Reinventing The Steel: Dimebag Darrell’s SH-13 Dimebucker
Pantera and Damageplan’s Dimebag Darrell was one of a kind. At a time when many players were using rack systems or tube heads to achieve warm, smooth tones, he blasted out of Texas with a jagged, aggressive sound based on a solid state amplifier, an EQ and a hell of a lot of attitude. As he refined his equipment needs, Dimebag put the results of his discoveries and preferences into various pieces of signature gear. And the SH-13 Dimebucker was a key part of his search for the ultimate metal tone.
Darrell originally used heavily modified Dean guitars, but that company underwent ownership changes in the late 80s and the guitars he liked were becoming hard to find, so he switched to Washburn (he would eventually switch back to Dean and would work closely with them to develop several signature instruments). The pickup he’d previously been using was also becoming harder and harder to find, and he’d been using a custom-wound version called the XXL-500 which was not available to the public, but it still wasn’t quite doing it for him. So it was time to go on a tone quest.
Dime needed something which would work well with his rig and established sound, as well as with the new Washburn guitars he’d begun using. He wanted a pickup with high output and lots of gain, but he was unhappy with everything he tried. Pickups geared towards distortion were too distorted to achieve the clarity of tone he was after, but cleaner pickups were too thin. He needed something with a thick low end and powerful highs. He also wanted a pickup that would clean up nicely when the guitar’s volume knob was rolled back.
After Darrell hooked up with Seymour Duncan, he sent one of his old pickups to use as a starting point, but he wasn’t looking for a reproduction: this was his chance to have his pickup made his way. From there a few samples were sent out to evaluate on the road in a particular Washburn dedicated to the task.
The result was the Dimebucker, a pickup which gave Dime the ‘smushies’ he was looking for: the Dime-ism he used to describe a sound where the notes ‘smushed together’ in power chords, with a sponge-like feel and bright but not brittle high end.
Various magnets, wire gauges, numbers of turns and other factors were used in the development of the Dimebucker. The final result is based on the combination of a ceramic magnet and stainless steel blades. It has a DC resistance of 16.25 k and a resonant peak at 5.1 KHz, which combine to give it the treble kick and low-end smush Darrell was after. The blades help to maintain the strength of the note over the duration of bends, since there’s always a constant magnetic field under the string: it doesn’t dip or change in between pole pieces.
The Dimebucker pairs especially well with a ’59 model in the neck position, which was Dimebag’s preferred setup. And in true metal style, it’s available in any colour you want. As long as it’s black.