Squier sounds dull and lifeless

Tony Done

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I'm very much in the "just a lump of wood" school of thought, but you might just have been unlucky with that body. - After all, you did note that it was dull and lifeless before the mod. I have one guitar that is like that, but a lot can be done with the right pickups, Fx and amp. - But that is also a fairly expensive pursuit.

I don't know what to suggest, most options seem like chucking good money after bad. I would likely try some decent pickups, like Seymour Duncan SH-2 (Jazz) or equivalent DiMarzios. If that didn't work, I would sell the guitar with the cheap pickups back in, and put your good new pickups in another one.
 

KCStratMan

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I don't mean to offend anyone, but sometimes telling the truth is not popular. Affinities and Squires are a good value for what they are: low priced beginners' guitars. It is no accident that Fender sells five different quality / price levels: oriental, Mexican, Mex-American hybrids, American, Custom Shop. It is called marketing and they pay very close attention to their bottom line on the parts and labor that go into each model and it's selling price. All good food for thought when considering the cost/performance value of any guitar.
 

Zepfan

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I'm very much in the "just a lump of wood" school of thought, but you might just have been unlucky with that body. - After all, you did note that it was dull and lifeless before the mod. I have one guitar that is like that, but a lot can be done with the right pickups, Fx and amp. - But that is also a fairly expensive pursuit.

I don't know what to suggest, most options seem like chucking good money after bad. I would likely try some decent pickups, like Seymour Duncan SH-2 (Jazz) or equivalent DiMarzios. If that didn't work, I would sell the guitar with the cheap pickups back in, and put your good new pickups in another one.

This could be the problem too. Some bodies are more resonant than others of the same species. Sometimes a pickup swap will fix it, sometimes it takes more.
 

Zepfan

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I don't mean to offend anyone, but sometimes telling the truth is not popular. Affinities and Squires are a good value for what they are: low priced beginners' guitars. It is no accident that Fender sells five different quality / price levels: oriental, Mexican, Mex-American hybrids, American, Custom Shop. It is called marketing and they pay very close attention to their bottom line on the parts and labor that go into each model and it's selling price. All good food for thought when considering the cost/performance value of any guitar.

With cheap guitars you can get a turd or a diamond in the ruff. On higher end guitars, most of them are great, but that is starting to change these days.
 

Tony Done

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^^^^ My mate is a self-employed guitar amp/electronics tech. His man cave if full of expensive and fancy electronics gear*, all of which surrounds a Suzuki strat he got for Oz$20, and fitted with Peavey Raptor pickups he got for free. - We both thought is was an outstanding guitar. My favourite is an unmodded Peavey Raptor Plus Exp that I got for Oz$65 from the local hockshop. - Very light weight (never felt anything like it, except its twin also in hock shop), exc condition and good sounding pickups. I am very skeptical about the relationship between price and tonal performance, even in acoustics these days. I could go on about this for hours, but I need to take the dog for a walk. :lol:

* All-tube hi-fi system, modded Princeton amp, Wampler pedals, oscilloscope, etc.
 

KCStratMan

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Good points Zep and TD. Certainly there are outstanding examples of budget priced models that happened to get good wood, good fit, good fret action, and good enough electronics. Fender fanciers are lucky to have a selection of roughly $200, $400, $600, $1200, and $2500+ price levels for teles and strats with lots of variants in between. Gibson / Epiphone fanciers have a choice of for instance a Les Paul or ES-335 for $400 (Epi) or $2400 (Gibby) with no middle ground. Because they are integrated set-neck/bodies, you can't just bolt a nicely fretted neck onto an otherwise excellent Epi body that has lousy fret action, neck twist etc. But, finding the one out of a hundred Epi LP or ES that has really excellent neck / fret action makes them an outstanding value well worth upgrading with all US hardware and boutique pickups. Back in Fender land, I submit that a good mex strat body with upgraded hardware and electronics, or say a Hwy 1 body, choice of neck, pickups, and hardware also represents an outstanding price/performance value. I build a couple a week along those lines, PM me if you want to place an order...
 

KyAnne

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I never had dealings with "Rhondo" guitars, but if they are anything like "Hondo, Hondo ll, or Telestars, I'd stay far far away. They are the equivalent of an electric "Esteban". You can pick up enough scrap metal on the side of the road and aluminum cans to buy better than these. Just a thought. You'll be far ahead of the game. Ky
 

dmoss74

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i have a beater squier hh tele, and it's my poor man's les paul. i don't expect it to sound like a tele. if you don't like the sound of the pickups, try altering their height, or get new ones. the woods aren't going to make any difference. or, get a better bridge, saddles, or nut.

my hh tele has a dark tone. i just kept the stock pickups in it. i like it like that.

i had some gfs pickups in another tele for a while. i liked them, and they were quite the bargain; but they were sc vintage tele types.
 

KyAnne

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^^^^ My mate is a self-employed guitar amp/electronics tech. His man cave if full of expensive and fancy electronics gear*, all of which surrounds a Suzuki strat he got for Oz$20, and fitted with Peavey Raptor pickups he got for free. - We both thought is was an outstanding guitar. My favourite is an unmodded Peavey Raptor Plus Exp that I got for Oz$65 from the local hockshop. - Very light weight (never felt anything like it, except its twin also in hock shop), exc condition and good sounding pickups. I am very skeptical about the relationship between price and tonal performance, even in acoustics these days. I could go on about this for hours, but I need to take the dog for a walk. :lol:

* All-tube hi-fi system, modded Princeton amp, Wampler pedals, oscilloscope, etc.


My son has a Peavey Raptor Plus EXP and truly it IS one bad ass, slick ass, low action, cheap ass, and great sounding guitar.
 

schroeder

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Try to take the neck off and refit it. The screws must pass cleanly through the body without hanging up. It seems like almost every guitar I run into these days has neck screws so tight that I need a wrench to remove them from the body. You can lose a lot of liveliness in a poorly fit neck.
 

Jefe

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Try to take the neck off and refit it. The screws must pass cleanly through the body without hanging up. It seems like almost every guitar I run into these days has neck screws so tight that I need a wrench to remove them from the body. You can lose a lot of liveliness in a poorly fit neck.


I did not know that! In my guitar tinkering, I have not yet removed a neck from a body. Seems easy enough. Thanks for the tip!
 

Gnobuddy

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So my question is this: is it the cheap guitarfetish pickups, or is it the cheap Affinity body? It would be easy to upgrade to some better pickups, but am I wasting my time with this body?
My suggestion is to first check pot values, use a short guitar cable, and make sure there is no actual goo or dirt on the saddles or in the nut slots that's damping the string vibration out and draining "shimmer".

If the guitar still sounds dull after that (and you know it's not the amp), it's probably the pickups.

The quickest (and maybe cheapest) way to see what's going on with pickups is to simply put an EQ pedal between guitar and amp. My favourite is a Danelectro Fish 'n Chips, a graphic EQ plus clean boost at a very affordable price.

I have a Squire Standard Stratocaster, and it has extremely low-output pickups. They are actually not dull at all, but they also won't drive the input tube in a guitar amp hard enough to sound "tubey". So if you plug directly into, say, a Princeton Reverb, it will sound like a solid-state amp with no "tubeyness" to the sound.

Adding a clean boost between guitar and amp is enough to transform this guitar - once you have a strong enough signal into the amp, the input tube starts to make a little of that lovely-sounding harmonic distortion which we hear as "tubey cleans".

Using the Fish n Chips is even better, because I can also shape the pickup response with it. All good electric guitar pickups interact with the guitar cable to give you a peak in the frequency response, which we hear as the "sound" of that pickup. Very low-output pickups tend to have that peak at a rather high frequency, giving you a "shimmery" sound, with not much meat to it. That may not be what you want.

With the graphic EQ I can dial in a peak at a lower frequency, like a more heavily wound pickup, and dial down the "shimmer" a bit if I want. Add a few dB of clean boost from the same EQ pedal, and now, as far as the amp knows, it's seeing a normal guitar pickup (instead of a low-output one).

I wouldn't pay too much attention to the "tone wood" proponents. Remember that the overpriced American Standard Stratocaster has it's pickups mounted exactly like the Affinity Squire Strat - in a big floppy sheet of the cheapest "toneplastic" that Leonidas could find.

What's more, that sheet of plastic is only loosely held down at a few spots at the edges, so it moves around far more than the body wood does. And when it moves, it vibrates the pickups with it, changing the distance between pickup and strings, so that the pickups generate a signal due to the movement.

That means most of the additional "tone" in a 'Strat comes from the plastic pickguard, not the body wood! If ever there was a type of guitar where the body wood didn't matter a jot, the 'Strat would be that guitar.

Some other types of guitars that mount the pickups straight onto the body wood (not a floppy sheet of thin plastic) do seem to have a tone that's slightly influenced by the body wood. One of my Agile guitars (AL 3100M) has a thick cap of solid maple on the body, and has a slightly crisper sound than similar all-mahogany guitars.

-Gnobuddy
 

Cat MacKinnon

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I personally don't believe body wood makes much, if any, difference in an electric guitar. Since you already swapped out the obvious (electronics), I'd look at the bridge next. Squiers tend to use pretty cheap (and soft) zinc blocks, and the saddles aren't that great either. A new trem block might make a fairly noticeable difference, and new saddles might help too. I'm not a huge fan of GFS stuff in general, but they sell brass and steel trem blocks pretty affordably, so you might check those out. You could, of course, install a whole new bridge assembly, but that'll require some measuring and deciding how much work you're willing to do (or money you're willing to spend.)
 

alainvey

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Best sounding / playing Stratocaster for not much money? Mexican 50's or 60's Classic WITH steel tremolo block replacement (USA vintage series '57-'62) bridge and USA pickups and CTS pots/CRL switch/good tone caps.

Why do people always advise that mim pots and switches be replaced? Even the standards have come with perfectly good electronics for over a decade - replacing them is a total waste of money unless they are defective.

I second the bridge replacement option - even some cheap steel saddles will improve things here.
 

JD0x0

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replacing them is a total waste of money unless they are defective.
Unless you're actually changing the value of the pot(s)...

I agree though, swapping to 'better quality' pots (of the of the same value) doesn't do anything for the sound, assuming the pots aren't defective.
 

KCStratMan

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The lower cost switches and pots tend to break / wear out more quickly and lower priced pots tend to be very loosely spec'd brand new. Some brand new pots are also rough, too loose, or too tight, etc. As long as the electrical resistance value is within spec or better, there should be no difference in sonic performance. The lower priced pots are often barely within spec or out of spec +/- 5%. I buy CTS, Alpha, Bournes and other top grade pots regularly for building both guitars and amps. Out of a batch of 1 dozen, often only 4 or 5 will be right on spec, the rest just barely within 5%. I have measured lots of pots out of mex strats they are typically 5 - 10% out. The small size pots in squires and generic strats are junk mechanically and electrically. Can you hear a difference in pots 2% out of spec? No. Can you hear a difference in 10% out? Yes. When you are taking the trouble to rebuild / rewire a guitar that you want to sound it's best, why would you scrimp on $12 worth of pots and switches?
 

Jefe

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Most pots have a tolerance of +/- 20%, including Alpha pots. Stew Mac's CTS pots are +/- 10%, only because they special order them:
"We've specified these CTS pots to feature a longer-life brass shaft and tighter ±10% resistance tolerance compared to CTS products offered by most other suppliers."
http://www.stewmac.com/Pickups_and_Electronics/Components_and_Parts/CTS_Control_Pots.html#details

Even the best pots from Stew Mac are +/- 8%:
http://www.stewmac.com/Pickups_and_...s_and_Parts/Emerson_Pro_CTS_Pots.html#details

If that's the best that Stew Mac has to offer, then I'd say +/- 5% is getting a bit anal.

A +/- 10 % tolerance just means that a 100 Kohm pot might measure anywhere from 90 to 110 Kohms. And that's only at it's max setting.
 

JD0x0

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Tolerance isn't a big deal, as long as you end up with a value (near) you want. I recently bought 3 'Alpha' pots. These are seen as decent quality but tolerance is about 20% Out of the 3 pots. One was .87Meg, one was .98Meg and one was 1.06Meg

So what if the MIM pots are 10+% out? That will make an extremely small difference in tone, but it's also very predictable what will happen compared to one another.
Higher value = minute increase in highs on '10'
Lower value = minute loss in highs on '10'

It isn't a problem when you know what to expect. It's not like the value of the pots are jumping 10% up and down, based on the weather. That could be a bit annoying, but probably still not noticeable to 99.9% of players.

I buy cheap pots of decent quality, and I measure everything before it goes into the guitar. Sometimes pots with wider tolerances can be helpful in builds. You buy 3 250K pots. One measures 300K, one 255K and one 245K, for example. You could use the 255K as volume pot, 300K as the tone pot for neck/middle and 245K for the bridge tone, for example. Most players probably wouldn't notice the difference in these values, through their amp, anyway, but that 245K pot on the bridge will be shaving just a tad more highs on '10' than the 300K pot on the neck/middle. My point being you can use slightly out of spec pots to your advantage, in some cases, to help contour the tone. Why does everything NEED to be 250K, 500K, 1Meg on the dot? They dont..

Obviously, if you want the most consistent production line possible, you'd go for tighter tolerances, but again, it's not necessarily 'better.' Some players might like guitar X more than guitar Y because of the differences in tolerances. Musical instruments are always inconsistent, anyway. You never get the same wood, and the pickups themselves have tolerances, which will also effect tone.

Also, just for reference, or anyone interested. The difference between a 250K tone pot, and a 300K tone pot is about .5dB on the high end.
That's half a decibel. Most humans need about 2-3dB to even perceive a change.
The difference between a 250K pot and a 'no load' pot, or no tone control, at all is about 4dB.
 

KCStratMan

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Correct, that's why builders looking to build the best amps and guitars they can buy quantities of pots, capacitors, and resistors and measure them, carefully sorting and matching them. Typically, in the case of 250K Fender pots I will match sets of 3 perfect 250s for my best most expensive strats, Then match sets of three as closely as possible and "tune" the weaker or stronger ones into particular vol or tone positions as JDOxO describes. This is simply "best practices" with parts actually in hand with the theoretical base that JDOxO outlines. I don't prefer the 300K volume pot "Eric Johnson" scheme although some players like it and I play an EJ strat and I like a good bright vintage strat tone. I put no-load pots in some guitars by request but personally only hear the benefit on certain pickups. I find more benefit in the custom taper "knee" or "curve" in some audio taper pots that will allow more gradual sweep of volume swell or HF rolloff. All good info, I hope Jefe doesn't mind us getting a little technical over his affinity ;)
 




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