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Help With Pickup Wiring, Series/parallel/phase/sustainer


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hi guys,

been a long time follower of the forum and it has inspired me to build my own guitar and im stuck on the electronics. i modified my last guitar to brian may pickup scheme, and condensed the standard 6 switches into 3 on/on/off switches and it worked great i was able to achieve all the brian may settings. but now the guitar i am building is a bit more complicated.

i am using a bareknuckle nailbomb pickup in the bridge a bareknuckle mississippi queen in the neck and i also have a single coil sustainiac sustainer in the neck also. what i am looking to achieve is individual on off switches for each pick up with phase switching and in a second row of three switches i would like to be able to switch the pickups in between series and parallel, using the first 2 switches to switch the bridge and neck in series and parallel and use the final switch as an overall kill switch for the guitar. i know there will be repeats in the guitar sounds which is why i am using the final switch for a kill switch instead of a series/parallel switch for the sustainer.

i want to be able to achieve all these sounds as well as a coil tap, and this is where it gets complicated, i have figured out how to wire the on/phase/off and series/parallel switches but i would also like to coil tap the bridge humbucker to achieve single coil sounds and for an added bonus be able to phase shift the two pickups inside the humbucker so they are in series but out of phase with each other to give that half cocked wah wah sound i can get with the brian may setup of bridge and middle pickup on and out of phase. pull the coil tap with the bridge on and it goes into single coil mode, flip the phase switch and it turns both coils back on but of phase.

and on top of this i need all this to function as well as the sustainer circuit, sustainiac provided me with a diagram on how to wire the guitar with two humbuckers and individual on switches but not on how to do all the other complicated stuff.

sorry for the poor explanation on all this, to be honest the coil tap is not as important the other stuff but it would be cool to have all the tonal possibilities within the guitar.

so quick breakdown of desired controls

3 on/on/off switches for the 3 pickups

a bottom row of 3 switches for the series/parallel stuff and the kill switch

1 volume / 1 tone either of these can be the push/pull coil tap

and the final 2 mini toggles that run the sustainer

thanks to everyone who helps with the project

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Hmmm....well, sustainiac warn that very complicated wiring schemes and such may not be possible with the sustainiac, so you need to take this into account.

With the sustainer you need to have only the bridge working and it probably won't like it being 'messed with' as a signal source (such as putting it out of phase or in parallel) when it is being used as the source signal.

Also, nearby coils such as neck and middle pickups can have currents generated in them from the electromagnetic energy coming out of them from the driver. In my own sustainer designs at the very least (but I'd suspect not much difference from the sustainiac) this has meant lifting both grounds and hots of all other pickups completely from the circuit.

The easiest way to try and deal with this I've found is to find a point in the wiring scheme, generally after the selector and before the controls, where you can insert the sustainer on/off switch. In mine (which are different considerably as the whole thing is off and the driver not used as an active pickup as in the sustainiac stealth versions at least, when switched on) I use a 4pdt to switch out everything, this will usually be done with two poles hot and ground, and reconnect the bridge pickup directly, and witch the power on. However, I don't know what the sustainiacs requirements are as it may preamp the entire guitar and at least the neck pickup when not in sustainer mode.

So, yes a very tricky scheme to solve there, best to draw everything out extensively and get a feel for all the connections on the sustainer to work out the function there. It could even be that not everything is possible with such wiring schemes and I have read much to that effect on their site, or that such things would cost a considerable amount for them to install if possible.

Best of luck...

Oh, phasing an HB 'locally' sounds quite a bit different from spaced separate pickups. If you have the guitar made, you might consider wiring everything up on a bit of board so everything hangs out of the guitar and you can play with and modify options...it is so much easier than trying to work inside the guitar and you won't have to commit to any hole drilling or anything till you know what works. You should end up with a 'harness" that you can wire straight into the guitar....

Here's a recent guitar I have been working on, an LP with 22 sound combinations from 4 p-p pots and a standard selector....


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thanks for the info,

i have been doing a bit more research and apparently phase reversal on a humbucker isnt all that good, apparently the closer the two coils that are being switched out of phase results in a thinner tinnier sound, not all that appealing really. i love the sound on my brian may setup switching the bridge and middle out of phase so might be able to do that just switching the bridge and first neck out of phase. as for how the sustainiac will cope, im not sure, they did supply me with a wiring schematic for a 2 pickup guitar with individual on/off switches so i assume just extending that will yield some results. only thing i worry about now is how the sustainiac will cope with the mississippi queen beside it, its a p-90 and sustainiac warn against single coils neck to the sustainer although apparently the mississippi queen is very well shielded and quiet for a single coil. just trial and error i suppose, its my first guitar from scratch, bound to make some mistakes i guess and if i have to loose the mississippi pickup at least i can cover it up and no one would ever miss it.

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As I said earlier, I'd be aiming to test the electronics or at least wiring it up outside of the guitar before committing to things, especially when it comes to 'sustainers'. It is not a magnetic sensing device there but en electromagnetic output device...like a transformer, nearby coils can't help but have currents induced in them by the driver.

Even the close magnetic field of another pickup nearby could have a detrimental effect on the device, and especially the sustainiac 'bi-lateral' type drivers. This is one of the reasons in my own sustainer drivers I ahve not pursued these things more fully. I have played a sustainiac guitar and was suitably impressed though and the neck pickup doesn't sound too bad, much like single coil strat pickup.

There are more 'sounds' to explore as well compared to those you have gone for. With working on my latest guitar I was suitably impressed with the humbucker in "local parallel" (local as in parallel with itself) giving a noiseless single coil type sound. My guitar also has "global series" in it which is interesting...this puts all 4 coils in two humbuckers into one huge HB and gives a thick tone that is a little "jazzy" perhaps and slightly louder as you might expect. The interesting thing is when you combine this setting with things like phase between pickup...notching out some of that "thickness" or running the bridge in parallel while being globally in series...so many variations are possible.

But one also has to be practical really I think, I know I have been overly guilty of far too many options and still do, but you don't want things to be or look to fiddly IMHO. Although my new guitar has 22 different options from 2 HB's all are hidden in push pull pots. My tele has a sustainer and a phase switch...the 'drive knob' hides the harmonic option and the volume the phase in 'hidden' push pull functions.

Yes, 'local phase' tends to be very disappointing and nothing like say the bridge and middle phase thing. In fact, on my phasocaster strat (which also had the first DIY sustainer of mine) I had phase switches for each pickup in relation to the other, this had the effect of reversing the quacky notched sound of the strats 2 and 4 positions to be more HB like...so it was kind of counter intuitive in a way but worked well. When I eventually put in the sustainer to it, one of the controls could not be used as before which was a middle pickup mixer control though the phase switches could be overrided...so there are limits to the switching capabilities that are practical and the guitars sustainers can be used with.

I've not wired up a sustainiac nor know the options possible, it seems a lot more adaptable than a fernandes system though...it is very different from my systems that typically were designed to allow a lot more flexibility as far as wiring and pickup choices and such...but that's not to say that theere wouldn't be a way, but it is going to take a lot of nutting out.

If you draw up a schematic or have a clear idea of what you want to do, this is perhaps more of a job for the guys over at the Guitar Nuts 2 forum....their main aim is creative wiring mods...

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