58 displayed practically the same bell-like clarity, even response and sparkling highs of the vintage pickup. It was open, woody and utterly angelic in its delivery of each note. The Area '61 produced the expected oomph in the low mids with the identical flavors of smoky overtones that made the 1961 Strat sound so magical. True to the DiMarzio's design goal, the only discernable difference between the DiMarzios and the original Fender pickups was the absolute absence of noise or hum. Even with extreme high gain, the Area '58 and '61 pickups were dead quiet.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Area '58 and '61 pickups are noiseless, yet produce all the nuances and tonal characteristics of the most prized vintage single-coils.