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Tonerider Rebel 90's - installation and sound samples

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by tintag27, Mar 14, 2021.

  1. tintag27

    tintag27 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    A recent thread I posted on TDPRI concerned a query about changing pickups in a semi. As it got more interest than I expected, I thought I would create this thread in the Pickups forum to share my own experience, and also include some sound samples of the finished project.

    I bought the guitar, a Korean-built Samick Gregg Bennett-designed Royale RL3 15 or 20 years ago, but never got to love it. I have seen comments on the forum from members who have negative opinions of the model also, but I didn’t want to give up on it, and the lockdown provided the ideal opportunity to rip the innards out of it and treat it to some new electronics (the guitar itself is very resonant). After much research I decided on a set of Tonerider Rebel 90’s. (These should fit perfectly into the original humbucker mounting rings).

    Installing pickups in a semi-solid is a challenge, and that was another reason I wanted to do it. All that stuff has to go in through one F hole… With all manner of detailed tutorials online I faced my first setback - I don’t really have anywhere to work!. So I had to swop my workspace between by kitchen table, my tiny desk and even my bed!

    About 10 years ago I had a luthier replace the original Duncan Designed’ humbuckers with a bridge humbucker and a neck single coil from Kent Armstrong - they weren’t bad but did not balance with each other. All the luthier did was snip the old PU wires and solder the new ones in, It was not pretty - and all the original pots were badly corroded. With that lot in the bin I rubbed over the holes and cavities with a soft pencil and transferred the layout onto a piece of hefty watercolour board (really a thick, stiff paper - has to be easy to cut!).

    Before adding the components to the template I checked how they fitted into the existing holes in the top - fortunately I didn’t have to enlarge the holes, as is sometimes the case! I was also able to check how much each projected through the top - eg the pots fitted perfectly with just a star washer underneath.
    R90 1.jpg

    The Pickups include a very good and easy-to-follow wiring diagram (with the caps connected in the ‘modern’ way, as opposed to the ‘vintage’ method) so I just followed that.

    As I had never done this before I had ordered 4 CTS 500K audio taper mini-pots for the volume and tone controls - they are the same quality 9% tolerance as the standard size, just smaller. This would make the job of stuffing the new wiring harness back in the body easier… but, it would make the soldering more fiddly! (Though my multimeter is pictured here I only used it to check grounding continuity and to check the R90 specs: bridge 9.23, neck 8.34). Also visible here is my new hobby sized heat gun - I had a loop of 3.2mm black heat-shrink sleeving which I liberally used in the harness.
    R90 2.jpg

    One of the most awkward steps is working out how to place the 4 pots, 3-way selector switch and output socket so they can be fed into the F hole but end up being out of sight through it… this is why the card template is vital. (the template is reversed, so I put as much information on it as I could to minimise confusion). Here the main wiring is done, but I would still have the new pickups and the existing earth/ground wire (which is connected to the tailpiece posts) to wire in.
    R90 3.jpg

    Having checked I still have complete grounding it’s now time to pull the wiring components off the template and flip it over. At this stage I installed the new pickups in the old pickup mounting rings and placed them loosely in their cavities, threading the cables through their short tunnel into the body cavity. Fishing the ends out, I then attached those to their respective volume pots. I then attached the ground wire from the tailpiece to the nearest pot case (think it was the neck volume pot). The wiring harness is now complete… but on the wrong side of the soundboard!
    R90 4.jpg

    Installing a wiring harness in a semi with a solid centre block is well documented online… I followed the standard method of tying thin, strong twine to the spindles of each pot, and similarly with the selector switch.

    The method varies with the jack socket - the twine is first tied to a small nut then threaded through the space for the plug. Next the harness is fed through the F hole starting with the further component, the output socket - this will drag the rest through. I was doing well at this point, but hit a problem with the last element, the bridge volume pot. It was snagging on something inside the cavity, and I was perplexed until I got a small inspection mirror in there and realised there was a thin bendy metal bracket fixed to the inside! Hence my earlier help enquiry to the forum, who identified it as a hook to keep the wiring clear of the F hole! Damn - I can use that!

    The last step is to gently pull the all the harness through and carefully fish the twine through the holes and pot barrels through. During this process I had some difficulties with the .022 capacitors catching and had to bend them nearer to the pots - you can see the difference from the last picture. That worked and just remained to nudge a few of the harness elements a little further from the opening for cosmetic purposes.
    R90 5.jpg

    A side effect of the work was that I realise how much better it looked without the conventional pick guard so I left that off…
    R90 Finished.jpg

    Sounds
    I had checked the controls were working before before final assembly, with just a single string fitted - I was pleased (quite amazed even!) that the tone and volume pots were working properly and no crackles or hums were audible! Success, I thought! and restrung with a fresh set of Elixir 10-42s.

    But, on plugging into GarageBand and trying a bunch of my presets on the amp sims, I was distraught to find they all sounded AWFUL! Why did I start this!

    However, I then realised I had not set the pickup heights yet… Tonerider recommend 3mm clearance at the neck and 2mm at the bridge. I set those as close as I could measure, and now it sounded MUCH better, Phew!

    Sonically, I find the Rebel 90’s are not like single coils or humbuckers, they feel and play differently. I find it fairly easy to dial in a distorted tone but it was when I got a nice clean tone also, I felt like I was getting somewhere. These pickups are definitely staying on my semi and I am looking forward to exploring what else I can get out of them. They are also quiet which was a surprise!

    I put some sound samples together to hopefully demonstrate their versatility…


    Thanks for getting this far, haha
    Tony
     
  2. peteycaster

    peteycaster Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    Hey Tony. Lot's of good detail there. Thanks for posting the sound clips. It's looking like I'll invest in a set of the Rebels myself based on your experience. I'm hoping others will post re. their experiences also. I'm wanting to put them in this 335 knockoff that I really like the neck on but I'm not keen on the pickups. Would replace all pots etc also. I also removed the pickguard. Much prefer the look. Did it on my Dot too. Anyway thanks again and cheers.

    335_2.jpg
     
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  3. BelairPlayer

    BelairPlayer Tele-Afflicted

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    Nice, clean looking work. Well done.
     
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  4. Willie D

    Willie D Friend of Leo's

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    I built a StewMac 335 kit this summer and put a set of those in it. They're dynamite. If they're not 100% P-90 sonically, they're definitely as close as you're gonna get in a bucker size.
     
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  5. tintag27

    tintag27 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    That looks like a perfect candidate, Petey! I don't know whether I could suggest any suppliers for the components - with you being on the opposite side of the world! But, anyway, just post any questions here if you go ahead, and I will be happy to pitch in!
     
  6. tintag27

    tintag27 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Hi, Willie - I see you went and built the guitar first - hell of a project!
    PS if that is Willie Dixon in your avatar - I respect your dedication to the master songwriter and bass player!
     
  7. tintag27

    tintag27 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Thank you, It was pushing the limits of my skills, but I am very glad I did it!
     
  8. hemingway

    hemingway Poster Extraordinaire

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    I was considering those pickups in my G&L Asat deluxe tribute, to replace the pretty lifeless humbuckers.

    In the end I went for Bootstrap Mean Skookum 90s. I love them, they are great fun; but I'm surprised how mean they're not. I was expecting something pretty blunt and angry, but they're more sophisticated than that.

    Funny things, P90s. I've had a few different ones and they all sound hugely different. I've had woody ones, rock machines, and these Bootstraps, which have a lot more high end than I'm used to. Almost like JM pickups?

    Anyway, I am in no way trying to get you to change the pickups in that guitar again - it looks like once was enough.
     
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  9. tintag27

    tintag27 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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  10. tintag27

    tintag27 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Ha, yes - once is enough!
    I went through a list of possible pickups, from the silly expensive (Lollar) to the cheap and cheerful (Artec), but really I was thinking of filtertron type pickups originally! I settled on the R90's partly because of the fans they have on this forum - and the theory that my own 2009 Squier Classic Vibe tele's pickups came from the Tonerider factory...
    I was a little concerned that they might be a bit overwound and noisy, but from first impressions they are remarkably quiet, and seem pretty good at clean as well - but I have a lot more experimenting to find out what they are capable of... glad I did it, though
     
  11. Willie D

    Willie D Friend of Leo's

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    [​IMG]

    It's Howlin' Wolf, my favorite blues singer.
     
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  12. Don Miller

    Don Miller Tele-Afflicted

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    The first time I wired a hollow body was the day after I quit smoking....I thought Id go crazy.....

    Ive rewired it a few times since....It seems that some time between thirty seconds and three years after I finished, one of the solder joints would fail and back to square one....

    Last time it happened I took it to a guitar tech... hasnt happened since....
     
  13. Gclef

    Gclef TDPRI Member

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    I put a set of rebel 90s in my ibby as73g to replace the crappy stock pickups.

    They are very sensitive to pickup height. Cutting the tone and adding some gain gets close to humbucker sounds but with more clarity.

    They are not coming out any time soon.
     
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