FAQ (Frequently asked questions)
Can I install the pickups in my guitar or should I have an experienced tech do it?
Installing pickups and wiring a guitar is not difficult. But there is some basic knowledge needed and some essential tools that you need to do the job properly. With single coil pickups you have to be extremely careful when installing the pickups that you don't slip with a screwdriver and damage the coil or sever the fine lead wires.
This is one of the most common mistakes when installing pickups in a Fender type guitar. A good soldering iron is extremely important, the cheap imported low power soldering irons will not heat up the eyelets and the back of the pots fast enough so it is easy to overheat the pot and ruin it. A good iron will cost in the range of $100-$150. It’s well worth the investment. Dan Erlewine's book How To Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great is a great start in learning how to work on your guitar and maintain it...highly recommended.
What pot values are recommended for your pickups?
Traditionally 250k are most common for Strat/Tele single coils and 500k for P90's and Humbuckers. Depending on the guitar style, builder, woods used, hardware and what sound the player is ultimately looking for, these pot values can be changed. 250k vs 500k pots can have a dramatically different taper and feel to them. Personally I like to try different values in each of my guitars to see what works best for that particular guitar.
Pots sound and feel different depending on the manufacturer. CTS, Alpha, Bourns all offer their own versions of vintage taper pots. I’ve had good success with Mojotone (CTS) vintage spec pots and VIP (Bourns) pots. The Mojotone pots can vary quite a bit from batch to batch. VIP pots are more consistent and have their specific vintage taper with tighter tolerances.
What capacitors do you recommend?
As with potentiometers the capacitor type, manufacturer and value can play an important part in the final sound and feel of pickups. I use:
- Russian K40Y-9 in some of my guitars
- .047uf with single coils
- .015uf or .022uf with humbuckers
These are getting harder to find and the price has gone up considerably over the last few years. I also highly recommend V-Cap Tone Series and Jensen Copper Caps. These are more expensive but sound and feel great.
Do you offer Base Plates on your single coil pickups?
Personally, I don't like the way our single coil pickups sound with a base plate installed. I find that the plate takes away some of the nice harmonics, note clarity and balance. As a result, I don’t offer or recommend them for our pickups.
Do you recommend using a treble bleed with your pickups?
I don't use them in any of my guitars or recommend them for our pickups. I feel it can alter the overall sound of the pickups in a negative way. Our pickups naturally have great clarity, note separation and retain all this when rolled back on the tone/volume controls. You'll find that there isn’t any need for this type of circuit with our pickups.
Do you recommend using shielding tape or paint in the body cavity or on the pickguard?
Many times it's not the guitar itself that has the noise problem. Many times it's the wall receptacle, cable or in the pedalboard. Shielding in the guitar can certainly help with reducing some 60 cycle hum or background noise. But it can also have a blanketing effect on the overall sound of the guitar/pickups, so it's a tone vs. noise decision one has to make.
I use copper tape only in the general area where the pots and switches are located, not around the pickups. For best results it's important to make sure all the pickups and components are grounded properly, with everything wired and soldered correctly. Also make sure the wires are routed neatly next to each other, this helps with reducing the background noise.
What Magnets and wire do you use in your pickups?
AlNiCo magnets and wire sound different depending on the manufacturer. For example, we can generalize that A5 sounds like A5, or Enamel sounds like Enamel.
But in reality, the sound can be quite different from one manufacturer to the next.
We use magnets and wire from various manufacturers and have some custom made to our specifications. There is so much misinformation on the internet about the specific sound of magnets and wire, we aren’t attempting to hide what we use, we just try to stay away from the specifics of what a particular model uses and instead focus on what the final sound is that the customer is looking for.