Dial “T” For Tone: Dialtone Pickups Put A Whole New Level of Control at Your Fingertips

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One of the cool things about attending a NAMM show is that one gets to see the full scale of innovation and artistry in today’s gear industry.  Everything from spot-on interpretations of classic guitars, amps and pedals to design that expand the horizons of classic platforms (say, a TS-inspired pedal with far more gain and EQ range, for example) to products that are seemingly inspired by extra-terrestrial technology (or perhaps a few too many margaritas) are on hand to gawk over and be inspired by.

One such company at Summer NAMM 2015 that caught our attention is Dialtone Pickups.  Dialtone makes what might very well be the world’s most versatile pickup.  Not “range of pickups.”  Pickup.  Singular. One. Single. Pickup.

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Bollocks, you say.  You’ve heard this “versatile” talk before.  And besides, how can there be one model of pickup that can possibly generate the hard rock and metal tones but also satisfy the guy playing Texas swing tunes or smooth jazz or noisy punk rock?

Dialtone Pickups were developed by John Liptac, who sought to correct the age of old problem we’ve all encountered with a guitar at some point or another:  Looks great, feels great, sounds “meh.”  Liptac encountered this common conundrum after one particular guitar acquisition and went through the ringer trying to capture the tone he was hearing in his head: different amps, different pedals, different pickups.  But even after all that, there was still something missing.

So Liptac threw in the towel, swore off guitar playing forever, began an artisanal mustard business and….WRONG!  We’ve certainly all felt that way at certain points in our guitar-playing lives, but Liptac knew he could do something about it.  Tapping into his PhD-level education from MIT in Applied Plasma Physics, Liptac spent years prototyping a system which would allow the player to easily adjust the resonant frequency and Q value of the pickup via two elegantly designed, discrete knobs on the pickup housing.

But this is not just another active pickup or a pair of generic tone knobs jammed into a humbucker, folks.

“Our pickup’s circuit is different than something such as an active circuit installed in the body of the guitar because the coils, metal case, and other physical components uniquely found within a pickup are directly incorporated into our circuit, allowing us to shape tone at the source in really creative and effective ways,” Dialtone Pickups director Tory Taylor told TheToneKing.com.

Dialtone pickups are also available with an optional adjustable pickup gain control that attaches to your guitar like a normal control.  Players can also opt for an additional “fixed gain jumper” on the underside of the pickup, if they want to experiment between low- and high-gain configurations but don’t require on-the-fly adjustability.

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“John invented Dialtone Pickups because he wanted quick and easy access to quality tones without having to substantially modify his guitar,”  Taylor noted.  “Considering the small size of a pickup, it would have actually been much easier to add the adjustments using a separate device. However, after evaluating a number of possible options, John determined that using anything but the pickup would have detracted from the access and usability of the adjustments; likely would have involved complex, clunky, or unreliable controls; and almost certainly would require that the guitar be permanently modified.”

For all it’s sophistication and versatility, a Dialtone pickup installs easily using a solderless wiring kit and keeps everything “under one roof”, so to speak.  You can get on with finding your tone and letting it rip.

Which is exactly what the pickup is designed for.  Because there is so much tonal control on tap, Liptac started with a cleaner, more neutral tonal base to afford players maximum flexibility.  You’re not confined to “vintage” this or “high gain” that or anything in between with a Dialtone pickup.  And players everywhere are clearly digging that.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Dialtone users regularly let us know that they are extremely satisfied with the range and quality of the tone and gain adjustments. Some have told us that they expected our product to be yet another gimmick in the pickup industry, and are very surprised to find that the pickups not only meet, but generally far exceed, their expectations,”  Taylor said.   “They are also particularly surprised by the highly responsive harmonics, tremendous level of gain possible using our adjustable gain feature, and intuitive nature of the dials.”

It’s clear Dialtone has already broken some serious ground in the pickup world, and yet they’re not even close to being done.   In fact, they’ve just released a solid lineup of upgrades (called “V3.0”) to their unique and innovative original design:

  • Double the battery life: Achievesroughly 1,000 plugged-in hours with a standard 9v and 1,400 with a lithium 9v with no reduction in the performance of the pickup.
  • Lower noise: The original design already met or exceeded the noise reduction capabilities of other low-noise pickups out there, and Dialtone has found a way to brin g levels down even further
  • Refined neck and bridge-position foundational tones: Through some tweaks in the circuit and extensive testing, Dialtone massaged the foundational tones a bit from the original design to optimize them for neck and bridge positions.
  • Improved wiring– Dialtone adopted a two-position connector (instead of four-position connector) for the optional adjustable​ gain feature. This allows Dialtone to use a slightly narrower cable for folks using the adjustable gain option in guitars that have crowded cavities and narrow routing.

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Despite all the new paths they’ve blazed, Dialtone is only just getting started, Taylor said.

“We’re looking into the possibilities of digital controls, additional effects, a phone app, and presets. These are all things we would fluidly incorporate into a single device – the pickup – instead of trying to piece together various circuits and controls as we expand over time.”  Dialtone is also gathering endorsers, investigating single-coil designs, and working on getting the pickups into shops.

A frequent observation made in the electric guitar world is that electric guitar design really hasn’t changed all much.  Dialtone Pickups could possibly make that notion, and the idea of “one-trick pony” pickups obsolete.

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