someone want to explain "filtertron" pickups to me?

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by revelator, May 31, 2011.

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  1. revelator

    revelator Tele-Holic

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    So I'm going to be putting a La Cab inspired tele soon & I need to get some info/schooling on filtertron pickups. I know a little but I'd love to be educated from scratch on what makes them special/unique. What's the difference between them & regular humbuckers? What is their basic tonal character?

    THANKS
     
  2. Telenut62

    Telenut62 Poster Extraordinaire

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    This may be helpful to you:

    Filtertrons are Gretsch's own humbuckers, designed by Ray Butts for Chet Atkins. The patent on them was granted later, but the prototypes seem to predate Gibson's humbuckers.
    Typically, they're fairly low output, around 4 to 5K, and brighter than a PAF type humbucker, much thinner than a typical fat Gibson humbucker. They are much closer to a single-coil sound than most humbuckers, with, as noted above, the attendant lower output.

    Before they switched to filtertrons (late 57), Gretsch mainly used DeArmond's 200 pickup, known as the "Dynasonic" pickup in Gretsch literature. These are a very ballsy single coil pickup with adjustable alnico rod poles.

    The other common type of Gretsch pickup is the Hilotron, essentially "half a filtertron", a very bright and low output single coil.

    The SuperTron is basically a beefed up FilterTron that has a bit more punch in the midrange. Still has that great twangy Gretsch sound...plenty of bite, but has a PAF style midrange. They also have blade style pole pieces.
     
  3. RomanS

    RomanS Poster Extraordinaire

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    About their tonal character: they are very bright & open-sounding for humbuckers, quite jangly on the high strings, lots of bite; but they do NOT have that snappy, piano-like twang on the low wound strings (the low E and A) that eg. a Tele bridge single-coil has, you definitely notice that they are humbuckers there, more of a woody thump/bark.
    With overdrive they have a gritty, grainy character, anything but smooth, to me that's the most typical/unique Filtertron sound.
     
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  4. Tonetele

    Tonetele Poster Extraordinaire

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    Played a DÁrmond with f/tron p/ups in a 335 body a couple of years back through a Fender Acoustasonic amp in a store(??). Everyone was impressed with the sound ( I was playing at my best at that stage). Best dang p/ups I've ever played. Skunk Baxter used one in the neck p/up in "Reeelin' in The Years" live 1972!! My next tele will have one in the same position- see GFS p/ups. They seem to have come close to those originals. Great p/ups - I'd even consider insatalling two of them in a Les Paul build. There's just something special about them. One day I'll get rich enough to pull one apart and see just what magic they have.I agree with Telenut 62- they are brighter. Things were certainly made well in the old days. Cheers!
     
  5. TG

    TG Doctor of Teleocity

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    I have Filtertrons in my Gretsch Pro Jet and sitting at home they are 'nice' but kind of wimpy sounding.
    But I've gigged with it a few times and they mix in to a band incredibly well and have their own unique vibe. You have to set the amp a bit different than with regular humbuckers to allow for the lower output...a bit more gain/volume...and a touch of delay perhaps...and they give you a sound and feel not a million miles away from a telecaster, but at the same time NOT like a telecaster. There's chime and bite, but also an open and woody smoothness.

    Listen to some Brian Setzer on YouTube, although his hollowbody guitar will make them sound different than in a solid body.
     
  6. jrfrond

    jrfrond Tele-Holic

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    FilterTrons are essentially low-output humbuckers, which sport taller/narrower coils than their more traditional Gibson-style cousins. Tall, narrower coils (e.g. Strat pickups) sport better high-frequency response, because the magnetic field reaches all the way to the outer windings of the coils. Combined with the low-output design, which utilizes less windings for less self-inductance and capacitiance, the pickups sport an open, airy tone with nice bite.

    These pickups are all about tone and clarity. Even with distortion, the tone will peek through at the speaker. TV Jones, who makes the best FilterTrons there are (and in my opinion, some of THE finest pickups available), makes them in a few different "flavors", basically, cool, slightly hotter and medium-hot, but still with THAT tone, plus a few different package styles. Not surprisingly, these pickups are the de facto choice for many country and rockabilly players, but some heavies, e.g. Malcolm Young and Elliott Easton, use them VERY nicely for their signature rock tones. Great stuff!
     
  7. Tele295

    Tele295 Poster Extraordinaire

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    I believe the coils in a Filtertron are wired in parallel rather than series (as a Gibson humbucker is wired). This gives the Filterton a brighter sound, albeit with less output. More like the in-between positions of a Fender but with the coils closer together.
     
  8. Deaf Eddie

    Deaf Eddie Friend of Leo's

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    That's my understanding as well, and it accounts for the lower output and impedance numbers than with a standard humbucker (series adds the impedance of the two coils, parallel "halves" the impedance of identical coils).

    I use p/ps to get the coils-parallel option out of my Gibson-style humbuckers, and it always sounds a bit "Gretsch-y" to me. More chime and sparkle, with the accompanying drop in output.
     
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  9. revelator

    revelator Tele-Holic

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    THANKS SO MUCH GUYS KEEP THE INFO COMING!

    I read this online somewhere but wasn't sure if it was true.

    I know on a couple of the Gretsch guitars I've played they have an extra switch by the pickup selector that changes the character of the pickups pretty drastically...is the the pickups wiring getting change or just a tone cap type thing??
     
  10. Carvalho Diablo

    Carvalho Diablo Tele-Meister

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    I've put a TV Jones Classic + in the bridge of my semi-hollow Jackson Surfcaster, and believe me - it is an awesome sounding pick up.

    Bright, articulate, great clarity and heavy as fudge.
     

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  11. Tele295

    Tele295 Poster Extraordinaire

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    They are just capacitors.

    From the Gretsch website:
    "Tone control switch so that the tone can be selected from three settings. The rear position emphasizes bass, the middle is neutral and the front offers a slight high-frequency roll-off"

    123k and 392k, I think, according to the schematic here: http://wpc.077d.edgecastcdn.net/00077D/gretsch/support/product_guides/control_guides/Arrangement-2-Tone-Switch.pdf
     
  12. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

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  13. 00JETT

    00JETT Tele-Meister

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    Yup & yup on all the comments here. I use the tv jones powertrons in my Riviera for a mix of paf and chime tones. Fantastic pickups. [​IMG]
     
  14. Wyzsard

    Wyzsard Friend of Leo's

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    Here are some Filtertrons in a live setting. Not sure what model.

     
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  15. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

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    Is that a string mute/damper ahead of the frequensator?
     
  16. ggtele

    ggtele TDPRI Member

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    All very interesting stuff here. I've recently decided to fit a pair of HS Filtertrons in an old (late 70s/early 80s) Hohner Tele Deluxe that's had some paf-style covered humbuckers in it for years, but which I'd like to get some more twang from. Have been swayed by some of the cabronita demos I've seen. The filtertrons I've bought are the most recent Gretsch model, but are not TV Jones as I couldn't justify that amount of cash on this particular guitar. They are just two wire, so I'm going to dismantle them and refit with four-core for more tonal options.

    Will post back with results when can make time to work on all this.
     
  17. ggtele

    ggtele TDPRI Member

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    Lots of competing tasks this summer, but managed to find a few odd hours here and there to work on this project.

    First of all I rewired the filtertrons with 4 conductor leads. Saw some posts above saying that they are wired in parallel, however the ones I got came wired series - around 4.5k total with each single coil measuring about 2.2k - bridge coils were marginally higher resistance). Then had to fit some wooden shims in the existing pickup routs so that I could screw through to the body. The filtertrons were narrower but slightly longer than the covered paf-type pickups that were in the guitar, so the pickguard cutouts needed a little shaved off at each end. Dropped pups into cavities, refitted guard and restrung before drilling the mounting holes, so that I could be certain that pole-pieces and strings would be correctly aligned. I did note that the string-spacing is the same on both neck and bridge HS-filtertron, therefore at the bridge the high and low E were over the edges of the screws. All nicely aligned at the neck though.

    Put it all back together and wired up to use the coil-shunt and series/parallel switches that were already in the guitar (it's been tweaked a fair bit over the past 30 years - I bought it from a guy at school when I was about 13, it had some very hot humbuckers in it then and spent a lot of its time going through the kind of distortion pedals that I seemed to like at that age. In my later teens I had it apart regularly and started to learn about different switching and wiring options - I fitted four small slide switches that I think I must have had lying around, not the neatest work but it was functional. I probably didn't have the cash for push-pull pots at the time. The very hot humbuckers eventually got replaced with some smoother paf-type pups. Eventually the electronics started to fail, and I put the guitar away intending to fix it some day. Sadly - it spent the majority of the last 15 years in storage - so it has been good to get the instrument that I learned to play on back out into the open where it should be).

    I played it regularly for about a month. It sounded ok with the filtertrons - certainly much better than with the previous humbuckers. Bright and well balanced, with a particularly good overdriven sound when amp gain cranked up. I just couldn't quite get to love it though, and I felt that the guitar could still give me more of a twangy and jangly sound than I was getting. In terms of materials - it's made of some fairly good quality wood - nice maple neck and a 2 piece ash body.

    Eventually I decided to rethink the project. The filtertrons came out and will be used for another old guitar that I have got stored. I cut the pickguard to fit a modern Gotoh bridge (the string through body holes weren't in the right place for a vintage 3-saddle one). Then bought a more traditional looking bridge pickup (Dimarzio Area-T) and a G&B wide-range lookalike pup for the neck. It looks a bit like a 72 custom now, but more importantly it sounds much, much better than it has ever done before. I've got exactly the tone I was after from the bridge, and the neck is really not bad at all for what it is - particularly with the pup switched into parallel. I might drop in a remodelled wide-range replacement (i.e. one made with threaded rod magnets like the original) - however there is no desperate urge, tonewise, to do this.

    A few pics are attached. It will always be a cheap guitar, however it has sentimental value for me and to now be getting what I consider to be a great sound from it feels very good! I haven't played any of my other guitars for the past two weeks.
     

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    Last edited: Aug 30, 2011
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  18. rockbit

    rockbit TDPRI Member

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    hohner tele mods


    Hey I know what you mean - I bought an old hohner strat a few years back that cost virtually nothing. After a setup it has turned out to be a good, solid player - good enough that I'm now contemplating spending quite a bit more for new pickups than I paid for it in the first place. Not usually a fan of rosewood necks, but this one fits my hand well.

    I like what you finally came up with. The combination of a tele bridge pickup with a low-output neck humbucker has been a staple for me for years. Never had the opportunity to try a wide-range though.

    K
     
  19. SirJackdeFuzz

    SirJackdeFuzz Friend of Leo's

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    Here is my two fav Filter 'Tron users . . . enough for me to like the pick ups for ever.


    [​IMG][​IMG]


    [​IMG][​IMG]



    PS : I have some TV Jones units in my Artcore, as i can not afford a Gretsch Black Falcon. The TV Jones gets me close enough. And that is VERY close indeed.
     
  20. SirJackdeFuzz

    SirJackdeFuzz Friend of Leo's

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    My idea of a Filter 'Torn being used in the "correct" way.


    <---- Pioson Ivy


    <----Just Perfect !!!
    (our Dutch friend does not talk much)
     
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