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To quack or not to quack??????????

3/6/2005 10:07 PM
To quack or not to quack??????????
Why do strat pickups have that quack when used together? How come sometimes certain ones don't, like from 2 different makers used in the neck & middle positions. Is there a way to set the middle pup to get maximum quack? I'm not a strat guy but really like that sound when playing certain styles of music and rhythm guitar. Thanks.
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3/6/2005 11:01 PM
Dwight Listmayer
Strats will quack in positions 2 and 4 if the middle pickup is reverse wound, reverse polarity. This cancels some of the 60 cycle hum and softens the tone a bit.  
Originally, for the first few years of production they had all 3 pickups wound the same, but there was only a 3 position blade switch anyhow. They started using the RWRP mid pickups later in the 50's, but no 5 way switch till about 1977 (approximately?).  
But, pickups that are wound to the same polarity, which could be the case with a mix & match from different makers won't quack in the between positions. Or if you put another neck or bridge pickup in the middle - same effect, "no quack".  
Sounds to me like you would also appreciate the 2 missing tones or combinations, which are neck & bridge together parallel, or ALL THREE TOGETHER! That's a smoothie. Strat man Dwight
3/7/2005 2:18 PM
Mike Turk
Dwight, where are you getting this info that Fender produced RWRP middle pickups in the 50s; I seriously doubt it.  
I also don't think RWRP is necessary to get the quack sound.
3/7/2005 5:28 PM
Dwight Listmayer
In response to Mike, I have no written information confirming that Fender made RWRP pickups in the late 50's, so there is probable reason to doubt it, as you've done.  
I have just lived by my annual Fender Frontline catalogues, and am not referring to any specific issue, however they have generally indicated that their 54 reissue pickups are all the same or NOT with RWRP. Yet the Fat 50's pickups DO include a RWRP mid, and I thought that they were true reissues of an authentic existing product. I assumed even moreso that later 50's pickups from Fender had a RWRP mid when a Frontline article appeared, like a giant splash, talking about how they had painstakingly reverse-engineered a coveted 63 pickup, sacrificing it to science for the benefit of the customer. From that, they claim to have produced accurate 57/62 re-issue pickups which have a RWRP.  
"The Fender Stratocaster", 40th Anniversary Edition book by A. Duchossoir has plenty of Fender-sourced info about different years of pickups and the materials used, but nothing about polarity.  
It confirms the introduction of the 5 way switch in 1977.  
This book is also specific about positions 2 and 4 facilitating the so-called "out of phase" two pickup combinations. Then they say after 1986 the mid pickup is truly out of phase with the others, "so as to be in a humbucking mode". All I can say is that they printed it.  
Printing excluded, in the real World, it's been my experience, and I'm just being honest about it, that the quack comes in positions 2 and 4 when a RWRP pickup is in the middle. It leads me to believe that quack is a product of not only dividing the power between two pickups, but of the RWRP configuration. Pardon me if incorrect - I thought it was already generally accepted, at least it is by my fellow Strat players. So we could all be wrong, I mean in "my camp"?  
In the simplest of mods, the "Magnificent 7", I/we do not detect any quack when the 2 same-polarity neck and bridge pickups are used together, like a Telecaster. And the combination of all 3 pickups, specifically in parallel which is normal, allows the RWRP to heard in the mix, which is kinda funky, I'd say like Knopfler's "Sultans of Swing" and Clapton's "After Midnight".  
And YES to all, the amount of quack depends on the strength, or blend of the pickups selected. I have one mid pickup wound to 9K with a similarly strong bridge, which makes an even louder quack than most. Man, that's some duck! Normally, the power or volume of pickups should be less to allow a more discernible quack, as Jason suggests in different words - and also confirmed here by others. Strat man Dwight
3/8/2005 6:38 PM
Steve A.

    I just read that the Duo-Sonic was the first Fender guitar to use a RWRP pair to reduce noise (I believe that the P-Bass used the same principle much earlier).  
    Having a RWRP middle pickup in some of the custom sets is not exactly authentic but it is what the market demands.  
    In any case, I have to disagree with your statement that quack comes from RWRP. Mainly because I've had quack in the notched positions using pickups that were not humcancelling.  
    I experimented a bit trying to figure out where the darned Quack was coming from... I believe it has to do with the distance between the pickups. Strat pickups are spaced closer together than Tele pickups (which do not quack whether RWRP or not). And closer than a pair of humbuckers in something like a LP or PRS (which do not quack when split).  
    If you look at a vibrating string there are various "nodes". Lets look at an open A string. You get one vibration which is the whole length of the string. But you also get a vibration which is half the length of the string (this is centered at the 12th fret). The string also vibrates in segments which total 3, 4, 5, et al which are associated with the harmonics and overtones. I believe that the spacing of strat pickups leads to some weird combinations of harmonics. Note that the "quack" seems to occur strongest at a certain range of notes (the lowest notes do not quack a lot, nor do the highest strings).  
    BTW you can take a pair of very quacky pickups from a strat and put them in a Mustang or Duo-Sonic and the result is not quacky at all. So it HAS to do with the spacing between the pickups. (As for the observation that the higher output strat pickups quack less, I can't explain it but have noticed it, too.)  
Steve Ahola  
P.S. All 3 strat pickups together in parallel is a "super quack" position... I was hoping that it would be total killer but it is kinda useless. :(
3/7/2005 5:14 AM
Jesse Greenawalt
I'm not convinced it's the RWRP that makes the quack. I've had coils that were not this way, and they quacked more than some others that were.  
I think it's more a function of position and individual pickup sound. When combined there will be addition & subtraction of various frequencies, and the amount of these are determined by the frequency response, resonant frequency, output, etc. of each pickup. Some of this can be modified by pickup height adjustment.
3/7/2005 7:23 AM
Andrew C
I borrow a book a couple of years ago when I was going through my mad about strats phase and the idea for position 2 and 4 came about because some players had discovered it by accident. Pleasantly suprised with the combined tone, some players began to sandwich match books into the top of their three-way to hold the switch in in-between positions. One blues player was mentioned in particular, but my memory escapes me...  
Some guitars quack more than others. A good way to check is with the volume off, listen to the unplugged sound of the instrument in position 2 and 4. If you put your ear right on the pickguard you can hear the beginning of the quack emerging. Works best if you play knopfler licks.

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