Cheap mods for better tone.

Discussion in 'Squier Strat Forum' started by Tonespinner 2, Aug 8, 2020.

  1. Tonespinner 2

    Tonespinner 2 Strat-Talk Member

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    Just did this and it does make a noticeable difference. Thanks again.
     
  2. Shaytan

    Shaytan Strat-Talker

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    Similar dilemma I've had with my 70s lawsuit era Strat copy from Japan. The neck is great and seems to have been a shared part among many copies of the era, such as Maya and Cimar models. The body is pretty certainly plywood/laminate and has otherwise cheap hardware.

    It was pretty cheap and apart from some even wear on the frets, it's in great condition. The tone is really amazing and feels great, plus I do have some fondress for what's essentially a vintage Strat.

    The original idea was to sell it, again, it doesn't have a solid piece body and the hardware is pretty low end of the spectrum, but then again... I won't find another like this for this price any time soon, even this one was (at least according to the seller) almost bought by another person, and I had contacted her a few hours after posting online. Unless I manage to break it, the extra money I could make today, I can also make later down the line.

    This pretty much to say, if a guitar plays good, don't let the specs tell you it's not worthy... If it wasn't, you wouldn't consider it in the first place, right?
     
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  3. ThebiggestJerk

    ThebiggestJerk Senior Stratmaster

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    Suck the neck into the neck pocket. Tune- loosen neck plate screws about 1/2 turn, top then bottom. Retighten, then retune as if it worked guitar should be slightly flat.

    Change your strings.

    Purchase a new patch cable.
     
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  4. fezz parka

    fezz parka fezz parka

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    There's nothing wrong with any of the things ( saddles, block etc.) you listed.

    A good setup, including pick up heights, and a good amp.


    And practice. :)
     
  5. Blackmore Fan

    Blackmore Fan Senior Stratmaster

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    I stopped right there, because I agree that its the most significant way to improve a guitar's tone. The phrase "in for a penny, in for a pound" applies to guitars for me. If you're not ready to commit around $100 on a decent set of pickups, then why bother with the rest?

    With that said, you may also need to spend $20 to match the pots to the new pickups--ceramics need 500K and alnicos 250K.

    But again, if you're IN on this guitar, swapping the pickups is the fastest way to change the tone. If you're not IN on this guitar, don't bother with the rest--just move it.
     
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  6. Dibbs

    Dibbs Senior Stratmaster

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    I have to agree with practice being primary. Who here has ever heard someone playing badly, on a stage, somewhere, and remarked "Man, that guitar is a piece of crap!" ???

    OTOH, the Strat truly is the Hot Rod of the Guitar World. As such, if you are really interested in wringing serious tone out of your axe, you have to be good with a soldering iron, and willing to dial your instrument in, after you screw that pick-guard down. What's the point of 3 pickups and a 5 position switch, if you aren't going to be able to work it?
     
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  7. dirocyn

    dirocyn Most Honored Senior Member

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    The trouble with jumping straight into pickup swapping is there are about 1000 choices, many of which are similar. And whether one is "better" than another depends mostly on personal taste.

    Sometimes pots alone are enough, and the results are really easily predictable.

    If pickups are the engine of a guitar, pots are the carburetor. They need to match for optimal performance.
     
  8. Dibbs

    Dibbs Senior Stratmaster

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    Well, a decent tone cap makes a big difference, but so does uniformly good work with the iron. It's fun, for me, just having a couple of pickguards, to mix and match gear on, to try things out.
     
  9. CB91710

    CB91710 No GAS shortage here Double Platinum Supporting Member

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    This.

    Assuming you have new-ish strings that aren't dead, the single biggest improvement you can make to your tone is practice.

    A Tusq nut will be an improvement over the original plastic nut.
    Brass saddles were a common "upgrade" in the 70s when CBS used pot-metal saddles on the Fullerton-made Strats... both are fairly soft material and I honestly don't think you're going to hear a difference going to steel.

    Pickup upgrades may or may not make a difference.
    My mid 90s plywood Korean Squier came with Alnico pickups rather than the cheap ceramic pickups that are common today.
    The problem with a pickup upgrade is you are moving out of the range of "cheap mods"... cheap pickups from Amazon/Ebay aren't going to be any better than what you have, and good pickups that will make a noticeable improvement in your tone are going to cost more than the guitar is worth for the set... Better to set the money aside and save for a Mexican Player model.

    Locking tuners are a big improvment in convenience for string changes. No improvement in tone, and again, cheap ones from Amazone/Ebay are no better than what you have, good ones will cost $50+
     
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  10. Tonespinner 2

    Tonespinner 2 Strat-Talk Member

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    Thank you for the reply. As a piano technician for close to forty years, I am a "hands on" guy and very interested in knowing the "tool" (the guitar) with which I am working. I used to think that tone was in the brain and the hands but have come around to thinking that the tone is inherent in the instrument (whether it be vocal or instrumental) One must be able to imagine the tone in which you want to achieve but it must be inherent in the instrument. Through trial and error the musician learns how to access that tone. My two cents.
     
  11. amstratnut

    amstratnut Peace thru Music.

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    I gotta disagree on pickups and wiring. The wiring in guitars is so short that new wiring amounts to snake oil. Pots can vary but, I dont know if the amount is super audible.

    Pickups can make a difference but a blanket statement to "upgrade" is just an invitation to go down the rabbit hole.

    If you're gonna change pickups, do a bit of research first. Magnet types,, turns of wire, hot vs vintage.....

    I agree with poster who recommended a good amp. A strat is a strat, even a Squier can be great with a good set up. Amps can make or break a guitar sound.
     
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  12. Dibbs

    Dibbs Senior Stratmaster

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    There's a lot more to it, than just "wiring". You can faraday the router cavity,(copper tape is effective) and I find that the .006 copper Strat pickguard liner, on Ebay,(25$, postage included) eliminates a world of hum and noise, for single coil setups.

    Research is great, but after a while it's like trying to listen to a concert, in a construction zone. At one point or another, you just have to make a leap of faith, and choose a new set of pickups. if they're not perfect, it's not the end of the world.
     
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  13. Dibbs

    Dibbs Senior Stratmaster

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    .............................................................
     
  14. CB91710

    CB91710 No GAS shortage here Double Platinum Supporting Member

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    Proper shielding is probably the most economical improvement that can be done.
    Caps and pots will only improve things if the existing are of the wrong value or have failed.

    The caveat with shielding is that it needs to be done carefully. Every few weeks we get threads from people who have completed the project and get no sound, usually because the tip contact of the jack is making contact with the shield in the jack cavity, but also often because one of the lugs on the switch is touching.

    Sounds like OP knows his way around the block mechanically, so won't likely be a problem there.
     
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  15. Nate D

    Nate D Most Honored Senior Member

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    The “p” word. I thought it was banned here?
     
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  16. PCollen

    PCollen Senior Stratmaster Silver Member

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    1) When were the strings last changed, and what strings do you use ?

    2) Why not buy a better Strat ? You can still keep the Korean one, but you are suggesting sinking $100 or more into it. That's 1/3 the cost of a Squire Classic Vibe or maybe a used MIM Standard Strat. A new nut will only make a difference when playing open strings. Once you fret a string, the nut itself in out of the picture, tonewise. Quality control pots will run you about $17 for 3, if you can install them yourself, and MAY make a difference, and if you coupled them with a new set of pickups for around $100 (thinking 57/62's, Tex-Mex, or others along those lines and price points) then you would hear likely improvement in tone. But you may want to have a guitar repair person look your guitar over and see if they can spot some particular area that needs attention.

    https://www.sweetwater.com/store/de...250k-split-shaft-potentiometer-volume-or-tone

    https://www.guitarcenter.com/Fender/Tex-Mex-Pickups-set-of-3-1273888003932.gc

    https://www.guitarcenter.com/Fender/Pure-Vintage-65-Strat-Pickups-1399909213222.gc

    https://www.musiciansfriend.com/acc...l-57-62-pickup-set?rNtt=57/62 pickups&index=1
     
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  17. Tigre

    Tigre Strat-Talk Member

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    I am sorry if this is offensive, but I have seen this posted many times, and I just tried it on my guitar and I did not like the results, made the guitar sound so much thinner and ice pick-y. I immediately reversed this "mod". It turned my vintage output pickups into tinny, shrill, over sensitive tones. Obviously to each his own, but the results were not as I desired. Maybe this post will help others decide for or against it depending on the sound they want out of their guitar. But to openly say that it improves everything across the board has been misleading in my research....
     
  18. ido1957

    ido1957 Senior Stratmaster

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    I bought an Indonesian Squier PJ Bass and installed CTS pots. The difference was noticeable. Other than sanding out the fret sprout, I no longer felt the need to upgrade further. The pickups cleaned right up and sound pretty darn good. I used the original capacitor.
     
  19. amstratnut

    amstratnut Peace thru Music.

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    Yeah, any random pickups are fine, as long as someone says they are an upgrade. o_O
     
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  20. dirocyn

    dirocyn Most Honored Senior Member

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    You gotta shop around. A set of 3 CTS pots plus an orange drop cap retails for about $8, with free 2-day shipping. Bourns run about $3 each, shipped. Alpha is in the same ballpark. And the people selling are making easy money, because in bulk that stuff is much cheaper.

    And some of the best pickups around come from Bootstrap, where hand wound USA alnico pickups start at $50 a set.
     
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