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Highway One Pickup Upgrade

Discussion in 'Pickup Forum' started by BagelOctomom, Mar 26, 2013.

  1. BagelOctomom

    BagelOctomom Strat-Talker

    Jan 27, 2013
    Hey guys, I got my 2006 Highway One Strat about a month ago, I really like the finish as well as the neck... the pickups however are lacking something. I've been looking on eBay and other sites for vintage style low output pickups (compared to the hot alnico III which are stock). A friend of mine had got a loaded pickguard from dragonfire and honestly it seemed alright. I was looking at the pure vintage set they have in a loaded tortoise pickguard. Here are the very few specs they provide

    -Set of 3, Bridge, Middle, and Neck

    -Alnico (V) Beveled Magnets for true vintage quack

    -Cloth Lead wires

    -Fiber baseplates

    -Wax potted to reduce hum

    -Wound to a vintage 6.0K, 5.6k, and 5.4K

    -Middle pickup is reverse wound/ reverse polarity.

    What's you opinion? Get a whole new pickguard (which will get rid of the grease bucket wiring which I'm indifferent about) or spend close to 100$ for a boutique set like D Allen StratCats or just CS69s

  2. BagelOctomom

    BagelOctomom Strat-Talker

    Jan 27, 2013
    Here's a pic...not that it matters :cool:

    Attached Files:

  3. StratoTerr

    StratoTerr Senior Stratmaster

    Jul 21, 2011
    Lewes De.
    Marketing weasel-speak. Quack doesn't come from beveling and RWRP reduces it.

  4. jimmiraz

    jimmiraz Senior Stratmaster

    Feb 3, 2010
    Buffalo NY
    I reciently installed a set of D Allen Big Cats in a HW1, Very nice set of pups.
    I personally would spend more and get something better than what you claim to be just alright with the Dragonfire, seems you have that now. That's just me.
    Nice looking guitar by the way, looks well kept.

  5. BagelOctomom

    BagelOctomom Strat-Talker

    Jan 27, 2013
    I might just get the d allen pups, I'd rather buy something I know is high quality. Jimmiraz did you keep the greasebucket circuitry... Do you think that could negatively affect pickup tone?

  6. vgp001

    vgp001 Strat-O-Master

    Mar 31, 2012
    Location: Location
    If you want low output, why not lower your pickups? All it costs you is the turns of the screws.

    I bet if you checked the pickups you have now, they'd be alnico Vs with DC resistances not too far from what you listed.

  7. BagelOctomom

    BagelOctomom Strat-Talker

    Jan 27, 2013
    I have them lowered to a few specs I've found online...the neck pickup is barely up at all. Correct me if I'm wrong but Hot Alnico III's are alnico III right? Anyways they are hot pups and sound thin to me. The bridge is almost unusable, most HW1 owners swap the pups immediately, I gave them a few months and am simply not happy with them.

  8. rhgwynn

    rhgwynn Senior Stratmaster

    Aug 29, 2012
    Vintage middles aren't RWRP; they didn't start doing that until after the switch to the 5-way; and they didn't start doing that, until they realized the need for it, when players were getting the switch to stick between 1 & 2, and 2 & 3 for a unique sound that mixed pups provided. SRV is well known for doing this on his vintage strats.

    DF and GFS prices cant be beat, by ANYONE stateside; but they are made in Korea (in the same factory); make your own assumptions. D.Allen has a strong rep; never tried'm, but I wouldn't knock'm either.

    You can't get the same effect from lowering the pickups as you can by using "lower output pickups". Lowering the pickups takes the string further away from the magnet to the weaker, outer reaches of the magnetic field. Magnets have different gauss strengths, which is basically the throw of the magnet, how far the field reaches. When you get too far away, you lose clarity, lose note definition, lose the punch. Too close and you get stratitis, sensing of weird annoying harmonics, loss of sustain as the magnet's field drags on the strings, ice-pick highs.

    If you want a bright, jangley, chimey pickup, with decent bass and scooped mids, go with a low output. Want a balanced tone, with bell like highs, good mids, and punchy bass, medium output If you want the previous with a boosted mid-range, get something a bit hotter.


  9. Alan0354

    Alan0354 Most Honored Senior Member

    Feb 2, 2011
    In the picture you showed, the pups are not low. To start, hold the low E at the lowest fret and adjust the pole of the neck to 1/8" and 3/16" on the high E. This is the starting point. Then test the sound and adjust the height to get the best sound. My experience is the final adjustment is about half a turn lower than the starting point. If you don't use the middle pup much, lower it a little more to lower the total magnet pull on the strings. The bridge pup don't affect the string nearly as much as the other two, you can raise it higher.

    The picture is a little blur, but it looks like the stagger is pretty mild, you might not have to push the D and G poles.

    D Allen's pups are very high quality and reasonable priced. I have 4 sets and it worth your time to at least email to him.

  10. Rock City

    Rock City Strat-Talk Member

    Nov 24, 2012
    Novi Sad
    Why don't you borrow your friend's pickups, install them and hear for yourself? I would do that if I wanted to change pickups. Or find more friends with single coils and try everything you can. There is no better way to make up your mind.
    If you don't have much choice, get 2 different sets: low output vintage set and hot overwound. Only radical movements could show you which way to go.
    Searching on the net, reading articles and listening to Youtube will just make you smarter and more confused. It did to me.


    OLDGREYGIT Senior Stratmaster

    Feb 7, 2011
    Anything will be better than the standard pickups.
    I chucked the greasebucket, and tried a few pickups over a period of time.
    I'm now on Lindy Fralin VH's, fine they are too.
    But I will be getting another set of Chevalier 67's, I think they work well with alder.
    What about tonerider, they won't break the bank.

  12. vgp001

    vgp001 Strat-O-Master

    Mar 31, 2012
    Location: Location
    I know that changing the pickup height relative to the strings doesn't get you the same character as a lower output pickup, I was just pitching some ideas that are lower cost and less invasive as a pickup change.

    I wouldn't worry about changing the height to some "specs" you found online. Those are just recommendations. It's your guitar, your strings, your amp, etc.

    Just some things like tilting the pickups, bass side high/treble side low or bass side low/treble side high can get you different sounds. At no additional cost. As is EQ-ing the other parts of your gear in your signal chain.

    (see, posting a pic does matter sometimes ;))

    If your pickups are indeed alnico III, they will have a different character than alnico Vs like the ones you're looking into.

    Maybe I'm just sensitive to people who immediately swap out the pickups that come stock with any American made Stratocaster or even the MIM Classic Series guitars. Fender puts some good units in there out of the factory.

    I'm sure you're not looking into a complete rewire, but changing your potentiometers is another option that's cheaper than a set of three pickups. As is changing your string gauge.

  13. Gibson67

    Gibson67 Strat-O-Master

    Oct 25, 2010
    I have been checking my options, too. And I added an underwound to the middle position with higher output in the neck and bridge, wow just great quack! Those HWY1 are good but are voiced with more lows and highs so I added a Classic series middle which is more midrange than the others, again postions 2 & 4 are quackalicious!

  14. vgp001

    vgp001 Strat-O-Master

    Mar 31, 2012
    Location: Location
    Yeah, mixing and matching pickups is a great option as well.

    I know a lot of sets are meant to "go" together, the typical neck and middle with the hotter bridge. The bobbin material, wire, and magnets are the same, more winds for the bridge.

    I've seen the Fender Custom shop put out guitars with a Fat 50's in the neck, a CS '69 in the middle, and a Texas Special in the bridge, IIRC.

  15. Blackmore Fan

    Blackmore Fan Senior Stratmaster

    Jan 10, 2010
    The Midwest

    The David Allen pickups are indeed high quality. In fact, if you use the search function of the site, you'll find that there is a LOT of testimonials from players from this site that have purchased David Allen pickups and are quite happy with the sound.

    Just an fyi!

  16. Alan0354

    Alan0354 Most Honored Senior Member

    Feb 2, 2011
    Good post, sound advice. Particular when people change pups just to change pups. You want to bet, if the guitar comes with D Allen or Lindy Fralin, people will change them out.

    Yes, changing pots change the sound, you want more highs, go to 500K, want less highs, lower the value. Even if you have 250K pots, you can experiment with resistors in parallel with the pots ( across the two pin on each side of the pot). The final value will be the resistor in parallel. The equation is:


    Where R is the final value, R1 is the pot(250K etc.) R2 is the resistor in parallel.

  17. Grounded

    Grounded Senior Stratmaster

    Jan 2, 2010
    Seattle, USA
    On a budget? want more vintage sound? try Tone Rider True Vintage.
    I had a HW1 and swapped out the stockers and it was my favorite....untillI discovered Dave Allen. But at $100 a set for the TR's you are not too far away from DA's Tru Vintage 54's or maybe Hot 57-59's for a bit more bite.

  18. BagelOctomom

    BagelOctomom Strat-Talker

    Jan 27, 2013
    I actually just scored a set of D ALLEN BIGCATS. Just debating on whether to keep the greasebucket circuit now.

  19. copperheadroads

    copperheadroads Strat-Talker

    Mar 17, 2010
    The "Greasebucket" tone circuit suppose to benefit what hotter pups ?
    Id go with the standard wiring & a bigger value cap fix & or throw a tone control on the bridge pup as well

  20. BagelOctomom

    BagelOctomom Strat-Talker

    Jan 27, 2013
    when the tone control is rolled down, the pot reduces the high frequencies, but does not add bass...according to fender. Its somewhat useful because there are actually usable sounds when the tone is turned all the way...but a lot of people say without it, it actually sounds better. I'll probably go with the standard wiring and put on the .047 cap David Allen is sending.