I really like the new Fender Meteora, I bought the first Parallel Universe version a few years ago, which was all Telecaster hardware. My brother mentioned that it's similar to the Ernie Ball St Vincent, and I can see the resemblance. So I just bought the latest version, an HH with a Strat trem and "Fender Fireball" pickups. There's no information out there about these, and they're not sold aftermarket, so this info might only be of interest to a small handful of people. But they look like Wide Range Humbuckers, so you might be wondering if they're in any way similar, and they're not, they're basically Fender bobbin, PAF style humbuckers.
The inductance of these pickups are pretty close to one another, 4.5H bridge, 4.0H neck, figures that are on the low side for a typical PAF. The loaded resonant peak for both neck and bridge around 3kHz, similar to the neck pickup of a Seymour Duncan 59's set, which is a good point for comparison since that set comes stock in a lot of HH guitars. You might take "Fireball" to mean "hot", I did, but they're not hot in relation to most humbuckers, but compared to Fender single coils, they're hot, as is any Gibson style humbucker.
From the pics, it clearly has an AlNiCo magnet, it's mostly likely AlNiCo 5, and also from the pics you can see Fender puts a adhesive rubber spacer in between the covers and the bobbins, with holes for the pole pieces to poke through. It's about 2mm thick, so the strings are 2mm farther away from the coil as compared with a PAF that has no such spacer. The rubber spacer is stick on the top and bottom, but Fender only peels off the adhesive from the bottom side, and the covers were soldered on under pressure, because when I snipped the solder that holds the covers on, they "popped off" slightly, so I had to clamp it when I soldered it shut again.
So the magnetic strength only measures about 225 gauss, where as a PAF with AlNiCo 5 would measure closer to 250 or 275 gauss, I think the added 2mm of distance probably causes the lower reading, but it's also note worthy that there are 12 screws in all, with only six exposed through the cover holes, three for each bobbin, with the other hidden screws being sunk into that spacer, so that they don't make contact with the cover. Also unlike Gibson PAFs, the the screws don't extend into or beyond the base plate, so they're shorter screws, and that makes them a little stronger than they otherwise would be, because any portion of the screw that extends past the magnet actually serves to reduce the magnetic strength of the screws by drawing the magnetic field away from the guitar strings.
I like Fender's bobbins, which you can see in the pics below have a little channel for the start and finish wire to solder to four posts that poke out of the base plate. It's much easier to work with and test than the Gibson type of PAF.
The eddy currents in the bode plot suggest the covers are nickel silver, because the amplitude doesn't tank at resonance, but it has slightly higher eddy currents than a typical PAF with a nickel silver cover, so a funny thig happens where the resonant amplitude is actually a little higher with added tone and volume pot load, rather than without, but overall, with a 1dB boost at resonance, the knee is essentially flat. The guitar comes with 500k pots.
A funny thing I read about these Fireball pickups, "Norvell tells me the Fender team spent six months working on the pickup system for this thing", as if it would take more than a matter of minutes and the back of a napkin to design a PAF clone using existing parts, and wiring a S1 switch to split a couple humbuckers with 4 conductor wiring.
I've played the guitar for about a good five hours in the past week, and I've been using in the split mode mostly, which is a little surprising to me because like most people, I've never felt like the split tone of a PAF style humbucker was all that great, but I think a lot of that is more about the rest of the guitar, and when I'm holding a Fender guitar, I think phytologically I prefer the pickups to sound thin and bright, but if the same pickups are in a Les Paul, I can't dig it so much.
As an aside, I see Fender is using a new encased S1 switch, very nice. It looks more durable than the aftermarket type they sell. Also, dealing with the Meteora pickguard is a headache, there's a lot of wires traversing the length of the pick guard in a mostly straight line, but the control cavity is cut more like a "Z" shape, so when you re-assemble the guitar, you have to pushed lots of the wires around to get it to close shut again. I've opened Jags and Jazzmasters and haven't had such trouble.
Here are the values I recorded:
Fender Fireball pickups
- DC Resistance: 7.635K ohms
- Q @1kHz: 2.02
- Measured L: 4.502H
- Calculated C: 63pF
- Gauss: 225G (AlNiCo)
- DC Resistance: 7.258K ohms
- Q @1kHz: 1.965
- Measured L: 4.058H
- Calculated C: 66pF
- Gauss: 225G (AlNiCo)
Fender Fireball pickups - series
Bridge unloaded: dV: 1.4dB f: 9.59kHz (black)
Bridge loaded (200k & 470pF): dV: 1.2dB f: 2.80kHz (blue)
Neck unloaded: dV: 1.1dB f: 8.75kHz (red)
Neck loaded (200k & 470pF): dV: 1.7dB f: 2.93kHz (green)
Fender Fireball pickups - split
Bridge unloaded: dV: 0.3dB f: 10.6 kHz (black)
Bridge loaded (200k & 470pF): dV: 1.3dB f: 4.17kHz (blue)
Neck unloaded: dV: 0.8dB f: 9.16kHz (red)
Neck loaded (200k & 470pF): dV: 2.2dB f: 4.41kHz (green)