I tested the Air Zone for a few rehearsals and while it was a good pickup, it really didn't have what i was looking for.
I decided to go the other direction and try a DiMarzio Crunch Lab. I used it during rehearsal tonight and put it through it's paces. I was using my Silhouette Special and my Bogner 101b.
My drummer's first impression?
"Holy crap, your rig is LOUD tonight! What are you trying out now?"
In a nutshell: LOUD, smooth, ballsy, punchy, and dynamic.
I'll get the obvious out right away. This is a VERY loud pickup. Not as loud as the JB8, and not uncontrollable but almost. Very high output. I had to switch the amp to 100W mode in order to get a comfortable amount of headroom and then it was still pushing it occasionally.
In spite of it being loud, it's not compressed sounding. It's very dynamic feeling, reacts well to subtle input, and cleans up well. Under full gain it's extremely ballsy and punchy but never loses its tightness. This was especially appreciated during fast alternate picked palm mutes. It has a nice bloom to the sound when playing full or complex chords. It didn't feel hard or stiff or compressed at all... nice and open and very percussive. On both clean and dirty sounds the lows are big and tight, the mids are crisp and articulate, and the highs are defined but not shrill. Good balanced sound with a slight emphasis on the mids.
I installed it with the bar next to the bridge, where it's supposed to be a little brighter and better for drop tunings. With the bar forward towards the neck it's supposed to be smoother and a little louder. I don't know if I could handle it the other way, as it's already a beast this way! I set the pickup height about where I'd normally have it for something like a JB and had to back it off quite a bit. This pickup is very sensitive to how close it is to the strings as well. I tweaked it until I found the sweet spot for it.
I usually don't go for ceramic magnet pickups but this one really has me impressed. I might try an A8 in it for good measure. I think I'll keep this around a bit and see how it goes.