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Author Topic: Pickup Upgrade Options  (Read 19023 times)

VikingBlues

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Pickup Upgrade Options
« on: October 29, 2012, 04:34:17 PM »
Having recently upgraded my Hagstrom Viking Deluxe pickups with the best results I could have expected and with the earlier upgraded P90 pickups on my PRS SE being so good too, an inevitable thing has happened. My other guitars now don't sound as good!  >:(

So - I'm in the process of ordering &/or thinking about pickups and related hardware. A couple of possibilities have come up that I really have little knowledge of, but I do like what little I've seen of them. Maybe there's the off-chance someone here has tried / heard / known someone trying these things and can give advice / comment?

1) I'm upgrading my sels build Strat pups. To:-
Set of 3 Strat single coil pickups
alnico 2
unpotted (I don't play live or loud)
Output around 5.8
formvar wire
flat poled (I've got a pretty flat fretboard)
non-reverse middle pickup (I nnow 99% of people have reverse but I like the sound of non-reverse)
- they're currently being hand wound by a one man business in the USA recommended to me by a friend.

My query relates to the electrics which I will also upgrade ... y'know CTS / cloth wire etc. BUT - one of the things I don't like about the Strat is the tone of the Bridge pickup and how it's impossible to change the tone using standard wiring. I started looking at Master Tone knob arrangements and encountered the Volume Knob, Master Tone Knob, Blender Knob combination. So you can have the neck and bridge together. You can also have all three pickups in play using the blender knob.
There's a pre-wired one about 3/4 down the linked page below - called "Prewired Assembly Strat Modern Blender"
http://www.croxguitars.com/LPkits.htm
Then again - if I get 4 usable positions with the new pickups on standard wiring that'll be double the neck only or mid only I use now. So anyone tried the blender idea - thoughts on Blender v Standard wiring? I'm not wanting extra switches and rewiring jobs TBH - I hate soldering with a passion!

2) I am starting to look at what I might do on the Vintage brand vs6 "SG" too.
As I am going to have Alnico 2 in the Strat as well as the PRS SE and the Hagstrom I was wondering about a different Alnico. But not 5 - I've had plenty of a5 'buckers and I don't seem to get on with the sound of them. The a2 'buckers in the Hagstrom - well I've never had better pickups ever. So I saw Alnico 3 - very few people seem to have them / have tried them. There's very little on YouTube even. But from the descriptions I think they'd maybe suit my need for clarity even when getting gritty on blues. Think I'm after 'buckers with a hint of single coil?!

Then I saw an article about the Gibson Custom Shop issue Paul Kossoff Les Paul. they got the original and did lots of tests to try to recreate it as accurately as possible. Interestingly it has a3 humbucker pickups as per the original. Now - if the sounds Koss got (when he was firing on all cylinders) was anything to go by the a3 maybe has a lot going for it as a humbucker.

Dawsons have detail about this guitar - little matter of 5,299.00!!  ::)
http://www.dawsons.co.uk/gibson-paul-kossoff-1959-les-paul-vos

There are clips on YouTube that show it's Kossoff sounds. Then I found this on YouTube which is more like the sort of playing I like to (try to) do
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIOQN_gurko
OK I'm not as good a player, my guitars not as good, I don't have an Okko Diablo in teh chain, my Amps not as good! But when I hear the sort of tones here and compare them to the same guy playing a Standard Les Paul through the same gear I feel that I'm on the right track.

But I'd love to hear from anyone who has real experience of a3 'buckers. Unlikely as that might be.  :)

zagatron1

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Re: Pickup Upgrade Options
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2012, 07:28:30 PM »
Ive dealt with this guy before - http://www.kleinpickups.com/default.aspx and was very pleased. The way you described what you wanted, I'm sure he can hook you up. Only problem is, I don't know if he ships out the U.S. Anyway, I know of A2,A3,A4 (rare) and A5 magnet types. I use mostly A2 myself 'cause of it's "warm" sound. I personally only have one axe with "unpotted" pickups 'cause I wound them myself and that's my Tele. Buckers with a hint of "single coil", hmmm......you might wanna check out these -  http://www.fralinpickups.com/humbuckers.asp  - The ones I'm referring to, are the P-92s. I used to know some dude that offered A3 buckers, but problem I don't recall who it was. The axes I have with those are either A2 or A5. Oh yeah.... the last Strat I had, I had the blender pot in it, so instead of 5 choices, you get 7.

VikingBlues

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Re: Pickup Upgrade Options
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2012, 12:59:36 AM »
Thanks very much for those links Zag - I'll check them out.  :)

I identify with your liking for a2 pups. My favourite two electrics have these, and in both cases they were upgrades from a5 and the results were much to my liking. I have got the feeling from what I've seen that a3 are nearer to a2 than to a5 in their character.

I'm currently getting those a2 single coils for the Strat from that guy in the USA who was recommended to me. The friend who made the recommendation thinks that the same chap also does 'buckers and is flexible on magnet types ... but I'm going to wait to get the Strat pups before I pursue that line of enquiry with him. AxesRUs who do supply in the UK, and I've bought a lot from them (good service and good value for money), have a set of a3 'buckers ... and they seem particularly enthusiastic about how they've worked out!
http://www.axesrus.co.uk/Axesrus-Classic-50s-Deluxe-Humbuckers-p/lpa210-classic50del.htm

On that last Strat you had - with the Blender pot - did you feel any advantage from those extra choices? Did the standard options still sound the same? I do like positions 3 and 5 a lot so I don't want to risk making them worse for the possibility of extra tones I don't really need. Though it would be nice to get a good sound from position 1 with a master tone taking the edge of the bridge pickups treble.

Oh dear .... I can drive myself mad with these decisions!  :-\

zagatron1

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Re: Pickup Upgrade Options
« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2012, 11:40:53 AM »
You'll be okay VB. What attracted me to the blender was this....."Blender Pot allows you to blend the neck and bridge pickups together. With the blender the guitar will have a volume, a master tone, then the blender. With the blender turned on 10, the guitar is normal strat switch set-up. With the blender on 0, the neck and bridge pickups are connected in switch positions 5 and 1. All three pickups are together in positions 2 and 4. Position 3 is still just the middle pickup. So you get 2 extra sounds. This is a true no load pot".  I put the text in quotes 'cause it would've took me half a day to type that meself  ;)! Anyways, I felt those 2 extra options were great! At one point, it can sound like you got a bucker in there. I'm just not a Strat guy, but I can say I gave myself plenty of chances (eight) to make sure! ;D One o' these days, I'll get a chance to try something with A4 mags that are rare, but not impossible to find.  Probably'll cost more no doubt. ;D
« Last Edit: October 30, 2012, 11:47:46 AM by zagatron1 »

DetroitBlues

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Re: Pickup Upgrade Options
« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2012, 04:11:26 PM »
I swapped my American Standard Strat pickups from stock to Texas Specials to Dimarzio Area's. Best Pickups I've ever used in a strat.  I'm building an inexpensive strat now and using GFS Vintage Coils, but I'm going to swap them to lipsticks when I can. 

reb

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Re: Pickup Upgrade Options
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2012, 07:47:43 PM »
VB,  'premier guitar' has all kinds of wiring options for a strat; dig around their site, there's all kinds of stuff.... seymour duncan has so many wiring options (mostly for their pups, but they're transferable to others if you work at it), you will, literally, drive yourself crazy...for example, look at me :)

http://www.premierguitar.com/Magazine/Issue/2011/Dec/Stratocaster_Parallel_Series_Switching.aspx

in my limited experience, the interface between a guitar and amp has a big effect on 'guitar tone'.  if you get a pup sounding good in one amp, then buy or trade for another, things may go to...mmm...pot...hahaha. (electronics joke...potentiometers)

for that matter, the resistors, caps, tone/volume pots have effect on tone, too, as does cable...

lately, i play one guitar through different amps when i want to change tone. saves a lot of soldering. another thing i have learned is speakers play a major role in sound...i'm about to swap out the jensen in my blues jr. for an eminence cannabis rex...knocks off the high zing of the amp; sounds almost 'marshally'.

VikingBlues

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Re: Pickup Upgrade Options
« Reply #6 on: October 31, 2012, 03:15:46 AM »
Thanks for the suggestions / comments / links guys!  :)

you will, literally, drive yourself crazy...
It's already happened to me!

I've decided to stop driving myself mad for at least a while. I'll go standard wiring (with good quality components) - see what the new Strat pups sound like when like that. I might then do a one extra wire job to bring in tone control on the bridge pickup if I still don't like the bridge sound much.

Whether I then feel the need to experiment ... well I'll look at it again if I do.

As far as the 'buckers and Alnico3 - as Gibson used a2, a3, a4 and a5 pretty much at randon on PAFs till 1961 it's very hard to evaluate the differences as usually theres no info on magnet type when you get to hear one. Just going to have to gamble one way or another.

in my limited experience, the interface between a guitar and amp has a big effect on 'guitar tone'.  if you get a pup sounding good in one amp, then buy or trade for another, things may go to...mmm...pot...hahaha. (electronics joke...potentiometers)

for that matter, the resistors, caps, tone/volume pots have effect on tone, too, as does cable...

lately, i play one guitar through different amps when i want to change tone. saves a lot of soldering. another thing i have learned is speakers play a major role in sound...i'm about to swap out the jensen in my blues jr. for an eminence cannabis rex...knocks off the high zing of the amp; sounds almost 'marshally'.
Fair point about the amp (and I'm in favour of most thigs that mean less soldering!) - though I'll have to say my PRS SE upgrade from stock a5 P90s to the Tonerider a2 P90s was a major improvement in 4 amps. I've only been able to do the comparison on 2 amps with the Hagstrom upgrade - both showing big plus with a2s (but that's a huge hike up in quality of pickup so not logical to think its just down to magnet type for the Hagstrom).

Oh yeah ... I'm thinking of a tubes / speaker upgrade for the amp too. Not 100% sure why as I really like the way it sounds now. I must just like driving myself mad with trying to evaluate upgrade possibilities.  ::)

reb

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Re: Pickup Upgrade Options
« Reply #7 on: October 31, 2012, 11:06:51 AM »
VB, i did the 'speaker change' thing for a year. every fender amp i have tried has too much treble in it...so i went here

http://www.eminence.com/guitar-bass/

they have some tone clips (or they did, anyway) so you can get some idea of the differences in speakers. i have maybe 5 home built cabs with 10s or 12s in them...i finally have decided i like the celestion alnico gold and/or the jensen jet tornado (a neodymium speaker) for the heads i have. seems any of the cannabis speakers will tone down a 'sharp, trebly toned' amp, also, but you can listen for yourself to the choices. i think jensen has a clip or three in their site, weber is out there, tone tubby is out there...a lot of choices...and every one of them is 'interactive' with component changes.

i put a litle weber in my champ 600, and it changed the amp's personality.

best thing about all this research and listening...it don't cost anything (unless you have limited data on your net hookup like i do:))

i found out something in the last week...for a little change to your routine, put two delay pedals in series with each other, and play with the settings...i read some article on the Edge, and that's what he essentially has done with U2.  i'm getting some echo stuff that i really like...might get you completely sidetracked from pups, you know? but i'm really enjoying the sounds i'm getting...

and then, i happened to find this guy doing an eminence review....

http://www.guitarnoize.com/gear-demo-eminence-reignmaker-fdm-speakers/
« Last Edit: October 31, 2012, 11:25:01 AM by reb »

Memory Lane Jr

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Re: Pickup Upgrade Options
« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2012, 06:52:34 AM »





[/quote]
 PRS SE upgrade from stock a5 P90s to the Tonerider a2 P90s was a major improvement in 4 amps. I've only been able to do the comparison on 2 amps with the Hagstrom upgrade - both showing big plus with a2s (but that's a huge hike up in quality of pickup so not logical to think its just down to magnet type for the Hagstrom).
[/quote]

I swapped out the neck pickup in my Gibson SG to a Tonerider Hot90 best thing I ever did. I found the standard Gibson pickup was very dead & muddy not sure if it was faulty or what, I checked on multimeter & it was 7.5K. I'm not real sure what the standard magnets are in the Gibson P90 AlnicoII's?  But Alnico V's in the Tonerider. Very good value for $50.   BTW the standard bridge p/up is fine.
http://www.tonerider.com/pickups/p90pickups.html








zagatron1

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Re: Pickup Upgrade Options
« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2012, 10:19:43 AM »
I have these - http://www.tonerider.com/pickups/r90spickups.html in the Epi Les Paul Studio Deluxe of mine. Love 'em!

johannes.maas

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Re: Pickup Upgrade Options
« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2012, 04:25:03 PM »
this guy is known in germany for really great vintage sound pu's

http://www.kloppmann-electrics.de/en/pickups/

here is a review of a strat set

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWBQG63sDzk&feature=youtube_gdata_player

worth watching the video because of the playing. that guy plays so nice... if you dont mind hearing German language
« Last Edit: November 01, 2012, 04:28:22 PM by johannes.maas »

VikingBlues

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Re: Pickup Upgrade Options
« Reply #11 on: November 01, 2012, 11:40:01 PM »
Many thanks for all these comments and links guys.  :)

It is all a big help. Though I must admit it's easy to drive myself mad with researching all this. Posting this on the thread at 3.40 am suggests I maybe have now gone mad?!

The pickups question would be complicated enough if it was just trying to decide on a particular set of an alnico type. But factor in combinations of different magnets and then the possibilities of Bridge 'bucker and neck P90, and the different alnico magnets on the P90 too.

Aaaaaaargh!  :-\

VikingBlues

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Re: Pickup Upgrade Options
« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2012, 02:47:48 PM »
Well - the new Strat pickups I mentioned at the start of the thread arrived.  ;D

Now installed after some issues with getting the wiring / soldering sorted.

Couple of demo samples if of any interest:-
Pretty clean tones, microphone recording of clean(ish) voicing on the VibroChamp with the Palmer overdrive added to the chain.
https://www.box.com/s/vwerf6g6bpsm84w7zp42
GuitarBacingTracks.com "SlowMinor9Blues" backing track.
Middle pickup to 1:37, Mid/neck to 2:26, Neck to 3:12, Mid/bridge to 4:00, then Neck again to end.

More dirt on the sound - same gear.
https://www.box.com/s/0e99gktrd9b4c5mlz93d
Blues in G backing track from David Wallimann - GuitarPlayback.com. First 12 bars Middle pickup, next 12 middle/neck, next 12 Neck pickup, last 12 middle/bridge.

I'm really pleased with the high quality of the pickups for just $109 including delivery from USA to Scotland.  :)
Specs:-
alnico 2 - S/S/S
unpotted (I don't play live or loud)
Output around 5.8
formvar wire
flat poled (I've got a pretty flat fretboard)
non-reverse middle pickup
The builder is Chris Hernandez - he's on e-bay as "chrisher!".

The best thing for me about these pickups is that, very like the SH55 Duncan/Lover pickups I put in my Hagstrom they have made the guitar so much more playable. Very sensitive to any little nuances I put into the playing and a wide dynamic range - I didn't make any changes at all to the volume controls on guitar, amp or DAW, so all variations just down to teh pickups respodnding to the picking of the fingers.

reb

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Re: Pickup Upgrade Options
« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2012, 09:22:24 PM »
geez, VB....that sound is so rich, i thought 'this can't be an mp3!', but box says it is...

i'd say you got a winner on the pups!  great signal chain, the product coming out of my speakers says you done outstanding with the swap.

DetroitBlues

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Re: Pickup Upgrade Options
« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2012, 10:02:32 PM »
Great stuff on the recordings ! Sounds like you found the right pickups!  I ended up usng Seymour Duncan APS-2 alnico 2 single coils on my project strat.  Those sound great too, just wish they were flat pole instead of staggered...