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Salvaging PUs?

5/28/1999 4:26 AM
Leman Russ Salvaging PUs?
I think i'm going to get the Squier standard strat, cause i like the big CBS headstock cause i dont have enough $ to get a reg fender with it.  
I'm expecting the pick ups to be less than great, so I need to know some ways to bring them up to a decent sound, perhaps something besides an inside preamp circuit, if possible?  
Any ideas?  
Leman Russ
5/28/1999 6:41 AM
If they're the ones with the bar magnet on the back you're better off just replacing them. If they're the ones with the magnetic pole pieces, a wax job is a must, and you might want to get them rewound. If you can find a supplier for Rainbow pickups, their strat vintage pickups are excellent value for money, and pretty damn good.  
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5/28/1999 7:59 PM
Steve A.

To Liam:  
    My Fernandez vintage-style came with those "bar magnet" single coil pickups. I thought that they had a really nice vintage sound, but there was this annoying static noise I kept getting from them. So I put in a set of Lindy Fralins and my initial opinion was that they didn't sound that much better than the stock ones... and guess what? They had that same static noise!  
    Turns out it was the static buildup on the pickguard that was causing the noise! For a temporary fix, I polished the pickguard with a sheet of Bounce fabric softener. For a permanent fix I lined the backside of the pickguard with copper foil (connected to the shielded cavities).  
    Speaking of single coil pickups with bar magnets, the Lindy Fralin SP (Steel Pole) strat pickups are constructed like that. Their tone is a bit like a P90, but still like a strat not a LP Jr.  
    As for potting the pickups in wax, Mark Hammer here has come up with a much better trick: tightly wrap teflon tape around the pickups. I've potted most of my pickups in wax mainly for the vintage look, but I really doubt that the wax penetrates the inside of the coil very well unless you use a vaccuum process.  
To Lemem:  
    What kind of sounds are you looking for? An on-board preamp is great if you need to overdrive your guitar amp for those heavily distorted tones. I personally like pickups with a nice full-bodied sound and lots of character, and leave it up to my rewired amps to provide the gain and distortion. Although not originally knocked out by my Lindy Fralins they definitely grow on you and I like them more every day!  
    Unless your stock pickups are overly bright to begin with, I'd suggest that you wire up a TBX as a master tone control. I usually keep mine set at the center detent (#5) but with some amps and speakers, I need to add in a little bit more brillance.  
Steve Ahola
5/28/1999 10:47 PM
Leman Russ
I was just concerned that they might not sound good, maybe a bit weak, or noisy.  
I just wanted to be able to bring the PU up to quality sound, in case the ones that come with the guitar arent 'nice' sounding, you know?  
As far as guitar driven(as opposed to drive from a pedal, like a preamp etc.) distortion, I'm not too worried about it, i'm happy with the sounds/boosts i can get out of circuits i build to do that part.  
Leman Russ
5/29/1999 10:19 PM
Mark Hammer

"Salvaging" is probably the wrong word to use for your context since you don't seem to know yet if there is something "wrong" with your pickups. It may well be that the pickups aren't to your "taste" (and the range of available third party suppliers of replacement pickups suggests that the probability is high that the stock ones may not bliss you out), but that's really something you can only know by living with the instrument for a while, and trying everything that's in your repertoire just to put them through their paces.  
If, and I mean IF, these pickups don't initially thrill you, consider:  
1) that they may not be adjusted right in terms of height.  
2) that the strings may be an issue (e.g., using a .009 for a high E is not going to give you a beefy tone, no matter what the stick under it).  
3) that your cables or pedals may be eating up high end because of cable capcitance or impedance matching problems.  
If these do not reflect your discontent, then you might want to consider what it is you want for EACH pickup, since they tend to have different duties. It may be that simply replacing the bridge pickup fixes all your difficulties. Remember that a new bridge pickup will tend to make all combination positions involving the rear pickup sound a little different.  
Finally, you might consider asking a local repair shop if they have any trashed or discarded cheap pickups. They could be single, double-coil, or even bass pickups, as long as they have enough wire that you could unwind enough to stick an additional 300-500 windings on your existing pickups. Some extra windings will tend to give a bit more oomph, produce a lower resonance and provide an overall warmer-sounding pickup, more like what the famed "overwound" older pickups are supposed to be like.  
Bear in mind that doing this can be risky, so the ideal thing to do is to use the eyelet which normally serves as a contact for one of the pickup leads as a junction connector for the additional windings. That is, you:  
1) unsolder one of the lead wires from the pickup (specifically the one connecting to ther outside of the coil)  
2) strip and solder a piece of coil-wire to the same eyelet  
3) start winding by hand, making sure to go in the same direction as the existing coil you are continuing.  
4) after a few hundred turns, cut the wire, strip and tin it.  
5) strip and tin a piece of stranded hookup wire  
6) with a pair of tweezers, grab the free end of the tinned coil wire, and wind it around the tinned end of the hookup wire, then solder the whole thing  
7) wind some teflon tape around the outside of the added coils, and after you've put a snug few layers on, start wrapping the teflon tape around the hookup wire to hold it in place (it's a good idea to build some slack into this)  
8) Put a layer of some adhesive backed tape (hockey stick tape? electrical tape?) to hold the whole thing in place, and slide the cover back up  
The solder joint won't have any noticeable impact, but the extra windings should give a little more power.
5/29/1999 10:42 AM

I've had 2 Squier standards (1 Jap, 1 Korean) with bar magnet SC's. They sounded pretty poor to me. I've probably got both sets still. I'll have a look in my "assorted parts" box. Maybe I should give them another try. Like a lot of things, it's all a question of taste (and mine changes constantly!)  
Does the teflon tape really work? Do you have to use self adhesive stuff, or are we talking plumbers tape?  
5/29/1999 8:44 PM
Mark Hammer

It's the stuff you buy at Home Depot for 50 cents or a buck or something. The tape itself is almost exactly the width of the pickup coil, and is amazingly thin for something you can pull so tightly.  
Does it work? I'm in no position to pit it against professional wax potting (which should be distinguished from "home potting" - kind of a bit like a "home perm"), but I've found it to help alleviate microphonics on my homebrews without:  
1) those annoying house fires  
2) those really irritating 2nd degree burns to the forearms and face  
3) those inevitable complaints from spouses and/or partners about misuse of the stove or pots  
4) destroying the pickup  
5) turning into something I can't back out of  
#5 is the soundest reason for advocating it. You can try it for a couple of pennies, and if it doesn't do the trick, you can easily take it off and go back to another path without having done anything to the pickup, just by unwinding what you wound. Kind of the chicken soup of pickup repairs - it may not help, but it can't hurt.
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