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  • Writer's pictureBarış Şahin

Dimarzio LiquiFire Review (DP227)



John Petrucci is a very fortunate man when it comes to guitars and equipment. From the early years of his career to the Music Man Majesty (yes, I don't like this guitar at all, I find it quite ugly), all his gear has been fascinating. I remember the period between 1992 and 1999 when Dream Theater was shining like a star, and listening to DT was considered very cool. His Picasso-graphic Ibanez was so different... His tone naturally evolved over time; from BC Rich to Ibanez and then to Music Man, the guitars, amplifiers, and of course, his choice of pickups changed. The transition from “Humbucker from Hell” and “Tone Zone” (his early choices) to “Air Norton” & “Steve's Special” combo was significant. In the early 2000s, John, who had become closer with DiMarzio, introduced many signature pickup models over the years. The Liquifire pickup, released in 2009, were well-received when they came out. During those years, we had a guitar workshop; we were making custom, handmade guitars. Of course, we also did repair and modification jobs, and I remember ordering Crunch Lab and Liquifire pickups from a friend returning from U.S. for a customers guitar. I had preferred Crunch Lab over Steve's Special back then. I preferred Air Norton over LF just for a tiny differenc as well. About 14 years later, I encountered these pickups again, this time on my own guitar.

DP227BK DiMarzio LiquiFire

Test Guitar


LiquiFire still stands on my “Pink Tiger” for a while. That pink tiger is a superstrat has a Jackson Dinky body made of alder, one piece maple neck in modern C profile, German made Jackson Floyd Rose tremolo with Japanese stainless steel saddles, 25,5” scale, nickel silver frets, Alpha 500K pots and elixir strings in E-std tuning. Guitar has Dimarzio Crunch Lab bridge and Jackson middle pickups. Its primary (unplugged) tone is neutral to fairly bright.   

Evaluation


Let’s read the official desciption first;


One thing has stayed consistent throughout John Petrucci’s long and successful career: the DiMarzio pickups in his guitars. John has been pushing the envelope of progressive metal since the late eighties, and the DiMarzio  LiquiFire Neck Model resulted from our most recent collaboration with John. He used it throughout Dream Theater’s tenth studio album, "Black Clouds & Silver Linings". John swears this is the best live and studio sound he has ever had. He wanted a neck pickup with a flowing, singing solo tone when used with a heavily overdriven amp and a clear chord sound with a clean amp setting.

Since the mid 1990s, John's neck pickup sound has been based on either the standard Air Norton or the custom version in his Ernie Ball guitars. The LiquiFire has several significant differences. Its treble response is warmer and smoother while bass response is tighter and brighter. The total sound has a more focused voice which works equally well for highly overdriven solos and complex, clean chords.”


Want to see the measurements, right here!


Dimarzio LiquiFire DP227

Magnet – Alnico 5

Advertised DCR: 10,75 K Ohm (Series)

Measured DCR: 10,87 K Ohm (Series)

Measured DCR: 5,55 K Ohm (Screw Coil)

Measured DCR: 5,29 K Ohm (Slug Coil)

Inductance @100Hz: 6,44 H (Series)

Inductance @100Hz: 2,71 H (Screw Coil)

Inductance @100Hz: 2,71 H (Slug Coil)

Measured C: -27 nF (Series)/ -50nF (Screw Coil) / -53,4nF (Slug Coil)

Output: 300 Milivolts (advertised)

EQ (B/M/T) – 6/7,5/4,5 (old catalogs) – 5/6,5/6,5/4 (official website)

Gauss: 220G slug, 200G screw (measured at top center of pole pieces)

Patents: Airbucker & Virtual Vintage



My measurements and my observations by eye showed me LF has two nearly identical coils while Air Norton has Dual Resonance coils. Coils should have AWG 43 wire. Pole pieces are like the ones on the PAF Pro, allen head screws, not as thick as like the ones on the Super Distortion. Narrower pole pieces may decrease the inductance a bit, “Virtual Vintage” touch compansates it and makes it a bit higher than the Air Norton.

 

If the neck tone of your guitar is bright enough LF, in the reflection of the facts i’ve told, can be a great choice. If it is warmer, can be considered. But more than warmer, i mean if you already have issues with clearity, i would think twice and then think twice again. Mind the inductance value 6,44H. Well it is, for me, a great value for the bridge but in the neck, too risk yor considerable. Because yes, i like my neck tone to be clear for some guitars but also warmer for some.



Let's discuss the similarities and differences between the Air Norton and LF. I don't have much to say on this topic because I haven't done an A-B test, so I don't want to make bold claims. However, in terms of basic tones, I think they are quite similar to each other. There are nuances, but I didn't see as much difference as day/night personally. The LF feels a bit more closed/darker compared to Air Norton. In terms of EQ, I think AN has slightly more audiable mid-mids, while LF can be considered to have mellower low mids. Again i haven’t done an A-B test but i felt LF is a bit hotter and fatter than AN.

DP227BK DiMarzio LiquiFire

The tone in the neck? Well, as i’ve just said, if you are familiar with Air Norton in the neck, you are in the club. For a >10K humbucker with 6,44H inductance, LF can be considered as “clear” :) That’s not something i would call true clear or crystall clarity but, yeah, i had seen pickups wound around 8K and much worse in the manner of clarity. But the tone is warm. Clean tones are okay for a neck humbucker. Mild overdriven sounds are pretty nice. Think of creamy/ fluety PAF sounds on a Les Paul. Distorted sounds? In my Pink Tiger guitar, they are good. Especially good for 80s metal tones. Moreover it combines pretty nice with Crunch Lab which i will tell more on that Crunch Lab later. Did i say LF can sometimes be muddy? Not on my Pink Tiger but sometimes it pushes the limits on the wound strings so, again, be mindful if you already have mud issues on the neck.

 

Can the LF be modified, or should it be modified? There isn't a pressing need, but for those who enjoy these kinds of small experiments, my suggestion could be to try a thin C8 ceramic magnet. This might lower the inductance a bit, etc., and could potentially result in a clearer neck tone, I believe.

 

Dimarzio LiquiFire Review

Comparing to Crunch Lab, the LiquiFire is way open in the manner of compression. If we evaluate the LF on its own, it can be said to have a slight compression, but it is at a natural and not excessive level. So LF is open to volume pot manipulations and phrasing by picking intensity.

 



Do you remember what i told you on my Air Norton review? AN was a fantastic bridge humbucker. So LF needs to be tested on the bridge, too. LF has that kindo potential.

 

Conclusion


If you are drawn to John Petrucci's tones from the last 10-15 years, the LF could be a good choice for you. Personally, my favorite Dream Theater guitar tones are unexpectedly from the "Falling into Infinity" album because those tones feel much more natural/direct to me. However, the tones in the legendary albums "Awake" and "Images & Words" are truly unique, that’s undeniable. In this regard, I see myself leaning more towards the Air Norton for neck position. On the other hand, for more modern Petrucci tones, the LF might offer you more.


You don’t have to be a Petrucci fan to buy or like the LF. Signature model pickups often create a very specific tonal expectation, but in fact, many of them are customized or fine-tuned for a particular musician. They are purchased for those specific artist tones, and it's important not to approach them with a preconceived notion that they can’t be versatile. LF can be evaluated in this category too. Together with the Crunch Lab, I think they make a great pairing, also, for '80s and 90’s Heavy Metal. They have the potential to fire up your Hot Rod Marshalls without the need for tight pants, big permed hair, or brightly colored outfits. Moreover, with a reasonable and balanced overdrive, it also does a good job mimicking PAF pickups on a 24-fret guitar with a Floyd Rose, which is another plus.


If you ask whether the LiquiFire is here to stay or on its way out, for now, it’s here to stay. I often switch pickups to try new ones, so I might put a different humbucker in place of the LF soon. However, the reason for a potential change wouldn't be boredom or dissatisfaction, at least not in the short term.






Guitar pickup reviews

Dimarzio LiquiFire Review

Dimarzio LiquiFire Review (DP227)


 


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