Tone Quest - Highway 1 Strat

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by el_goodo, Jan 6, 2008.

  1. el_goodo

    el_goodo Member

    Jun 28, 2006
    Hotchkiss, CO
    Hey everyone! It's been a long time since I've posted here, and I return in need of help! I've recently decided to embark on the quest to get a great tone from my current guitar, a Fender Highway 1 strat of the old make (it's an '05). I play this guitar through a Mesa/Boogie Subway Blues (with minimal effects.

    Now my amp and strat have never gotten along quite as much as I would have liked them to. My G&L ASAT Tele did a much better job with it. The kind of sound I am looking for is not a SRV type sound. The type of sound I am trying to get is first off something in the Bridge position that is actually usable rather than that annoying brittle treble I have right now. In the middle position something that'd work well for an all around rock sound. In the neck something like in the middle position, but maybe more bluesy.

    Some of the guitar sounds I really enjoy are The Grateful Dead's Europe '72 (especially Brown-Eyed Women, Tennessee Jed, Jack Straw, and One More Saturday Night), I really like Steely Dan's guitar sounds also, and a Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers type tone would be awesome. So maybe I lied about not wanting to play with a bluesy sound, I just want my guitar to sound like the 70s more than anything. It'd also be great if I could crank the thing up and get a nice "Hair/Glam" rock type sound (Mott the Hoople, Bad Company, Thin Lizzy, etc.).

    Any other suggestions of "fixes would be greatly appreciated. I'm fairly happy with my guitar right now, I love everything about it except for how it sounds through my amp. If I were to replace the pickups money is of very little importance, however, if you guys think a new amp or something would be better, I'd try and say keep it around 500 dollars.. I really don't have much money to spend right now as I'm graduating high school soon, and am looking forward to some traveling.

    Thanks everyone,
  2. Chikn

    Chikn Gold Supporting Member

    May 18, 2007
    Sounds to me like you need a different amplifier more than anything else. Try a Fender combo.
  3. cram

    cram Member

    Nov 13, 2006
    Southern NH
    look at some sound clips for bridge pups that have a bass plate in them compared to the same ones without that addition. There is more body and less twang.
    Go "shopping" with your guitar in hand at local stores and try different amps like Chikn says. Those are some sweet sounds your citing as a reference.
    I think I'm going to whistle while I work today with some choice dead...
  4. angus99

    angus99 Member

    Aug 30, 2006
    SE Tennessee
    "Sounds to me like you need a different amplifier more than anything else. Try a Fender combo."

    Or a Rivera. 90's vintage M-series Rivera channel switchers are close to your price range and offer a HUGE range of sounds.

  5. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 16, 2006
    sounds like you might not be a strat guy. "70's glam rock" implies bridge humbucker on a gibson. "tom petty" implies rickenbacker ("mike cambell" implies tele).

    maybe a bridge humbucker, either routed out for full-size or something direct-fit like a duncan little 59 will get you the bridge sounds you're looking for.

    maybe some trick wiring to give the guitar the option of neck & bridge pickups at the same time will give you a little of the tele/ric middle setting, i.e., less typical bluesy strat 2 and 4 or nasally strat middle pickup, and more jangly "pop/rock" sort of sounds.
  6. Bob V

    Bob V Member

    Dec 31, 2007
    Glen Head, New York
    First make sure that your pickup height is optimized for your action and your sound preference. There basically is a sweet spot for the pickup height, but on either side of it there are some interesting and still acceptable sounds. To weaken the output and emphasize the highs and sparkle/snap/quack that characterizes a strat, back off on the pickup height so they're a little further from the strings. To thicken up the tone and get more output and more midrange - at the expense of some of those highs - raise the pickups. Thse changes are hints at what you can expect from new pickups - since overwound pickups with stronger magnets will be a little like having the pickups closer to the strings (overwound pickups are more dramatic, but moving your pickup height will give you a good idea). Weaker magnets or underwound pickups would be sparkly like when you lower the pickups. Some pickups sound horrible and brittle and overly dirty if they're up too high.

    If every factory guitar can benefit from a more careful setup, then the pickup height is no exception.
  7. seeker66

    seeker66 Member

    Nov 18, 2007
    West Allis, WI
    +1 Bob V and walter w. I have an '04 Hwy 1 HSS. I adjusted my pup height on the two singles and found that the factory setting was a bit too high. Also the atomic humbucker in the bridge position gives me a little more leeway in finding good sounds for 70's style "les paul" rock.

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