Author Topic: PAF DP103 50th Anniversary  (Read 310 times)

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Offline ikonomov

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PAF DP103 50th Anniversary
« on: August 24, 2019, 07:01:54 pm »
Ever since the introduction of the DP103 36th Anniversary I wished that they used DP223 and DP224, and not replace the original DP103.  Why couldn't there be PAF and PAF 36th Anniversary?  In the DiMarzio catalog there have been probably a dozen "PAFs", so why couldn't there be one more and keep the original?  It is one of the first pickups made by DiMarzio.

I've gotten two answers over the years.  The new version is better in every way, and also that it is more dynamic.  I didn't dare ask how is it better exactly, but judging from my ears it is not better.  It is different, having possibly more dynamics due to using Airbucker technology and being tuned to have a slight accent in the midrange with Virtual Vintage technology.  Both of these qualities is something that an original PAF would have and yet the 36th Anniversary doesn't sound like an original PAF.  Why?  The answer is simple, they were made differently and obviously the original didn't use Airbucker or Virtual Vintage technologies, the sound of which not all of us like.

We can all appreciate the effort to get to that vintage tone, but I think it's not too hard to make the case that all those PAFs just weren't really getting there, the recent PAF 59 probably coming the closest yet.  So what if the DiMarzio PAF doesn't sound like a Gibson PAF?  Why couldn't the DiMarzio PAF DP103 sound like a DiMarzio PAF DP103?  Marketing.  DiMarzio wasn't associated with vintage sounding pickups and the "Guitar Renaissance" (promoted rediscovery of classical electrical guitar sound) must have became overbearing.  So the original and authentic DP103 with all its glorious sound had to be sacrificed in order to make another more serious attempt at joining the renaissance club.

What did we loose?  The only low output pickup in the catalog without Airbucker or Virtual Vintage that is a modern pickup, potted and with a normal Alnico 5 magnet.  A pickup with a balanced tone, slightly warm with very sweet highs, perfectly complementing the Super Distortion DP100 for what was once a classical combination.  Likely throughout the years the manufacturing process has undergone modifications, so slight changes likely did occur, but not 36th anniversary changes.

Edit: Looking at the Bass/Mid/Treble numbers for the PAF listed in the 80's catalog along with other pickups in these catalogs I think it's safe to assume that the way Dimarzio assigned the tone numbers changed sometime in the 90's or early 2000's.

Randomly checking on ebay, looking for an original (in black) for years, recently I was finally able to find and buy one.  It was still sealed in the box, possibly one of the very last still in existence.  I'm including some photos of the pickup hoping that it can ignite a new spark of hope for a possible 50th anniversary to bring back the real deal.  If the DP103 helped market the anniversary, let's have the DP103 and the anniversary help bring back the original.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2019, 10:56:26 pm by ikonomov »

Offline DavidSchwab

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Re: PAF DP103 50th Anniversary
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2019, 07:25:30 pm »
Their original PAF was a fairly standard design humbucker.  Everyone and their mother makes one of those. Duncan makes several. It was a nice sounding pickup.

When they first came out back in the 70s, the guitarist in my band gave me a set of patent label pickups out of his ‘59 Les Paul (used to be a gold top with P-90s) and had me install the DiMarzios. They sounded better than the Gibson pickups.

The Anniversary pickups use the air gap to simulate an Alnico II magnet. They also have the iron slugs between the poles to increase the inductance. As you probably know, these were tuned to sound like Larry’s personal Les Paul.

Maybe the original model didn’t sell all that well?

To my ears the Duncan Alnico II Pros are very similar sounding pickups. 

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Offline mmike

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Re: PAF DP103 50th Anniversary
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2019, 05:41:24 am »
Nice research, @ikonomov, thank you!

I expect DiMarzio had good reasons to change the technology of the original DP103. In a marketing sense, this is shooting yourself in the foot, knowing how magic-thinking many guitarists are, when it comes to "original", "real thing" technology. My guess is that it would have been really easy for them to have kept separated the "PAF" DP103 from a different PAF 36th neck, but it is likely they sounded exactly the same.

There are other musicians who care only about the tone - and Larry is one of them. Sure, seems like they don't forget about the skeptics or those who have spares to tinker the old way (PAF 59).

If you will be able to compare the two pickups - earlier DP103 against current 36th - please let us know your conclusions, ikonomov.