two single coils in series = humbucker tone?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by spaceboy, Aug 5, 2004.

  1. spaceboy

    spaceboy Member

    Messages:
    256
    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2004
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    probably not... just curious. I imagine you'd get the output wouldn't you? but no hum cancelling of course, so lots of noise? and of course they're not wired as humbuckers so they wouldn't "react" like humbucker would they?

    then what happens if you put 3, or even 4 SCs in series? would that be just a ridiculous amount of gain, horrible noise/feedback - just unusuable? or might you just get wonderful thick heavy tone?

    cheers
     
  2. Jim Collins

    Jim Collins Member

    Messages:
    1,940
    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2002
    Location:
    Pleasanton, CA
    If the two single coils were RWRP with respect to each other, wiring them in series would yield a hum cancelling sound. (Wiring them in parallel also yields a hum cancelling sound.) A normal humbucker is really little more than two single coils in series, with both coils RWRP with respect to each other.

    Two single coils can give you very close to the output of a standard humbucker. A lot depends upon the output of the individual pickups, but you'll be right in the ballpark. You may not get exactly the same tone you'd get out of a humbucker, but a great deal of the difference would be a result of the positioning of the two single coils. Rarely do you see two single coil pickups right next to each other, but that is, essentially, what a humbucker is.

    A lot of folks fit their Telecasters with a four-way switch, where one of the positions yields the two pickups in series. (Jon Silberman's Tele is outfitted this way.) The two pickups are so far apart that you won't get the same sound as a humbucker, but you would get the same output. Ask Jon whether his is hum cancelling.

    Putting three or four single coils in series? If they are all in phase, the output might be too much for an amp to handle. It won't blow up, or anything like that, but the sound would probably be too muddy to be useful. However, if one or two of the pickups were out of phase with the others, that would be a different story. Older PRS rotary guitars had one position that was both, full humbuckers in series, with one out of phase (the so-called power-out-of-phase position). Gibson stopped them from doing that, so later versions yielded one full humbucker in series with one of the coils of the other humbucker, and that coil was out of phase. (I only stumbled across this one when a forum member sent me an old schematic from PRS.) That equates to three coils in series, with one out of phase. Once you change the phase of one of the pickups, you end up decreasing the output, because of the huge notch that is created.
     
  3. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

    Messages:
    13,080
    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2002
    Location:
    Scotland
    You'll be interested in this Jim - Brian May's 'Red Special' has three Burns Tri-Sonics (already quite hot pickups) wired in series, with phase switches for each.

    I doubt you would over-saturate an amp just by wiring pickups in series. Many booster pedals give gains of 20dB or more, and they don't make amps sound muddy usually... just very distorted :).
     
  4. Jim Collins

    Jim Collins Member

    Messages:
    1,940
    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2002
    Location:
    Pleasanton, CA
    I was speaking, as I am prone to do, in terms of tones that are useful, to me. A bit parochial, perhaps, but that's what we geezers do.

    Three hot pickups wired in series? Interesting. Plug that critter into my Vickie tweed Deluxe, and get the fire extinguisher ready. If I plug a humbucker guitar into the #1 input of either channel, and turn the guitar's volume up, it will produce some decidedly unmusical sounds when I dig in. (I don't even use the #1 input with my Teles.) I can't begin to imagine what a hotter signal would do. Maybe it would tell the drummer across the street, and his headbanging band, that I am a force to be reckoned with.
     
  5. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

    Messages:
    13,080
    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2002
    Location:
    Scotland
    They'd probably think you were Neil Young.

    ;)
     
  6. Jim Collins

    Jim Collins Member

    Messages:
    1,940
    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2002
    Location:
    Pleasanton, CA
    I laughed out loud, at that one. Neil may be too subtle for these kids, though.
     
  7. Pedro58

    Pedro58 Supporting Member

    Messages:
    5,304
    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2003
    Location:
    North Texas
    I use the 4-way switch on both of my Teles and I like it. It does have more output and it does sound a little like a neck humbucker. It really is its own thing, though. I like it a lot for slide when playing a Tele because I can't seem to get the bridge pup to not "bite" so much, regardless of tone knob twisting! The only way to know if you like it is to try it, I guess...
     
  8. Jim Collins

    Jim Collins Member

    Messages:
    1,940
    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2002
    Location:
    Pleasanton, CA
    One thing you might try, to see if you can get a better slide tone from the bridge pickup, is different slide materials. When I play slide on a humbucker guitar, I always use a thick glass slide, but I found I'm not a big fan of the glass slide on my Tele. Instead, I use a brass slide on the Tele. I think I get more control over the Tele slide sound with a brass slide, though I still prefer glass on a humbucker guitar.
     
  9. Troy Baer

    Troy Baer Member

    Messages:
    320
    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2002
    That's the way Brian May's homemade "Red Special" guitar and clones thereof are wired; 3 Burns Trisonics (more similar to p90s than Fender SCs) in series with on/off and phase switches for each pickup. I have one of the aforesaid clones, an RS Classic from http://www.rsguitars.com/, and all 3 PUs on and in phase is pretty darned fat sounding -- almost too much so! Just the neck and bridge PUs on and in phase is fatter than most bridge humbuckers, because the middle PU picks up much more bass than the neckward coil of a bridge humbucker would.
     
  10. Pedro58

    Pedro58 Supporting Member

    Messages:
    5,304
    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2003
    Location:
    North Texas
    I hadn't thought of that! But I am really used to my glass slides... I can be, shall we say, very SET in my ways... The series combo on the telecaster doesn't just offer a compromise to a problem. It has a tone of its own that is very cool. I will try brass, though. I definitely like them better for acoustic!
     
  11. Clorenzo

    Clorenzo Member

    Messages:
    1,940
    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2004
    Location:
    Munich / Madrid
    Putting two SC pickups in series is one of the standard mods for Strat type guitars. Lots of info, including descriptions of the sounds, here:

    www.guitarnuts.com

    As for more than two in series, it all depends a lot on the characteristics and positions of the coils. At least with humbuckers, three coils in series can work very well. When I was designing the wiring of Harry Jacobson's Godin Flat Five (two humbuckers), he told me he had tried all sorts of coil combinations, and while all four coils in series was indeed muddy, some of the three coils in series sounds were really sweet. We decided to include one of those in the final wiring and it's actually my favourite tone in that guitar. Judge for yourself:

    http://www.harryjguitar.com/gear_page.html

    Fourth guitar down, click on Audio clips.

    Carlos
     
  12. spaceboy

    spaceboy Member

    Messages:
    256
    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2004
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    hey Jim - what exactly does RWRP stand for? I assume from the context that you mean something to do with the phase? I think I know what you mean then.

    may as well tell you why i'm asking - it's for my new-guitar-to-be (hopefully) that will be the ultimate in versatility:

    4 SCs (blue Lace Sensor bridge, silver Lace Sensor neck, two lower output, different-sounding single coils in between)

    3-way swicth per pickup - on-off-on, each "on" being a different phase (yes - this bit inspired by the Red Special ^_^ )

    and a series/parallel switch (or maybe turn my volume pot as a push-pull pot or something)

    oh yeh, and i may have a universal tone control and universal mid-range control, or two tone controls or something, haven't decided about that yet...

    but yeh, so there doesn't seem to be any reason not to go ahead with it, and I can just get experimenting once it's built :D

    thanks for the help!
     
  13. Jim Collins

    Jim Collins Member

    Messages:
    1,940
    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2002
    Location:
    Pleasanton, CA
    RWRP means reverse wound, reverse polarity. For two single coil pickups to operate in hum cancelling fashion, one must be RWRP with respect to the other. In a typical humbucking pickup, the two coils are RWRP with respect to each other, so it is hum cancelling.

    Lace Sensors are already hum cancelling, so you don't have to worry about RWRP, there. The wild cards will be the two other single coils, and how they will be used with the rest of the pickups.
     
  14. spaceboy

    spaceboy Member

    Messages:
    256
    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2004
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    ah right, I'll have to keep that in mind when I'm choosing pickups then... cheers
     
  15. jimku

    jimku Member

    Messages:
    13
    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2013
    I put a 4-speed tranny and 3-speed rear end in my Strat.

    I have two teles, both with 4-way switches to get the neck and bridge on in series. I dearly LOVE that series connection. I was thinking about how to manage doing that to my Strat … so I could get the neck and middle in series or the middle and bridge in series and still retain all the stock pickup selections.

    It hit me that if you were to think of the middle pickup and bridge pickup as the two coils of a big humbucker, and put those on a 3-way splitter for either pickup or both in series and thought of that 3-way splitter as your new “bridge”, you could simply put a 4-way switch for a Tele into a Strat and be done.

    So I thought that to do that I would need to go to a single volume and single tone control like in a Tele, and use one of the holes for the removed tone pot to put the 3-way splitter switch in. It also occurred to me that this new 3-way toggle would see a whole lot of use and have to be one that could be EASILY found and manipulated and would have to be RUGGED. So a mini-toggle just wouldn’t do. I had to find a DPDT ON-ON-ON switch that is a full-sized toggle switch. So I went looking, and finally found one.
    https://www.carltonbates.com/Pushbuttons-Switches/HONEYWELL/Bat-Handle-Toggle-Switch-DPDT-On-On-On-maintained-15A-125Vac-15A-250Vac-15A-28Vdc/2NT1-12/p/78454903683-1

    I ordered a 4-way Tele switch and this nice big rugged DPDT ON-ON-ON switch. I put the DPDT toggle switch where the middle tone control used to be … in close proximity with and basically right in line with the 4-way selector for quick manipulation. And so when the toggle is forward it’s the middle pickup, when in the middle it’s the middle and bridge in series, and when it’s to the rear it’s the bridge pickup so it’s intuitive.

    Now whenever the 4-way selector is in any position OTHER THAN neck only, it is using the “bridge” pickup, and which pickup/s the “bridge” is depends on where the 3-way toggle is set. It really isn’t any more complicated than if you had a Tele with a big humbucker bridge and a 4-way switch and a 3-way splitter on that bridge pickup.

    Here are the available pickup combinations:
    01 Neck Only
    02 Neck in parallel with middle
    03 Neck in parallel with bridge *
    04 Neck in parallel with middle and bridge in series *
    05 Neck in SERIES with middle *
    06 Neck in SERIES with bridge *
    07 ALL THREE PICKUPS IN SERIES *
    08 Middle pickup only
    09 Bridge pickup only
    10 Middle and Bridge in SERIES *

    The only standard selection that is given up is the middle and bridge in parallel … a combination I rarely if ever used anyway. But 6 selections are gained that weren’t previously available (marked with asterisks).

    And those series connections give my Strat some VERY convincing “big humbucker” sounds! This guitar used to be my favorite go-to guitar. Now it still is, it just went up by a quantum leap. The bridge and middle in series makes for a really NICE powerful lead. The neck and middle in series makes for really NICE warm, FAT, powerful blues. And all three in series sounds a lot like the neck in series with the bridge, just MORE. And all of that without compromising the pure stock Strat sounds of those wonderful Klein 1957 Epic Series pickups one bit.

    On the 4-way selector, the “series” notch is right next to the “neck only” notch, and this is PERFECT. I play this guitar primarily on the neck pickup only. If I want a hotter/brighter sound, it is only one notch away, and also never losing the fatness of the neck pickup. But there are three flavors of “hotter/brighter” depending on where that 3-way selector is set. It’s like kicking in a big humbucker with three flavors. If all I want is “brighter”, just flip the 4-way all the way to the rear for “bridge only”, and I have three flavors of “brighter” depending on where the 3-way selector is set … and one of those is like a big humbucker as well. It may sound complicated to you, but after playing with it for just a half hour it becomes totally intuitive and very easy.

    If you are familiar with Bian May of Queen, you know that he hand-built his own guitar and used three single-coils and three slider switches and that all of his multi-pickup selections were wired IN SERIES. This set up I have devised gives you all of those very same in-phase selections … as well as all of the stock parallel selections except one.

    This does work, and it works extremely well. Best of all, it will only cost you about 40 bucks to try it, and if you don't like it, you can always go back to your original wiring. Just one word of warning: If you try it you won't be going back!

    Here is the wiring I used for the 4-way switch.
    [​IMG]

    And here is the wiring for the 3-way splitter
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2014
  16. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    33,373
    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2006
    cool stuff (not sure it called for the 10-year-old zombie thread, though ;))

    the other detail of the brian may thing as i understand it is that when he went for "full sludge" with all three pickups on, he usually flipped the neck or the bridge out of polarity, which both added some treble attack back into the mix and canceled some of the hideous hum.
     
  17. mwmeci

    mwmeci Member

    Messages:
    11
    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2008
    If neither PU is RWRP what happens in the middle switch position. Are they in series?
    If I reverse the wires on one pickup it's out of phase like if you do that with 2 humbuckers, not that #2 Strat position sound. I was hoping to get the #2 sound with the switch in the middle position. Maybe it's not possible.
     
  18. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    33,373
    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2006
    nope, still in parallel when they're both on, and they hum about the same as a single by itself.

    you're not gonna get a strat B+M sound no matter what you do, because the pickups aren't in the same places.
     
  19. mwmeci

    mwmeci Member

    Messages:
    11
    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2008
    Thought so. Thanks for the reply.
    The neck pickup and middle switch position still sound nice.
     
  20. rumbletone

    rumbletone Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    5,188
    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2013
    Location:
    Vancouver BC
    I have series on my tele, and although I wouldn't say it sounds like a humbucker, it is a great tone that I use more than any others on the tele. Probably more like a P90 - fatter and hotter than the singles alone or in parallel.
     

Share This Page