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Upgrading Current Guitar

Black Winter

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I'm certainly not an expert by any means, but here's my 2-cents worth.

Try a pickup & pot change.

DiMarzio makes a great PAF. They built the company on the Super Distortion. If you went with a PAF-neck & a SD-bridge, I think you'd be getting what you want. The SD is basically a hot-rodded PAF. I don't know Seymour Duncan's line very well, but I'm sure they have something very similar. The PAF is very versital. It can handle anything from country to blues to rock to metal to... you get the picture.

With the pots, try push/pull pots. The HBs can come with 4-conductor wiring so you can have the coils go series, parallel, or tapped. This will let you get a pretty close simulation of a true single coil.

My main ax has 2 Bartolini HBs wired to go series & parallel, and I have a phase switch in there too. Personally, I don't like tapped HBs, but that's just me. I get a great HB punch when I want it, and a pretty good SC twang.

Remember this: everything is subjective & personal. What works for me might not work for you. The sound I like might sound horrible to you. Also, we can't hear your ax personally, so these are only suggestions with NO first-hand knowledge.

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So by push and pull pots you mean split the HB into like 2 single coils?

Thanks for the suggestions I will go listen to some sound samples of those buckers and I could post some just open string strums of my guitar if that would help.

Thanks again

Yep. Doing a pot swap eliminates the need to drill more holes in the body to put in the additional switches. They're incorporated into the pot. It's a LOT less invasive.

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  • 2 weeks later...

If it's just a change of tone you're after, you could try experimenting with different values of capacitors on your tone pot.

You can also put a capacitor on the volume pot to reduce treble bleed at low volumes, which would alter the tone a bit too.

This would be a lot less drastic than replacing pickups, if it's only a subtle change you're looking for!

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One problem with active systems like EMG's and such is that they tend to do what they do and are hard to mod. The preamps, if built into the pickup especially, are before the controls and so changing them has lttle if any...an quite likely a bad effect...on tone.

Passive pickups have stuck around for so long because in many ways, their "inefficiencies" create their tone where as active pickups tend to be fairly even throughout the range.

They also tend to be pretty powerful and so can easily overdrive an amplifier, yet provide a clean low impedance full range signal that effect boxes and distortions really like...hence the appeal for metal styles.

One area that is often overlooked is simply turning down the guitars volume, lessening the overdriving effect and using the amplifier controls to contour a more classic rock or bluesy sound. Another approach that you could try is to lower the pickups away from the strings...again reducing power.

It is hard to near impossible to coil tap actives, and all the other things that are easy with passive pickups...so your options are limited. If the pickups are conventional and there is a separate circuit on the entire output of the guitar....then you may have a whole host of options...take a look inside...where are the active electronics, what value are the present pots (a very low value 10-100k perhaps) will indicate that the eletronics come before the controls...values of 250-500k or more...may indicate that the active part is after the controls, like an active buffer...

check it out... pete

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One area that is often overlooked is simply turning down the guitars volume, lessening the overdriving effect and using the amplifier controls to contour a more classic rock or bluesy sound. pete

Yeah, that's what I'm getting at by suggesting the cap on the vol pot. I believe few guitars leave the factory with one installed, and if you don't have one fitted then when you turn down the volume pot you usually get a thin weak sound you don't like. It's like it changes the sound rather than simply lessening the output volume...........if you see what I mean???

Also, it's frustrating that you can't coil-tap active EMG's, I mean they have 4 conductor wiring!! Why is this???


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EMG's do have a "tap" model I believe...

Basically, putting a cap on the control of an EMG like active system wont work as you are suggesting. The cap on the volume pot in passive systems is to preserve the highs so as not to sound like mud as the volume pots variable resistor is added to the impedance of the pickup itself.

Active systems often use lower volume pots, 25k I think with EMG's as they are immune from loading, the cap will not help...one great thing about actives is that they don't degrade with the use of volume and tone controls due to their low impedance and active buffering...

If the preamp was after the controls...then there is a lot more that you could do...but are these EMG's...if so...a little stuck...but they have active products like the afterburner that could be added...

Oh...I am not familiar with EMF's myself...but I suspect the 4 leads are two signal and two power...they need to be connected to a battery afterall!!! The preamps are built into the pickups themselves so there is not a lot you can do in this case as there is no passive signals once they leave the pickups.

Potentially, there could be some sounds of interest in combined positions by reversing the phase of one pickup...I am not sure...but that kind of "special effect" is not what is being sought here.

So much can be achieved by pulling back the guitars output (turning it down) and messing with the amp that is never really thought of. We are so used to playing guitars flat out and leaving amp controls where they stand that it is a wonder that they include them! One advantage of actives is that they send out a full range signal and this gives the amp more to work with as far as tone shaping. The down side is that they can sound "sterile" in that they have no inherient "tone" character of their own. Again...this is ideal for Metal where power and clarity is king...despite the distortion, these pickups allow for more distortion to be applied without the muddy mushy sound of some passives that really effect the articulation and ability to play lightning runs and such.

Besides loving guitars...there is a reason for multiple guitars with their own character besides just the look of the thing. There are few metal guitars that could compete with a tele for country or an LP for that classic rock thing. I don't know, but if you want a jujitsu knife approach, I guess variaxe have the right idea in digitalizing the whole thing...remove the sound of the guitar completely from the equation!!!

anyway...interesting stuff... pete

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Pete, you're right! The EMG89 is an active humbucker which you can coiltap to become an active single coil. I have one in one of my axes and it works very well. My comment about the 4 conductor wiring is regarding other EMG's eg. I have an EMG707 (single white sleeved cable, and single red power cable) an EMG81/7 (same arrangement), but also a pair of EMG707HZs. The HZ's are, or course, passive. It is THOSE which have the 4-conductor wiring I was remembering, Doh! However, I still think I remember reading (possibly even on EMGs website??) that even those passive EMG707HZs with 4 conductor wiring could NOT be coiltapped. I could be wrong of course! Maybe I should just try it and see what happens!

By what you're saying (and it does make sense!) these isn't really much you can do to an active-equipped guitar to alter the tonal range. Pity.

Good comment regarding the merits of having several guitars!!! Also good for tuning options! (Not only having different tunings eg. open chords, drop D, or whatever; but also for having SLIGHTLY sharper or flatter tunings when playing along to various CDs)


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EMG has several accessory circuits designed to help shape the tone of the pickups, so you may want to look into those devices as well. Keep in mind that Buddy Guy also uses an EMG equipped Guild solidbody in addition to his Strat, and his tone is pretty good out of that thing as well.

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