I’m having a lot of fun with faces lately.

 

Well, here is the latest incarnation of my faithful Stratocaster:

2014_06_12_hsh_strat

 

As I mentioned earlier, the humbuckers are “Classic II” pickups from GFS.  They use Alnico II magnets, which are weaker than most pickup magnets.  They are also wound with fewer windings than most modern rock pickups.  generally, this means that, though the output strength of the pickups is lower, the frequency response is flatter.  This makes them sound very detailed and clear, which is great for clean tones and moderate distortion.  When it comes to very high gain, however, you generally want pickups with a narrower frequency response (a peak in the mid frequencies), or things can get unpleasant (bass frequencies tend to distort in an ugly-sounding way, and treble just gets overbearing).

What this all means is that these pickups sound amazing at clean to moderate distortion levels.  I’m floored, really.  Previously I had Van Zandt single coils installed, which were low output single coils – pretty much the best pickup you could ask for when it comes to clean tone.  Honestly, I like these better.  This probably means I am a humbucker guy.

As an added bonus, the neck pickup sound under heavy distortion is … breathtaking.  I’ll have to get things dialed in properly before it is truly usable, but so far I LOVE the neck pickup tone for lead work.

 

I do have to fix one thing in the wiring.  When I looked up schematics for the classic Ibanez-style 5-way switching method, I mistakenly thought that the middle pickup was NOT RW/RP (reverse-wound, reverse-polarity, for hum canceling when used with the non-reversed bridge or neck pickup on a strat).  I had ordered a RW/RP middle pickup, so I wired the guitar to use the opposite coil as usual for the coil-tapped-parallel-combination positions (2 and 4 on the switch).  Well, that was wrong.  The schematic DOES call for a reversed single coil.  As a result, in positions 2 and 4 are out-of-phase.  This applies a comb filter that kills most low tones and lets some highs through.  They are very quiet and trebly – not very usable (though Brian May from Queen is rather famous for making good use of out-of-phase pickups).

To fix this, I’m just going to sub in the original bridge pickup from this strat into the middle position.  This will fix the phase cancellation issues, and actually improve the output balance between the pickups.  The humbuckers have more output than the single coil I have in there now, so putting in a slightly higher output single coil will help balance this out.

 

 

Wow, that got pretty long and rambly.  I guess I’d be a hit at Rachel’s party too.  Have a great weekend everyone!