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Discussion Starter #1
Hi there,

I'm just getting started on my first guitar build, and am planning to build a solidbody bolt-on, from scratch, with 2 humbuckers.

I've drawn up my plans, started to cut out my templates, purchased most of the hardware, but I'm really unsure about how to go about buying my pickups. The guitar is intended for personal use, and I play mostly blues and classic rock type stuff, my main guitar being a Les Paul.

But there are so many different pickups on the market, from inexpensive (Kent Armstrong, Golden Age, etc) to high-end boutique stuff (Wolftones, etc)...how do you guys go about choosing the right pickups for your guitars? Like, have any of you built a guitar and decided that the pickups were "wrong" for the sound you were looking for?

Thanks for any input!!
 

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Wow, that's a loaded question with as many answers as there are people to respond to it. There are a number factors involved. The most important is what type of sound you want. Then, what type of wood are you building your guitar from. i.e mahogany is quite dark sounding, maple is very bright, put the two together and you get someting totally different with the amout of each being a determining factor. If it's a big fat bluesy sound that you are after then I would suggest you go for a slightly overwound pickup with alnico 2 magnets, this will give you more mid range. Wolfetone Greywolfs are a great pickup and they really are not that expensive although you will likely have to wait a while as you will with any boutique pickups. My suggestion is to call or email whoever you are getting your pickups from and tell them what your guitar is made of and what you are looking for in sound and they will fix you up. If you are buying off the shelf then I would suggest that you try our a bunch of guitars noting what they are made from and what pickups they are using. There are many many good pickups on the market for a reasonable price. Let your own ears determine what sound is appropriate for you.
Good hunting.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
No easy way about it, huh?

It's when I compared the two guitars I use the most that I started to get concerned about my pickup choice: my Les Paul, with a mahogany body and maple cap, 24.5" scale and set neck, sounds completely different from my Takamine GZ-300, double cutaway mahogany body (no maple cap), 24.5" scale and set net.

How much of the sound I can attribute to the body woods and overall construction, versus the pickups, is something which generates different answers, depending on who I speak to. The simplest way to find out, I guess, would be to swap pickups but I'm honestly not inclined to take a soldering iron to my Les Paul...

I'll definitely send out some e-mails, but I'm afraid that when I get three different people telling me that their pickups have "a thick, rich, high output that retains the tonal quality of a vintage PAF, yet has more drive and crunch" I'll still be confused! :D
 

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Pickup choice is pretty important and it definately makes a big difference in the sound of the guitar when it's plugged in.

I find, however, that many guitars have never had the pickups 'tweeked' at all. I find that most of them are sitting level and it looks like the aim was to get them as close to the strings as possible.

Plug the guitar in, tune it up and dial in your 'ballpark' sound. Then take a screwdriver and find the height that sounds best - there is a sweet spot that gives you the best overall tone and the best sustain. Then you can adjust the high end by moving that end of the pickup either closer or further away from the strings, and do the same with the low end. It can be quite the balancing act to get three pickups tweeked while keeping the output relitively the same between switching, but it can be done.

Don't worry what the end result looks like, the pickups will not likely be flat or level.


BTW - I use Wilkinson Zebra pickups. They are pretty much the middle of the road in all respects. Their biggest fault is that they only have a two wire connection.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
BTW - I use Wilkinson Zebra pickups. They are pretty much the middle of the road in all respects. Their biggest fault is that they only have a two wire connection.
Thanks! I'm personally looking for four-conductor p'ups so I can wire for coil splitting.

May I ask, what made you choose Wilkinson Zebras? Did you go through many different types before settling on those particular p'ups?

Nice guitars, BTW :rockon:
 

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They are a 'stock' pickup. I've tried numerous 'stock' (OEM) pickup models and these do just about everything resonably well. Some others I tried where too hot, and were great for shreaders or metalheads, but not much use to anyone else. Some where really bright and tinny, and others would feed back with any sort of volume at all (and I don't want to be potting pickups for the rest of my life).

Price was another big factor, these offer a pretty good bang for the buck. If I wanted to use Dimarzios or Seymour Duncans my guitars would probably sound better, but they would likely cost twice as much as well.

Not having the coil tap is their biggest disadvantage, but given their overall versatility made them my standard choice. There are definately better pickups out there, but I find these to be a good starting point.

As far as I can tell, about 20% of the people that buy my guitars rip out the OEMs and install something else. Out of those 20% or so the pickup choices that they replaced the stockers with varied. If something better ever comes my way, I will switch but for now these seem to be working, and I like them with my own rig.
 

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...Their biggest fault is that they only have a two wire connection.
Just my 2c, but as much as I like the concept of coil splitting I havent yet been able to make a single coil of a humbucker sound good on it's own, at least nowhere near as good as a real single coil. As I understand it, a typical single coil Strat pickup is usually somewhere between 5.5 and 7 k ohms while a typical humbucker is usually in the range of 7.5 to 9.5 k ohms. So, assuming the two coils are evenly matched, on an average 8 k humbucker you'll have only 4 k when coil tapped, which makes for a very weak tapped single coil. Then there's a difference between the screw coil and the stud coil, and maybe the proximity of the two coils makes a difference. I'm not sure of the actual effects of those factors. I'd like to try a 4-wire humbucker with mis-matched coils, this may present at least a partial solution because you could tap the hotter of the two coils. The downside is that you won't 'buck' all of the hum, because of the mismatch.

Anyone here have experience with mis-matched coils for coil splitting?
 

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I agree with you on split humbuckers not sounding all that good when split to a single coil. My favorite pickup positions on a strat are positions 2 and 4, where the single coils are combined.

I would like to have the option (in a dual humbucker configuration) of combining one coil from each humbucker to create a third humbucker sound. Without a blend pot, I'm not too big on the 'two humbuckers on' selection that is offered on most 3 way switches and would prefer to have the 'third humbucker' option instead.

JS Moore had mentioned to me that he might be willing to try mismatched coils in some humbuckers that I had him make for my Two-Tonne Tele (He made me vintage looking single coils that are actually humbuckers). Maybe he has tried it since then.
 
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I would like to have the option (in a dual humbucker configuration) of combining one coil from each humbucker to create a third humbucker sound. Without a blend pot, I'm not too big on the 'two humbuckers on' selection that is offered on most 3 way switches and would prefer to have the 'third humbucker' option instead.
This is exactly what the rotary dial does on a PRS. It gives you three combined single coil combinations between the bridge and the neck pickup. Plus the bridge or the neck pick up in bucker mode. But not the bridge or the neck pickup alone in single coil mode. See this for the specifics.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Robboman, thanks for your input! I've never played a guitar that has coil-splitting, and you've convinced me to go out and spend some time at my local music store try out whatever guitars they have that have this feature...

Iarsee, I clicked on your link and as I was scrolling down the page, I realised that I actually HATE fooling around with knobs and switches when I play guitar...I'm always playing either the neck or bridge pickup, never in-between, and I can't even remember from one guitar to the next where the volume and tone knobs for each pickup are.:oops:

Since this is my first project, and I'm building the guitar for myself, unless I hear something that I REALLY like in terms of coil-splitting, I guess I'll keep it as simple as possible, from an elecronics standpoint.
 
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Iarsee, I clicked on your link and as I was scrolling down the page, I realised that I actually HATE fooling around with knobs and switches when I play guitar...I'm always playing either the neck or bridge pickup, never in-between, and I can't even remember from one guitar to the next where the volume and tone knobs for each pickup are.
The rotary switch has always been a love-hate thing for me with my PRS. I love the sounds it gives me, I hate trying to use it to switch settings quickly. It is not the most intuitive interface ever devised for pick up selection. I've often pondered an RS Guitar Works mod to make it a toggle with a push-pull switch on the tone pot but I'd miss the rotary configs. So the love-hate continues.
 

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This is exactly what the rotary dial does on a PRS. It gives you three combined single coil combinations between the bridge and the neck pickup. Plus the bridge or the neck pick up in bucker mode. But not the bridge or the neck pickup alone in single coil mode. See this for the specifics.
That's pretty cool, thanks. I've never owned a PRS and I initially thought they had a blend pot. The three extra options are nice, but I would settle for just one with a 3 way switch.

The extra options would work well in a dual bucker with a 5 way switch... now I'll have to try that with a standard double pole 5 way.
 
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That's pretty cool, thanks. I've never owned a PRS and I initially thought they had a blend pot. The three extra options are nice, but I would settle for just one with a 3 way switch.
I think if I was dreaming of convenience and versatility it'd be a three way switch that did:

Neck
Neck outer coil + Bridge outer coil (in parallel)
Bridge

And then a push-pull on the tone that would change the middle setting to be neck inner coil + bridge inner coil in parallel.

Yup. That'd cover 90% of my rotary switch positions I like with the convenience of a 3-way. I wonder if I can wire that up? I want to try that out now!
 
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