Lollar Vintage-T Tone Experiments


Silver Supporting Member
Hi all,

[edit] Scroll to second post for solution to bridge pickup treble rolloff and the 120Hz buzz. I'm leaving this post intact, as it may help others and at a minimum hints at the Vintage-T's attributes. I am profoundly in love with these pickups.

I just installed a set of Vintage-T's in a partscaster and have some comments as well as a couple of questions (scroll to the bottom for the questions). The Vintage-T's are installed in the following partscaster:
  • Classic Vibe Tele body (alder?)
  • USACG neck (maple with maple fingerboard)
  • Vintage ashtray bridge with RS Guitarworks steel compensated saddles
  • Fender/Schaller locking tuners
  • Mullard mustard cap in the tone control (.015uF - I'm not a fan of .047's), bypassed with a 4700pF silver mica.
  • 4-way switch installed (Lollar did the ground splitting - dedicated shield wire soldered to the neck pickup cover)
These are the pickups I need, but not the ones I thought I wanted. They render a glorious harmonic presentation through the neck pickup, and I wouldn't change a thing. I'm finding myself exploring new sections of the fingerboard, and I can't think of a higher compliment. Almost every description I've read of them is accurate - a great, all around Tele pickup set with a full midrange, and not the most twang (of course, there are the Vintage '52's and Alnico 3's for that).

Something has been bugging me however, and I wonder if it's user error. I expected (wanted?) a bit more twang from the bridge pickup.

My other Tele has Don Mare Hot Bakelites, a swamp ash body, USACG maple neck (pau ferro fingerboard), the same bridge/saddles and tuners, and 4-way switch. BTW, it has hosted the above maple/maple neck and its character was very similar with both necks.

I love both guitars for different reasons … as it should be.

One thing that I've never experienced in a Tele however, is so little tonal difference between the bridge and the neck pickup and this is what gives me pause ...

Oh yes … amps being played through are a home build 5E3 (ClassicTone output transformer/WGS G12C speaker) and an early Redplate Blackverb (with the original WGS speaker in an oversized, Blues Machine cabinet).

Question #1: Bridge Treble

I'd like to explore getting a bit more twang from the Vintage-T's bridge, if only to discover what's possible (even if I revert to the current setup). Here's what I've done so far:
  • I've taken the tone pot out of circuit (a barely noticeable change when compared with the tone pot in circuit and set to "10" - wide open).
  • I've adjusted the bridge pickup "down" as far as 3/16" from the high-E and 1/4" from the low-E string (minimal change).
  • I changed to a 500K volume pot (the tone pot remains at 250K). This opened things up a bit, and was by no means shrill or harsh.
  • Currently, there's no bleeder circuit on the volume pot. I do notice a fairly substantial treble roll-off from "10" to "8". It's another thing I've never noticed quite so much in a pickup before.
Have I taken it as far as it will go? A 1 meg volume pot perhaps? I'm inclined to play with bleeder circuits to explore the treble falloff below full volume, but this would still leave me wanting some top end (at "10" on the tone knob).

Another thought: could this alder(?) body sucking that many highs? In general (with Tele style guitars), I've found the popular body woods (swamp ash, alder) have considerably less influence on tone, than necks, pickups, and (to a lesser extent) bridges. My sample size is small however, and I know others would differ. Keep in mind that the maple/maple neck has previously lived on the swamp ash Tele and it didn't suck highs from that guitar.

Question #2: Minor buzz (120 Hz):

This one is really minor. The neck pickup cover's ground wire was split off from the pickup's negative wire by Lollar (remember, I'm using a 4-way switch) and I'm getting a good ohm reading between the pickup cover and (for example) the switch plate - about .3 ohm.

The buzz is gone in both the 4th position (bridge + neck in series), and the bridge-only position. It's only there in the neck only or the neck + bridge in parallel position. My other grounds measure well (i.e. the switchable ground for the 4-way switch has low resistance to the switch plate).

I'm wondering if there's anything unique to the character of the Vintage-T neck pickup that would lend to this. I've read that some pickups with more coil windings are more susceptible to hum and buzz.

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Silver Supporting Member
Follow-up ...

OK let me start by saying that these are the pickups that this Jeff Senn interview inspired me to buy (some tasty playing interspersed in this interview).

I continue to find new places on the fingerboard as the harmonics these pickups produce have a psychotropic effect and invite me to explore.

The solutions (to above questions):

  1. An either defective or miswired 4-way switch. I don't know what it is about these 4-way switches, but I re-installed a 3-way switch, and voila! The bridge has all of the twang you'd ever want. I re-installed the 250K volume pot (which was removed, in favor of a 500K), because the bridge was on the "hot" side :D

    I double checked the wiring on the 4-way, and it looks fine. Last week, I received an Oaks Grigsby 4-way from Stewmac, and the contacts were misaligned. This second one was an original Fender part. This must be the universe telling me to use a 3-way on this guitar.

  2. The buzz (sound of hand slapping forehead)? I had cranked the treble on my Blackverb to 10. Restored to its typical 5-6 position and all is fine.

I'm in love with these pickups.

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