Surf 90 - dirty tone?

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by blingdogg, Mar 14, 2019.

  1. blingdogg

    blingdogg Tele-Meister

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    For those who have, or tried the GFS Surf 90s (neck position), I got a question.

    I have this pickup in the neck position of my PRS SE Santana. When clean it sounds sweet, giving clear, bright, glassy single coil chime. Almost similar to a Strat tone in some ways. Keep in mind I'm a rock and blues player.

    How nice do you think it sounds dirty, with fuzz and overdrive? I love its clean tone, it's just what I want in a humbucker. But I find its dirty tone very bland and boring. Lacks character.

    I suppose I'm looking for a single coil tone in a humbucker format, but maybe this particular pickup isn't the right choice for fuzz and overdriven rock.

    Does anyone else feel the same or is it just me?
     
  2. GLee94

    GLee94 TDPRI Member

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    I have a set of Dream 90s in an old MIJ squire jagmaster. They sound immense. Mainly used for blues/rock I find that they sound filthy (in a good way) on the neck with my ProCo RAT through a AC15. Somewhere in the neighborhood of Hendrix-esque fuzz. Very solid pickups for next to no $$$.
     
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  3. BorderRadio

    BorderRadio Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    I use Surf 90s in a Squier Bullet, and honestly I don’t play it. The neck is too flexible and narrow. Anyways, the Surf 90s are basically Strat pickups under the cover. If you’re pairing the Surf 90 with a HB in the bridge, or used to HBs overall, I can see why you think it sucks for fuzz and distortion. When I do play the Squier, it’s not any different than rocking a Strat through fuzz, in fact the Surf 90s are a little brighter than most.
     
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  4. Zepfan

    Zepfan Poster Extraordinaire

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    The Mean 90 might be a better fit for you or a minibucker.
     
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  5. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

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    Actually, the coil within the bobbin looks similar in dimensions to a Tele bridge pickup (in both height and width). Look at the underside of the pickup, and you'll find that two of the mounting screws are offset vs. where they'd normally be. Those two screws represent the centerline of the coil. If you trimmed down the edge of the bobbin's top so that it extended out just a little past the shielding tape over the coil, its dimensions would be pretty similar to those of a Tele bridge pickup.

    I partially disassembled my Surf 90, because I knew the little elevator screws weren't actually doing anything, so I wanted to see how I could outright remove them.

    I originally used the Surf 90 in the bridge slot, and that sounded okay thru an overdriven amp. More recently, I put it in the neck slot, paired with a somewhat bright PAF-type pickup at the bridge, and I didn't really care for how it sounded in the neck position. So, I just replaced those pickups with a pair of Mean 90s - much much better.

    My only complaint with the Mean 90s is that they just seem a lot louder than Strat or Tele single coils, especially the bridge pickup. If you have room to really back them away from the strings, it seems to help a bit. In my case, I'll have to shim the neck on the guitar in question, otherwise I have to drop the bridge pickup to sit below the top of the mounting ring.
     
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  6. 2after909

    2after909 Tele-Meister

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    I've got some surf 90s in a les paul copy. I think they sound kinda blah. They're fine, but I wouldn't rave about them. I think either a humbucker sized p90 or a humbucker sized alnico pole p90 would sound better than surf 90s. The clean and dirty sounds with both types of pickups are great. I've got expensive ones, but maybe somebody would make you an alnico pole p90 in a humbucker size for not too much money. The great thing about p90s is that they tend to sound good in most guitars. And the alnico pole ones sound pretty Fender-y to me, tho the lollars I have are definitely LOUD.
     
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  7. BorderRadio

    BorderRadio Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    Yeah I remember we talked about this. I’m thinking about the Surf 90 as compared to a Dynasonic, which what these pickups are trying mimic. In that case, the S90s are closer to a Fender coil, which you’re saying is more like a Tele coil. They aren’t anything like a P90, which would ruin the similarity the Surf 90 does have with a real Dynasonic. Lots of Gretsch guys liked these in their older Electromatics for that reason.

    I do like the neck sound both distorted and clean, but yes, the neck pickup needs to be dropped low. I angle mine, very low on the bass side. This is one reason why a real elevator mechanism would be helpful, but that’s more costly to make.
     
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  8. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

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    Yeah, it was a couple of years ago, roughly. I forgot what all I posted, and then found the following with a search:

    http://www.tdpri.com/threads/hb-siz...0-vs-dream-90-vs-mean-90.695743/#post-7355579

    So, my conclusion is that the Surf 90 basically is a GFS Fatbody (Tele) bridge pickup w/the 6.5 mm polepieces, just wound on a different bobbin. The other differences are A2 polepieces instead of A5, and more turns of wire on the bobbin for the S90s. The only other GFS pickups that I found that have actual 6.5 mm magnet polepieces are the Brighton Rocks for the Strat (and they're also A5). The "standard" wind for those is 6.5K, with 42AWG, but they also offer both a 7.5K and 8K, so I guess there's even room on the Strat bobbin for that (using 42AWG).

    ...Part of the GFS advertising for the Brighton Rocks says "we've dialed out the peaky midrange that makes strat pickups so responsive". I think that it's safe to say that something similar is occurring with the Surf 90s.
     
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  9. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    .

    I measured mine and it's at 6.5kohms and has half the internal capacitance of a typical humbucker and better than many single coils -- so it will be more articulate and clean. Kohms puts it right at a common Strat neck coil. I had also found the elevator screws are ornamental not functional.

    The trick for surf is you'll want to lower the pickup level with the trim ring and try using a 1Meg volume pot. If the guitar has a 0.047uf tone cap then put in a 0.033uF. Due to cavity construction on my MIJ Global LP, I can't lower my pickup as much as I want to, but you should have no trouble. I also have 250k pots in mine to mellow out the single coil tones (have the Mean 90 in the bridge) so mine doesn't do surf very easily.

    The Santana SE is 24 frets so the neck pickup is pushed toward the bridge -- and so it's natural tone trend is more like a middle pickup on a Strat or an SG neck pickup. Which could cause more issues in getting surf tones.

    Here's a picture I just pulled from the Internet, in an old TDPRI thread, elevators are not connected to anything.
    [​IMG]

    This is what the elevator screws should be doing
    [​IMG]

    .
     
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  10. vintage clubber

    vintage clubber Friend of Leo's

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    Love my Surf 90's. I have them in 3 different guitars. Sound great clean or dirty.
     
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  11. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

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    If you look at the pickup placement for the neck pickup on a Jazzmaster, its polepieces are closer to the bridge, vs. a Strat or Tele.

    For a 22 fret guitar with a 24.75" scale length, orienting the S90 with the poles closer to the bridge is probably similar to the equivalent pole location of the Jazzmaster neck pickup.

    Since the PRS is a 25" scale length, I'd think that having the S90 with the poles closer to the neck, at least with a 24 fret guitar, might be as similar to a Jazzmaster as you could get.

    ...This assumes we're on the same page with what it means to "get surf tones." As much as I might like a Strat for some surfy things, especially maybe using the bridge pickup, IMO the Jazzmaster on the neck pickup or blend setting is what I hear in my head.
     
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  12. blingdogg

    blingdogg Tele-Meister

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    Thanks for the replies! All your responses and tips have been helpful.

    I'm going to take some time adjusting the Surf 90 and see how it responds to dirt compared to how it is now (raised somewhat high). Unfortunately I don't have soldering abilities so won't be able to change pots or caps without taking it to the shop.

    Oh and actually the Surf 90 is paired with a GFS Bigmouth bridge pickup, so maybe the contrasting output levels and tone isn't a good match.

    And on another note, I've compared the Santana to a couple of my other guitars lately, I've come to think that part of my perception of the Surf 90 has been influenced by the fact that I've been playing mostly PAF-style pickups lately, which of course have a totally different sound character compared to the Surf 90. I've come to realize I prefer the singing, thick, sustaining tone of PAF's with fuzz, but the bright, clear, chimey clean tones of single coils and pickups like the Surf 90.

    So.... I'm thinking maybe I should look to replace the Surf 90 with something else, perhaps a humbucker sized P90 (like Mean 90) or filtertron or low-output PAF. Or even the Dream 90 which I've always been curious about. I do have a Dimarzio Bluesbucker that I bought long ago and never used, so I could try that.
     
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