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Thought P-rails Were Cool?


verhoevenc

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So, if you didn't miss my last post, my new favorite pickup manufacturer is CatsWhisker Pickups outta the UK. And since I'm in the EU for awhile I've been stocking up! Here's the latest edition to my collection:

siamese.jpg

They're like the P-Rails in that it's a humbucker with a P90 coil and a single coil... however, that's where the similarity ends. CatsWhiskers' version has an ACTUAL single coil bobbin with slugs, no rail BS! And of course it's handwound so you get the advantages of scatterwinding that you don't get from Seymour Duncan pickups.

If this sounds any bit as good as the CatsWhiskers I have installed then this is gunna be one AMAZING pickup!

Chris

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makes you wonder why SD didnt do it this way considering most p-90 winds are actually a lot smaller than the bobbin

Probably for several reasons. The P90 coil in a pickup like the one in the picture, with the pole screws lining up with the holes in the cover will be extremely thin compared to a traditional P90. The P90s I do are almost full. And if you use the traditional formula with 42 gauge wire and 10 000 turns you will for sure end up with a coil that is about 28 mm / 1.1" wide (measuring an actual P90 coil I did a few nights ago). And the sound of a P90 is very much determined by the placement of the magnet wire on relation to the magnet structure and the pole pieces (OK, really part of the magnet struckture...). If you are to fit a "true" singe soil together with a P90 structure into a traditional HB cover, lining the SC pole pieces with the traditional pole placement of a HB (as they evidently do according to the pictures) there is extremely little space left to fit a P90 in there. You have essentially only space left for a traditional HB bobbin. And using a HB bobbin to get a P90 sound is extremely hard. I buy special "P90-in-a-HB-case" bobbins from Korea to be able to get close to the P90 sound (getting very close if you ask me...) but they are still roughly 25 mm wide (using thinner wire and adjusting the wind and magnet strength to still get close to a P90 sound). Lining one of those coil up to match a HB cover screw holes is impossible. Doing skinnier P90 coils and still getting a P90 sound is maybe not impossible, but I'm not able to get a good P90 sound from them. Its like my T90 pickups (a P90 structure and turn count, but shaped to fit a Tele bridge). They doesn't sound like a P90. They doesn't sound like a Tele pickup either. They sound like maybe 60-65% P90 and 35-40% Tele bridge. In the end I would think that catswiskers take two ordinary HB bobbins (interior pics would be great Chris), substitute the slug pole pieces of one bobbin with SC magnets, jam smaller magnets in around the screws of the other bobbin (probably without the metal keeper). This is in my mind the only way to fit things in a HB cover. This also means that the SC coil would have the magnet wire too far away from the magnets (the plastic of the bobbin getting in the way) to sound like a good vintage fender pickup. It will be more like those really cheep SCs with a molded plastic structure with push in magnets. They can sound OK, but they do not sound like the real stuff...

And thats why I think SD haven't gone down that route. CatsWiskers might have got a really interesting and really good sounding pickup, but If I'm not mistaken, there are too many compromises to get a "true" SC and P90 sound when using the two coils individually. But I would love to be proved wrong.

Scatterwinding is another topic, but lts drop it before I get into another rant...

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blimey, that was a rant :D

i think first off you have to accept these things will never be perfect replications of specific pickups, there will always be compromise - if you are after perfect p-90 just get a pickup made the 'proper' way

but they can be usefull. i never liked the p-rails single coil sound, and wasnt too fussed about the humbucker sound either - so the catswhiskers hold some appeal for me

on the bobbin size thing - most p-90's i have used have not had a full bobbin and could be reduced in size - like this 1960 dogear

pickup6.jpg

actually its an old fralin rewind - but it illustrates my point and measures in at a rather nice 8.3k

but i agree that it would still be a squeeze to get in a case without using a more standard humbucker bobbin and i too want to see whats going on under the hood

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here is a comparison of p-rails and the siamese

http://www.deltaguitars.com/siamese-p-rail-comparison.html

alan who makes them is not revealing much but has said;

it is a Strat and a Phat Cat under the same cover. The strat side has

Alnico rod magnets, not a rail

I did slim the outer bar magnet down to 10mm from the

original 12.7mm (1/2") and left the other one as it should be.

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Very cool. I didn't know that that was out there. As for the sounds, I think I still like the siamese better... especially when it comes to the P90 sound. Surprisingly I think it's a BIT of a toss-up (but could be the recording...?) on the single coil sound.

Chris

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Interesting...

Everything in this line is by necessity a compromise. Both sound pretty good, I was surprised at how good the skinny little single coil in the P-Rail sounded on it's own actually. The guitars they were tested on were quite different, one with a trem and a thicker neck, the other with an aluminium fixed bridge and a maple top..that alone may make for the differences in tone.

As with most things there is a bit of Hype...Steven Kirsting has been making single coils sized P-90s for a while...many have made HB's with magnetic poles on one side...this seems to be a similar variation.

One of the "issues" is that putting two pickups in the same case necessitates a complete change in the magnetic field, and important part of the P-90 design. Put two magnets near each other and they will interact and reshape what the other is doing.

In the end, they both sound good. But jumping on the mood for p-90's at the present time.

What I don't quite get is why there are not pickup designers trying to forge their 'own sound' out there...probably a marketing thing I suppose.

My tele has an old Fender Wide range HB with magnetic poles in both pickups for instance...another unique sound....apparently the market value for these originals are through the roof...

Has anyone tried making an HB pickup with all fender poles in both coils for instance? Of course it won't sound like a gibson or a fender (the magnetic structure with the poles being attracted to each other would rule that out) but it could make a really interesting sound, much like my fender perhaps.

Or...well there are so many variations. The guitar I am building at the moment has no name pickups in it, but interestingly it has all slug poles, no screws. And, there is a difference in sound, the parallel sound is gets a very nice single coils sound without noise and slightly louder than a split (the guitar can do both for direct comparison) and not that dramatic a drop in power from the HB. The full HB is nice and rich and creamy. No hype, no brand name...I don't know what they are, probably came out of artec, but they work and have their own vibe and there is no hype or pretending they are something else (PAF, P-90, Vintage whatever...)

I did a number on the wiring though, because I strategically didn't want the guitar to sound "like" or even exactly like any particular vintage 'type'...you don't see a guy like Brian May go out to make a guitar that 'sounds like' whatever, now people make guitars and pickups and wiring schemes to sound like him. When did things change do you think?

I'd love to see some makers exploring their own sounds and making some new ones instead of reinventing the wheel all the time.

There are even whole areas yet to explore...originally I came to PG with ideas to build pickups, but that was just before the explosion in backyard pickup makers many relying on hype and voodoo and self premonition and at best offering up sounds that might just compare to those of the past and classic designs and sounds. I think a there is a lot of potential for those here that amke pickups to promote themselves as offering up "new sounds"...just a thought

...

Regardless, both pickups sounded fine and I am sure that the success of the P-rail will ensure a lot more 'pretenders' come down the chute. The advantage that SD has is that they can afford the tooling to create unique bobbins and a rail coil that sounds so good split...but then they have been at it a while.

Are there new ideas that people have been exploring? Is the P-90 trend going to continue? What's the new flavor going to be do you think?

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Has anyone tried making an HB pickup with all fender poles in both coils for instance?

yeah, quite a few makers offer that now and its really for more SC style splits or an attempt to replicate the wide range

i also agree that the slight tonal differences in those clips could come from the guitar - but what it really shows is that the guy making them is on to something and can offer just what SD can in a more traditional looking package

i know this model was a request for catswhisker from somebody that liked the idea of a p-rails but not the look

... so yeah, they have copied the p-rails idea - but its clearly not a direct copy of sd's effort

i also have an original wide range. i like it .... but a lot of players really, really dont. but whatever, i got it at a good price and its worth a lot more whether everyone likes it or not

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Well...I'm not advocating the wide range...but it certainly have a distinctive "clang" to it. By the same token, the P-90's were derided and rare for the very same qualities that people now covert them for.

Yes...the cats whiskers sound good in their own right, probably no huge deal, wire and magnets you know...keep at it till it sounds good and perhaps familiar. Would have been nice to compare them to the single coil, HB and P-90s...the actual pickups...than the P-rail. Maybe the same guitar even.

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blimey, that was a rant :D

i think first off you have to accept these things will never be perfect replications of specific pickups, there will always be compromise - if you are after perfect p-90 just get a pickup made the 'proper' way

Yeah, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t really believe in pickup marketing hypes like “Get a true single coil sound AND a true P90 sound AND a sweet PAF sound from the same pickup (not saying CatsWiskers make that claim). A bit allergic to that and sometimes I get going….

My tele has an old Fender Wide range HB with magnetic poles in both pickups for instance...another unique sound....apparently the market value for these originals are through the roof...

Has anyone tried making an HB pickup with all fender poles in both coils for instance? Of course it won't sound like a gibson or a fender (the magnetic structure with the poles being attracted to each other would rule that out) but it could make a really interesting sound, much like my fender perhaps.

I do a Wide Range HB version that fit in a standard HB rout. It is basically a standard HB with Alnico pole pieces, although these are adjustable. A very clear and nice sound. SD makes one with fixed staggered magnets called the stag mag, didn’t like either the split or the HB sound…

. The guitar I am building at the moment has no name pickups in it, but interestingly it has all slug poles, no screws.

I do a pickup like that too, called the Slugger (giddit, slugger, eh OK you got it) and Lundgren does one similar called the M6 (or M7 and M8 for 7 and 8 strings) I take mine into the Metal range. (just had to mention it...)

In the end you can do more or less anything but most winders still try to nail that “golden PAF” sound (what ever that is) or the “vintage Fender sound” because that’s what players that pay our bills want (even if they often have no idea of how a PAF really sound...).

About the P90 trend, I think it will stick. I have always loved P90s and had them in the first guitar I made some 15-20 years ago.

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