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Add Clarity, Chime & Vibe to your muddy Epi (etc.) pickups - easy

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  • Add Clarity, Chime & Vibe to your muddy Epi (etc.) pickups - easy

    There's a few vids out there that talk about different alterations, but this one is simple, and I'll add a small tip to it. I just used it on my $250 Epi Wilshire Pro with great results.

    It involves simply raising (unscrewing to raise) the pickups magnetic pole pieces, with one added nuance.

    So the way I approached it was by ear, and you need to do that too, because too much can be more than you might like for your style of music, i.;e. not too much for metal.

    But what I've done is raise the pole pieces as much as 3/32" (or a bit less on the sides) off from the face of the chrome cover (or from their flush position).
    But it's not just that.
    As I raised the pole pieces, at the same time I kept lowering the pickup by approximately the same amount. But I kept the pickups around the general factory spec height level of having the top of the pole pieces approximately 3/32" from the bottom of the strings on the neck pickup, and 2/32" (1/16") from the bottom of the strings at the bridge pickup. This measurement is done while holding the strings down at the last highest fret (i.e. 22nd to 24th depending on your guitar). For each pole piece I basically followed the radius of the fretboard to keep the distance uniform between bottom of each string and top of pole piece. From there I did do a little fine tuning by ear to adjust relative string volume output. Maybe raising or lowering a pole piece a hair for good balanced sound.

    Now while this may be totally obvious to some veterans, the only point I would want to clarify is that this was definitely a bit more than your basic setup tweaking of pole piece heights for balancing output, but only because the height adjustment to the pole pieces was sufficient enough to really emphasize one coil over the other. It in effect moves the tone a bit towards single coil tone by reducing the output of the coil without the pole pieces, but while retaining a fuller, stronger tone.

    I was poised to toss out those pickups and get some GFS Retrotron Liverpools in there (which I still eventually hope to do largely for cosmetic purposes) but this guitar is now night and day in its tone from before and after. The mud is gone. The clarity, vibe and treble are all up. The hum canceling is no longer muffling the tone.

    One interesting thing I found with the Epi Wilshire Pro, is that while it has coil split switching, the bridge p'up would split switch to the inner coil (not the one being closest to the bridge) being on. So if I tried to add a bit more treble bite/vibe by playing with the neck on full plus the bridge split, that inner bridge coil sounded a bit dull, not bitey. Also the neck pickups active split coil is also its inner coil, so you can't get the extremes (i.e. furthest away) going at the same time to get a Telecaster style sound. So now with the outer coils emphasized through significant pole piece raising, I'm getting better vibe, clarity, treble and output in the "not-split" mode, than I was using the coil split switches. It's particularly pleasing if you like vibey clean/on the edge vintage tones.

    For visuals, this was my victim. ;^)

    (left)



    Eventually I'd like to put a B5 Bigsby on it, the GFS Retrotrons, and some Gretschy style knobs. But for now, it's a player instead of just a base platform waiting for much needed mods.
    FWIW, the worn version on the right with the minihums was a significantly better sounding guitar out of the box. No real complaints about its tone. But now its input jack is fighting me. :-(
    Last edited by GAS Man; 06-21-2014, 06:29 PM.
    A '57 Classic, MIJ from USA parts.
    HCEG Existentialism: I buy guitars, therefore, I am.
    Well Dick, it's got a good beat, and I could dance to it, so I give it a 10!
    I have opinions of my own,strong opinions but I don't always agree with them.

  • #2
    Just tried this with my epi LP standard you can turn the slugs all day they don't move. I had to take the pups out and push them up from below. Is this normal for some epi pickups or has the PO stripped the threads ?
    However the 3/32 adjusted neck already sounds as bright as the unadjusted bridge, so yes a big difference
    .

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    • #3
      That is odd. Usually most pole pieces will simply screw up and down. There are indeed some exceptions like on certain models of the wide range Fender - style pickups.

      I've indeed found that some Epiphone bridge pickups sound great as if you're using plenty of gain. That blanketed sound quality can be really enhanced with the extra vibe of the gain or overdrive cranked up, but I grew up with the sounds of guitars from the mid 60s ringing in my noggin. ;^)
      A '57 Classic, MIJ from USA parts.
      HCEG Existentialism: I buy guitars, therefore, I am.
      Well Dick, it's got a good beat, and I could dance to it, so I give it a 10!
      I have opinions of my own,strong opinions but I don't always agree with them.

      Comment


      • #4
        Clever mod! The way you explained it makes sense. Almost makes me wish I had some muddy sounding buckers to try it on.
        Please visit my website www.treeguitarworks.com

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Chordite View Post
          Just tried this with my epi LP standard you can turn the slugs all day they don't move. I had to take the pups out and push them up from below. Is this normal for some epi pickups or has the PO stripped the threads ?
          However the 3/32 adjusted neck already sounds as bright as the unadjusted bridge, so yes a big difference
          That happens some time when the screws get screwed in too far from the factory. I can usually get the threads to dig in from the top if I use the right screw driver to pull up a bit as I turn them. A bit of Loctite on the bottom to act as extended threads helps too, but you have to wax the screws first so the screw doesn't stick to the Loctite after it hardens.

          I have several guitars where I prefer to adjust the poles up a bit. The poles do help Contour the magnetic field a bit. I usually get good results just using a radius gauge and setting them the same radius as the neck and strings. From there I can adjust the amps EQ for the best tones. You can also measure from the bottom of the string to the pole tops.

          Once I get the radius matched to the poles then I may tweak the overall pickup height a bit. For me the goal is to even up the sustain of each string more then their tones, especially when I have some gain going. I ball park the poles with the radius gauge and then I strum a single chord and listen to see which strings die out first. If for example the I have the center poles too high the middle strings may sustain longer then the high strings and drown them out. Much of this is a matter of string choice and picking technique too. I want to be sure all my notes come through evenly when I'm strumming. I can then use my amps EQ to do the rest. My goal is to get a good even Ker-rang like the opening chord to "Wont be Fooled Again" by the Who with that harmonic sustain at the end. The poles can sometimes fine tune that in.

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          • #6
            Such a simple idea I feel stupid for not thinking of it myself. An offshoot of that idea that occurs to me is if you have a Les Paul Junior style guitar with just a bridge humbucker, you could put the pickup in backwards so the side with the raised pole pieces are pointed away from the bridge. Les Paul Juniors bridge pickups had a warmer sound that a typical Les Paul bridge pickup in part because it's pole pieces were farther away from the bridge than the first row of pole pieces on the humbucker.

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            • #7
              ^^ Yeah, it's always good to remember that as an option.

              It makes me think of Peter Green's --> Gary Moore's Les Paul. Note neck pickup flip.



              My oldest guitar is an '83 Les Paul Studio Standard (Custom Shop Edition). It's got some dubious qualities to it (including 4 piece body and top) and the neck pickup was always a bit dull and the bridge sounded too hard, kinda like knocking on wood. But since it was my first "quality" guitar, which I bought making painful $50 payments on it for about a year and a half, I'm sentimentally bonded to it.

              I usually have it stored away, but the next time I get it out, I'll have to try the neck p'up flip on it as well as trying some pole piece height adjustments. Maybe not as much as I did on the Epiphone, but it's probably going to be an effective strategy for it as well.

              Good point!
              Last edited by GAS Man; 06-22-2014, 06:44 PM.
              A '57 Classic, MIJ from USA parts.
              HCEG Existentialism: I buy guitars, therefore, I am.
              Well Dick, it's got a good beat, and I could dance to it, so I give it a 10!
              I have opinions of my own,strong opinions but I don't always agree with them.

              Comment


              • #8
                I like the neck flip. It's an easy mod while changing strings. I thought the 490R was too muddy.

                Another option on the Epi pickups is to remove some windings. Saw a video about it and a friend recently tried it and had success with it.

                After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music. Aldous Huxley

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by DarkHorseJ27 View Post
                  Such a simple idea I feel stupid for not thinking of it myself. An offshoot of that idea that occurs to me is if you have a Les Paul Junior style guitar with just a bridge humbucker, you could put the pickup in backwards so the side with the raised pole pieces are pointed away from the bridge. Les Paul Juniors bridge pickups had a warmer sound that a typical Les Paul bridge pickup in part because it's pole pieces were farther away from the bridge than the first row of pole pieces on the humbucker.

                  Same withe teles with a neck humbucker. Turn the pickup so the poles are to the bridge side. Much better balance.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    1.Add a treble bleed capo to the volume pots.
                    2. go with 1M pots all around.

                    After that you pretty much have to swap out pickups if things aren't bright enough.
                    "I don't want to be immortalized through my work. I want to be immortalized by not dying." Woody Allen

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Flipping doesn't work on all guitars. It depends on the wire route position and how much extra wire you have. Most humbuckers have the wire come off on one side closest to the wire route. Getting the wire to stretch to the other side can jack with the adjustment screws and also tilt the pickup the wrong way. My Epi dot for example would need to have the hole routed out more to pull it off and even then I wouldn't have the clearance below the pickup to lower it enough and still clear the wire.

                      There are Humbucker that have the wire routed to the other side that allow you to install them reversed like that too, and of course some routes don't matter so long as you have enough wire to stretch to the other side.

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