My "Budget" Standard Strat Experiment

Discussion in 'Squier Strat Forum' started by nicmartinez24, Jul 30, 2020 at 9:44 PM.

What part should first be installed?

  1. $21.41 Pickups

    5.9%
  2. $12.23 Pickups

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. $12.92 Pickups (Humbucker)

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  4. Electronics

    23.5%
  5. Nut

    11.8%
  6. Shielding

    17.6%
  7. Tuners

    17.6%
  8. I don't care just do something and your post was way to big!

    29.4%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. nicmartinez24

    nicmartinez24 Strat-Talk Member

    Age:
    38
    Messages:
    16
    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2020
    Location:
    Orange, CA
    So as you might be able to tell, I just joined these forums last week. I feel almost bad saying this, but I think I prefer this new Strat to my Epi LPC I've had for 21 years.

    Anyways, onto the "experiment." Since getting this I've been doing quite a bit of research on various topics regarding this guitar and honestly the most interesting part, is just how close these things can sound when compared to the most expensive Fenders. Sometimes inexpensive parts were used and held there own to the super expensive ones.

    That being said my experiment is this: How good do some of these inexpensive parts out there sound/perfrom? How will inexpensive parts transform this "budget" guitar **OR** are they a waste of time and money and ultimately will I put stock parts back on this thing? I can't wait to get started!

    So here is the list of parts/mods I plan to do to see if I can get this thing to perform while keeping one rule, keep it cheap. I've ordered several parts already and eBay was heavily used.

    (1) Tuners - $20 (*I offered $16 for these so fingers crossed the bid is accepted!)

    I don't like/trust these tuners and with the tremolo, I think locking tuners will be a big benefit. I've almost pulled the trigger on the Fender Locking Tuners ($50) but it goes against my rule. I think I'll end up going with unbranded locking tuners on eBay. This should be VERY interesting.

    http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-5...0001&campid=5338148356&icep_item=293513256474

    (2) Nut - $13.70

    After a bit of research and again because of the tremolo, I went with a Graph Tec TUSQ XL Nut from Amazon. I just put one on my LP and following rule number 1, it was cheap.

    (3)Pickups - $46.56

    So I couldn't decide on which eBay pickups to go with so I bought 3 different ones.

    The first ones are a set of 3 Alnico V single coil pickups. Total cost - $21.41

    http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-5...0001&campid=5338148356&icep_item=293170860376

    Second set was again a set of 3 Alnico V single coils. Total cost - $12.23 - Super excited for these.

    http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-5...0001&campid=5338148356&icep_item=124039074170

    Third one was a wild card and is clearly a copy of the popular humbucker for the bridge position. Its labeled as a FLEOR Hot Rail Guitar Pickup Small Humbucker Double Coil 9-10K. - Total Cost - $12.92

    http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-5...0001&campid=5338148356&icep_item=303163435103

    (4) Electronics - $35.94

    So I read that a popular mod for these guitars was to switch out the 500k pots for higher quality 250k pots as well as the selector switch. I ended getting a kit from Guitarelectronics.com which included 3 CTS 250k pro pots, an Oak Grigsby 5-Way switch, and a new jack. Not sure if this was the cheapest option, but it was the first product I saw.

    (5) Shielding - $16.09

    So this topic I've done very little research on. People say its good to do, I have no clue, so lets see if it makes a difference. I found this KLUSON full coverage pickguard shield on ebay for $12.26. I've also read people use metal tape made for duct work to shield the inside body of the guitar. I found some 3M tape on Amazon for $3.63.

    (6) Neck - $9

    At Home Depot I picked up a 2 pack of 220 grit sanding sponges after seeing a video on youtube. The idea is to lightly sand/polish the edges of the neck to "roll" them and create a more comfortable feel. Not that my guitar had any, but this also smooths out anything fret sprout.

    (7) Setup - $0

    Doing it myself. I think with enough research combined with trail and error, I should end up with something playable, lol. We shall see.


    Total cost for parts - $141.29
    Cost of guitar - $150.00

    Grand Total - $291.29 -
    Not that price matters for an experiment but interesting to know


    For testing, I don't have any high end boutique amps by any means which follows Rule #1, keep it cheap. I have a 20 year old Fender Princeton 65 (solid state) and an about 10 year old Fender Super Champ XD. I just ordered a Tungsol 12AX7 and two 6V6GT replacement tubes today for $72.20. That should be a decent test amp for all of this.

    As far as parts are concerned, thats all I have for now. If anyone has some other inexpensive ideas, throw them out there and I will consider it.

    As I get the parts/mod the guitar, I will definitely post pictures. Cheers!!!
     
    Nadnitram and 3bolt79 like this.
  2. stevierayfan91

    stevierayfan91 Deeply SHY. Strat-Talk Supporter

    Messages:
    10,220
    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2011
    Location:
    Private.
    Hi, @nicmartinez24

    I would do the nice CTS Pots, Oak Grigsby switch, and jack
    first
    than try the 3 sets of pickups..

    than tuners and nut.

    If you decide later that you would like slightly nicer/next step up pickups Bootstrap 1s are good.
     
  3. nicmartinez24

    nicmartinez24 Strat-Talk Member

    Age:
    38
    Messages:
    16
    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2020
    Location:
    Orange, CA
    @stevierayfan91

    Thanks for the suggestion. I've never heard of Bootstrap pickups, I will definitely look them up!
     
  4. nickmsmith

    nickmsmith Jaguar Convert Strat-Talk Supporter

    Messages:
    11,007
    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2011
    Location:
    Pawnee, Indiana
    I would play the heck out of it first, and see what you really think is lacking. One of my strats has the stock squier bullet pickups.. and honestly, they don’t sound a whole lot different than my more expensive sets.

    I would set it up, and maybe do the neck work. That’s what really makes a remarkable difference.

    I definitely would NOT concern myself with electronics and shielding unless I had an issue with them. For example, if they just plain don’t work. You can turn the tone knob to kill some highs.
    If a part goes bad, I would change it then.

    Also, I think squier tuners are just fine, and locking tuners aren’t necessary. If they’re 20 buck tuners, they may be the same quality or worse.

    doubling the money in a cheap guitar isn’t really worth it, unless you can sell the parts for nearly what you put into them.
    I have sunk money into cheap guitars, and the end product wasn’t hardly noticeably any different in sound or feel.

    what I would do, is put a fun pickguard on it. Costs about 10 bucks, and makes a visible difference on the guitar.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2020 at 10:43 PM
  5. Guitarmageddon

    Guitarmageddon Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

    Age:
    44
    Messages:
    21,824
    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2014
    Location:
    Windsor, Ontario, Canada
    You bought a Standard right? NOTHING needs changing - the tuners don't need upgrading, the pickups are good quality alnico V, you're wasting your time......I'd just do shielding and upgrade pots/switch if they need it, and do absolutely nothing else......

    The tuners you link to are not any better than what's on the guitar now, and locking tuners only help for quicker string changes, they don't help tuning stability....

    All 3 sets of pickups you linked to are inferior to what's in a Standard....
     
  6. Bowmap

    Bowmap I nose a thang or two Gold Member

    Messages:
    5,722
    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2017
    Location:
    Surrounded by Sticks
    Go slow and be methodical. Don't throw more than one change at a time into the mix. As @nickmsmith has already mentioned, the setup can make or break you liking a guitar. Get that right before moving on. Some pics would be nice to see what you are starting with.
     
  7. nicmartinez24

    nicmartinez24 Strat-Talk Member

    Age:
    38
    Messages:
    16
    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2020
    Location:
    Orange, CA
    @nickmsmith
    I agree with what you said that a setup and neck work, aka "playability", would make a big difference. I think we've all had guitars that weren't the best of the best but the pure joy playing them made them #1 in our heads.

    As far as electronics and shielding, honestly I don't know. I've read things, watched videos, etc and its more of a lets do this and see what happens kind of thing. Hopefully it will benefit someone somehow.

    But the tuners on this thing, ugh, I just don't get a warm and fuzzy from them. If I could change 1 thing on this guitar and that was it, it would be the tuners. Its me being picky, I know.
     
    nickmsmith likes this.
  8. Guitarmageddon

    Guitarmageddon Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

    Age:
    44
    Messages:
    21,824
    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2014
    Location:
    Windsor, Ontario, Canada
    It can't be the tuners, it must be tight nut slots causing problems.....
     
    The Doo, Thrup'ny Bit and nickmsmith like this.
  9. nicmartinez24

    nicmartinez24 Strat-Talk Member

    Age:
    38
    Messages:
    16
    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2020
    Location:
    Orange, CA
    @Guitarmageddon
    Yes. The stock guitar is good and doesn't really need much, if anything, to make it good.

    But, this is a fun project/experiment. I've never heard $13 pickups before but if some one asked me if I wanted to hear $13 pickups, I'd say yes! Lol.

    And I do not think its a waste of time at all! It's fun and I find it hilarious that you can buy $13 pickups for a Strat. I honestly can not wait to hear them.
     
    Thrup'ny Bit likes this.
  10. Bowmap

    Bowmap I nose a thang or two Gold Member

    Messages:
    5,722
    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2017
    Location:
    Surrounded by Sticks
    Get very familiar with what you have with a good setup to establish a baseline for comparisons. Once you get accustomed to the way it feels and sounds then you will be able to better notice those little subtle changes.

    And Oh! Welcome to the forum.
     
    Believer7713 and Thrup'ny Bit like this.
  11. JB74

    JB74 Senior Stratmaster

    Messages:
    2,479
    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2018
    Location:
    ɹǝpunuʍop
    Leave it alone
    get it setup properly
    play the bejeezus out of it.

    only replace what you break, when it breaks you can decide what to replace the broken stuff with.

    except of course if what you have right now sounds horrible to you....
     
    nickmsmith and Thrup'ny Bit like this.
  12. Thrup'ny Bit

    Thrup'ny Bit Grand Master Curmudgeon Strat-Talk Supporter

    Age:
    61
    Messages:
    35,339
    Joined:
    May 21, 2010
    Location:
    Yorkshire
    If I've got $150 to spend, I buy a $150 guitar, if I've got $290, then I spend $290. Then I just play them until something breaks.
     
    Guitarmageddon and 50yearslater like this.
  13. 3bolt79

    3bolt79 Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Messages:
    7,980
    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2018
    Location:
    Oregon
    ‘I HAVE THE FLEOR PUP FOR MY GRANDSON’S Johnson guitar. they don’t fit the single coil cutout in the pickguard so well, and I had to make the hole for it a little bigger with a scalpel. I bought two of that pickup. They were 5 bucks each direct from the factory in China. Sound awesome though. image.jpg
     
    Stonetone and Viking like this.
  14. jvin248

    jvin248 Senior Stratmaster

    Messages:
    3,586
    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2014
    Location:
    Michigan
    .

    Often the $15 pickup sets have lower internal capacitance than typical/popular aftermarket pickup brands. Due to lower internal capacitance. Just like high end boutique hand-wound pickups have low internal capacitance. High capacitance will give you muddy, low capacitance gives more brightness and note separation.

    Pickup heights matter. A/B test comparisons should be done with measured comparable heights. Often lower to the pickguard give better classic tones.

    If A/B testing to see if pots 'n caps are better/worse, make sure to measure their actual kohms/uF -- pots have a 20% tolerance range and it matters for bright/dark tones.

    Cavity and pickguard shielding matter for noise. Nashua aluminum flashing tape is about the best least expsensive option. You can find scientific non-guitar research on shielding and aluminum performs better than copper. Painted shielding is fast for the factories but provides spotty performance. Use shielded cable from the volume pot to the jack just like we use shielded cable from the guitar to the amp, that cuts about 50% of the idle noise floor.

    Tuner performance improves if you only 'tune up' the guitar to pitch, that way no slack is left in the system such as if you drop down to pitch. Drop a half step lower if you overshoot and then tune-up to pitch.

    Nut cutting and setup are critical to the performance, from tuning stability, to playing in tune, to buzzing, to sitar sounds. Approach the nut swap carefully. Often factory nut slot fixing with graphite powder does the biggest benefit. Ovid grease as that attracts grit and higher friction. Often poorly cut nuts lead players to suspect tuners are at fault when it's the nut swap. If you upsized strings then the nut needs attention.

    .
     
    nickmsmith likes this.
  15. Jmart1212

    Jmart1212 Strat-Talk Member

    Age:
    35
    Messages:
    78
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2020
    Location:
    Tx
    Guitarmageddon and 3bolt79 like this.
  16. 3bolt79

    3bolt79 Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Messages:
    7,980
    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2018
    Location:
    Oregon
    I was surprised that your experience with the FLEOR pup was so bad. I put one in my grandson’s Johnson that ai picked up for 50 dollars, and change the pup for 5 bucks, and a new set of tuners for 15 bucks. It actually sounds rather good now. But then it’s played through high gain distorted amps. Never actually tried it clean.
     
    nickmsmith and Thrup'ny Bit like this.
  17. nickmsmith

    nickmsmith Jaguar Convert Strat-Talk Supporter

    Messages:
    11,007
    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2011
    Location:
    Pawnee, Indiana

    I have never had a single Strat pickup of any cost that has sounded “horrible.” From the cheapest pickup to US wound pickups.

    yeah, before I’d take any “horrible” review seriously, I’d have to hear it played by a competent player on a decent sound setting.

    Most pickups have different attributes, but I don’t see how one is horrible, unless there is something physically wrong with the pickup.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2020 at 2:20 PM
  18. CB91710

    CB91710 This is a Custom Title Gold Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Messages:
    3,654
    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2019
    Location:
    SoCal
    I would not trust any of those pickups or tuners to be better than anything that's on there now.

    There is simply no reason to make a change just for the sake of change, and particularly with pickups... what's on there is cheap, if you are going to upgrade them, then upgrade to a known brand/model like Fender, Duncan, DiMarzio, etc....

    You aren't going to HEAR any difference in a pot/switch upgrade. If what you have is not noisy, then that is the "best" that guitar is going to sound. The reason to replace pots and switches is because they have failed, or in the case of generic Asian stock parts, because they are prone to failure.
    Again, replacing your existing cheap Asian parts with cheap Asian parts from Ebay is going to be no improvement. CTS/Oak-Grimsby is a good choice.

    Likewise, those tuners aren't going to be any better (and may be worse) than what you have.
    Tuning problems on Strats are typically due to an issue with the nut, or the string is not properly wound onto the tuner.
    Cheap locking tuners are worse than good regular tuners... tuner-related issues are due to the mechanism slipping, or not being aligned properly so they are loose or stiff, making them difficult to get to pitch.
    I run locking tuners on most of my guitars (even my Gibsons) because they are more convenient when it's time to change strings... not because I believe they will help with tuning issues.
    But I'm using Grovers on my Gibsons and Fender(Ping) on my Strat... not generic no-name imports, and not even Gotoh.
     
    WilseyFanPDX and Guitarmageddon like this.
  19. dirocyn

    dirocyn Senior Stratmaster

    Age:
    45
    Messages:
    3,304
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2018
    Location:
    Murfreesboro, TN
    A properly made nut will more than likely be an improvement. Many preformed plastic nuts have the slots too deep, which causes binding. And they're often too tall, which means the action at the first fret is higher than it needs to be. Take your time and get the nut right, and your playing experience will be better.

    Change the pots and caps if you want to change the sound. Bigger value pots are brighter, squier usually pairs 500k pots with dark ceramic pickups. Bigger value caps are darker, mostly when you turn the tone down. If the pots have lower value the cap has more effect even when turned up.

    I think you probably overpaid for the electronics.
     
  20. Guitarmageddon

    Guitarmageddon Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

    Age:
    44
    Messages:
    21,824
    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2014
    Location:
    Windsor, Ontario, Canada
    They fit a single coil pickguard hole perfectly if you know how to load them in, one side first, then push the end in so it's almost touching the coil, then you can get the other end in......