Is it possible to take off some windings from an existing pickup?

Antigua Tele

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Jun 2, 2014
Posts
3,239
Location
west coast
Here's a side shot using rubber tubing to raise the bridge pickup. Surprisingly it has no problem resting perpendicular to the body. Also I raised the treble side of the neck pickup.

As an aside you can see how sloppy the black paint is on the f-hole, I wasn't happy about that. Fortunately none of this is really noticeable unless you look at the guitar from this sharp angle.

1648222501784.png
 

monkeybanana

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Aug 6, 2016
Posts
1,127
Location
mmhmm
....it isn't something I would do to an ES-330. They are desirable, somewhat rare, and pricey guitars, that should have components replaced and set aside for future restoration, rather than irreversibly modified from stock....
This is what I'm wondering. If it's an old one I would leave it. Modifying the pickup would knock the guitar's value more than buying a new pickup. Installing a new pickup would also involve messing with the original wiring too. We need to know if this is a new or old guitar first.
 

Retsoor

TDPRI Member
Joined
Mar 23, 2015
Posts
4
Location
Pacific NW
First off, in regards to shims: Lollar has a packaged set of dog ear shims he sells on his site, various thicknesses and stackable. They’re well made and do the job, black

2nd, it’s #42 wire and not that hard to deal with, definitely remove some wire or have somebody do it for you. Measure the DC resistance first, decide a target (7.5K maybe), and then plan on removing 100 complete circles of wire for each .1K of resistance. Example: Pickup reads 8.2K stock, then remove .7K of wire or 700 circles (winds) of wire. By hand, I typically do this in groups of 100 (all connected and continuous) ‘bunches’. In this particular scenario, 7 bunches of 100 wraps of wire that I can visually confirm so that I can keep count of how many windings I am removing. I’ve probably unwrapped 25 bobbins over the years without breaking a wire, SCs, HBs, P90s, etc. Tele neck pups are #43 (thinner) and consequently more delicate. Just be careful, no sudden jerking motions. And BTW, Gibson is not known for heavy wax potting, this has never been an issue.

Mags for neck might be stock A3, this was Gibson’s way. Change to A5 in the neck, leave the bridge alone if you have the height correct and you like how it sounds. Go to Philadelphia Luthier Supply for the new mags they are reputable and have a good selection. Note: NEVER BUY UNORIENTED MAGNETS! These are not what you think they might be, trust me. I’ve found that ANY contact with another magnetic field and these mags become worthless. You don’t need/want something like this in your guitar. And, yes, I have a magnometer to measure gauss strength.
 

skilback

TDPRI Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2003
Posts
17
As noted by a few folks above, and I agree 100% --> adding a shim to the bridge pickup is the answer. I have an old ES-330 and this solution worked well for me. If you look at guitars like the ES-175, ES-225, ES-295, ES-350, ES-5... they all have the bridge pickup closer to the strings with a shim/riser, but for some reason Gibson neglected to do this on the 330.

This is a very common and recognized improvement to a lot of archtop and P90 guitars including the 330, for the reasons described: the string energy is stronger above the neck pickup and if both pickups are the same distance from the strings then naturally the neck pickup will be louder.

You can mess around with custom pickups (which often have a stronger bridge pickup), removing pickup windings, magnets, different pots, inductors, bass-roll-off controls, but try a shim first, IMO.
 

yamatele

TDPRI Member
Joined
Dec 11, 2009
Posts
46
Age
57
Location
Bellevue WA
They make plastic risers for P-90's so all you need to do is stack a few under the bridge pup. FWIW Gibson guitars in the 50's & 60's had louder neck pickups - virtually every model. It wasn't until later that the idea of 'balanced pickups' emerged.
 

wmechem123

TDPRI Member
Joined
Jan 19, 2022
Posts
4
Age
59
Location
NYC
To quote the OP: "The neck pickup is considerably louder than the bridge pickup and IMHO it could use some more treble and clarity."

Replacing a 500K pot with a 250K pot would REDUCE the presence and brightness, i.e. treble and clarity.
Yep. Read too fast. Shimming the bridge then if possible would be the easiest and least costly way to balance the Vol (as others have suggested) but wouldn't make the neck brighter. Then a matched pair of decent pickups as others have also suggested would be a better option IMHO then chopping up a pickup. But that's just me. Also, going back to the 250k idea, but also adding a simple Treble bleed might also address both "problems". Cheap and easy to test (if you don't count the inevitable frustration of getting the pots in and out of the f hole 🤣)
 

Galen1960

Tele-Meister
Joined
Apr 1, 2021
Posts
115
Age
62
Location
North Hollywood, California
Coulda fooled me. I did exactly what the OP is asking with my former 2012 giibson special. The neck was too hot and muddy and overpowered the bridge. Unwound about 1k off the neck and the neck and bridge were then better balanced. By the way, i DID try A3 and A2 mags in them too but the tone just went to ****e to my ear at least. Lost everything i loved about P90s. Also trie a single magnet and again no joy. Unwinding it did the trick.
I'd like to trie a giibson special.
 

fender4life

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Sep 18, 2011
Posts
4,434
Location
los angeles
I'd like to trie a giibson special.
They're amazing, but consider the new Epiphone "inspired by gibson" line with the TV yellow special. I sold my gibson and later regretted it and bought the epi for 1/4 the price and i actually feel it sounds better and plays better too, especially if yopu like a beefy neck thats not obtrusive like some can be. The pickups are just as good and the guitar is literally the best inexpensive guitar i've ever owned including the CV series. Andertons did a video comparing it to the same gibson model and seemed to almost prefer the epi. You can't go wrong at around $400 !
 

nortally

TDPRI Member
Silver Supporter
Joined
Mar 27, 2015
Posts
47
Location
Albany, CA
++ What @hamerfan said
I'd rather keep the existing pickups as-is and try adjusting their heights first, and completely different pickups next.
There are "50's wind" P90's out there that seem like a good match for an ES-330, IMO.
Great advice. Adjustment is easy and every player should learn how (just need the spec an accurate rule and a screwdriver). If that doesn't do it, a pickup swap is much easier than rewinding/unwinding a pickup. If you really want to learn how to wind pickups, I recommend starting with a cheap one that you don't care about.
 

Galen1960

Tele-Meister
Joined
Apr 1, 2021
Posts
115
Age
62
Location
North Hollywood, California
They're amazing, but consider the new Epiphone "inspired by gibson" line with the TV yellow special. I sold my gibson and later regretted it and bought the epi for 1/4 the price and i actually feel it sounds better and plays better too, especially if yopu like a beefy neck thats not obtrusive like some can be. The pickups are just as good and the guitar is literally the best inexpensive guitar i've ever owned including the CV series. Andertons did a video comparing it to the same gibson model and seemed to almost prefer the epi. You can't go wrong at around $400 !
Yep, $449 for a lefty, putting it on my list.
 

charlie chitlin

Doctor of Teleocity
Silver Supporter
Joined
Mar 17, 2003
Posts
17,240
Age
60
Location
Egremont, MA
I unwound all 3 pickups on an Epiphone ZBD, from an absurd 13+ ohms down to about 8.
It was a LOT of wire.
I can't remember how I did it, but I definitely made some sort of spinning fixture to attach the pickup to so I could just pull the wire.
I would scrape a little lacquer off the wire and check dcr as I went.
 

PCollen

Friend of Leo's
Joined
May 7, 2010
Posts
4,184
Location
Space Coast, FL
Yep. Read too fast. Shimming the bridge then if possible would be the easiest and least costly way to balance the Vol (as others have suggested) but wouldn't make the neck brighter. Then a matched pair of decent pickups as others have also suggested would be a better option IMHO then chopping up a pickup. But that's just me. Also, going back to the 250k idea, but also adding a simple Treble bleed might also address both "problems". Cheap and easy to test (if you don't count the inevitable frustration of getting the pots in and out of the f hole 🤣)
Yes. Since there are separate controls for each pickup, a treble bleed on the neck pickup volume control might be helpful in rolling off its volume to better equilize with the bridge pickup while maintaining more treble in the tone. also, changing the neck pickup tone control cap to a smaller value (.022 > .015) might help, And I've modified a couple Marshall amps to reduce "woofy-ness" in the output by replacing 0.1uF phase inverter output caps with .022uf caps. So maybe a .047uf or .022uf "bass-blocking" cap in series with the neck pickup output signal to the volume, or it's tone control could help...something I've never tried though.
 

dspellman1

Tele-Meister
Joined
Feb 3, 2022
Posts
143
Age
73
Location
Los Angeles
If you have two identical pickups in the neck and bridge positions, the neck will always be louder due to its position. On most P90 guitars (and on virtually every guitar built prior to 1980), both pickups were/are identical. When hotter pickups became available, manufacturers decided to bullet point "balanced sets," which mostly weren't. If you want a vintage sound, two identical pickups will be the way to go.

I have an issue with underwound and overwound P90's. When you underwind them (a few manufacturers' bright idea to reduce P90 noise), you emasculate them. When you OVERwind them, you just increase the noise levels. IMHO, a P90 should pretty much be left as is.

Part of the issue with a full-size humbucker in the neck position is its size. It takes in a wide swath of string. A strat-size single coil takes in much less, and sounds much cleaner. The same is true of a single-coil size humbucker (I have DiMarzio Fast Track II's on a couple of Les Pauls). You get a much cleaner sound (and, depending on the pickup, more treble).

Gibson itself has tossed some electronics into the fray on guitars like the old L6S and the MIII. Before you start ruining a pickup, take a look at the wiring diagrams for those, where they toss an inductor (switchable) onto the pickup to reduce bass and clean things up. That Wilde Q filter is similar and worth a look and, I'm thinking, the best solution.

You could also try wiring in a sweepable passive mids cut (Gary Brawer offered up diagrams of this in a Guitar Magazine from about 2010, I believe). The old L6S had a fixed passive mids cut that you could substitute for the treble pot ("tone" pot) and the reissue of that same guitar offered a fixed passive bass cut instead of the mids cut. These are simple (and cheap) modifications to the current treble pot (since you're unlikely to want to roll off the treble on that pickup).

I'd suggest NOT unwinding that pickup. You're just likely to ruin it.
 

hamerfan

Tele-Holic
Silver Supporter
Joined
Dec 8, 2018
Posts
587
Age
60
Location
Germany, Bavaria
This thread is hilarious: Those guys, who advise not ruin the pickup by unwinding, didn't ever do this. All guys, who encourage him to do it, did it actually one or more times.
 
Last edited:

Wallaby

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Feb 19, 2018
Posts
2,930
Location
Here
I agree :)

But -

I wind pickups and have done it, and more, but think it's kind of a risky idea for someone working only with the one set of pickups and no way to put it back together or rewind it if there is a problem. Then there is more expense to get the guitar working again, but the outcome is perhaps only one pair of working pickups instead of two pairs.

Can the OP solder, is mechanically inclined, etc.? I don't know, so it's cautious advice.

Fixing a too-thick and too-loud neck P90 is actually what made me start winding and assembling pickups. You could say they're inspirational :)
 

old wrench

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Feb 2, 2017
Posts
3,183
Location
corner of walk and don't walk
Yeah, but how many people have a winder?!


Like I said "if it was me" ;)

I built my own winder so I could experiment with different winds, and wind pickups "just the way I like them" -

1648324619780.png


1648324677251.png


I built the pickup winder with the features and specs that I wanted - so I could build pickups with the features and specs I want.

It doesn't cost much to build a pickup winder (I have about $100 bucks in this one), and it opens up a whole new world for crafting your tone :)

.
 

Antigua Tele

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Jun 2, 2014
Posts
3,239
Location
west coast
This thread is hilarious: Those guys, who advise not ruin the pickup by unwinding, didn't ever do this. All guys, who encourage him to do it, did it actually one or more times.

It makes sense that everybody thinks they made the right decision for themselves. In my case I'm trying to guess how confident OP is, and the fact that someone would have to ask if it's a good idea suggests to me that they're not super confident. If the start lead to the coil is broken in the process of modifying the pickup, it will have to be rewound or thrown away. They sell some really cheap P90s on Amazon, I think it might be better to by some of those experiment with them, rather than existing stock pickups.

When I tried unwinding a pickup, what I was surprised by the most was what a huge mess the discarded wire was making. It was hard to keep track of how much wire I had taken off the coil. I guess the smart thing would have been to have two spindles, and wind the discarded wire onto another temporary bobbin, straight from one to the other, in order to keep everything neat.
 

warchol

Tele-Meister
Joined
Jan 22, 2004
Posts
141
Don't do it unless you are willing to risk destroying the pickup.
You admit you have no experience in this area, and it is very easy
to compromise those hair thin windings.
My question is: Are you proposing this because you can not afford a lower output aftermarket pickup? If that is not the case, put in a Fralin or other replacement and save the original in case you ever sell the instrument.
 




Top