Vintage style pickups...To wax pot or not?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by skunizzi, Dec 8, 2016.

  1. skunizzi

    skunizzi Member

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    I purchased a used guitar recently and the pickups that came in it were very vintage sounding. I was considering swapping them out but I have grown to like them quite a bit. They are pretty sensitive to feedback when playing with more gain at higher volumes so I am pretty sure they are not waxed potted.

    I was considering potting them but I wonder if I would loose some of that vintage mojo?

    Any advice?
     
  2. Tone_Terrific

    Tone_Terrific Supporting Member

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    Observation on mojo:
    -if you think that you will lose it, you will
    -if you think that you are making the guitar more playable and useful, you won't
     
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  3. Mpcoluv

    Mpcoluv Supporting Member

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    Do not pot them. From what I can tell, part of the vintage pickup magic is no potting or super light potting. Micro phonic pickups are a good thing if you can keep them from squealing.
     
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  4. 71strat

    71strat Member

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    It just depends on what you want.

    If its to much squealing with high gain, and you play a lot of high gain, then realistically they may be troublesome.

    IMHO its like refretting an old guitar. Its useless if the frets are mucked up and you want to play it.

    I myself am/would be hesitant to mess with pickups that sound good, and might not be very common.
     
  5. buddyboy69

    buddyboy69 Member

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    or, if they are unusable pot them so you can. i have a few old guitars i liked the pickups in but were microphonic. i can at least plug them in now and use them. One i did a light potting to keep some of the squeel right on the edge of chaos, cause i liked it. but the guitar is still a one trick pony and bring it out only when i want to play that way. the others have become more useful and versitile as a result.
     
  6. RLD

    RLD Member

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    Feedback is different than microphonic squealing.
    I have a 73' Strat that would squeal horribly when I used high gain on one pup.
    I potted it in paraffin and it no longer squeals yet still sounds gorgeous.
     
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  7. Callaway 1

    Callaway 1 Member

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    Only you can decide what you want your guit to do if your looking at a Swiss Army guitar that will be used on all types of music potting isn't a dirty word if your going for 100% raw vintage sound using vintage amps unpotted will give you that easier and also more pup noise at volume to go along with it.
     
  8. treeofpain

    treeofpain Silver Supporting Member

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    If the pickups have covers, you might want to ensure that they are installed correctly and that the feedback is not coming from there, rather than the pickups themselves. If it is a Tele-style guitar, you can also get feedback from the interaction of the bridge pickup and bridge plate it is mounted in. More details about your guitar might help us suggest other options.

    If it ends up being a true pickup issue, I would swap them out, rather than ruin a nice set of pickups that someone else might want as-is.
     
  9. Lewguitar

    Lewguitar Member

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    Most feedback problems seem to happen to me at home when I'm playing while facing my amp.

    Onstage, with my back to the amp, it seems like much less of a problem. :rolleyes:

    Static from touching the pickguard of a Strat seems to happen most when I'm shuffling around in my stocking feet...again: at home. :D
     
  10. lemonman

    lemonman Supporting Member

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    IME comparing potted and unpotted versions of the same pickup, the unpotted ones always sound better; more alive, complex and 3D. Your options would be:

    1. live with it/ change your position to minimize it
    2. check to see if there's something loose causing it- cover, baseplate & screws, etc
    3. replace them with a potted equivalent
    4. take your chances, LIGHTLY pot them and be aware you may have killed their vibrancy and almost certainly hurt resale value
     
  11. Fishyfishfish

    Fishyfishfish Member

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    Just do it and get it over with, like pulling off a band aide
     
  12. skunizzi

    skunizzi Member

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    The pickups are humbuckers and they do have pickup covers. I don't understand what you mean when you say that I should ensure that the pickup covers are installed correctly? Can you elaborate?

    Thanks
     
  13. skunizzi

    skunizzi Member

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    I have heard that you can remove the cover off the hum-bucker and simply place a strip of painters tape over the lower slugs. Add a small amount of wood glue and that should stop any feedback caused by the cover itself. I've also heard that some people will place a small piece of sponge under the pickup itself to reduce any vibrations in the base plate of the pickup. Has anyone tried it?
     
  14. Tony Bones

    Tony Bones Member

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    My observation is that all of the most glorious sounding pickups I've tried are unpotted. There's no proof that potting them would reduce the glory, but I have to be suspicious and generally avoid potting.

    Also, treeofpain is right that squealing feedback is caused by something loose. That loose thing might be coil windings, but it might just as easily be the bobbins or magnet or cover. First step is to simply tighten the screws on the bottom of the pickup. Second step is to remove the cover and make sure everything is snug. I've heard of people putting a few drops of wax inside the cover before replacing it in an effort to keep the bobbins and cover from vibrating against each other. I've never tried it but it seems like something like that might be a good idea.
     
  15. treeofpain

    treeofpain Silver Supporting Member

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    The squealing is caused by something moving within or around the pickup. That movement is "picked up" electronically and amplified, which can express itself as feedback or squealing. If you find and stop the movement, you stop the squealing.

    Sometimes the pickup cover is not installed correctly and will vibrate, causing the problem. This can happen between the cover and the pickup or around the mounting of the pickup in some cases. Make sure the pickup cover is correctly soldered. If you want to isolate this as a possible cause, just remove the cover and see if the problem goes away.
     
  16. lemonman

    lemonman Supporting Member

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    I personally would not put glue inside a pickup cover, but I believe RS Guitarworks puts a bead of RTV silicone in there; not sure if they put tape down first or not (I hope so). I have experimented with various things like tape, blu-tak, etc with varying results. As mentioned above, try it without the cover; if the squeal goes away, you know the source. I tend to think the coil windings themselves are one of the least likely sources of squeal; it's usually the cover, loose screws on the baseplate, loose polepieces, the magnets, the little wires at the ends where the two bobbins connect together, etc. As for the sponge idea, it's worth a try if it stills squeals with the cover off. I think that would be more to stop squeal caused by the mounting springs/screws causing the problem than dampening the baseplate, but if it works, it doesn't really matter why.
     
  17. Rockinrob86

    Rockinrob86 Supporting Member

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    I ordered some pickups from a winder and there was a bit of a mix up - he sent potted. I have always bought into the "unpotted pickups are better" logic, and have them in other guitars - I also do not use distortion pedals at all, only typically cranked small amps, supros, gibsons, fenders, etc. My biggest rig is a 50w head and a 2x12


    he was happy to send me a new pair of unpotted pickups, so I took him up on that. I spend a lot of time tinkering with pickup height to get it exactly right - and I can say the unpotted pickups were clearly better - they just have more complexity and aliveness. It is pretty subtle, but I felt there was a noticeable difference.

    If you play louder music with more distortion than I do I don't think it would make a difference, but for my cranked small amp thing it was very clear - and confirmed when comparing the guitar before and after with my other unpotted humbucker guitars.


    BTW, this is an SG with Brandonwound PAT clones. great service, great sounding pickups!
     
  18. Laservampire

    Laservampire Member

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    I'm in the "unpotted vintage style" camp.

    With wax potting, you lose the microphonics which give so many pickups their character. The pickups will only "see" the strings, rather than a combination of strings and the physical vibrations through the wood. You lose all of those extra overtones and rich harmonics.

    I can understand if you want a modern high gain sound where squealing would be a problem, but for jazz/blues/anything pre 70s non-potted is the way to go for my ears (not including Fender of course, as many of their pickups were potted originally)
     

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