Which pickups for that Rory sound?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by Nodiz, May 28, 2005.

  1. Nodiz

    Nodiz Member

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    I've got a 1965 Stratocaster relic, and it's a fantastic guitar, but something's lacking... I can't seem to dial in the amp without making the neck pup a bit muddy or the bridge pickup thin and trebly. The latter is a well-known problem on Strats I guess, but there are many great players that doesn't seem to have this problem... both Rory Gallagher and Ritchie Blackmore come to mind.

    I'm playing through an Aiken Invader 18w head (Marshall 1936 cab), and it's a great amp. It sounds great with single coils, P-90s and buckers, but the Strat is a bit of a problem. I can get a great neck tone, but then my bridge pickup automatically sounds thin and way too trebly. In other words, I doesn't seem able to get the best out of both pickups at the same time.

    What do you think I should do? My favorite Strat tone is Rory Gallagher's on "Irish Tour", but I know this won't happen without an old Tweed amp, a vintage AC-30 and Rory's hands, so the name of the topic is a bit misleading. I was just trying to tell you what my ideal Strat tone is.

    Do you guys know of any pickups that will to the tricks? Fralins? If so, which set? Are there other mods that would be more suited? I haven't been browsing this forum (of the Fender forum) lately, so I don't how the stock pickups on 1965 relics are rated. Are they considered to be true to the originals, and how are they compared to other pickups from other makers? Nevertheless, something's lacking, and I wanna fix it.

    Thanks in advance :dude
     
  2. Jim Collins

    Jim Collins Member

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    I have the NOS version of this guitar. I kept the stock pickups in it for quite some time, but I modified the wiring rather early.

    Stock vintage wiring features a common capacitor between the two tone controls, and no tone control for the bridge pickup. I altered the wiring so that the middle control is a tone control for the neck and middle pickups, and the outside control is a tone control for the bridge pickup, only. Furthermore, each tone control has its own tone capacitor. I used a .022uF cap in each position.

    With the stock vintage wiring, the tone controls are more of a tone sink than anything else. With the modified wiring, I got much more use out of the tone controls, immediately. All three pickup positions sound better. (I don't like the inbetween sounds on a Strat, so I still have the stock three-way switch.)

    Once I did this (as I have done to other Strats), it gave me the opportunity to determine whether I really like the stock pickups. I do, although I thought I might like a little more beef -- just a little -- in the bridge position. I tried a set of Fralin Blues Specials, with the plate underneath the bridge pickup. I actually liked the stock pickups more than I liked these Fralins. They did have more beef, but at higher volumes they got a little shrill, for my tastes. Then, I tried a set of Duncan Antiquities (Texas Hot in the neck and middle, and Custom in the bridge). These are very much to my liking.

    I've never really been very fond of the sound of a Strat through a blackface style amp -- I prefer Teles through those amps -- but the sound of a good Strat through a tweed amp is something else. That's the Strat sound I like. Through the tweed amps, the Antiquity pickups seem to compress more than the stock pickups or the Fralins (which didn't compress at all). This is just what I was looking for.

    There is a drawback to my wiring preference, if you happen to use a standard, five-way switch. The middle+bridge position has two tone controls, which isn't particularly good. Since I don't use a five-way, this doesn't bother me. If I did use a five-way, it might bother me. I would try two things. First, eliminate the tone control for the middle pickup. The middle control would be a tone control for the neck, only, and the outside control would be a tone control for the bridge, only. That way, the two inbetween positions would have only one tone control, each.

    The other thing I might look at is a super switch -- a real, 4P5T switch. Stewmac sells these things. This would allow me to specify which tone control goes to each individual position.
     
  3. Cybercat

    Cybercat Member

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    I'm a great Rory fan too, first saw him (several times) in 1971 & must've seen him at least a couple of dozen times by the time I left UK at the end of the 80s. Even got to play his old beaten up Strat - under the watchful eye of his brother Donal - after a show at the Marquee Club in the 80's.

    I've got 2 Strats with Fralin's, including an original '64 I've had since i was a teen, another with Duncans, & have played many other p'ups over the years.

    For me, the middle pickup in my Wagner SR equipped JB Strat nails Rory every time, and I can get a convincing early Blackmore from the neck & bridge pup's too (all of the above using a germanium booster into a Dr. Z Maz 18). I also use a Hovland or Relcap TFT capacitor in my Strats, it makes a great deal of difference. RS guitarworks do an excellent wiring / pot/ cap kit for Strats - see the link at the bottom of the SR p'ups page.

    The SRs are also hands down the best Strat p'ups I've used in 33 years of gigging (provided you are after authentic 'Strat' sounds & not trying to make it sound like something else). Jim's a nice guy too - give him a call!

    WCR Pickups

    Good luck!
     
  4. Nodiz

    Nodiz Member

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    Thanks for you answers.

    Jim Collins: For some reason, my 1965RI came with a five-way switch, but I never use anything but neck alone or bridge alone.

    However, after reading Cybercat's recommendation (and all the other reviews I've read) on the Wagner SR-pickups, I'd might have to reconsider. Position 2, 3 and 4 are often considered not useful, but those who have tried the SR-pups seem to have a different opinion.

    Hm, I guess I gotta do a search on them here on this forum as well, and perhaps buy me a set. A Strat with only one useful pickup (without tweaking the amp) isn't exactly quite what I'm looking for.

    If you guys have anything more you'd like to add, feel free to do so. Thanks once again.
     
  5. Jim Collins

    Jim Collins Member

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    I don't think the inbetween positions are unusable -- I just don't really care for them, so I don't use them. I think they become more usable, though, with a better tone circuit. If you use the inbetween positions, it is better to make sure that there is only one tone control in effect, at any time. With stock, vintage wiring, the neck+middle has two tone controls with that huge, common capacitor.
     
  6. Nodiz

    Nodiz Member

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    So what's causing the over-bright bridge pickup in more modern Strats? It can't be the wiring itself, since Strats have never come with bridge tone control as stock afaik. Are the pickups wound differently today? If so, why would they wound their bridge pickups to be almost unusable? This I can't understand.

    Vintage Strats may have had over-bright bridge pickups as well, considering the fact that both Gallagher and Blackmore allegedly tweaked the wiring on their guitars. However, from what I've read, the problem doesn't seem that big on vintage Strats.

    Nevertheless, I find it strange that no-one at Fender have tried to fix this problem. Is it just me?

    :confused:
     
  7. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    No, it's not just you.

    I find all modern Strats have over-bright pickups. I'm pretty sure it's mostly the pickups - if you put new ones into an old guitar you get the same thing. In fact, all the modern-type Strats (US Standard, Series etc) do come with the middle tone control working on the bridge pickup, and they still sound too bright to me.

    I think many people actually like and want this sort of sound - I can't think of any other reason Fender would make them like that, even on their expensive models, or so many aftermarket pickups would be the same. I prefer the Duncan Antiquities over any I've heard yet because they are the least so, very close to real old ones. I have no idea why anyone would think something like a Grosh Retro with Fralins sounds like a vintage guitar - a friend of mine has one and it's extremely bright and modern-sounding... but I've heard other people say thay're just like great vintage guitars :confused:. And yes, I've A/B'd it directly with the '64. He also has a Levinson Blade with Duncans and a JV Squier Strat, both of which are far more like the old one.

    OTOH, I am obviously not a 'natural' Strat player since I always find them too glassy (which is not a term I use to mean something good, BTW) and bright, and I specifically prefer the vintage .1uf tone cap that everyone else seems to hate for exactly this reason! You can turn the tone control down just a little to take the edge off. With the .022 commonly used nowadays you have to turn it down further to get the same effect, which then makes it go too midrangy.

    One reason I like the '64 so much is that it is the absolute darkest-sounding Strat I've ever played... some of it is in the wood, it sounds like that acoustically, but even more so plugged in. But even Big Al's original '69 "Mr Mojo" Strat has a great bridge pickup... bright certainly, but no ice-pick.
     
  8. alderbody

    alderbody Member

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    WCR SR's with RS Guitarworks 300K pot set and Hovland cap.

    And a Callaham bridge or at least the trem block...

    by far the best original Strat tone i ever got my hands on...

    :AOK
     
  9. Jim Collins

    Jim Collins Member

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    I'm not a "natural" Strat player, either. I am, primarily, a Tele player. I don't really go much for the Strat-through-blackface tone -- it was always too bright for me. When I play a Strat, I choose a smaller tweed amp. The tweeds don't have the clean high end of the blackfaces, so the bridge pickup has a good sound, when it overdrives the amp. Through the tweeds, the .022uF caps seem to work well. When I first started rewiring my Strats, I was playing through blackface style amps, and I left the .1uF tone cap in the neck/mid position, and used a .047uF for the bridge. It wasn't until I discovered that I prefer a Strat through a tweed that I started using .022uF caps.

    Why do folks seem to like the extra bright Strat sound? I think it has to do with added distortion. I play a Strat straight into an amp, but I can't recall the last time I saw any other player plug a Strat straight into an amp. In the very least, they usually use some added overdrive or distortion pedal. The extra bright pickups of a more modern Strat provide definition through all that distortion.
     
  10. Nodiz

    Nodiz Member

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    You've got a good point there, Jim.

    I usually play all my guitars straight into my Aiken, and this doesn't exactly hide the brightness of the bridge pickup. If I for instance use my Fulltone fuzz between the Strat and my amp, the bridge pickup is not over-bright at all. In fact, it sounds fat and very good.

    All this Tweed-talk has made my a bit interested. What Tweed-amps would be the best buy considering todays prices? I thought they all were way out of reach for a normal guy like myself...?
     
  11. Jim Collins

    Jim Collins Member

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    I have three tweeds -- two Victorias (low powered Twin and Deluxe) and a Mission Amps kit (Super). The low powered Twin is actually quite a bright amp. It needs to be played loud for it to sound its best. The Deluxe and Super are more suited to my playing and volume preferences. The Vickies and other tweed clones (such as Clark) are excellent amps. Somwhat expensive, but cheaper than finding the real thing. Kits are fun to build, but I wouldn't build one with the idea of saving money. I build them because I like doing it.
     
  12. Nodiz

    Nodiz Member

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    So far there seems to be several solutions:

    -new wiring
    -new pickups (Wagner SR, Antiquities)
    -new amp (tweed)

    :p
     
  13. Old Fuzzface

    Old Fuzzface Member

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    You might want to check these Bare Knuckle pickups out.

    I haven't used the single coils personally but have used some of their HB pickups and they are very, very nice.
     
  14. Power Freak

    Power Freak Member

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    I second that. They make some beautiful pickups. If their mule is anything to go buy those should be amazing.
     

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