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  • Writer's pictureBarış Şahin

Dimarzio Virtual Hot PAF (DP214) Review

Updated: Feb 24

Dimarzio Virtual Hot PAF (DP214) Review 

Some might question the point of recalling and writing a review about a discontinued pickup model. It's actually a pretty valid question, and the answer lies at the end... Dimarzio had its unique series, the 'Virtual' series. There was the Virtual PAF and its slightly hotter version, the Virtual Hot PAF (VHP for short).

There were also single versions available.

The VHP was positioned somewhere between Dimarzio's PAF powered humbuckers and their medium output counterparts.

Personally, I find this medium output level to be what I appreciate and look for. As you go beyond this level, naturally, the compression increases, and clarity diminishes. Of course, high-output pickups have their own place too. I appreciate many examples like the JB and Super Distortion. However, when it comes to versatility, high-output pickups tend to lag a bit in terms of controllability. The powerful magnets within them (some even having multiples) and the heavily wound coils often limit flexibility in manipulations by volume and tone pots. Additionally, they tend to insist on preserving their characteristic screaming tones. However, this isn't usually as prevalent with medium-output humbuckers. Just like the Virtual Hot PAF. 

It's fair to say that at one point, VHP was the most beloved Dimarizo model on the Seymour Duncan Forum. I remember around 2005/2006, it was being talked about everywhere, and those who bought it couldn't stop praising it. That's why it became a subject of curiosity for me for a long time. Years later, though, thanks to my friend Dr. Barlo, I finally got mine in a double cream color. 


The Virtual Hot PAF I have still sits in its cavity on my hand-made superstrat that has a Turkish alder body, a Q-sawn one-piece maple neck in a chunky Endur-Neck profile, a two-point steel tremolo, 25.5” scale, steel frets, Bourns 500K pots, and Elixir strings in E-standard tuning. The guitar has a Dimarzio Al DiMeola Neck and Dimarzio HS-1 middle pickups. Its primary (unplugged) tone ranges from balanced to medium-bright. 

Virtual Hot PAF


Let’s read the official desciption first; 

“In the past there were no high-gain amps, no home recording studios, no computer monitors. Single-coil pickups were okay, and so were unpotted humbuckers.

Who knew? Times have changed, but the clean, bright-yet-warm tone of the best vintage pickups still sets the standard for electric guitar sound. 

The Virtual PAF captures the finest qualities of 50's and early 60's humbuckers to create a great sound. Patented Airbucker and Virtual Vintage technology permit the use of an Alnico 5 magnet to generate the same low string-pull that an Alnico 2 or 3 produces, and combine 2 of the most sought-after tonal characteristics: low note clarity and high note warmth.  For the vintage humbucker player who wants more - more power, more attack, more punch. The Virtual PAF proved that a pickup could be sweet-sounding and gritty at the same time. The Virtual Hot PAF is less about sweet and more about attitude. Play it hard and the sound jumps out of the speaker, but the singing quality of the best vintage humbuckers is still there, and coil-splitting works really well, too. 

An obvious question is the differences between the Virtual PAF and models like the PAF and Air Classic. The Virtual Vintage technology in the Virtual PAF adds a subtle, 3-dimensional presence to the overall tonality. It's particularly noticeable in the tonal balance between high and low notes: the high E string doesn't get brittle-sounding on the high frets, and the low E string doesn't "mud out" on the lowest frets. This characteristic makes the Virtual PAF neck model equally effective in both neck and bridge positions where sonic clarity is most important”. 

I believe this might be the most accurate Dimarzio product description I've read so far. You’ll read the  details. 

Virtual Hot PAF

dimarzio Virtual Hot PAF rear view

To be honest, for a long time, I thought the Virtual Hot PAF was an overwound PAF (~10K PAF). In fact, this misconception persisted until relatively recently. Despite having had this pickup for quite some time, I never bothered to take it apart and examine it, mostly due to its rarity. It was only through a warning from an old friend, who was the owner of a blog I used to contribute for, that I realized the VHP was actually an underwound pickup, not an overwound PAF. When I finally took the pickup apart while putting it on another guitar where it still stands, and looked at the coils from the side, it was as clear as day. The coils weren't full... Whereas if they had been wound with AWG42 wire for a 10K DCR, the coils should have been tightly wound. Silly me.  

Anyway, here comes the technical mambo jambo 

Dimarzio Virtual Hot PAF (DP214) 

Magnet – Alnico 5 

Advertised DCR: 9,13 K Ohm (Series) 

Measured DCR: 9,59 K Ohm (Series) 

Measured DCR: 4,81 K Ohm (Slug Coil) 

Measured DCR: 4,80 K Ohm (Screw Coil) 

Inductance @100Hz: 5,47H (Series) 

Inductance @100Hz: 2,360H (Slug Coil) 

Measured C: -28,5 nF (Series)/ -54,7nF (Slug Coil) 

Gauss: 260G Screw, 250G Slug (arithmetic mean of the values measured from the D and G strings)

Output: 265 Milivolts (advertised) 

EQ (B/M/T) – 6,5/6,5/5 (advertised) 

Wire Gauge: 43 AWG 

Patents: Airbucker & Virtual Vintage


Now, i am about to introduce you my personal favourite bridge humbucker. Well, it’s not easy after all. Anyway, VHP is moderate output humbucker, first of all. Its output level is given 265mVs on the official Dimarzio catalogs. But funny thing is i feel louder than that; at least not somewhere below PAF Pro at the bridge (Paf Pro has 300mVs output). I feel louder but not distorted or saturated in any way just like any other high output humbuckers like JB, Tone Zone or Custom or Super Distortion. Compression level is truely wonderful. There is but never goes senseless. Set your amp slightly overdriven level and drop your volume knob and voila, you have brillant cleans. Set your amp while neck humbucker is selected in the slightly overdriven and hit the bridge humbucker and set your amp in fires and flames. Not brutally but sweetly, singing flames if you know what i mean.  

The EQ given is over there but to my ears it’s very flat and balanced. It has sweet top end, tight lows that never goes muddy or boomy. Brilliant hi end end never goes ear piercer and harsh. Singing mids that make you sound audiable. 

Long story short, this “tone friendly” humbucker has everything most of us want and need: “Clean, Bright Yet Warm Tone with Moderate Output”. Virtual Vintage technology gives more balls; power and warmth for a Airbucker pickup. Airbucking and its underwound architecture makes it cleaner.

Remember what Dimarzio called its tone? Three dimensional? They are freaking right to say it! It really is. The name of the pickup is great match, too. Vintage PAF type of tone but hotter and ballsier with a lot of cleaner output. Some people decribes the tone of the VHP as nice fat, warm clean tones and almost single coil sounding in it's crystal clear clarity but fatter and rounder. Some people used to compare it with FRED in the early 2006 and 2007s. I can accept a similarity but Fred gives easier harmonics and sustain and has relatively more mids (especially hi-mids) and less lows. Fred also lacks of the three dimensional depth, airey and fuller tone.  

Some people claimed that VHP is true answer in the search for infamous early Van Halen tone. I can agree with them.

Well, young Eddie had used many guitars and many pickups while recording VH-I like Dimarzio Super Distortion and Ibanez Super 70.

But also he had and overwound (overwound by himself just as he admitted) PAF that has ~9K DCR and alnico 2 magnet within. If we also recall Steve Blucher mentioning that the Alnico 5 humbuckers equipped with the airbucker technology have a tonality similar to Alnico 2, it could make sense. 

Let’s read that part on my Tone Zone Review; 

“My thinking was AL2 was unstable, and when Ed ran a power drill or Ebow over the guitar, the pickup would begin to demagnetize. The solution was to use a fully charged AL5 magnet but create air gaps to separate the magnet away from the pole pieces. This new design yielded the same gauss at the pole piece as AL2 while producing a stable magnetic field at the same time.The air gap pickup had another benefit, it was clearer and more open than an AL2 pickup.” 

Furthermore some people believe that the short form of Virtual Hot PAF – VHP means “Van Halen Pickup”. I never believed that. But makes sense. Because you can get some VH-I and VH-II tones very succesfully. But is it the ultimate Van Halen pickup? I don’t think so. 

Structurely, VHP features a nickel silver baseplate instead of the brass that we are all familiar with Dimarzios, along with relatively shorter screws. Even their diameter might be narrower but i can’t check it now. 

Yet, despite all this, DiMarzio somehow discontinued this pickup for reasons they deemed valid. They offer 36th Annv. Bridge (DP223) model instead. I have not tried DP 223 yet “BUT”…   almost none of my friends or acquaintances from forums i contribute who love or are familiar with the Virtual Hot PAF liked the 36th Annv. Bridge and as someone who has witnessed their experiences, I respect their decisions. Since i haven’t got any experience i Can’t comment about it but i have obviously no thrill or curiosity, either. 



One of the best Dimarzio humbuckers ever. Great tone, great mojo and in a perfect place between PAF output pickups and the higher output ones.

Perfectly balanced and tuned. I only have a single piece of it, and I treasure it dearly. 

Let’s come to the “Ifs” part… If you can find any, first of all; 

This time i won’t tell you if your guitar is bright or warm, i have seen VHP worked pretty well of my two guitar; one with warmth, and latest one is brighter. All great if your guitar does not sound dead! 

If you want a bridge humbucker have more meat than the well known PAF bridge pickups which has clarity and warmth at the same time, versatile humbucker that teams up perfectly with alnico PAF clones, want versatility for your guitar, you are into more of vintage tunes and don’t sound thin by adding a vintage PAF clone with lower winding and half powered magnets in, on the bridge of your guitar. 

If you are looking something really Hot, stay away! That’s not a Super 3 nor X2N or whatever. Dimarzio gets “Hot” term stands for “Hotter than our regular Virtual PAF Bridge” not “we will give you freakin’ hell!” hotness. Don’t go wrong with it. 

What i don’t like, no, i hate about VHP is its absence. Dimarzio guys, if you are reading that, why on earth did you discontinue this pickup? There's even an petition about it on the Dimarzio forum.  

Despite it being discontinued for many years, there are still people who remember, love, and search for it. Seriously, wouldn't you want to reintroduce the VHP to the market?" 


Dimarzio Virtual Hot PAF (DP214) Review 

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2 תגובות

Igor Romanovsky
Igor Romanovsky
04 בפבר׳

Thanks to you I discovered this pickup and somehow tracked down one… I like it very much. I was looking for darker, less shrill sounding bridge humbucker (i tried: JB super bright, 490T, 36th and Air Classic too bright, Fantom P90 just right) than Air Norton i currently run. And looks like i prefer DP214 more in my LP. I have 2 almost identical LPs and compared them live. DP214 sounds to me louder and more powerful. Air Norton sounded quieter and more shrill. Oh man, did you know that on recording it turns to be that Air Norton was actually a little bit louder and brigter? So on paper, air norton has more output and mids, but when playin…

Barış Şahin
Barış Şahin
05 בפבר׳
בתשובה לפוסט של

I really thank you for dropping your comment here. I'm very glad about your feel on VHP. You know what, i've bought an Air Norton for the bridge and currently trying on the same guitar. Agreed on a bit louder than VHP. Both have their own kind of tonal sctructure and gave different vibe to my guitar. Both good but different. VHP still feels better because of the liveliness. Nevertheless Air Norton is phenomenal bridge humbucker as far as i see :)


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