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Pickups in series/parallel, in/out of phase. What's the difference in sound?

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  • Pickups in series/parallel, in/out of phase. What's the difference in sound?

    So I have been reading on GuitarNuts.com tonight and I think it would be really fun to do some electronic work on my strat. I have been looking in particular at these three mods:

    http://www.guitarnuts.com/wiring/sw1.php
    http://www.guitarnuts.com/wiring/sw2.php
    http://www.guitarnuts.com/wiring/doublebarrel/index.php

    ...but I really have no idea of the tonal differences of pickups being wired "in series/parallel" or "in/out of phase with each other" If I could get an idea of the different sounds from these set-ups then I could better decide what suits me. Any help is much appreciated. Thanks.

    p.s. My other plan that I've had for a while is 3 concentric pots with one pot for each pickup, top for tone, bottom for volume.
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  • #2
    Out of phase pickups have a very thin, bass-less sound. Peter Green is the textbook example. On a strat, I found this to be pretty worthless, just way too thin, bright and weak.

    Pickups are normally wired in parallel on a strat or nearly any guitar. Pickups wired in parallel will have somewhat less output in parallel than they would alone. Pickups in series add output and make for a pretty dark sound usually, but with single coils it can be a good way to approximate a humbucker. You can wire a guitar to have both series and parallel options.

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    • #3
      Anyone got clips by chance...?
      <div class="signaturecontainer"><font size="3"><font color="red"><font face="Lucida Sans Unicode">Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;<br />
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      • #4
        i have a pair of kramer quad rails that i chucked in the parts box because i found them too muddy... starting to wonder if wiring them so i can just switch between out-of-phase and parallel might bring them to life... and they'd still be totally noiseless

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        • #5
          I've got a pair of quad rails too (and a duo rail), just no guitar to try them in like that :cry:
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          for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.</font></font></font><br />
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          • #6
            Anyone got clips by chance...?



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            • #7
              I've got a pair of quad rails too (and a duo rail), just no guitar to try them in like that :cry:


              someone on the harmony central reviews seems to think they sound great in parallel. could be on to something here...

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              • #8
                try out a Baja tele, and your questions will be answered, although its pickups are selected/designed to work better than an average one would with series and out of phase settings.

                Out of phase pickups, when in parrallel, can sound fine - Peter Greenish, rather clucky. Series out of phase sounds really rather thin and too honky for my tastes. In series is fat, verging on muddy, but can do for quite a decent jazz sound.
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                • #9
                  Brian May's original wiring scheme on his home-built (and used on his BMGs today) is of that type - 3 single coils wired in series, individual on/off switch for each, individual phase switch for each. takes some getting used to after years of "traditional" wiring, but, yeah....2 single coil pups in series/out of phase is pretty thin/bright sounding, especially bridge/middle.
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                  • #10
                    out of phase sounds like poop

                    but Ive heard some recordings where it sounds great

                    go figure
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                    • #11
                      What I'm really looking for now is "in series/parallel". I've heard that taking them from parallel to series can give you a good boost for leads or whatever you need.
                      <div class="signaturecontainer"><font size="3"><font color="red"><font face="Lucida Sans Unicode">Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;<br />
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                      • #12
                        Basically when you are talking about single coil pickups (like a strat) You'll find that wiring two pickups (out-of-phase) with each other produces a really thin quacky sound....It also reduces the overall volume a LOT. So much so that you probably HAVE to make up for the drop in volume by simultaneously wiring the pickups "in series" instead of "in parallel". You can think of the pickups as electrical generators like batteries. "In series" is like running two batteries "end to end" while "in parallel" would be like connecting all the positive poles together and all the negative poles together. Basically running the pickups "end to end/in series" gives you more volume and a deeper tone that lends itself well to the drop you get from phase cancelations.

                        Bottom line: what probably works best in terms of single coil guitars is "in phase combined with in parallel" and "out of phase combined with in series"

                        If you absolutely HAD to have a third option available, I would say that "In series and in phase" produces a more useful sound than "Out of phase and in parallel) The latter is very thin and nasal in tone. With single coils it basically sounds like your guitar is broken
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                        • #13
                          What I'm really looking for now is "in series/parallel". I've heard that taking them from parallel to series can give you a good boost for leads or whatever you need.


                          parallel is standard Tele in middle position: neck and bridge on together where you can clearly hear both at the same time

                          series is both pickups together but they act as 1 like a humbucker, you get more output and a fatter tone.


                          out of phase sounds like a duck farting=not good.

                          blend/pan this is the original tele wiring where the bridge and neck are on together (parallel) but you blend in teh neck from 0-10...this is a cool option but lacks a tone knob
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                          • #14
                            Basically when you are talking about single coil pickups (like a strat) You'll find that wiring two pickups (out-of-phase) with each other produces a really thin quacky sound....It also reduces the overall volume a LOT. So much so that you probably HAVE to make up for the drop in volume by simultaneously wiring the pickups "in series" instead of "in parallel". You can think of the pickups as electrical generators like batteries. "In series" is like running two batteries "end to end" while "in parallel" would be like connecting all the positive poles together and all the negative poles together. Basically running the pickups "end to end/in series" gives you more volume and a deeper tone that lends itself well to the drop you get from phase cancelations.

                            Bottom line: what probably works best in terms of single coil guitars is "in phase combined with in parallel" and "out of phase combined with in series"

                            If you absolutely HAD to have a third option available, I would say that "In series and in phase" produces a more useful sound than "Out of phase and in parallel) The latter is very thin and nasal in tone. With single coils it basically sounds like your guitar is broken


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                            • #15
                              Hot humbucker pups can sound cooler in series. If you were to split one then pase it and use the volume to adjust in how much you want you can get some cool tones. I prefer phasing on a strat though. I have one strat I put in three dpdt switches in place of the 5 way. You have the switches off in center and either forward or reverse toggeled. You can get some really nice tones with say two forward phased and one reversed. This can be done in series or parallel. I found series parallel doesnt sound all that different once you have your tone dialed in on a strat. It does sound better on a tele though and you can get a nice boost with bothe pups selected.

                              Out of pase really isnt much different than having trebble bleed or passing the signal through a cap to block the lows though. I've used every wiring trick in the book before wiring guitars and I always come back to less is more. If you record, all those options come in useful if you only have a single instrument and want to track with different tones. Otherwise using different guitars for different tones is a much better way to go.

                              Playing out live, fiddeling with your sound once you got it, is a distraction to you, the audiance, the other players in the band, and the sound guy who constantly has to rebalance the mix every time you tweak.

                              If you've ever done sound before and got some idiot guitarist constantly dorking with his tone, you'd like to go up on stage and smash the guitar and hand him something with no knobs or switches so you can finally do your job without stage interference. Same goes when you're tracking. Once you start playing, unless its a lead part, its hands off or you'll be paying for every tweak you do during a take in dollars when it comes to mixing time involved in fixing tonal changes.

                              I get around the issue with foot pedals. If I need a specific tone change during a song that has a specific tone, I get it from my pedals. Theres no law saying you have to make tone chenges on the guitar either. Its a simple thing to run a stereo cord to a box and do all your blending and switching of pickups there including forward and reverse phasing too by running a multiconductor cord. Sure would be easier to combine those changes with gain/distortion, reverbs, echos too. With a multi pole switch you can have a rythum pickup with a littel drive and reverb, then step on a switch and have the bridge pup with high gain and echo, and a second switch to combine the two. Volume pedals, stereo amps can add even more with a different pup in each amp. Use a stereo rack effects unit and you chan have stereo panning, choruses, ping pong you name it.

                              I used to do all of these when I only had one guitar or two. Since I have a bunch I bought or built, I just grab one that has the tone I want.

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