The Fender Telecaster was the first production-line solidbody electric guitar, and Leo and co got it pretty much right the first time around. The Telecaster’s design is like a perfect storm of tone: the chunky body and the bolt-on neck joint encourage a particular kind of string energy transfer that retains a great deal of treble, and this gives the Tele its legendary ring. But there are many different approaches to the Tele tone. Some players need to tame the treble a bit, some wish to emphasise it, some require lower output, some want lower noise, and some want higher output. The DiMarzio Area T 615 is aimed at modern country players who need to retain the classic Tele tone but who need something a little more finely tuned for overdrive sounds as well as cleans. These players need the true Tele twang, but they also need solid, punchy tones for the rockier styles that have progressively crept into modern country.
The hum-cancelling DiMarzio Area T 615 is built with an Alnico 2 magnet. It has an output of 200 mV and a DC resistance of 7.93 Kohm. This puts it above the vintage-toned Area T bridge (175 Kohm) and below the heftier Area Hot T Bridge (238 Kohm).
I installed the Area T 615 in my ‘Telepartser’ – a Tele my dad and I put together out of bits and pieces when I was about 14 or 15, and which is made of a mystery body wood (it looks like ash but I can’t be certain). I know the sound of this guitar very well. It has clear highs and a punchy low end, and – since I upgraded the bridge saddles with KTS titanium a few years ago – great ringing sustain. The installation was easy – in fact if it was my job to wire up Telecasters for the rest of my days I’d be perfectly content. I love how straightforward a Tele pickup installation is.
DiMarzio lists the pickup’s tone curve at 5.5 on the bass and midrange, and 7.5 on the treble, but what this doesn’t tell you is where those particular frequencies sit. The high end of the Area T 615 is definitely clear and dominant, but it rolls off before any particularly airy, slice-through-your-ears frequencies can take hold. There’s enough upper-end crispness to let through some of the sound of the string windings, but there’s certainly a lot less of this than other Tele pickups I’ve tried. The low end is supportive and percussive, and you can dig in with the pick without blowing out the bass frequencies. Midrange is similarly present-yet-restrained. This is not a scooped mid pickup, nor is it an overly honky one. The midrange character here supports the detail within chords, and it lets lead guitar licks sing.
One of the particular design goals of the Area T 615 is to clean up nicely when the player backs off their pick attack. With the amp overdrive dialled just so, you can go from textural arpeggios and tender melodies to chunky power chords and back again with ease. And while the pickup’s title – 615 is the area code of Nashville – suggests it’s optimised for modern country, it’s also great for classic rock and blues-rock styles. And it’s voiced in such a way that it sits very nicely in a mix: the bass and midrange don’t fight the rest of the instruments, and the treble allows the guitar to cut through without being too forceful about it, yet the frequency spread and the note attack prevent the guitar from being swallowed up when the fader is brought down at the mixing desk. It’s rare for a pickup to be so well suited to both a supportive and a dominant role but this one nails it.