I recently introduced the new VFS-1 pickup as an alternative to the F500T-style (Schecter-style) pickups in our loaded pickguards, and I already started to work on some video demos of the complete VFS-1 pickup assembly , the first of these should come within the next days. What I can present today is a side-by-side comparison of the new VFS-1 pickup against the two pickups that inspired us to design this model: the DiMarzio FS-1 (which Mark Knopfler had in the neck position of his red Fender Stratocaster when he started Dire Straits), and a ‘real’ Fender vintage Strat pickup – remember, the VFS-1 is a tapped pickup which gives you two different sounds, so we need to compare it to both.
To get the true picture, I first recorded a few chords and licks with one of my Strats, one which features a DiMarzio FS-1 (a rather old model from the early 80ies, vintage itself) in the neck position and a 1955 (!!) Strat pickup (no rewound, all original) in the middle position. The recording was done directly into a PCM recorder at 24 bits (using a good buffer of course to catch the full sound of the pickups), no effects, no amp, just as direct as possible.
Then I opened the guitar (after I had measured the exact distance between the pole pieces and the strings), put out these two pickups, and installed two VFS-1. The one in the neck position runs on the full coil (DiMarzio sound), the one in the middle position on the tapped coil (vintage sound). I adjusted them to exactly the same distance between strings and magnets, then put the strings (the same!) on again, and recorded the same chords and licks with this setup.
As it is almost impossible to play the same licks at exactly identical volume and with 100% the same ‘touch’, I often played two or three versions of each licks , sometimes with different attack (soft, medium, loud).
The following video lets you hear the results for yourself. I replaced the audio track from the camera with the high-quality version from the PCM recorder. Remember, the guitar was recorded directly, no amp or effects, not even EQ, no nothing. Instead of showing one complete recording first and then the other, I edited the files to have corresponding licks directly behind each other. (I will try to offer a download possibility of the uncompressed WAV file soon in case someone feels that youtube’s conversion algorithms might have deteriorated the sound quality of the video).
I myself must say that I am fascinated how close we managed to get to the sound we wanted. Harry Häussel’s pickups generally have highest reputation – at least here in Germany and already among ‘people who know’ all over the world – but given the fact that we had to deal with two totally different sounds, and thus two totally different pickup designs, I think the result is astonishing. I really felt to check twice I had not confused any files and used audio from the same pickups, but – I give you my word – it is true, nothing has been done wrong, faked, or changed.
The VFS-1 for the neck position to get the early Dire Straits sound
Besides from being used optionally in the loaded Schecter-style pickguards, the VFS-1 is ideal for all Dire Straits fans to put it into the neck position of any Strat to get the fat DiMarzio sound. I have the DiMarzio FS-1 in some of my Strats but I often miss the vintage neck-position sound, with the FS-1 you have it all and lose nothing. I used the 2 & 3 position (neck & middle) with the DiMarzio and a vintage pickup on my attempt to recreate that Sultans of Swing sound for the Puresolo competition since it sounds noticeably different from the in-between position with two identical pickups, more open, less nasal.
If youI don’t like to change the look of a guitar with additional switches (like me), you can replace one tone poti with a push/pull poti (also available in our shop) to switch between the coil taps. It is no problem to wire the switch of the push/pull in such a way that you get the sound you mainly use at the pushed-in position, and then pull it when you need the alternate sound.
(Note: Due to high demand I have only a limited stock of the VFS-1 at the moment, new ones are expected soon. It might take a few days for delivery for this reason.)