Can the Tone Zone do low gain?

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Offline effectsman

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Can the Tone Zone do low gain?
« on: April 12, 2021, 07:48:47 PM »
I've got an alder HH Tele which the Dimarzio pickup selector recommends a Tone Zone, Air Zone, Super Distortion or AT-1 in the bridge depending on some of the variables you input.

This is a bright guitar and I need a pickup that emphasises the bass and mids over the treble. I play more rhythm than lead, so I like a pickup that still has reasonable string separation.

I play into a clean amp using pedals for various levels of gain.

Is the Tone Zone too hot a pick up for this application, even though it has the EQ that I probably need to counter the bright nature of the guitar? Am I better to go for a lower output like the AT-1, or even a Norton? Or can I just roll back the volume on the Tone Zone to help clean up the signal going into my pedals and amp? I've tried PAFs in this guitar but they are too bright for my tastes, so I don't think the low output route will work as those kind of pickups always seem to have an EQ lacking in the bass and particularly the low mids.

I play mainly 60 - early 90s pop and classic rock. Only the occasional metal tune like Metallica Enter Sandman, Judas Priest Turbo Lover, or Motörhead's Killed by Death etc. 95% of the time I'd be in the gain range of edge of break up, low gain 70s classic rock and higher gain 80s classic rock.

Which bridge pickup will work in this situation? I don't mind going for a more high output pickup like the Tone Zone as long as it will do lower gain through my pedals, or by turning it down it still retain its EQ and dynamics but not punch the pedals so hard. If it needs to be at 100% to really be its best, then what lower output pickup in the Dimarzio range would you recommend?

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Offline StevenMikel

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Re: Can the Tone Zone do low gain?
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2021, 08:53:07 PM »
 Have you considered the Air Zone ?

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Offline RayBarbeeMusic

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Re: Can the Tone Zone do low gain?
« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2021, 09:29:09 PM »
Air Zone or AT-1.  Norton has plenty of highs, might not be what you want.

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Offline effectsman

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Re: Can the Tone Zone do low gain?
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2021, 12:00:38 AM »
Have you considered the Air Zone ?

I definitely have. My only concern is having read a couple of replies where the poster thought that the Air Zone took all the great things about the Tone Zone and threw them away. That it was like a neutered Tone Zone. That may be OK though if it makes it a bit lower gain and bit more open sounding.

Air Zone or AT-1.  Norton has plenty of highs, might not be what you want.

So these clean up better by rolling down the volume, or do the low gain sound better?

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Offline RayBarbeeMusic

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Re: Can the Tone Zone do low gain?
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2021, 01:37:14 AM »
My only concern is having read a couple of replies where the poster thought that the Air Zone took all the great things about the Tone Zone and threw them away.

I'd say the opposite, especially if you want lower gain sound.

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Offline darkbluemurder

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Re: Can the Tone Zone do low gain?
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2021, 08:35:11 AM »
Except for the AirZone I had all of the other three at some time. I still have and use the Super Distortion and AT-1.

Tone Zone and Super Distortion definitely work best in bright guitars. Both have a sizzle in the top end which can be annoying depending on the guitar and amp set up. With the Super Distortion I got rid of that by dropping the load from 500k to about 380k by adding a resistance of 1650 kohms (actually two 3.3 meg ohm resistors in parallel) from hot to ground. This would probably have worked well on the Tone Zone, too but I did not keep that one long enough to try.

AT-1 also works best in brighter guitars. In contrast to the other two it does not have any of the sizzle that the other two have. Midrange is its forte, with a smooth top end.

Cheers Stephan
Area 67, Area 58, Area 61, VV Pro 54, Injectors, VV HB2, Virtual Solo, SDS-1, Area T, Area Hot T, Area T 615, Virtual Hot T, Chopper T, Bluesbucker, Breed set, Air Norton, Super Distortion, DLX+, DLX-90, DP240, DP198, DP168, VHPAF, AT-1, Norton