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Old October 26th, 2013, 01:02 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Lifeless Mexi-Strat

I just acquired a 2001 MIM Strat in a trade, and unfortunately for me, it sounds very lifeless when played through any of my amps. It plays nicely and sounds decent unplugged, so that perhaps suggests to me the p

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Old October 26th, 2013, 01:08 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Whoops! Ok, well you hopefully get the idea. Any tips short of yanking everything out and starting fro scratch?

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Old October 26th, 2013, 06:57 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Hey!

Have you changed the strings? They may be dead!

Otherwise, I'd think the pick-ups are done for - especially as it sounds okay unplugged! Swap them out for something a bit hotter and new.
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Old October 26th, 2013, 07:09 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Pickups hight would be something to look at too.
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Old October 26th, 2013, 07:27 AM   #5 (permalink)
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MIM Strat pickups are actually okay. Not the best, but better than you might think. Check the height of each pickup, as Strats tend to be a little tempermental in that regard. However, here's a neat trick I learned a couple of years ago - make sure the neck is well seated in the pocket. Here's how:

1. Make sure the guitar is tuned to pitch.
2. Now loosen the neck bolts until the guitar is a half step flat. This doesn't take much, maybe only 1/2 to 1 turn of each screw.
3. Re-tune the guitar to pitch.
4. Re-tighten the neck bolts. The guitar should now be a half step sharp.
5. Re-tune to pitch.

Now the guitar should be a bit more "lively", as this process makes sure the neck is tightly coupled to the body. I've found that most Strats can be improved this way. If that doesn't work, then it's time for new pickups.....
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Old October 26th, 2013, 01:29 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I think that smart phones should come from the factory equipped with breathalyzers, as you may have noticed that I wasn't perfectly lucid with my original question last night. Let me try to be more clear: I received this guitar last night, plugged it in, and was immediately less than thrilled with the sound. Indeed, the strings were old and crusty, so I installed some new D'Addarios, size 10. It did sound better afterwards, but that's when I noticed how bad the setup was. Saddles went across in a nice-looking horizontal straight line; action was too high; neck had a big bow in it, pickup heights were way off, etc. etc.

So: I set her up to the best of my abilities, checked her out without amplification, and she felt & sounded pretty good. Plugged her in, and she just sounded blah; very little differences between pup selector settings. Just overall one very bland sounding Strat.

So yes, I am wondering about some new pickups maybe, or maybe looking into one of those David Gilmour prewired pickguards ... not sure. I am looking for your thoughts, experiences, bawdy tales of the sea, whatever. The prewired Gilmours have a certain appeal of course, of sounding good and dropping right into the cavity, but those conveniences may certainly be offset by the rather steep price tag ... On the other hand, I've only wired one other Strat, and it wasn't much fun as I recall.

So, what do the experts say? I will be using this little baby for some blues, I think. Are you picking up what I'm laying down? What would you do, friends?

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Old October 26th, 2013, 02:59 PM   #7 (permalink)
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New pups most likely, though you might pull the pick guard and make sure the wiring hasn't been tampered with first. Ideally Seymour Duncans, but Dragonfire Alnicos or similar would be an improvement.

Wiring a Strat isn't that hard, just change one pup at a time so you only have two wires to deal with. Bundle the grounds so you only solder to the volume pot housing once.

I had a 2001 MIM Tele, the stock pups weren't that great, I got rid of it before I got completely fed up with them.
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Old October 26th, 2013, 03:40 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by WrayGun View Post
So: I set her up to the best of my abilities, checked her out without amplification, and she felt & sounded pretty good. Plugged her in, and she just sounded blah; very little differences between pup selector settings. Just overall one very bland sounding Strat.
Yeah, that sounds strange for there to be not very much difference between pickup selectors. I'd do what Octave Doctor said and have a look to make sure everything seems wired correctly. If it is wired right, then maybe you're right to get some new pickups.

I just ordered some Dimarzio Area strats (58, 61 and 67 or something like that) to replace the ceramic magnet single coils in my MIM strat, mostly because I want to cut down on the hum. If I remember, I'll let you know what the difference turns out to be.
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Old October 27th, 2013, 11:30 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Mexi strat pups are not that great but the guitar should still sound ok. Sounds like something else is going on if its just way out if whack set up wise or worse I wouldpull the pickgaurd off like has been said and take a look and make sure whats going on under the hood. if need be loaded pickguards can be found fairly reasonably and you only have to solder a couple wires. Good luck
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Old October 28th, 2013, 01:53 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Yep, I'd focus on new strings, action and pick up height, before anything else.

Check deck height of bridge too.
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Old October 28th, 2013, 07:18 AM   #11 (permalink)
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I've got a 2001 - stock.

Bridge pickup is very good. (quite a bit hotter than the other two as well)

The neck and middle ?

Blah.

But - as others have said, pickup height is hugely important.

I have the neck and middle quite low and that helped a lot. Middle was waaaaaay muddy before I did this.
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Old October 28th, 2013, 08:22 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Another fan of lowering Strat pickups here...especially low-cost pickups. A few guitars have been improved a lot this way. They just seem to get more Stratty!
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Old October 28th, 2013, 08:22 AM   #13 (permalink)
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MIM Strats have ceramic pups which sound a lot less nuanced than alnico ones. I owned a MIM 07 for a number of years and really liked the guitar. It was not my first choice for anything heavy but it was great for really clean sounds like for funk, R n B, smooth Jazz etc.
Mine one was on of the best playing guitars I've owned until I used it, and a couple others, to trade for a AIM Standard.
Ceramics tend to sound lifeless against alnico so I'm guessing new pups are in order as opposed to the electronics.
Any pics?
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Old October 28th, 2013, 08:44 AM   #14 (permalink)
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But - I had a Strat 11 years earlier than my 2001.

Supposed to be the same pickups as in the 2001.

Nope.

The 1990 MIM Strat had three very P-90-ish stock pickups in it.

A traditional Strat fan wouldn't have liked it but it was a very thick but not muddy-sounding guitar.

The bridge p-up in my 2001 kinda sounds like that but not the other two.
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Old October 28th, 2013, 01:43 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I have a 2001 MIM that is gradually becoming my number 1 over my MIA Tele. I bought it as a platform for upgrades so I've gone a little nuts...

so far I've put in:
  • EMG DG20s Dave Gilmours
  • Callaham saddles
  • Big block for the trem
  • Copper lined the body cavities, because it was cheap and easy, the DG20s don't really need the extra shielding
  • Changed out the MIM tuners for Sperzel lockers

I would definitely recommend the callaham saddles. I was surprised at the difference for $40.

The DG20s are a great upgrade and super easy but yes, very expensive.

Lace also makes some great passive options, I had the Hot Golds in another strat and they really blew me away. You can find them used pretty cheap occasionally. Duncan hotrails are another great pickup that can revitalize a dead sounding strat. I put one in the bridge of a black label MIM back in the 90s and it brought the whole guitar to life.
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Old October 28th, 2013, 05:31 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Sounds like OP has a wiring issue. Should really get some definition between pickup selections. I had a Tele that had a bad solder joint making every selection sound the same dull and muddy.
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Old October 28th, 2013, 05:37 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by ProToneThinline View Post
MIM However, here's a neat trick I learned a couple of years ago - make sure the neck is well seated in the pocket.
But if that was the problem, it wouldn't sound good unplugged either (same goes for the other suggestions about strings, saddles, nut or action).

It has to be the pickups (or their adjustment) assuming the amp sounds good with other guitars.
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Old October 28th, 2013, 08:12 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Is the switch tip white or black? Big difference
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Old November 7th, 2013, 12:30 AM   #19 (permalink)
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One of the things that can bring a Mex Strat back to life, is replacing the die-cast tone block with a steel block. All the high-end and Fender US vintage bridges have a steel block and it's one the first things I changed with both of my Mex Strats. GFS has added some steel and brass tone blocks for Strats. A worthwhile upgrade you won't regret. Remember, the strings sit in that block, so it has a huge influence on tone.
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Old November 7th, 2013, 12:53 AM   #20 (permalink)
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One of the things that can bring a Mex Strat back to life, is replacing the die-cast tone block with a steel block. All the high-end and Fender US vintage bridges have a steel block and it's one the first things I changed with both of my Mex Strats. GFS has added some steel and brass tone blocks for Strats. A worthwhile upgrade you won't regret. Remember, the strings sit in that block, so it has a huge influence on tone.
I've never considered this since I'm happy with my 2008 MIM Strat. Sure enough, it is die cast. Is it a direct swap? Compatible with whammy bar and saddles? Does the 6 hole mount determine if it is a "hipshot"?
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