What would cause the pickups in an old guitar to suddenly go out of phase

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by variantboy, Jul 30, 2021.

  1. variantboy

    variantboy Tele-Meister

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    Had the first rehearsal last night in over a year with a bandmate/friend last night. I've always loved his Tele - a 1971 blonde tele - all stock as far as I know - and so I asked him if I could play it for a bit.

    I started on the neck pickup - which sounded as I'd always remembered. Then I switched to the middle position - and woah... it was out of phase with the bridge pickup. I was like.. wait.. that's not right!!! Is there something wrong with the bridge pickup ? So I switched to the bridge pickup. It was expectedly bright and a wee bit nasal - but, again - as I've always remembered. Didn't seem out of the ordinary.

    But strangely - in the middle position, the pickups were clearly "honky" and "empty" and thin sounding - all the indications of something being out of phase.

    This is the same tele he's had for 20+ years, that I've played countless times (and have actually measured and studied because I have loved the sound of it for so long).

    He confirmed that he made no changes to it - wiring or otherwise. Only thing he confessed to is not having played it much over the pandemic, as he was hitting his acoustic mostly during that time.

    So - before he takes it to some tech - I thought I'd come to TDPRI and ask if anyone knows what might cause two pickups that have always worked beautifully together, to suddenly exhibit this behavior.

    Any thoughts?
    thanks in advance
     
  2. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Friend of Leo's

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    You mean the magnets flipped poles? Were you close to any hydrogen bomb detonations?
    Quick check is to see if your guitar's finish is blistered or you are ash.
     
  3. Drak

    Drak Tele-Afflicted

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    It doesn't really matter why, just flip one pair of wires and see if it fixes it.
    10, 15 minutes maybe, all done, that simple.

    If that doesn't fix it, then it was never an out of phase problem, there's something else going on.
    But if you're sure its OOP, 10-15 minutes, its done.
     
  4. jfgesquire

    jfgesquire Friend of Leo's

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    I've used neodymium magnets to flip polarity, they're pretty strong.

    20191124_131828.jpg

    One of my kid's toy magnets became a polarity tester, after I confirmed it with his toy compass.

    20191124_131521.jpg
     
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  5. radiocaster

    radiocaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    Are you sure it is out of phase? If it is, it's brighter in the mid position than just the bridge alone.
     
  6. variantboy

    variantboy Tele-Meister

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    It's not just brighter, it's exhibiting all the qualities of two pickups being out of phase. thin.. no bottom end.. nasal... almost "flange-y". so strange. how does that happen?
     
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  7. beanluc

    beanluc Tele-Afflicted

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    That could just as easily be the result of a loose wire. "Suddenly going out of phase" seems way less likely to me than something touching ground where it shouldn't, or something creating capacitance where it shouldn't.

    Unless you actually have some idea of something which could have flipped all 6 magnets in the same pickup at the same time.
     
  8. Danb541

    Danb541 Friend of Leo's

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    Look at the wiring and output jack. I bet you find something loose someplace.
     
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  9. Sparky2

    Sparky2 Friend of Leo's

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    I've been thinking on this;

    Your friend didn't happen to loan the guitar to a guy named Dr Soran did he?

    :oops:


    dr soran with tele.JPG
     
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  10. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Friend of Leo's

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    Have you considered the amp? Or even a loose wire in the cavity? Or a pot? It's not impossible to reverse the polarity uniformly in a pickup. But most of the events that would do it would kill you. And at that it would be hard to believe only 1 pickup was affected.
     
  11. Winky

    Winky Tele-Meister

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    A failed capacitor? Wouldn't put the pick-up out of phase, but might alter the sound markedly.
     
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  12. Boreas

    Boreas Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    Cold solder joint.
    Loose wire.
    Dirty switch.
    Bad ground.
    Reversed polarity - not bloody likely!

    Don't look for zebras when you hear hoofbeats! This stuff oxidizes when it sits. I advise cleaning contacts and working the switch and pots a few minutes each. If no change, dig into the wiring and repair any cold or corroded solder joints.
     
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  13. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    Lil’ Wayne?
     
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  14. wabashslim

    wabashslim Friend of Leo's

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    I'm thinking your friend doesn't want to admit he got in there without knowing what he was doing and screwed it up.
     
  15. Lowerleftcoast

    Lowerleftcoast Friend of Leo's

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    Hah. It has a S1 switch/pot for the out of phase middle position.

    "Push the button Max".

    :lol::lol::lol:
     
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  16. variantboy

    variantboy Tele-Meister

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    hah. not a chance. he has never ever had an interest in tinkering. ever. so i know it ain't that.
     
  17. johnDH

    johnDH Tele-Meister

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    nothing could really flip the phase by itself. But a similar thin sound could be caused by a loose ground wire.
     
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  18. jfgesquire

    jfgesquire Friend of Leo's

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    "Ok, Professor!"
     
  19. wabashslim

    wabashslim Friend of Leo's

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    SERIOUSLY? How embarrassing for the OP...& all the rest of us brilliant theoreticians...:(
     
  20. Bartholomew3

    Bartholomew3 Friend of Leo's

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    Bridge p/u probably no good. If the volume on the bridge p/u drops out as you back-off the tone control while using that p/u --- you have the problem.

    Not out of phase in middle position...just sounds like it due to bad p/u at bridge.
     
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