I Tried the New Fender Cunife WRHB Pickups

11 Gauge

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I'm curious as to what the eddy currents are like with the WRHB. I have to wonder if it's possibly the main cause of the flub/flab that some users mention.

...Or...what is the Gauss of CuNiFe polepieces, vs. something like alnico 2/3/5?
 

Dacious

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I'm curious as to what the eddy currents are like with the WRHB. I have to wonder if it's possibly the main cause of the flub/flab that some users mention.

...Or...what is the Gauss of CuNiFe polepieces, vs. something like alnico 2/3/5?

My experience with WRHB is they need more distance between poles and strings to avoid treble harshness/flub than typical singles or PAF types. They can sound muddy and indistinct IMO otherwise. Then fine-tuning with poles to return string balance.

Gauss is quite low compared to an alnico bar but there are twelve of them in close/r proximity to strings.
 

Mumpex

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All pickup techo babble is nonsense... All of it is marketeering.. they are all electromagnetic coils with frequency varients. The metalurgy is what it is. Poles . Ceramic bars or whatever .. noiseless are stacked humbuckers and so on. All the subatomic blah blah is complete fantasy. And a severe waste of money to the gullable !
 

Dacious

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All pickup techo babble is nonsense... All of it is marketeering.. they are all electromagnetic coils with frequency varients. The metalurgy is what it is. Poles . Ceramic bars or whatever .. noiseless are stacked humbuckers and so on. All the subatomic blah blah is complete fantasy. And a severe waste of money to the gullable !

In your opinion.
 

Arfage

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TL;DR: I was underwhelmed by Cunife WRHBs and think the hype is a bunch of vintage mojo mythology. They're fine, but they're not mind blowing. Ok, long version...

I bought a used Squier Tele Deluxe about a month ago. It was loaded with Mojotone Fender WRHBs and a Mojotone wiring harness with 500k pots and treble bleeds. I thought the pickups sounded, well... interesting. They were way clearer than a PAF-styled humbucker, probably because of the threaded screw magnets instead of the bars. The neck sounded pretty smooth without getting muddy very easily. The middle position was glassy and plucky sounding - kind of like the middle position on a guitar with two P90s, but not as glassy and sparkly as a normal Tele. The bridge pickup was pretty articulate when driven, at least compared to a typical 'bucker.

The main downside as far as I'm concerned is this kind of flubbiness on the low end. It's sort of a murky undertone that's always there no matter what I change on the amp or how I adjust the pickup. It's not the same as a "muddy pickup" sound, and the pickups don't sound muddy in a conventional sense (unless you roll the tone off all the way, obviously). It's this kind of underlying thumpy character that you sort of have to hear to understand.

Anyway, I figured I'd try some of the "real" WRHBs since Fender was making the Cunife ones again. Got some. Got some 1 meg pots as well since that's what you're supposed to do with those.

They sound basically the same as the Mojotone WRHBs. They might be just a tad clearer and the EQ might be slightly different, but there's really no substantive difference that you couldn't address by turning a knob on your amp. That murky not-niceness? Totally still there.

Also, I think 1 meg is overkill for the bridge pickup. If I were doing it again, I'd use 1 meg pots on the neck side and 500K pots for the bridge. It got pretty shrill with everything all the way up.

My verdict is that Cunife isn't magical and the unique sound of these pickups comes from the magnetized screws rather than the Cunife material. That said, I don't think the pickups are particularly special and I don't really have a use for them. I'd rather just use a good PAF-type humbucker. At least those are a normal size and can be switched out with others.

Since the guy who sold me the Squier Tele Deluxe included the stock pickups, I put them back in along with the Mojotone harness and 500K pots. I actually find the stock Squier pickups more usable than either the Mojotones or the Cunife pickups! They're more predictable and easier to dial in!

Anyway, I'll be listing the Mojotones, the Fender Cunife pickups, and the Squier Tele Deluxe for sale in the near future.

SIDE NOTE: Even though I didn't love the WRHBs, I am convinced that the threaded magnet generally lends more clarity to a humbucker vs. a bar magnet. It makes me curious about something like the Reverend Railhammer pickups that use a similar approach but use rails under the wound strings to tame the low end tubby sound.
I had a black '71 Thinline - bought it used in '80 and played it for seven years, and I can tell you, not only were the pickups great for me - anything but low end muddiness - but it wasn't unusual to have people say "wow, what kind of pickups are those". It wasn't a popular guitar, kind of expensive and off the beaten path so almost nobody else was using them, in the early 80's very untrendy to show up at a jam night with, not a formula for huge sales. Anyway I tried to reproduce it as one of five partscasters I built during covid lockdown with two different pickup sets that sucked. The original '71 pickups weren't magical, just really great sounding. Like a nice Gibson, similar power with a bit less midrange and a bit more snap, and that's all. Mystical goddesses didn't emerge from the walls to the aroma of Asian hashish. However I am of the opinion that people just aren't making them right. If you try a vintage 70's Thinline or Deluxe I'm pretty sure you'll agree. Anyway between the pickup issue and the frustration and wasted time of returning ****ty necks to Warmoth I dumped the guitar so I never got around to trying the Mojotone as I wanted the whole project just to go away, but that's another story.
 

Telecaster88

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Exactly. It's maddening.
I found what I think is a solution after a year of experimenting (.015 caps, 1meg pots, etc), though: go to a lower gauge string. It really takes that dark flabbiness out. I went from .10s to 9.5s and it really helped. Entire guitar became tight. Brights a little more crisp and low end much more normal and tight. Give it a try.

I have a 2006 MIM Thinline RI with what I assume are the pre-revoiced "fake" WRHBs in it (the seller told me they are Shawbuckers... Which seems unlikely to me, but I've never opened it up to confirm one way or another.) They have the much-reported flub on the wound strings. It's not awful, and in general I like the pickups. Somehow I discovered that turning the guitar volume down... Way down... Like to 3.5... Really cleans them up and improves overall tone (IMO). No other pickup I've played has given me those results at that extreme of a setting.

I've jonesed for "real" WRHBs for a long time, and when the new CuNiFe ones came out last year I got real excited. But living where I do it's gonna be really hard to hear them in person. From online demos sometimes they sound like they'd be up my alley and sometimes not (I play 100% clean and quiet). So for now, especially since I discovered the volume knob trick, I've resigned myself to the fake ones. For my purposes they sound good, and I otherwise love the guitar.
 

Vermoulian

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Your comments about the Squier WRHBs are interesting to me---I have a MIM Deluxe reissue and although the guitar forum world had explained to me that the pickups sucked, I never found that. I think they sound good---good enough that I'm not going to spend the price of CuNiFi WRHBs just to test them out. I could see that they may be different but not necessarily better.
 

11 Gauge

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Gauss is quite low compared to an alnico bar but there are twelve of them in close/r proximity to strings.

I was thinking more like the effect of cunife rods vs. alnico rods, where I know that the latter (especially alnico 5) can do goofy things to the strings if the poles are too close to them.

Even if you could put a nickel silver cover on something like a Strat pickup (with holes for staggered or at least non-flush poles), I'd imagine there might be more eddy currents with a WRHB, since you've got two coils side-by-side.

I just could imagine the flub/flab issues possibly being eliminated or lessened, if there was no cover, or if you could fabricate a cover made out of plastic.

For whatever reason, this makes me curious as to how a Strat pickup would sound with cunife rods, or possibly a Tele bridge pickup. Would there really be a distinct sonic difference?
 

Dacious

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I was thinking more like the effect of cunife rods vs. alnico rods, where I know that the latter (especially alnico 5) can do goofy things to the strings if the poles are too close to them.

Even if you could put a nickel silver cover on something like a Strat pickup, I'd imagine there might be more eddy currents with a WRHB, since you've got two coils side-by-side.

I just could imagine the flub/flab issues possibly being eliminated or lessened, if there was no cover, or if you could fabricate a cover made out of plastic.

For whatever reason, this makes me curious as to how a Strat pickup would sound with cunife rods, or possibly a Tele bridge pickup. Would there really be a distinct sonic difference?

I'd say there would be - although I have a set of threaded alnico 3 poles to try which according to the vendor gauss up the same as cunife and I I think were used in one or other of the boutique clones. I set these between neo magnets and they go to 3000g after a couple hours on my phone app which wouldn't be that accurate - it measures the North Pole of some alnico 4 magnet at about 21,000 gauss
 

kjatexas

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I have a Telenator made CuNiFe WRHB, in the neck position of an American Standard Telecaster. It has 1 Meg pots, as Telenator recommended, and a 4 way switch. I love it. The Telenator guy, is on this forum occasionally, would be interesting to hear his feedback, on the new Fender CuNiFe pickups.

614A7664-C5AE-4193-B94D-6F62D733AB95.jpeg
 

Sleph

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Clearly WRHBs aren't for you because I bought a pair and disagree with most of what you've said. I think they're extremely versatile going from crystal clean to crunchy to full distortion really well - especially when you dial in the pickup height adjustment correctly - and if yours sound like P90s, they're probably set way too high.

As for CUNIFE not being 'magical', of course it's not - but after listening to most of the aftermarket WRHB released over the last few years which all use FeCrCo threaded magnets, NONE of them have the same tone as the originals when played clean - they ALL seem to lack a sweetness and sponginess of the originals and sound more scratchy. They all sounded good enough when overdriven, but not when played clean.

The CuNiFe ones re-issued by Fender are the closest thing to the original I've heard, and so if the only difference between the Fender ones and all the other copies is magnet composition, it stands to reason that there's got to be something to it - whether it makes sense or not.

Also, while I've only heard recordings, the ones Telenator made with CuNiFe a few years back also sounded closer to the originals than most - which again suggests the CuNiFe material plays some part in the tonal character of these pickups.

As for the guitars with WRHBs not being popular when they were new that's not true - they sold well while they were available and people who bought them tended to love them for their spanky Fender sound without the 60 cycle hum.

I also think they have more character and sit in a band mix better than normal humbuckers do....

Horses for courses I guess.
 

Telenator

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Another illuminating conclusion: If you want to try WRHBs, just get a pair of the less expensive aftermarket clones. They cost less because they don't use Cunife, but they're going to be so close to the sound of the Fenders that it's silly to spend more money.

This is absolutely untrue.

If you're using a fair amount of gain/overdrive, then CuNiFe WRHBs are NOT for you. That's not where they live. Anyone saying the aftermarket clones are "so close to the sound of the Fenders CuNiFe that it's silly to spend more money," is using a lot of gain in their sound or just hasn't done a correct set-up on their guitar.

What is absolutely true, is that CuNiFe WRHBs do not sound good through gainy amps. They just don't. Nor do AlNiCo WRHBs. For more overdrive, and higher gain settings, FeCrCo rules the roost! If you play using considerable gain, then YES! Save a bunch of money and buy the right pickups. FeCrCo sounds better for modern tones and overdrive.

Just in case anybody cares, I made this set-up guide to get the most from your CuNiFe and AlNiCo wide range humbuckers.

Do Not underestimate the importance of doing this right.


How to adjust a CuNiFe Wide Range Humbucker for the optimum traditional tone.





NOTE: Read this entire document before you touch anything……. Then start at the beginning.


Always start with the height setting first, and then turn the CuNiFe magnets as a fine tuning adjustment once you have the pickup set at the optimum position as described below.





Following this procedure will get you much better results and prevent unnecessary adjustment stresses on a new or vintage CuNiFe Wide Range Humbucker. It becomes very easy to start chasing your tail with these pickups if you’re not organized and methodical in your approach.





When you set the pickup height, start with the NECK pickup first.





1) Set all the CuNiFe screw heights even, with the round of the heads just sticking out from the cover. Then lower the exposed G, B and E string magnets flush with the cover.





2) Hold the strings down at the last fret, and adjust the neck pickup height so it sits 8/64's below the strings on the bass and treble sides. Make it level.





3) IMPORTANT: Play for a few minutes and listen to the sound. Listen for the balance, tone and attack. Do not rush this process. Let your ears grow accustomed to the sound.





DO NOT ADJUST THE CuNiFe MAGNETS YET!





4) Start to lower the pickup, just a half turn at a time, to get the bass and treble balanced.


Do not raise the pickup to adjust for weak balance.


Lower the side that is louder. It makes a difference.





As you go lower, you will start to hear some really great tones come from the pickup.


You'll find a sweet spot where the reduced magnetic string pull allows for greater sustain, yet the sound remains very articulate.





5) Stop lowering the pickup when the articulation starts to fade and bring it back up a half turn or so.





You will also notice some really nice “note bloom” from the wound strings where the sound actually swells a bit after you pluck the note. This is the ideal position for those wanting the traditional WRHB sound.





6) If you now notice that one of the strings is still a tiny bit weak, or loud, this is the time to adjust the CuNiFe magnets to get the final balanced sound.


If two or more strings do not sound balanced, re-adjust the pickup height first before attempting to balance it with the CuNiFe magnet screws.





7) Adjust the bridge pickup until the output is balanced with you neck pickup.


The bridge pickup is not nearly as fussy and will not have quite the same characteristics as the neck pickup so it's important to get the neck pickup sounding great first, and then adjust the bridge pickup to the desired balance and output level.





This procedure will yield the best results for those seeking the true traditional tone. Rock it!

 

Toto'sDad

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All pickup techo babble is nonsense... All of it is marketeering.. they are all electromagnetic coils with frequency varients. The metalurgy is what it is. Poles . Ceramic bars or whatever .. noiseless are stacked humbuckers and so on. All the subatomic blah blah is complete fantasy. And a severe waste of money to the gullable !

I once saw a banjo player hollering at a guy who did some repairs on his banjo for blowing the dust out of the inside of the head on it. Crazy does not discriminate.
 

Toto'sDad

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I have an AV 72 Tele Custom, that I'm not particularly enamored of, and have been on the fence for years about putting a CUNIFE neck pickup in it. I just couldn't muster up paying the price for one of Telenator's, nor any of the other boutique models. I've decided against ever getting rid of the AV 72 TC because I know I'm fickle and whatever I get to replace it I would eventually not like anyway. Why would I replace it? Because that's what I do! I don't play much anymore, so I was glad to read this thread. I'm convinced that the factory WRHB will suffice. It's one of the re-voiced ones, and only measures 5.88 ohms in resistance.

I've read many, many threads and internet reviews of not only the new CUNIFE pickups, but the old ones, and all of the boutique ones I could find. (and YouTube videos) I know reading is not listening, but to tell the truth, all of the reviews I've read seemed to indicate there was not one of those voilà moments with any of them. The first rejoinder if you are a naysayer is "well you just can't hear the difference." If you can't hear the difference what difference does it make?

I am grateful to the OP for his evaluation, I'm going to wrap this thing up (my considering a cunife wrhb) and put it over here under:

Things I'm not going to do. (or think about anymore)
 

digitalMagnetics

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If you're using a fair amount of gain/overdrive, then CuNiFe WRHBs are NOT for you. That's not where they live. Anyone saying the aftermarket clones are "so close to the sound of the Fenders CuNiFe that it's silly to spend more money," is using a lot of gain in their sound or just hasn't done a correct set-up on their guitar.

I'm the one who said that.

What do you mean by a "fair amount of gain/overdrive?" If the suggestion is that we shouldn't use the CuNiFe WRHBs through a cooking tube amp, then it seems their appeal would be far more limited than one would reasonably suspect.

I played with and without gain and found the differences between Fender's CuNiFe reissues and the Mojotones to be negligible. I'm not sure whether I used a "fair amount" of gain or not when I was using them. But yeah, I play crunchy a lot of the time. Never high gain. No metal.
 

digitalMagnetics

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All pickup techo babble is nonsense... All of it is marketeering.. they are all electromagnetic coils with frequency varients. The metalurgy is what it is. Poles . Ceramic bars or whatever .. noiseless are stacked humbuckers and so on. All the subatomic blah blah is complete fantasy. And a severe waste of money to the gullable !

In the last year, I've pickup swapped on several guitars to try and improve the sound. The time, effort, and money paid off exactly once. For all the others, it was a big letdown. The stock pickups went back in, and they were fine.

I've come to pretty much the same conclusion as you.
 

moosie

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Thanks @Telenator!

I installed a set of the new Fender CuNiFes recently. There are still a couple of things I want to change - maple/rosewood neck vs the almost-too-bright solid rosewood, and a pair of 1meg pots (currently using 500k tone). And now along with those changes, I can use your guide to make rational adjustments.

Interesting, like most of the CuNiFe-likers in this thread, I also play either completely clean, or with a touch of overdrive, at conversational volumes. And yes, even without proper dial-in, I do like the sound. Can't compare to any other WR, as these are my only.

I've long been on the fence with PAFs - I guess it's that many are geared for higher gain, and just a few sound good in the clean / quiet range. The only two I've ever liked:

– The 57 Classics that came in my 335 (and they shall never leave). However, I found another set of Classics in a LP completely underwhelming.

– A set of Throbak SLE-101s that I put in my Collings City Limits. I replaced the stock Lollar Imperials (reg wind) because they sounded nasal and harsh to my ears.


I can easily see how the original WRs would not be popular with the then-popular LP / PAF crowd. With their clear, even response, they sound great to me as a 'bright jazz' tone. Call it Western Swing if you like. Fender's home ground, IMO.
 

WWLaidback

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TL;DR: I was underwhelmed by Cunife WRHBs and think the hype is a bunch of vintage mojo mythology. They're fine, but they're not mind blowing. Ok, long version...

I bought a used Squier Tele Deluxe about a month ago. It was loaded with Mojotone Fender WRHBs and a Mojotone wiring harness with 500k pots and treble bleeds. I thought the pickups sounded, well... interesting. They were way clearer than a PAF-styled humbucker, probably because of the threaded screw magnets instead of the bars. The neck sounded pretty smooth without getting muddy very easily. The middle position was glassy and plucky sounding - kind of like the middle position on a guitar with two P90s, but not as glassy and sparkly as a normal Tele. The bridge pickup was pretty articulate when driven, at least compared to a typical 'bucker.

The main downside as far as I'm concerned is this kind of flubbiness on the low end. It's sort of a murky undertone that's always there no matter what I change on the amp or how I adjust the pickup. It's not the same as a "muddy pickup" sound, and the pickups don't sound muddy in a conventional sense (unless you roll the tone off all the way, obviously). It's this kind of underlying thumpy character that you sort of have to hear to understand.

Anyway, I figured I'd try some of the "real" WRHBs since Fender was making the Cunife ones again. Got some. Got some 1 meg pots as well since that's what you're supposed to do with those.

They sound basically the same as the Mojotone WRHBs. They might be just a tad clearer and the EQ might be slightly different, but there's really no substantive difference that you couldn't address by turning a knob on your amp. That murky not-niceness? Totally still there.

Also, I think 1 meg is overkill for the bridge pickup. If I were doing it again, I'd use 1 meg pots on the neck side and 500K pots for the bridge. It got pretty shrill with everything all the way up.

My verdict is that Cunife isn't magical and the unique sound of these pickups comes from the magnetized screws rather than the Cunife material. That said, I don't think the pickups are particularly special and I don't really have a use for them. I'd rather just use a good PAF-type humbucker. At least those are a normal size and can be switched out with others.

Since the guy who sold me the Squier Tele Deluxe included the stock pickups, I put them back in along with the Mojotone harness and 500K pots. I actually find the stock Squier pickups more usable than either the Mojotones or the Cunife pickups! They're more predictable and easier to dial in!

Anyway, I'll be listing the Mojotones, the Fender Cunife pickups, and the Squier Tele Deluxe for sale in the near future.

SIDE NOTE: Even though I didn't love the WRHBs, I am convinced that the threaded magnet generally lends more clarity to a humbucker vs. a bar magnet. It makes me curious about something like the Reverend Railhammer pickups that use a similar approach but use rails under the wound strings to tame the low end tubby sound.


PAF is way too noisy for me. I remember trying those at a boutique with fluorescent overheard lights and it was buzz buzz buzz.

The cunife SC/HB pair was designed by Seth Lover, and sonicly landscaped by the Fender Engineering team. I owned the originals in the 70s, and recently bought the new ones from Sweetwater.. Perhaps it would help if you posted a recording of your guitar. Here's my first gig with the new cunifes this year. The articulation is breath-taking. All the reviews are 5-star My review is the one at the top with the Video attachment.
 
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