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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I got a Dimarzio D Activator bridge pickup recently and I'm quite impressed with it. How Dimarzio describes the pickup is quite accurate. My personal notes: take an EMG 81's attack, crunch, and smoothness (as well as its overall output level), blend in some more warmth (somewhat like an EMG 85), broaden the dynamic range (so that it just responds "more naturally"), remove the need for batteries or unusual value pot values, voila.

Of course if you're already an EMG fan you may still prefer EMGs, and so far there are only two D Activator pickups Dimarzio offers (neck/bridge). I know a lot of people are going to welcome these pickups with open arms though, particularly those who have asked on the forums "what passive pickup is closest to an EMG". The answers to that question have always been a mixed bag of presumptions of what aspect of an EMG a person wants in a passive pickup, because no pickups have come this close to getting that sort of overall sound/response. And arguably the D Activator can be seen as getting that sort of sound/response in a "better" way.

It's also quite a treat to put a pickup more suited to blues in the neck, alongside a D Activator in the bridge so that the middle and neck positions bring the guitar a more traditional flavor. Combining passive pickups alongside EMGs isn't impossible but it isn't simple or optimal with most guitar control sets. Combining other passive pickups with the D Activator is a no-brainer because the D Activator is a passive pickup which uses standard guitar control sets.

There exists a video of the D Activator pickups on Youtube, done by a columnist for a guitar magazine; keep in mind if you see that video, that it's only what that one person did to set up his sound that time. That's not what the pickup always sounds like with every guitar and every amp. I have to say this because it seems a lot of people on the forums automatically presume the D Activator sounds exactly how it did in that video. Also, some have heard the D Activator in guitars with rather loose lows (such as some newer Ibanez set-neck guitars, which can be notorious for loose lows) and presumed the pickup were to blame. Some have also said the D Activator is "lower output" than they expected since they don't know what an EMG 81 brings to the table in the first place (it's not a super-hot output pickup either, in reality). Like any other pickup, the D Activator won't cure problems that are outside the pickup's domain whether it's what amp is used, how it's recorded, what guitar it's in, etc., and it's not meant to automatically make your guitar endlessly shoot flames. That being said, if your guitar sounds good to you already and you want more of that EMG type of flavor in the way Dimarzio promises of the D Activator, I can confidently recommend it.
 

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I tried those pickups in some Ibanez... the model started with an X... some pointy thing (ugly POS... I was only touching it for the pickups).

Pretty impressive, I think it was lacking some output compared to an EMG but it DEFINETLY makes up for it in the tone department. Not something I'd personally buy because I already know what pickups I love, but it's certainly not something I'd tell someone to avoid.

Glad to hear you're happy! Nothing worse then buying a pickup or something you can't try ahead of time and then being disappointed *cough* I did that with the D Sonic lolol *cough*.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I wasn't happy with the D Sonic either, although I figure the guitar it was in might not have been optimal for it (or vice versa). Thankfully I bought it at a local dealer and they honored the Dimarzio return policy, so I got something else in its place.

The D Activator might be slightly lower output than an EMG 81 but it is in the same league as an EMG 81. Don't forget the output still depends on the guitar; unless you use the EMG 81 in the same guitar as the D Activator (same exact guitar, not "the same model"), you might get the wrong impression of what it can do. The first time I tried a D Activator it was in a new Ibanez V, and it sounded super hot. Later when trying one in my own guitars I realized it was about the same as an 81, and that particular V happened to be a very resonant guitar.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
How would you compare it to the D-sonic tonally and what guitar is it in?
I'd rather compare it to EMGs since that makes the most sense. Irrespective of the guitar it was in (I tried it in 3 different guitars), the same comparisons applied each time.

The D Sonic reminds me of a tweaked X2N. I forget exactly how, because I didn't use it very long.
 
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