Strat Twins

Strat Twins

Only their mother can tell them apart.

And now, what we’ve all been waiting for. A tedious technical post!

The new studio is working out pretty well. It’s just big enough to fit all the necessary instruments in at once, and with few distractions. But the radio frequency interference is the worst I’ve ever encountered.

The last time I came across something this bad was when I stood a metre away from a dodgy lighting rig at one of my very first gigs, with a (single coil) unshielded strat running into a heavily distorted amp.

But this time there’s no dodgy lighting rig. There’s no noisy CRT monitor. Guitar shielding is in place.  And I’ve even taken a guitar and battery-powered amp outside the house into the backyard and turned off the mains, and the RFI was just as bad.

Running a single coil pickup – even a Lace Sensor in a well shielded strat mind you – into a Big Muff around here is a really bad idea.

So the two strats pictured above are now outfitted with noiseless pickups, which I’m secretly delighted about (from a recording point of view). But I’m rather less thrilled at the prospect of having to do the same thing to my single coil basses and the P90 les paul. More about that in another post.

The strats are “twins” in so much as they share the same internal wiring. The blue strat has Fender SCN Noiseless pickups installed, which give me the closest thing I have now to a vintage sound. The sunburst has Bill Lawrence L-280s, which are a little more hi-fi sounding, but definitely not quite as hi-fi as the EMG DG-20-equipped strat. More about that in another post.

And now, for my benefit as much as anyone else’s, here are the sordid wiring details:

Volume control:
500k audio taper. I’m using 500k here because the noiseless pickups are, technically, humbuckers. Added treble bleed components (high pass filter) between the input and output lugs to stop the sound losing brightness at lower volumes. 120k resistor and .001uF capacitor connected in series. These values are close to those suggested by Chris Kinman, and they seem to work well. More information on treble bleed mods available from Seymour Duncan.

Tone control:
Master tone control (in the middle). 500k pot with a 0.0056uF capacitor which I think gives a more useable range before becoming too muddy. Pot is also a DPDT push-pull switch, which is wired to select the bridge and neck pickups in series. I’ve chosen bridge and neck specifically to try to get a nice warm Don-Felder-esque-Eaglesy-semi-hollow-solo sound which you wouldn’t normally associate with a strat. (Put a dose of TC Electronic SCF chorus on it and it comes close..) I followed the Dan Torres guide, in my case substituting the neck pickup for the middle one.

Neck blend control:
Fender 250k no-load tone pot. This allows the neck pickup to be added in parallel with the bridge pickup, to give that tele sound. Pot lugs connect to the hot lead of the neck pickup and the output lug on the pickup switch.

Posted in Gear.

2 Comments

  1. Hey Ben,

    thanks for the scn wiring details. I’m using the SCN pickups with 250k pots and they are kind of lifeless, dark.

    Would using 500k pots make a dramatic change in the tone? I mean have you ever tried the scn’s with 250k pots?

    Thanks again.

    Emin.

    [Hi Emin! I can’t say I’ve tried the SCNs with 250k pots yet. But to my ears there’s no lack of top end in my setup with 500k pots. (Bear in mind I’m also using a smaller tone capacitor, and that’s with a maple neck.) Perhaps you could try temporarily disconnecting the tone pot from the circuit to simulate using 500k pots. – Ben]

  2. Question: I have ONE neck SCN that I want to install on my 50th anniv Amer Strat, that has vintage 57s (I believe).
    Will that even work? I’m tempted to not even try, and look for a deal on a fully loaded S1 pickguard with wiring etc just to save myself the nightmare.

    However, if it is relatively easy to pop in the SCN in the neck positon, and wire up to existing pots without creating sound issues (ie 250k pot Vs 500k), then I will give it a shot. I like the sound of the SCNs, but since I only have one, I thought I would take advantage of it.

    Thanks.

    [Ben: Hi Mike! I don’t see any major problems with trying out the SCN with vintage 57s. Keep the 250k pots in there and see how it sounds. It’s possible that the SCN pickup may be too hot, but maybe you can address that with pickup height. Also possible the SCN may be electrically out of phase with the other pickups, but the only way to find out is to give it a go..]

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