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Improvements to a MIM Strat?

Discussion in 'Stratocaster Discussion Forum' started by abunchofpedals, Nov 10, 2017.

  1. abunchofpedals

    abunchofpedals Strat-Talk Member

    Age:
    34
    86
    Dec 14, 2016
    Florida
    I bought a used MIM strat on craigslist a while ago and while I really like it, I was wondering what I can do to make it a little better.

    So far, I took it all apart and gave it a really good cleaning (the frets were nasty but in good condition overall and the hardware was just cruddy). I also took some 0000 steal wool to the back of the neck to smooth it out a little bit. I've played some seriously nice custom shop fenders... How do they get the neck so smooth and "vintage"?

    Other than that stuff, I blocked off the floating bridge since I never use the trem bar. Super ghetto move actually, I blocked both sides with coins tapped together.

    I would like to change out the pickups too. The ones in the 62' reissues sound really nice so I'll probably go that route. Do you guys think it's worth changing out all of the electronics? I guess I could just get a drop in set and call it a day but I'd like to keep the costs down to like a few hundred bucks. I'm also open to suggestions on pickups. The only combo I use are the neck/middle and bridge/middle.

    Anyways, any thoughts or advice would be appreciated :)
     

  2. jvin248

    jvin248 Senior Stratmaster

    Jan 10, 2014
    Michigan
    .

    Leave the stock pickups but do the Dan Armstrong Blender Mod (I'm assuming you have an SSS model), that's what I do on all my player Strats.

    Are the pickups you have too bright/dark? Figure that out and find a volume pot that is higher/lower kohms as measured on a meter to the one in there. Adjust the pickup heights (there is a good setup series on youtube 'joe walsh gibsonuk setup' specifically #5 and #6 for pickup heights, technique that doesn't matter what guitar/pickup set you have. With those two techniques I rarely change pickups any more. If you still need a change, swap out a single pickup or two not the whole set to save some cash. Perhaps some boutique pickups Lawrence, Fralin, Cavalier, Rose get a lot of votes.

    .
     
    Tim S, craigh and papergoblin like this.

  3. abunchofpedals

    abunchofpedals Strat-Talk Member

    Age:
    34
    86
    Dec 14, 2016
    Florida
    Thanks for the info! I will definitely look into that stuff. The pickups sound fine but I have to keep them pretty high and they're too close to the strings (I keep bumping them with my hand). Money isn't a huge concern, I'd like to spend maybe $400 tops. I want to try some new pickups but I can only really compare them based on youtube videos.
     

  4. papergoblin

    papergoblin Strat-Talker

    Age:
    36
    255
    Sep 21, 2017
    Alabama
    Do you have the pups high to get them brighter or louder? I have a mim hss and my front and mid is low, the hss is set high. Now I used to bump the mid every now and then but it was my technique, used to hh setup and acoustics. Also, what year and model/series is it?

    If I were going to switch all the pups, I'd look into a loaded guard. Then if you get another or decided to sell that one, it's an easy swap back. I'm sure this next week or two sales will be found, you may be able to spend less than you think.

    The only mod I'm doing to mine is switching the nut to Tusq but it is out of need not want. The blender mod is a great option for an sss.
     

  5. gene machine

    gene machine Strat-Talk Member

    63
    Dec 8, 2006
    Halifax, NS
    +1 on using a new pickguard to make swapping out easier down the road, but i’ve never had problems with the stock pots.

    If you go with some type of stacked humbucker, you’ll want 500k pots

    I just swapped out the magnets in my MIM stock pups and it worked pretty good. I have another MIM strat with Texas specials and they sound great.

    What kind of tone you looking for?
     

  6. abunchofpedals

    abunchofpedals Strat-Talk Member

    Age:
    34
    86
    Dec 14, 2016
    Florida
    They're not unusually high, Maybe I'm just not used to playing a strat that much. I'm not sure on the year but I think it's from the late 90's (I'll check when I get home). It's like a weird matte purple/red kind of color. I've never seen it before. I was thinking about going the loaded pickguard way, figured it would just be a lot easier.
     
    papergoblin likes this.

  7. abunchofpedals

    abunchofpedals Strat-Talk Member

    Age:
    34
    86
    Dec 14, 2016
    Florida
    I used to have a 62' reissue and I loved the way it sounded. I ended up selling it. I guess I'm just trying to match that sound. I play a lot of different stuff so I don't think I'm going for a specific tone... just want to sound like that other strat I had. I guess I could get the loaded pickguard for those reissue pups.
     

  8. Eddie H

    Eddie H Strat-Talk Member

    Age:
    47
    58
    Nov 11, 2017
    New York, NY
    I have two MIM's ... one purchased new and one purchased pre-owned.

    On the new MIM, I updated the electronics to a 7 way switch, and changed the pups to a set of Fender high outputs. Sounds amazing. The 7 way switch really opens up the voice of the guitar.

    The pre-owned is an 2007 ash ... it came upgraded with an HSH set with alnico II's on the ends. Sounds amazing. I was going to mod it, but I'm keeping it as is.
     

  9. HopDog

    HopDog Strat-Talker

    160
    Feb 12, 2009
    Upstate NY
    Lots of options for you to get the result you are looking for. I've done a little bit of modding to Strats...often those I have picked up used on CL.

    I haven't had any problems so far with stock pots, and my ear isn't finely tuned enough to detect differences in capacitor type (Orange drop/polyester/polypropylene, paper in oil, etc...). YMMV...

    The most bang for the buck is probably with a pickup change. I find AlNiCo pickups generally more responsive to pick attack and more pleasant sounding than their ceramic counterparts, unless high gain or significant distortion are the only tones required. AlNiCo cleans and slightly overdriven sounds are sweet. As others have mentioned, wiring up a pickguard for full swap makes it easier if you ever want to swap back, or want to change again.

    You can get great sounding pickups for far less than $400. I've tried the following on my CL strats...

    Fender 57/62s...love them. Great vintage pickup sounding pickup. $105

    Fender Pure Vintage 65...love them. Same as above. Slightly more bite...or treble. $106

    Seymour Duncan SSL-1...like them. Slightly more "aggressive" or overwound, but still vintage vibe overall. I compensate by having them set lower into the pickguard. $159

    Fender Tex Mex...like them. Less articulate or more muddy or something. Can't quite put my finger on it. $66

    I would still love to try Fat 50s and CS 69s...and that's without venturing into Lollar, Fralin, Klein, Rose or Cavalier offerings. Hope that helps...have fun!
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2017

  10. nederemer

    nederemer Strat-Talker

    Age:
    31
    324
    Oct 25, 2017
    Somerset, Kentucky, USA.
    My personal favorite if only I could afford them is the @Seymour Duncan antiquity single coils.

    I think they sound groovy. But, I have stock fat50s in my am standard and I love those too.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2017
    Seymour Duncan likes this.

  11. TangerineDog

    TangerineDog Senior Stratmaster

    Sep 5, 2015
    The EU
    @abunchofpedals
    Without having played the guitar you're trying to match, let me ask about its tone.
    Was it rather articulate on the lower strings but with a smooth high end instead of the more icepicky one you get from some sets?
    Then look into Duncan 5-2s.
    I got them a few months ago, now I have put my other Strat projects largely on hold 'cause I have no idea what other sounds I'd ever want from a Strat.
    They're vintage output with Alnico 5s under the three lower and 2s under the three upper strings. And they sound great!
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2017
    Seymour Duncan likes this.