Strat neck pickup suddenly...odd...

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by Dexter.Sinister, Mar 3, 2008.

  1. Dexter.Sinister

    Dexter.Sinister Still breathing Gold Supporting Member

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    Hi.

    My old Strat used to have a great neck pickup sound. Thick and reedy, not wooly. About a couple months ago, it started sounding...odd...like it was out of phase with another pickup or had suddenly shorted out part of the coil. It has a lower output (by ear) and is pushed toward higher frequencies and now sounds thin.

    At first, this annoyed me because I really liked my neck tone and used it about half of every gig. Lately, I have found a way to work with it and now use it for scratch riffs and funky stuff. :cool: Just the same, I want my old sound back. I would like to do it myself if possible.

    Here is some info: I have the second tone pot wired up as a neck/bridge blend and the 2/4 splits are noise-cancelling. I did these mods several years ago and never had any problems. I did not open up the pickguard or otherwise bother the wiring between the time it sounded "sweet" and the time it started sounding "thin". I have opened it up since, but found no signs of trouble. I have not measured the impendance of the pickup (can I even isolate it from the rest of the circuit without unsoldering it?)

    What do you think the problem is?
    What should I do?

    Thank you, DS
     
  2. Clutch21286

    Clutch21286 Member

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    I would try to reflow your solder joints and see if that helps. Good Luck.
     
  3. Dexter.Sinister

    Dexter.Sinister Still breathing Gold Supporting Member

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    Do you think they may have cracked/oxidized/got funky suddenly? Everything was fine for several years and then...odd.

    Thank you.

    DS
     
  4. Dana Olsen

    Dana Olsen Gold Supporting Member

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    I'd do what Clutch suggested. I'm thinking someone possibly could have bumped the pickup selector switch and rendered it intermittent or a poor contact, or hit one of the pots ... maybe.

    Try jumping the neck pickup direct to the output jack w alligator clips, see if that sounds different. If not, something probably happened to the pickup ....

    Good Luck, Dana O.
     
  5. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    measure it by switching the 5-way away from the neck pickup and reading resistance across the 2 wires of the pickup. i'm afraid you're going to find a reading somewhere in the high hundreds of Kohms, or even a few Mohms, which will mean a broken coil winding and a dead pickup.
     
  6. Hargrett

    Hargrett Member

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    A guy was telling me that depending on which pickup or combination he had selected on his Strat, different strings wouldn't come through the amp. We finally figured out that when he carved his initials into the pickguard, he didn't disassemble it first, and demagnetized some of the pickup slugs with a Dremel tool... I don't imagine this is related to your problem, but it won't hurt to share! All the best!
     
  7. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    I have a feeling Walter is right on this. It would be great if it was something more simple, but those simple things usually have different symptoms. Thin weak signal often indicates a broken coil. Test it as Walter said with the meter, and that will give you your answer. It's not an early 70's strat, is it?
     
  8. Dexter.Sinister

    Dexter.Sinister Still breathing Gold Supporting Member

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    Thank you all for your suggestions. I will test and flow and report back.

    It is a 1964 Strat with grey bobbin pickups. I play it every day and need it to work well.

    Thanks, DS
     
  9. Dexter.Sinister

    Dexter.Sinister Still breathing Gold Supporting Member

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    Here are the impedance readings for my pickups:

    Bridge: 5.75
    Middle: 6.27
    Neck: 361.2

    Haven't taken the iron to it yet. Should I still or is there enough information to say: rewind/repair?

    Thanks, DS
     
  10. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    crap crappin' crap! :( by all means, re-flow the eyelets, but that's the sign of a broken coil wire. if it's broken on the outside, you might be able to rescue it by unwinding the outer wire until you get to the break and re-attaching it. if not, you might as well have someone like lindy fralin re-wind it. hell, you could have him rewind it to the high 6's or low 7's, put it in the bridge, and move your other two pickups to neck and middle for a nicely balanced set.
     
  11. Dexter.Sinister

    Dexter.Sinister Still breathing Gold Supporting Member

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    Thank you, Walter. That's a shame, but I've played this thing into the dirt and it has been a close friend through it all. Now I need to raise some money for some work.

    I have heard that Lindy Fralin's work is good. Are there others I should also look into?

    Thank you for your help.

    DS
     
  12. hogy

    hogy Member

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    That neck pickup is shot. The copper coil corroded and ate through the wire insulation. You're screwed. Here's the test: the neck pickup tone control will act much like a volume control.

    Another test: take an ohm meter, one probe to pickup ground, other probe test each pole piece. If you get any reading besides infinite, the tone party's over.

    This is the stuff I literally have nightmares about. You need a rewind and it will never sound the same again. I have a '64 Strat...

    I'm not joking.
     
  13. Dexter.Sinister

    Dexter.Sinister Still breathing Gold Supporting Member

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    Yeah, the tone control acts like a volume control on the neck pickup.

    Sounds like I need to find somebody with a good ear for this era pickup to help me with a rewind. I am looking for suggestions. So far Lindy Fralin has come up, but I have played his vinatge hots and SP43 (I think it was called that) and I did not like them as well as the pickups on my strat. How about Jim Rolph? I liked the bucker he made for my (now lost) Les Paul. Any others I should consider?

    DS
     
  14. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    I've learned a lot from both Lindy and Jim, and they both do great work. As far as understanding of the underlying science, technology, physics of pickup coils and magnetic fields, I have never met anyone as knowledgeable as Jim Rolph. This guy really knows and understands how things work. Then again, Lindy has certainly done enough pickups and really just has the right feel and touch. Either one would do an excellent job, but for some reason I may still lean toward Lindy for a vintage Strat pickup.

    The tone control acting as a volume confirms the open coil. It is still generating a signal, but since there is no longer any real continuity the coil is actually generating more as a capacitor being charged and discharged. It's capacitance value would rate lower than that the cap on the tone control, so the tone control will actually ground out all of the signal that the pickup generates.

    Was that 361k reading from the neck pickup with it switched off, or was it a reading from the output with the switch at the neck position? I'm also curious as to what year it is. There is what Seymour refers to as Inner Coil Pole Corrosion, which is essentially what Hogy described. In the late 60's / early 70's there is another common issue though, as Fender potted their coils with lacquer for a while. As the lacquer ages and cracks, so does the wire sometimes and it's a common problem on pickups from that era. These are typically broken wires at the outer edge of the coil and can sometimes be repaired rather than rewound. Sometimes though there is just too much lacquer penetrating the coil and it will continue to break as you try to take off the outer wraps, meaning a rewind anyway.

    Sorry about the bad news, and good luck.
     
  15. hogy

    hogy Member

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    I would definitely go with Jim Rolph. Lindy Fralin makes excellent pickups, but he's not a one man shop any longer, and for period correct restoration Jim's attention to detail is second to none.

    I have recently posted a bunch of sound clips of vintage Strats (including a real '64), with a RI with Rolph's 64 pickups thrown in. Take a listen to that if you haven't yet.

    Tell Jim I sent you.
     
  16. Dexter.Sinister

    Dexter.Sinister Still breathing Gold Supporting Member

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    Thanks. I'll give Jim a call and see what he can do to help me.

    DS
     

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