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Bridge Pickup Advice: Trem vs Hard Tail vs Bolt on Neck

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by seedlings, Mar 21, 2014.

  1. seedlings

    seedlings TDPRI Member

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    I don't know how to phrase this question - please bear with me. I am looking for a better tone in the bridge of my Fender Marauder. Even if that doesn't interest you, please at least humor me by reading this post in case you have experienced ears to help. I have several angles of approach...

    How do these factors contribute to low midrange to bass frequencies of the tone, if at all?
    1) 6-screw Fender trem vs other trem vs hard tail?
    2) Bolt-on neck vs set neck?

    I know those are not the common points to question. The Fender Marauder is made of Koto wood, which as far as internet searches can tell me, is similar in density to Mahogany. I know the longer scale makes a Fender 'snappier' than a Gibson, which should mean that a humbucker sounds slightly thinner on a Fender, but I don't hear that. The bridge pickup mounts to the body of the guitar, not to the pick guard.

    The tone I'm looking for is tighter, more focused, even perhaps lacking in low end, but not so much as a single coil bridge. The Marauder factory pickup had this exaggerated 'boxy' low end. I installed a DiMazio Tone Zone (because it sounds fantastic in a Les Paul). The Marauder's tone improved, but I still heard a 'boxy' 'flabby' 'uncontrolled' low end. Yesterday I installed a DiMarzio Humbucker from Hell. It's brighter, and more focused, but there is this strange 'mushy' quality to the low end that I can only attribute to the Marauder, and not the pickup. (have also changed pots 500k, 1Meg, tone caps...).

    I am not really in search of bridge pickup suggestions, (just get a JB and be done with it, or whatever). I am looking to change any part of this solid body guitar that encourages a loose low end, if that is even possible.

    This Marauder guitar feels like having a vintage Camaro with paint, chrome, interior, wheels, tires, everything... and a 4-cylinder under the hood.

    Thanks for your patience in reading, and any suggestions you may have.

    CHAD
     
  2. eMGee

    eMGee Friend of Leo's

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    Lower your vibrato flat to the guitar surface and block it. Other than that, your only viable options are try other pickups or get a different guitar.
     
  3. seedlings

    seedlings TDPRI Member

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    Right. I already lowered/tightened and blocked the trem (don't use it), and am trying other pickups. Fortunately I have other guitars too, but thank you.

    CHAD

    *edit: maybe I'm reading too much, but do you think the bridge itself can be a source of muddy tones?
     
  4. GCKelloch

    GCKelloch Tele-Afflicted

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    You shouldn't need to block it if it's flat to the body. The sustain character might actually be better without it.

    Koto wood is typically Paulownia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koto_(instrument)

    If it's really lightweight, it probably is. Paulownia is a very lightweight resonant wood similar to Swamp Ash with a mid-bass emphasis and soft open highs. Chances are it's interacting with the neck in a way you don't like. It happens sometimes when the neck and body vibrate very out of phase. Make sure the truss rod is functional and not flopping around inside the neck. I often recommend an easy mod that will minimize body/neck interaction while increasing coupling force. It may be worth a try. Get some 1cm - 1/2" wide brass washers. Crimp & twist the outside edges with a wire clipper and pliers. Put them around the neck pocket screws. The crimped sharp edges and magnified coupling force will hold the neck solid. It should improve sustain, depth and clarity. Perhaps the trem block is pot metal? Solid Steel or Brass should help. GFS has them very cheap.

    Even 500k pots might be a little high for the DiMarzio HFH. I believe it is a comparatively low ~3.5H inductance HB. At the very least, you should probably use a low capacitance cable to keep the peak from sounding too harsh. A ~200pF cable works well with a lot of things. If the JM pickup is the typical ~3.5H inductance, it should be really sweet and bell-like. The tone knob cap really only matters when the knob is below ~4. You might find that you want to keep the tone knob down a bit with the HFH, or wire a ~220-500k resistor over the switch position lug to ground.
     
  5. seedlings

    seedlings TDPRI Member

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    I sure thank you for the input GCK. I am having trouble wrapping my mind around the washer idea. The washer goes between the screw and the metal plate?

    Koto the mystery... My searches had Koto wood tight, uniform grain and density 630kg/m3, where mahogany is 560kg/m3. If it is more similar to swamp ash, that would help explain what I'm hearing.

    I am trying different resistances to see if there is a sweet spot somewhere. Both the JM and the HFH are too bright right now. As you say, the resonant peak has to be around 8kHz!! So far a 330k across the 500k volume pot is better - probably will settle on 250K pots. Also had to remove the 680pF vol bright cap that the Tone Zone needed.

    Argh... buying a guitar for looks and feel and playability has become a tonal headache...

    CHAD
     
  6. GCKelloch

    GCKelloch Tele-Afflicted

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    The washers go between the neck and the body.

    After looking further, it appears Koto wood is from Africa, and much heavier the Paulownia.

    My guess is the resonant peaks of the pickups with your present guitar cable are actually much lower than 8kHz. Probably between 2 - 4kHz, and very pronounced with 500k & 1M pots. If the pickups are indeed both ~3.5H, a ~200pF cable combined with the ~100pF internal C of each pickup should put the resonance for each a bit above 4kHz and less pronounced. That's good for a round glassy sound. It should be OK in the neck with 500k pots, but you may need a resistor over the bridge pickup.
     
  7. seedlings

    seedlings TDPRI Member

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    After a few more hours tweaking, the tone is better. The pots are both 500k, with a .022uF treble cap (was.047), no bright cap, no extra resistors. What did the trick was a cap across the volume pot (in to ground). After trying 120, 220, 470, 560, 680, and 1500pF, the 2200pF did the trick to tame the ice pick and bring both pickups back to a vintage sounding tone, without extra woof. Now for the "let your ears rest and come back later" test.

    CHAD
     
  8. GCKelloch

    GCKelloch Tele-Afflicted

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    Check this out:

    A 2.2nF cap combined with an average ~400pF cable C value would put the peak of ~3.5H pickups at ~1.5kHz. It's a nice vocal sounding peak. Being below 2kHz, it may lack definition in a mix. The peak would go up to just above 2kHz when both pickups are in parallel. You should notice a steeliness, but it's still not harsh. That sound about right?

    Back in the 50's, 6-8' cables rated at ~30pF/foot were pretty standard. The cable plugs, internal guitar wiring and pickups themselves add ~150-200pF. That would give the typical ~2.5H Fender Strat pickup the ~3dB ~4.2-4.5kHz Bell tone peak I mentioned with 250k pots. As I say, it's great on the neck, but can be too bright on the bridge. Just wire a ~20ok resistor over it to level it off. You might also want to put a ~500k over the neck to bring the peak height down closer to 3dB.

    Planet Waves Cable Station cable is ~18pF/foot. You can get a 50' cable + 10 plug pack for ~$60. 8-10' of it should produce the same peak for your pickups, assuming they are ~3.5H each. The peak would go up just above 6kHz when in parallel. That's above the brilliant sounding 4-6kHz presence range and above the range of most guitar speakers -- it generally sounds sweet and sparkly.

    Finally, you can even use separate caps from each pickup to the tone control for say: a variable ~1.5-2kHz peak in the bridge, and the standard 600-800Hz bop tone peak in th neck.
     
  9. seedlings

    seedlings TDPRI Member

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    Seems like the resonant peak is higher than the 1.5kHz range. Not as high as regular single coils, but higher than other humbuckers. I use a cheap (peavey?) 20' cable, then several pedals and home made pedals, a couple have buffers.

    5-way switching is
    JM
    JM series with tapped HFH
    JM parallel with tapped HFH
    tapped HFH
    HFH

    CHAD
     
  10. GCKelloch

    GCKelloch Tele-Afflicted

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    All SC's and HB have different inductance values, so they have different peaks under the same load. That 20' Peavey cable may actually be much higher than 400pF. It's best to have one preamp buffer first in the chain that is always active. That will keep the peaks the same regardless of what comes after that buffer. You can calculate the peaks with this on line calc: http://www.calculatoredge.com/new/resonance.htm

    The resistance load lowers the peak a little. Use 3.5H (estimated H value for each pickup), and 2.7nF for the 2.2nF cap plus the internal pickup and cable C. Check the peaks for these values. I assume "tapped" means one coil.

    JM = 3.5H
    JM series with tapped HFH = 5.2H
    JM parallel with tapped HFH = 1.2H
    tapped HFH = 1.7H
    HFH = 3.5H

    5.2H might sound a bit "piercing" with a ~200pF cable. A resistor over the switch position lug to ground would take care of that -- assuming there are independent lugs available per position.

    You may be interested in an experiment I just finished with different capacitance loads on some ~7.5H pickups. The differences are subtle. Check out the 3 most recent samples. I'm with Goldilocks on the results: https://app.box.com/s/i4r6lq64nbyxgq1u6znn
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2014
  11. seedlings

    seedlings TDPRI Member

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    Yes, tapped is one humbucker coil.

    What program opens the files you linked to?

    The 20' cable measures about 1nF, but I don't trust the meter because I get a wide range measuring caps.

    I build tube amps and pedals, but this is my first time reflecting on resonant freqs of pickups. I re-read your posts many times to digest the insight. According to the calculations, I should probably go down a value or two to get up in the 2-4Khz range for the HFH. According to my ears this value sounds good. Also your calculations put the HFH and JM around the same freq, but the JM sounds quite a bit lower.

    If I get some free time, I'll try to get a clip together. Thanks for all your advice!

    CHAD
     
  12. GCKelloch

    GCKelloch Tele-Afflicted

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    You can just play the files I linked to on-line. If you download them, you need something to play flac files. I use Foobar2000 as my audio player.

    Your meter might be fine. Caps can vary a lot from the stated values.

    The JM pickup may indeed be higher than 3.5H. It might be a special JM for that guitar. Anything up to ~4.5H should still sound full and open with 500k pots and a ~200pF cable. Inductance values above that would start to put the resonance in the piercing ~2.5-3.5kHz "ice pick" range under that same load.

    With your 1nF cable and the 2.2nF cap, you should be getting ~5dB peaks below 1.5kHz from each pickup with the 500k pots. It would still sound good, but with very limited definition. From what I understand about the Clapton "Woman" tone, it was a result of a very pronounced ~8dB ~1.3kHz peak on a Strat from the M & B pickups and the 10nF capped tone knob at 0. I actually just posted a sample of that sound in the same folder as the others.

    I still recommended a ~200pF or slightly lower value cable and no added caps.
     
  13. seedlings

    seedlings TDPRI Member

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    Thanks. I was trying to listen with the android phone, but the files play fine on the laptop. My pickups sound brighter than your clips, even the 190pF. I'll try to get a clip together.

    CHAD
     
  14. seedlings

    seedlings TDPRI Member

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  15. GCKelloch

    GCKelloch Tele-Afflicted

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    It's not really fair to compare the sound of my pickup samples to your pickups. That amp sim preset is a clear, but smooth sounding one with a BD-2 pedal sim in front. It's really my main "go to" resulting from many hours tweaking over several sessions. I used raw/fat sounding 10-46 Nickel/Iron alloy strings on the XV-585 -- which is not a particularly bright guitar. The pickups on it are ~7-8H each with 500k pots. My only hope was to tune the peaks to below ~2.5kHz, which both 340pF & 390pF seem to have accomplished. I also keep my pickup heights set a bit closer than average on the low string side. It increases the fundamental to upper harmonic ratio for them, effectively increasing bass response. I also tend to keep the treble & presence down to ~3, and the midrange boosted to ~8 on my amp sim presets. Speaker cab & mic type/placement also makes a big difference. I quite often mix two cabs/mics for the different bass and upper-mid qualities, and always adjust the phase for each cab to compensate for any difference in mic distance.

    Those pickup H values you posted seem correct. Here are a few other classic Neck/Middle & Bridge pickup standards. Values can of course vary for each pickup.

    ~2.4 & 2.8H early 60's Strat
    ~1.6 & 3.2H early 60's Tele (not sure about the neck)
    ~3.5 & 4.5H Fender JM
    ~7.5 & 9H Gibson P90
    ~1.6 & 2.4H Gretch Filtertron

    You can actually measure the correct series inductance of a pickup with certain ~$200 LCR meters. You could look into that, but it wouldn't change my recommendation of a ~150-200pF cable. Those PWCS solderless cable packages are a good deal. I'd be surprised if DiMarzio gets back to you with the HFH H value. It makes sense that it might be closer to a ~2.5H Strat pickup. As I say, you'll probably want a ~220k or lower value resister over it. Although the highs will be extended with a low C cable, the amplitude of the peak will be lower and would be well above the critical 2-4kHz hearing range. So, it actually shouldn't sound as bright or piercing. BTW, it's easier to try extreme opposing values and work towards the middle than to increment up or down in one direction. I record the results of my experiments to listen back and compare.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2014
  16. seedlings

    seedlings TDPRI Member

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    Per DiMarzio Tech support the HFH is 2.47H which helps explain the top end.

    I also asked about the D-Activator Neck, which is 3.81H, and the Eric Johnson Custom Bridge is 2.05H.

    CHAD
     
  17. seedlings

    seedlings TDPRI Member

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    Here are a couple of videos with 3 different cap values:

    Jazzmaster


    Humbucker from Hell


    CHAD
     
  18. GCKelloch

    GCKelloch Tele-Afflicted

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    Great demos Chad. DiMarzio actually got back to you. That's encouraging. Why they don't supply the inductance values on the website I can't say.

    Some nice tones there, but they change a lot with the switch position. A low C cable with no added caps and a ~150k-220k resistor over the HFH and a ~220-470k over the JM pickup would give you smoother higher frequency peaks with extended highs in all positions -- as the resistance combines in the combined pickup positions. You can then control the highs better with the amp tone stack treble because the peaks will be centered up in the frequency range it affects. It's really a simpler approach than trying to set peaks with caps for each position.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2014
  19. seedlings

    seedlings TDPRI Member

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    There's just the one 2200pF cap across the volume pot because everything was too bright, too steely metallic for my tastes, and no need for components on each position of the 5-way. The bridge gets 80% play time, neck 15% and in-between settings are a novelty really.

    CHAD
     
  20. GCKelloch

    GCKelloch Tele-Afflicted

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    I just edited my last post. Whatever works for you. I can tell that you are getting some very pronounced peaks in the parallel combined positions -- probably in ~6dB range, because the circuit impedance and inductance drops so much.
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2014
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