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Upgrade to MIM standard a good idea?

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by Little JonnyJewel, Feb 23, 2018.

  1. Little JonnyJewel

    Little JonnyJewel TDPRI Member

    Age:
    24
    4
    Mar 7, 2017
    Los Angels
    I’m working on upgrading my whole rig. Getting some mods done to my AC15 and grabbing some new pedals. As for my guitar, sometimes the tone sounds sort of cheap and off, though it’s a standard MIM tele. For better tone, is it worth it to get new pickups or other components for this type of guitar? Or is saving for a new guitar smarter?

    Thanks, all!
     

  2. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Telefied Ad Free Member

    Age:
    61
    Nov 15, 2009
    Austin, Tx
    Howdy and welcome!
    I had a MIM Tele a few years ago, it was a 2003 model and it was gifted to me the following year.
    Being a modder and “horse trader”, I only kept it awhile.
    While I had it, I did some recording for a dear, now departed friend.
    Every time I hear those recordings, I marvel at what a good writer my late friend was, and how good that guitar sounded.
    So, perhaps consider “not modding”, at least for awhile.
    MIM Fender guitars are perfectly good tools, IMO.
     
    Kreepy likes this.

  3. Revnelli

    Revnelli TDPRI Member

    85
    May 23, 2016
    Trail, BC, Canada
    I'd wait till you get your amp and pedals sorted. You need to have a clear idea of why it sounds "cheap and off". Is it the guitar, the amp, the room, your mood.....? That might give you a sense of what direction to go in.
    Having said that, a Tele is obviously highly modable - if you have the skills.
    The important thing IMHO is - do you like the guitar, and how it plays. You can always work on the tone.....that is a lifetime quest ;-)
    BTW I have a MIM tele thinline - I love it! I have other teles which I have modded - but there doesn't seem to be a need to mod the thinline.
     
    LocoTex likes this.

  4. Little JonnyJewel

    Little JonnyJewel TDPRI Member

    Age:
    24
    4
    Mar 7, 2017
    Los Angels
    Thanks, both. I've had the guitar for quite a while--probably close to 7 years now. So I've definitely played with the stock components for long enough to justify some upgrades. I love the playability and all. But sometimes, I just feel like it's hard to dial in the tone to my liking.

    So my main question is, overall, are MIMs worth spending the money on to upgrade the components (starting with the pups probably) versus saving for another.

    Like, if getting some nicer pups in it will help my tone and not run me too much, I'll just do that. But if you have experience with upgradings MIMs that don't seem to be worth it, I don't want to waste my money. Based on what you're saying though, seems like it wouldn't be a bad idea to upgrade.
     

  5. bsman

    bsman Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 8, 2003
    Santa Clara
    Yes, yes, and yes! Definitely start with the pickups, or perhaps a four-way switch.
     
    boris bubbanov likes this.

  6. JBFatFingers

    JBFatFingers Tele-Meister

    Age:
    36
    298
    Oct 9, 2016
    Canton, MI
    I wouldn't recommend upgrading to increase value, but if you're planning to keep it and you want to make some improvements, why not? I've got a FSR BSB (basically a standard MIM in an ash body) and after playing it stock for a while I dropped in new pickups, a new volume pot and had some work done on the bridge. It very quickly went from "like" to "love" and it didn't cost me much to do it.
     
    Obsessed likes this.

  7. Beachbum

    Beachbum Friend of Leo's

    Mar 11, 2009
    Sand Land
    Yes, MIM Fender is probably the best mod platform that exists. Don't worry for even a minute about resale value of guitars. Any way you cut it you lose 50% no matter what guitar or how much you spend. In other words the more you spend buying one the more you lose when you sell.
     
    Hyliandeity and Obsessed like this.

  8. Asmith

    Asmith Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Age:
    21
    Nov 27, 2014
    Morley, England
    do you know what year model it is, there was a transition around 2010 where they changed up the specs. The newer ones have a satin finish on the back of the neck with a gloss fretboard and peg head. The pickups are also ceramic so changing to alnico type pickups should have a very noticeable effect on your tone.
     

  9. Obsessed

    Obsessed Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Nov 21, 2012
    Montana
    I'll chime in with keeping it and upgrade the p'ups. I kept my MIM FSR BSB completely stock for three years. I liked the stock ceramics for rock and blues, but after playing a Baja, I knew that an upgrade was in order. I was lucky to find one with a pretty chunky neck, but I love the Baja neck even more. Nevertheless, I went with the Fender Twisted tele/Broadcaster set that is very reasonable in cost. What a great inspiring difference and I don't see ever going beyond that mod unless the pots and switch wear out. Once I did that, I removed all of the goopy poly on the neck maple fretboard and now she is a keeper for life. If anything to consider, is a Baja neck. FWIW.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2018

  10. Little JonnyJewel

    Little JonnyJewel TDPRI Member

    Age:
    24
    4
    Mar 7, 2017
    Los Angels
    I'm not planning on selling it. I'm just on the hunt for my dream tones which I feel I'm not getting at the moment. As mentioned, I'm improving my amp soon (new tubes, etc.) which should help.

    I just wanted peace of mind in knowing that if I spend money on new pups, tuners, or other things, that it would not be a waste of money. I'm glad to hear you all say the MIM standard is a good template for mods.

    Now that I'm feeling more confident in upgrading in general, I've got some more specific questions if you'd all oblige.

    For one, pickups. I like to play fairly clean mostly, with no wild effects. Very inspired by Television (Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd's playing), Pavement (Stephen Malkmus), Galaxie 500, Dr. Dog, to name a few. And jazz guitar as well like Gilad Hekselman, Julian Lage, etc. Any recommendations for pickups?

    Two, do you recommend switching out the saddles? I have the 6-saddle bridge it came with. Not sure of the metal type but they don't seem like the best. If you do recommend switching, which metals and do you like 3-saddle better for any reason?

    Lastly, do you recommend switching the tuners and, if so, to which kind? Again, I just have stock tuners.

    Any other advice is much appreciated! Thanks, all.
     

  11. Asmith

    Asmith Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Age:
    21
    Nov 27, 2014
    Morley, England
    I won't advise on pickups as I don't have a lot of experience with them, (I've never even owned a tele with a normal neck pickup). As far as hardware goes I don't have an issue with MIM tuners they're the same as the American ones. I'd only swap if you want locking tuners and id go with fender ones because they're a drop in replacement.

    My bridge preference is the 3 saddle but only because I like the simple and vintage look and I prefer brass saddles too.
     

  12. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Telefied Ad Free Member

    You've been using it for 7 years, so if the playability was an issue, I think you'd have balked by now.

    I would consider replacing the bridge assembly, the pickups as a set, and yes, adding a 4 way switch so you can have both Series and Parallel. Wouldn't be a bad idea to get a neck pickup with a separate ground lead for the cover (or one with no cover). If you fretwork is kinda worn (it probably is) you could obtain (or do) a fret level and crown.

    And Welcome!

    Also nothing wrong with shopping for a MIM Std similar to yours, with all these mods already done and paid for by someone else. Let your old MIM be your backup.
     

  13. bettyseldest

    bettyseldest Tele-Afflicted

    Nov 13, 2011
    UK
    If you like the way the guitar plays but just don't connect with the tone then by all means mod it. Just be aware that changing the tuners will not impact the tone. Changing the bridge may, but you may well not discern it yourself. Changing pots too. Pickups will have the biggest impact, but it can be a lottery, best if you can hear any potential pickups in another MIM tele through your amp before making changes. What you could do is put some heavier strings on and experiment with the pickup height, that may be all that you need, and just costs a few dollars.
     
    8barlouie likes this.

  14. schmee

    schmee Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2003
    northwest
    I "upgraded" my USA Strat by getting a MIM. I still have both. Rarely play the USA. Yes, upgrade the pickups etc if it's a "good wood" guitar you like.
     

  15. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI
    .

    Remove the control plate, wiring harness, and pickups carefully and as much in one piece as you can and put it all in a bag/box you can store in a good place and then get all the pickups and electronics you want. Then if you get to a point you want to sell the guitar you remove all the upgrades and put it back to stock. Or if you pine for what the guitar used to sound like you can swap it all back in.

    If you play more cleans then look for lower wound (lower kohms) and weaker magnets. Volume pots and caps have 10-20% tolerance ranges and they matter to the tone as a system. I usually start with swapping electronics before pickups.

    Bourns pots, Oak-Grigsby 4-way switch, Switchcraft jack are the usual changes. Some like CTS pots but I've migrated to the Bourns. Don't be afraid of ebay $10 pickups as I've found some dazzlers. Lawrence Keystones, Rose, Cavalier, and some others are popular forum boutique options.

    .
     
    8barlouie likes this.

  16. 8barlouie

    8barlouie Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Age:
    59
    May 9, 2015
    Seekonk, MA
    IIRC, the MIM pickups are ceramic. The Fender CS pickups would be a huge improvement IMO. While you’re at it, go ahead and upgrade the electronics package. Upgraded pots not only help improve tone somewhat, they really improve playability because of the taper and feel.
     

  17. Veltek

    Veltek Tele-Holic

    599
    Sep 17, 2016
    Blues country
    I have a Mexican strat. I didn't like it. I didn't love the way it sounded. I didnt love the way it felt.

    Well eventually I bonded with the neck and the shape and started to enjoy playing it, but I still didnt like the sound. Come to find out the mexican pickups are ceramic magnets. Guess I don't like ceramic?

    Anyways, popped some Tex-Mex pickups in there and now I love that thing. You can upgrade the pickups without buying expensive Seymour duncans or american customshop fender pups. I say go for it dude!
     
    Mincer likes this.

  18. Asmith

    Asmith Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Age:
    21
    Nov 27, 2014
    Morley, England
    MIA electronics are identical to MIM electronics, there is no need to 'upgrade' the pots and switch if you're just going to swap like for like components.

    Although my personal preference for pots is also bourns they're cheaper than the good CTS pots (some cheaper aftermarket ones don't feel brilliant to me) and they're low friction.
     

  19. gabazz

    gabazz TDPRI Member

    Age:
    28
    14
    Jun 9, 2018
    Malta
    I really like the MIM stuff. I'm going to mod a telecaster after just finished modding a strat. I have also a USA strat. The truth is that I spent a lot of money on the MIM strat, and it costs very close to the MIA now, but the MIA is still the better guitar overall. But I bonded more with the MIM, I like the thicker MIM neck even though the MIA have the better rolled edges.

    Now, I'm going to mod a tele as it has a very similar neck profile that I really enjoy!
     

  20. beninma

    beninma Tele-Holic Ad Free Member

    Age:
    40
    821
    Mar 17, 2017
    Massachusetts
    I would probably upgrade the electronics, certainly redo the wiring at a minimum if you're going to the expense of pickups.

    You can get something like the Stewmac wiring kit and if you can solder you can improve the guitar for a very reasonable amount of money.

    It gets bandied about that the pots and switch are the same on MIA and MIM. That was true for the pots on mine but not the switch, mine had a different switch.

    I bet the MIA guitars have a cleaner solder work as well, my MIM was gross, which I think is/was so weird as the rest of the guitar seemed incredibly well built.

    Even if you just rewire and add a shielded cable to the jack you're probably going to think the tone improved. A treble bleed is also a really easy thing to do while you're at it. If you don't like it then it's also an easy thing to reverse.

    I elected to just redo everything since I had it open though. New pickups, new switch & pots, new wiring, new jack. The stock switch drove me nuts, the new one from Stewmac never ever ever bothers me.

    It's all really reasonable if you do the work yourself. For me it was like getting a new significantly better guitar.
     

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