I recently had the honor of watching Steve Vai during an unaccompanied soundcheck and was surprised by what I heard.
There was something different about his sound, a ballsy low-mid energy that gave his tone the kind of depth and earthy elements it had back in his mid-Eighties Flex-Able/David Lee Roth period. I later learned that the source of this scorching tone is Vai’s new set of DiMarzio Gravity Storm pickups.
Whereas his Evolution pickups featured cutting attack, in-your-face presentation and extremely dense upper harmonics, the Gravity Storms are warm and fat, with a kicking low-end edge.
DiMarzio used Alnico 5 magnets for the DP253 bridge version of the Gravity Storm, focusing most of its power across a wide section of midrange. Technically, it’s not as loud as the Evolution, but it sounds hotter and livelier, largely thanks to how its midrange-forward equalization drives the resonant peaks of a tube-amp’s first gain stage. The DP252 neck model combines less power with ceramic magnets, resulting in the detailed tone and response characteristics that you might expect from an extremely fat single-coil.
The Gravity Storm bridge model is capable of creating copious amounts of “brown-sound” grind, so much that my stock 1987 Marshall almost sounded like it was modded with extra gain. Lows are sharp, highs are warm, and mids have the right ratio of complexity versus punch. Whereas the Evolution pickups responded with a linear-style sustain, the Gravity Storms bloom, sing and decay with a more natural curve. The neck model retains these sustain characteristics but introduces jangly, single-coil qualities, especially on cleaner or mildly driven amp settings. Because of the Gravity Storms’ warm top notes, setting an amp to higher-than-average treble and presence levels really brings out the best of these pickups’ harmonic content.
The Bottom Line
DiMarzio’s Gravity Storm pickups do more than nail Steve Vai’s sonic signature. They give you the inspiring midrange balance, organic gain and soulful pick response that can help you discover your own sound.
DP252 neck model, $115; DP253 bridge model, $115
Manufacturer DiMarzio Inc., dimarzio.com