Baja Telecaster - To Mod or Not To Mod

Discussion in 'Telecaster Discussion Forum' started by seanbinpa, Jul 23, 2019.

  1. seanbinpa

    seanbinpa TDPRI Member

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    All, Thank you for all the knowledge and guidance in this group!!

    I have an original Desert Sand Baja Telecaster that drives constant debate in my head about "upgrading." I love the big neck, I'm okay with the Twisted Tele Neck pickup, don't care for the Broadcaster Bridge pickup (too ice picky) and can't stand any of the sounds that the S1 switch delivers. I do prefer the 4th position in the main selector switch over the other sounds. I'm a Blues/Classic Rock player.

    Questions/Thoughts:

    1. Upgrade the pickups?
    • Thinking '51 Nocaster, Loller, Fralin, Tone Specific '55 Blues, Texas Specials, probably in this order.
    • Would it be a big enough difference? Or am I nit picking?
    • WILD IDEA: "What would it sound like with a P90 added in either position?"

    2. Remove the S1 switch?
    • As much as I understand the value of not modding it and keeping it original, I literally NEVER use it.
    • Does the "keep it original" argument even exist in a Custom Shop Designed MIM guitar?

    Expense vs. Value is always going to be a factor, but I would love to hear your thoughts without the cost factor, as I know what these upgrades will cost. As I type that sentence, I guess my real question is will the cost make that big of a difference, or am I just bored and looking for that magical upgrade?

    Thank you in advance!!
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2019
  2. Seasicksailor

    Seasicksailor Friend of Leo's

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    1. No reason not to experiment with different pickups (assuming you keep the originals for resale considerations). I had a similar problem with the bridge pickup. Changed it and never looked back (Bare knuckle Country Boy). Importantly, the 'upgrade' made me pick up the guitar again, which is the most important thing IMO.

    2. Why remove it? Just don't use it. Having said that, have you tried the 4th position with the switch engaged and some loud dirt? Yum!!
     
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  3. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    Mod, and keep modding till it’s/you’re done.
    My avatar critter is still getting modded, and I’ve had it close to 35 years.
    Nothing’s perfect, ever, IMO.
     
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  4. Lawdawg

    Lawdawg Tele-Meister

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    No reason not to change the bridge pickup if you don't like the stock broadcaster PU. I don't have a strong opinion on a replacement, but I've really loved the Lollars I put on my strat (apples to oranges obviously).

    On the other hand, I wouldn't remove the S1 switch even if you don't use it. It's not like it gets in the way of anything, and if you ever want to sell it a future buyer may prefer to have the S1 for out of phase tones.
     
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  5. seanbinpa

    seanbinpa TDPRI Member

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    Would upgrading the pickups affect the S1 tones? Or would it still just be strangled, thin tones? I guess I'm wondering if I might end up liking them more.
     
  6. unixfish

    unixfish Poster Extraordinaire

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    I say do what you want. Whether or not it will make a difference, who knows.

    Pickups are very personal. Put one in you like.

    S1? I just don't use mine. Remove it if you want.

    This is not a vintage, original instrument - it is a mass produced, inexpensive MIM Tele. If you had an all original 1951 Nocaster, I would be screaming "Don't! Don't! Don't". But, to me, you are asking about putting 20" chrome wheels on a 2011 Toyota. Hey, if it makes you happy, do it.

    $0.02 and all that...
     
  7. archetype

    archetype Fiend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    My opinions ensue.

    The Broadcaster bridge pickup sounds ice-picky? Either the amp is set too bright, the pickup height is rong, or you're not using the tone control.

    - Turn the treble down.
    - Spend an hour (really, an hour) with a screwdriver and your bridge pickup. Dial it in.
    - The tone control isn't useless: it yields a range of tone. Don't run it dimed by default.

    The strangled, thin tone is the point. It has a tone that's sort of like positions 2 and 4 on a Strat, so the guitar's a bit more versatile. I don't use the S1 (I have Strats for that) so I just put dome knobs on my Baja, as dome knobs are my preference. Despite what much of the Internet says, it's not a problem and does absolutely nothing if you don't use it.

    If you want different switching for your Baja, I suggest you just pull out the existing control plate and put in a new, wired plate with all components. It's a $40-70 purchase, depending on components and the way it's wired. That way you can put the original assembly back in if a buyer wants the Baja to be original. Lots of buyers want originality, no matter what the model or price. Originality is a baseline they know and understand without having to guess whether or not they'll like your modifications.

    Put any pickup you like in the bridge position. You won't go rong with the '51 Nocaster, but it may not sound drastically different than the Broadcaster bridge pickup you already have. I've got a '51 Nocaster ready to go into my James Burton Standard, but I'm being lazy about doing it.

    I wouldn't go wild on that Baja body, as that's what you'll need to do to put in a P-90. I don't remember if the Baja is routed for a neck humbucker, but even if it is it will require a bit more routing to make it fit a soapbar P90 IIRC. A P-90 at the bridge will require new routing and bridge. Get a beater Tele and make these mods on it as an experiment.
     
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  8. Lawdawg

    Lawdawg Tele-Meister

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    Yes and no. Yes, different pickups will change the tone, both in and out of phase. That said, due to frequency cancellation, out of phase tones will by definition always have a thin -- some describe it as honky -- tone. It's not an everyday tone for sure, but it definitely can be useful especially for funky riffs or for with lots of OD a very cutting sound. FWIW, I really like the position 4 (in series) out of phase tone on the Baja.
     
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  9. -Hawk-

    -Hawk- Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    These guitars are made for modding. Who cares what it’s worth? If it ever becomes some collector’s piece (it won’t) you’ll probably be dead anyway. Make it awesome and play the hell out of it.

    FWIW, I don’t think there’s a thing wrong with being bored and wanting to make some changes either. It’ll likely get you excited about the guitar and excited about playing.
     
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  10. ricardo1912

    ricardo1912 Tele-Afflicted

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    I agree with much of the above. For me one of the nice things about the Baja bridge pickup is that it's much less ice pick than a lot of Teles. Spending time on the pup height or amp settings might save you time and money.

    As for the S1 it does no harm. I use mine occasionally but if you don't then the easiest thing is to just ignore it. Or use the domed knobs as suggested - excellent idea that I'd never have though of.
     
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  11. JMac52

    JMac52 Tele-Meister

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    You can obviously do anything you want to with it. Personally, and as much as I like mod stuff, I couldn’t come up with a compelling reason to mod or “upgrade” my Baja. I really like the pickups. I thought I would use the S1 in pos 2 more than I do, hate it in pos 4 so I don’t use it. Turns out I like more of a C neck profile, but I think the neck is a big part of what makes a Baja a Baja so I’m not going to change it.
     
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  12. Controller

    Controller Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    OP, I could have written your post. I go back and forth except I want to paint it and change the pickups. So I think I'll put the Baja neck on a prepainted body with a 4-way and new pickups and save or sell the loaded body.
     
  13. Guitarteach

    Guitarteach Poster Extraordinaire

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    I have same guitar.. 50’s In Desert Sand.

    - Flipped the plate - no more knocking the switch and battling the tiny gap between volume and switch.

    - Ditched the S1 - got sticky and unreliable... not gigworthy.

    - Rewired the 4 way to have the single coils at the end - slamming to the ends gets the classic tones without hunting for the neck

    - Fender tilt compensated brass saddles - because only slightly out of tune is better than out of tune.

    PERFECTION!

    I am surprised you find the bridge icepicky.. most other tele pickups sounds even worse. Why I went for the Baja.
     
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  14. Volktar

    Volktar TDPRI Member

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    I agree with the other blokes. It is a mass produced MIM axe, not some insanely valuble relic. Mod that sucker until it makes you happy. Do you best to keep it where you can reconfigure back to factory spec, but you know what - if you wanna add new switches and knobs, go for it. It's yours.
     
  15. seanbinpa

    seanbinpa TDPRI Member

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    Okay, now you guys have me thinking I haven't given the Broadcaster Bridge pickup enough quality time.
     
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  16. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    .

    Start with lowering the pickups as much as you can before they fall off the elevator screws and you have to take the strings off and the parts off to get them back in place. Then play and slowly raise the neck until it's perfect and raise the bridge until volume parity or where you find it's perfect sounding.

    If you have an urge and interest to experiment and try out new things .. I'd remove the pickups and control plate in as much of one piece as possible. Then get a new control plate and jack and pots and caps and pickups to experiment with. That way you can always go back to original easily if you find you miss the old tones or if you someday want to sell the guitar. I did not do that on one of my early guitars and wished that I had later on,while I had a lot of fun and learned some things modding, I missed the original tones and the parts were scattered all over.

    If the neck pocket is routed for a humbucker, get a P90 in a humbucker package. Or something like a TV Jones-type low output humbucker. I have a MIJ 1970 LP copy with a 'dynasonic' type in the neck and a P90 in the bridge, both humbucker shaped pickups. It's a bar room brawl kind of guitar tone.

    I'm +1 on rotating the control plate so the switch is to the rear.

    .
     
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  17. Aaron1061

    Aaron1061 Tele-Holic

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    those are all fine pickups but theres one you should REALLY consider, coming from someone that has tried all of those and then some.

    the Lambertones Blondies are the best darn telecaster pickups ive ever heard. absolutely perfect. gritty, bright, thick and expressive.
     
  18. seanbinpa

    seanbinpa TDPRI Member

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    Just, WOW!! I had never heard, nor heard of these!! The plot thickens!! A new question: If you were to buy top level pickups, is the Baja quality enough guitar to spurge on? Or would I be placing a Porsche engine in a VW?

    These sounds fantastic!!

    https://www.lambertones.com/pickups/theblondie
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2019
  19. Volktar

    Volktar TDPRI Member

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    Switching your plate around could be fun. I can't on my thinline, or I probably would have - not that the switch has ever been in my way...
     
  20. Fretting out

    Fretting out Tele-Meister

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    You can take the S1 knob off if the button look bothers you , a standard fender knob will fit right on that pot

    I didn’t use the S1 myself so I just put 52 knobs on it
     
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