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Help me find my sound! Fender/Squier pickup help.

Discussion in 'Pickup Forum' started by BobArmpit, Oct 7, 2019.

  1. BobArmpit

    BobArmpit New Member!

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    Hello guys!

    Looking forward to your help on a journey to find my ideal pickup sound. I've tried to read as much as possible but I'm stuck.

    First off I am a drummer by nature, since I was very young. I picked up guitar on the side a while ago and have gotten serious about it lately but have never had lessons or an in depth understanding of music theory. I mostly played metal riffs with humbuckers but once I found the sound that single coils offered I bought a strat and fell in love. I am mostly interested in Hendrix/Frusciante style playing.

    I would like to find the right single coils for my specific taste, and here is my dilemma:

    I first bought a used Squier Bullet Strat. This was my first experience with owning single coils (Previously owned Ibanez and Gibson with humbuckers). I loved the sound! I also knew I would have to upgrade since I only paid $60 for the guitar, I knew there were much better options out there.

    I upgraded to a 60's MIM road worn strat. Really liked the guitar and the sound only it was lacking in "oompf" compared to the Squier. I think I was missing the bass response. I sold this and purchased a brand new American Professional Strat. I loved the feel of the guitar and look (Antique Olive), but I really hated the Vmod pickups. To me it didnt sound like most strats I was used to (mine, ones played in stores, and friends guitars). I sold the stock Vmod pickups for a Seymour SSL1 loaded pickguard. The sound is better than what came stock, but if I am honest, I am still truly not happy.

    This sounds nuts I know, but I still prefer the sound of the Squier pickups. They offer a bit of power and bass that I havent found in the upgraded pickups. I am an electrical technician by trade so mods could be easy for me but I need some help understanding pickups (hot/overwound, etc...)

    I like the Squier tone but it lacks clarity. Where should I begin my search to find single coils with he "oompf" I get in the Squier with some added clarity? Is what I am talking about, a hot single coil? With my ohm meter can I check the values for comparison (How do I measure)? Also I understand there are a lot of differences with the cheap ceramic pickups vs alnico?

    Please be gentle! I know there is much to learn here.

    Regards,
    Bob
     
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  2. amstratnut

    amstratnut Peace thru Music. Strat-Talk Supporter

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    In general the hotter the pickup the more mids you will have and less treble. For me its always trying to find the best compromise.

    I like mids but dont want a dull sounding guitar.

    But here is the thing....traditional single coils are only picking up what the guitar is saying. Different guitars sound different. So pickups are not going to "change everything".

    You are essentially limited to, "do I want hotter output with more mids or vintage output with less mids but a sound with more chime. The guitar itself will dictate how much of which feature you get.

    Lastly, educate yourself on adjusting pickup heights. You may be able to adjust the bass side higher to attain the oomph you desire.

    Most pickup descriptions and "upgrades" are pure internet hype. Not all but, most.
     
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  3. AxemanVR

    AxemanVR I appreciate, therefore I am... Strat-Talk Supporter

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    What amp are you using?

    This can make a huge difference in whether you really need a pickup change or not, since the right amp can make a wimpy pickup sound bold and powerful.

    I currently have vintage output pickups in my 2018 Fender Road Worn 50s Strat and not only can I get the sweetest vintage tones but, when pushed, my 5-watt 1x12 single ended Fender AA764 based tube amp can literally rip your face off!



     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2019
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  4. BobArmpit

    BobArmpit New Member!

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    I am currently using a Blackstar HT Club 40 Mark II - 40-watt 1x12" Tube Combo Amp‎

    I really love the amp. Just switching between the Squier and Fender makes such a huge difference to my ears.
     
  5. Guitarmageddon

    Guitarmageddon Squier Freak Strat-Talk Supporter

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    I think you just prefer the more compressed higher output of a ceramic magnet pickup as opposed to vintage style alnico @BobArmpit
     
  6. AxemanVR

    AxemanVR I appreciate, therefore I am... Strat-Talk Supporter

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    `
    40 watts is a lot of power when it comes to tube amps and if you aren't cranking it up sufficiently you may not be able to squeeze out all the tube goodness that you can.

    That's why I mentioned my 5 watt tube amp, since I'm able to crank it up to "8" or higher in order to reach its "sweetspot" without breaking any windows.

    I see the Blackstar HT Club 40 Mark II comes with a "power reduction circuit". I'm not sure what that means on your particular amp but it's usually either some sort of "attenuator" or a setting that bypasses one or more power tubes to reduce output. I can't speak for how well designed your Blackstar is, but some of these power reduction schemes are notorious for sucking tone.

    Anyway, if you're forced to set the volume very low to avoid disturbing the neighbors, you probably aren't reaching the full potential of your amp to get the best tone. I find the best "tone zone" is when I set the output so that it's on the verge of clipping (distorting). At that point the amp feels like it's really alive and the sound is full and ready to burst once you dig in, but still has a sweetness when backing off.

    In addition I've found that the volume control settings can also affect the brightness and bottom end as you crank it up, which means your tone settings at lower volumes may not directly translate as you turn things up - so be prepared to make adjustments. That's why they say not to set your performance tone at bedroom levels since it probably won't work out very well once you're up on the stage.

    The nice thing about a 5-watt amp is you can set your performance tone at bedroom levels, then mic it when you get up on stage. ;)

    Just a couple of things to consider...



    `
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2019
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  7. Guitarmageddon

    Guitarmageddon Squier Freak Strat-Talk Supporter

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    Double posted due to forum hiccup/lag
     
  8. elduderinoTF

    elduderinoTF Strat-O-Master Strat-Talk Supporter

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    This is what I was thinkin'.
     
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  9. elduderinoTF

    elduderinoTF Strat-O-Master Strat-Talk Supporter

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    No, this is what I was thinkin'. My bad.
     
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  10. Yves

    Yves Most Honored Senior Member

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    frusciante-ampli.jpg
    Something like that will get you closer
     
  11. Grux

    Grux Strat-O-Master

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    Try a G&L with the MFD pickups. Seriously, even the Tributes have the same pickups as American G&L's. Thats my favorite sound, they're clear, powerful and can do a lot of different things with the tone knob.
     
  12. dirocyn

    dirocyn Senior Stratmaster

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    Congrats on finding a Strat and loving it. They are awfully fun to play.

    This is something that really confuses me, people keep comparing Frusciante to Hendrix and I don't get it. Obviously Frusciante is a Hendrix fan (all right thinking people are) but other than the Purple Haze riff in Dani California I don't hear a lot of similarity between them. Hendrix is very clearly the leader and the rest of the band cues off him, while Frusciante is providing ornamentation around the edges while Flea and the drummer (there have been a few) are driving the beat. IMO a better comparison would be between Frusciante and Keith Richards--both of them usually ornament a song while relying on the rhythm section to keep the groove going. Total digression, but I had to get that out there, maybe somebody can explain this to me.

    Hey, love what you love. You don't listen with your wallet, if Squier pickups sound better to you then use those. A great database with electrical measurements of various pickups is here: http://www.echoesofmars.com/pickup_data/viewer/
    This includes Bode plots, in other words the EQ curve of the pickup itself. Also on the top of the page, there are links about collection methods etc. This is some pretty high level stuff, all put together by @Antigua who is a genius with this stuff. Follow the links and you'll learn a lot.

    The "oomph" or "hotness" of a pickup is measured in Henries, and Ceramic pickups (Squier ceramics are v. similar to the ceramic pickups listed in the database, I got some measured though they're not listed in the database) tend to have quite a bit. Although they often have a lower resonant frequency peak. You can't measure either of those things with a standard multimeter, although if you're comparing pickups with the same wire and the same magnet and the same design, the one with more winds will have more dc resistance (ohms) and will have higher output (henries) and a lower resonant frequency peak.

    A lot of people talk about ohms in a pickup, but DC resistance is an indirect measurement--it's like talking about how fast a car can go based only on tire pressure. Like DC resistance, tire pressure is easy to measure, but it doesn't tell you a whole lot unless it's zero.
     
  13. Triple Jim

    Triple Jim Senior Stratmaster

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    How much have you experimented with your amplifier settings? With one of my guitars I normally turn up the treble on the amp because if I don't it lacks the brightness my other guitars have.
     
  14. tschucha

    tschucha Strat-Talker

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    ceramic-pickups2.jpg

    Yep. Some of the Squiers come with ceramic pickups with two bars, some with one. IMHO and believe me it's only my opinion backed up by a limited number of actual experiences...... I haven't heard any of the one bar ceramics that sounded good to my ear. I have heard quite a few sets of the two bar ceramic Squier pickups that just kick ass. I have one MIJ Fender Strat that came with a set of these two bar ceramic pickups and felt ripped off when I saw them. I cooled down after I played them for a while as they sounded just fine. Admittedly I replaced these with a set of Rose Morticia pickups but still I would have been fine with the ceramics.

    In the last couple of years I've tried my hand at revamping a few Indonesian Affinity Squiers. I love these guitars as they are made of alder and a bit lighter because of the thinner bodies. The necks are great (thin and pretty well made). I'll dress the fret ends, roll the fretboard edges and polish the frets of these necks. They're great. Not everybody likes thin necks but if you do try one. I'll replace the tuners and bridge saddles and sometimes the pickups. I've experimented here with the Donlis, both the Alnico 2 and Alnico 5s. All can be very good. Go with whatever your ear likes.
     
  15. Guitarmageddon

    Guitarmageddon Squier Freak Strat-Talk Supporter

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    I think it's the guys that play hard rock and always have at least some medium/high gain that like ceramic Strat single coils....

    I play 90% cleans and can't stand 'em.....

    @tschucha
     
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  16. jaxjaxon

    jaxjaxon Strat-Talker

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    I think you get more clarity with under wound pickups that are heavily potted. Over wound pickup will sound more distorted. Underwound wont be as loud. Then you have magnet choices they can help determine the tone range, more mids more treble more bass or well balanced. Pole height or how strong of a magnetic field comeing off a pole peace.
     
  17. dirocyn

    dirocyn Senior Stratmaster

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    In the whole tone quest, don't forget about other factors.

    Lower value pots bleed away some of the signal (starting with the highs). All else equal, a guitar will be brighter and a little louder with 500k pots than with 250k.

    The value of the tone cap makes a huge difference, unless you're in bridge position (on a stock Strat the tone control isn't hooked to the bridge pickup).

    Pickup height--closer to the strings = louder and brighter. Of course you can only go so high before you get wolf tones, and you can only go so low before the pickup bottoms out in the routing or falls into the cavity. And don't forget that the bass and treble sides of each pickup adjust independently--if you want more from the bass strings, bring up the bass side of the pickup.

    Adjusting these things is a whole lot less expensive than a pickup swap; you can buy a whole set of pots and a cap for under $10. Adjusting the pickup height is free.

    And then there are all those knobs on both the guitar and the amp that can be turned...
     
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