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Epiphone Wildkat Pickup Upgrade


burton4snow
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I want to upgrade the pickups in my Epiphone Wildkat. They are really dark and muddy sounding. I know about the wiring deal and plan on rewiring it. It is mainly the micro-phonic squeal I cannot deal with so I want something with plastic covers. I know people will say just replace the metal cover with plastic, but this is easier said than done considering the neck has wacky pole spacing and the are welded to the pickup. Any suggestions preferable from someone has done it and it worked out to be an improvement. So far I have heard good things about GFS that they fit good-any truth to this?

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There's plenty out there and many upgrades you can do.

 

Pick up rewind by Tom Brantley, plus other upgrades

https://www.facebook.com/tombrantleyrewinds

[video=youtube;G-26Sc8bFG4]

 

Lollar Picks ups

http://www.lollarguitars.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=p90-pickups

[video=youtube;Bnwnh7rBwuM]

 

 

Also these guys, might work for ya

​http://www.guitarfetish.com/GFS-Alnico-Vintage-Wound-Dogear-Black-Pickup_c_84.html

 

http://www.award-session.com/pdfs/Epiphone%20WildKat%20Tone%20Mods.pdf

 

http://www.wolfetone.com/meaner.html#

 

 

 

Personally I have the pups rewound.

 

 

I like the WildKat, the necks are kind of chubby.

 

The Gretsch Electromatics Hollowbodies are another guitar that sound way better with a bunch of nice mods.

 

I just got a Gretsch Tenny Rose from the Professional Collection and skipped all the mods.

 

I hope this helps, but contact a few folks from the websites I have posted.

 

 

 

 

 

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A couple of ideas with that model to brighten it:

 

1. use 1M pots (audio taper)

2. Get rid of the master volume set up and instead go with 2 volume/2 tone like a Les Paul

3. Use treble bleed caps on the volume pots.

 

This will do a lot for you but upgrading the pickups will help as well.

 

 

I didn't know about that capacitance issue with the internal wiring. Yea..replace that as well.

 

Capacitance to ground can always be an issue with the internal wiring of guitars. Basically the problem is that you are dealing with such a small signal generated by the guitar. It has to deal with all the internal wiring and then the cable to the amp as well. The shielding and internal wire of all that cable acts like a large capacitor shunting off the high end. When you turn down the tone knob, you are adding more capacitance to ground. So in my opinion....make the guitar brighter and if it's too bright, turn down the tone knob. But if the signal is already dull....you can't bring that treble that's lost back.

 

I had an Epi Alley Kat that was a similar model but with a mini hum at the neck and a humbucker at the bridge. It was really dull as well. I did the mods above and fixed the problem.

Edited by guitarcapo
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I want to upgrade the pickups in my Epiphone Wildkat. They are really dark and muddy sounding. I know about the wiring deal and plan on rewiring it. It is mainly the micro-phonic squeal I cannot deal with so I want something with plastic covers. I know people will say just replace the metal cover with plastic' date=' but this is easier said than done considering the neck has wacky pole spacing and the are welded to the pickup. Any suggestions preferable from someone has done it and it worked out to be an improvement. So far I have heard good things about GFS that they fit good-any truth to this? [/quote']

 

Okay, I have a Wildkat and can offer some first-hand advice. I was thinking of starting a thread on this, but this will do.

 

First, the pickups are quite brilliant but need a bit of help, so hold off spending any money just yet.

 

First thing you need to do is remove some of the wire. You don't need to upgrade the wire, pots, etc., just remove a couple feet of cable and do a quick rewire job to the tone pot. Here are the schematics for the Wildkat and a Gretsch.

 

music-electronics-forum.com/attachments/31424d1415833551-epiphone-diagram.pdf

music-electronics-forum.com/attachments/31425d1415833567-gretsch-diagram.pdf

 

Both instruments have the same control compliment - master volume, 3-way selector, separate volume for each pickup and a master tone. The main difference is in how they wire the tone pot.

 

On the Wildkat the tone-pot is wired in series and sits between the 3-way and the master volume pot. This means there is a ton of wire going from the front of the guitar to the back, back to the front, then to the back for the output jack.

 

This can be reduced to one length going from the front to the back by wiring the 3-way to the master volume, and the master volume to the output jack. A short length of cable is needed to wire the tone-pot to the output jack, but they are literally inches from each other.

 

On the Gretsch the tone-pot comes after the master volume and is wired in what's known as a "50's" wiring. 50's wiring has the signal in parallel, coming off the center lug of the master volume then to the output jack. It allows you to roll down the volume knob without the signal getting muddy and was used widely in the 50's. I prefer it. Read more about it here: http://www.premierguitar.com/articles/19909-mod-garage-50s-les-paul-wiring-in-a-telecaster - google is your friend.

 

Changing the wiring is actually quite easy. The Wildkat is an extremely well made instrument, and they spared no expense on the wiring. Some could argue they went a bit overboard. To keep track f things they have grouped wires going to different parts of the guitar and have them run through black sleeves.

 

What you want to do is desolder or cut the wires coming from the 3-way and the master volume at the tone pot. Once cut, pull the wire from the 3-way and the master volume cavities mindful that they are coming out of tube and will pull at surrounding wires.

 

Decide if you want to wire from the 3-way to the master volume, or vice-versa, which doesn't matter. Remove the wire from one of them and run the length remaining under the pickups and solder it to the other side.

 

So if we're going to keep the wire attached to the 3-way, remove the wire from the master volume, run the wire from the 3-way under the pickups and solder it in place where the wire you just removed was, reducing excess wire as you go.

 

Now you should have the guitar working without a tone pot. Since the Wildkat is already 1/2 way to the 50's wiring, and is running hot off the center lug of the master volume, all you need to do is move the tone cap from the center lug to the right lug, as shown on the Gretsch wiring, and run a short cable from the hot on the output jack to the center lug of the tone-pot.

 

It's actually quite an easy mod - easier to do than explain.

 

Once you've sorted out the wiring, the next thing I did was flip the neck pickup so it's RWRP to the bridge and hum-cancels when both pickups are selected.

 

There are numerous tutorials on this, so google is your friend. I recommend you reverse the neck pickup because doing so reverses the ground, so you end up with a hot signal going to the metal pickup chassis - when your hand touches it, a buzzing happens. Reversing the neck pickup minimizes contact between hand and pickup. If you do it to the bridge, your hand will always be in contact just through normal playing. Trust me, I did the bridge first and learned the hard way.

 

To get the pickups apart, I used a dremel to chew away most of the solder on one leg of the pickup, then heated with a soldering iron and pried with a screwdriver to get at the pickup's innards. Be careful you don't overheat the pickups - windings have been known to break under too much heat.

 

Once apart you'll find these are very well made P-90's with wax potted Alnico 5 magnets. They are one of the better sounding P-90's I've encountered, once wired properly and RWRP to each other.

 

All electronic components are top-shelf on my Wildkat. They are full-size pots all around, a nice string gauge, solid 3-way and time spent keeping a crowded control cavity organized. The Gibson click-apart pickup connectors [that make it real easy to reverse the winding on a pickup] are a nice touch.

 

I also suggest spending some time adjusting the pickup pole-pieces. While you can't adjust the pickup height, the pole-pieces are the next best thing. Out of the box the pole-pieces are way too high causing an over-driven sound regardless where the volume is set. Run the guitar through a clean amp and work with each pole-piece until you get a nice, clear signal. Once set, your Wildkat will chime like the best single-coil but get down and dirty when pushing some distortion.

 

Doing the above takes some time, but it costs nothing and turns a muddy sounding guitar into a super-sweet player.

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The problem with a master volume is that it adds another pot in the signal chain to ground before the signal gets to your amp. If the pots are 500K, even with all the pots maxed out, the signal has got three 500K pots in parallel to ground which is the equivalent of a single 167K pot

It would be better to use 1M or no-load pots, get rid of that master volume setup....or both. And yea...shorten that wire to the jack as much as possible. I'd try all that before swapping out pickups.

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I prefer a master volume. On my Les Paul type guitars, I always rewire them from Volume/Volume/Tone/Tone to Master-Volume/Pickup-Blend/Tone/Tone. That way I can dial in the sound I want and roll it up/down with a single pot.

 

I suggest to the OP to make the changes - even just the wiring mods - before deciding on spending any money. I guarantee just the rewire will make the Wildkat sparkle and bring it to life. The rest is icing on the cake.

 

FYI - I was looking at getting Kent Armstrong to do a custom set of hum-cancelling P-90's for my Wildkat but decided to try mods first. I like the way it came out so much, I've scrapped plans for a pickup change.

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Usually I play with all of the pots maxed out and if I have both pickups engaged and I want to alter the tone I will roll off one of the two volume knobs slightly instead of using a master volume. If I'm using individual pickups I use the volume knobs. I usually don't mess with the tone knobs much. I adjust for tone at the amp. Everybody has their own style. I just don't like how tone gets dull when you roll off the volume knob...even with a treble bleed cap.

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I just don't like how tone gets dull when you roll off the volume knob...even with a treble bleed cap.

 

That is the exact problem the 50's wiring solves.

 

I've also found that adjusting the individual pickup volume with a blend-pot, rolling down the master-volume doesn't dull the tone. It's worked out like that on all the guitars I've done this mod to - something just works right like that.

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At the end of the day, the signal generated by a guitar pickup is a weak one. And yes.... a guitar pickup is technically a "generator."

 

All passive controls on a guitar work by diverting this weak signal to ground. Either through a a "resistor" in the form of a pot.... or through a cap.

 

In my opinion this signal is your tone and it's better to get as much of this delicate information as possible to the amp (or pedals) before you shape the sound.

 

That's why quality guitar cables are rated by how little capacitance to ground they create per foot of cable length. You really want to avoid capacitance to ground. What does a tone control do? Creates capacitance to ground. Why but a quality cable and then defeat its function by rolling off the tone knob?

 

Every wiring system I've used dulls the sparkle and life out of a guitar's sound when used. So I use them as little as possible. Especially when playing clean. If you have a lot of gain already at the amp, your guitar's tone isn't as critical due to clipping and compression so you can use controls a bit more.

 

 

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Good advice. I have put 2 tone caps on one of my guitars operating a push pull on the tone pot switches between the 2. I got really bright pickups but I like bright so I went brighter still swapping 0.022 for 0.015 then added 0.047 for warm tones, but even the it's still bright without rolling back the tone.

These are artec mini filtertrons designed to drop into a humbucker route.

I got 2 volumes and one master tone.

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At the end of the day, the signal generated by a guitar pickup is a weak one. And yes.... a guitar pickup is technically a "generator."

 

All passive controls on a guitar work by diverting this weak signal to ground. Either through a a "resistor" in the form of a pot.... or through a cap.

 

In my opinion this signal is your tone and it's better to get as much of this delicate information as possible to the amp (or pedals) before you shape the sound.

 

That's why quality guitar cables are rated by how little capacitance to ground they create per foot of cable length. You really want to avoid capacitance to ground. What does a tone control do? Creates capacitance to ground. Why but a quality cable and then defeat its function by rolling off the tone knob?

 

Every wiring system I've used dulls the sparkle and life out of a guitar's sound when used. So I use them as little as possible. Especially when playing clean. If you have a lot of gain already at the amp, your guitar's tone isn't as critical due to clipping and compression so you can use controls a bit more.

 

 

Sure, but sometimes there's just too much of a good thing.

 

I have a Schecter Andrew Loomis 7-string that has only a volume control. It's a hi-gain shredder guitar The purists say it provides as clear a signal as possible without the tone pot. I say it's ice-picky and would love to add a tone control without drilling holes.

 

My strat has just about every wiring mod known to man, including what I call the 11-switch. What it does is diverts whatever pickup configuration is selected directly to the output jack, bypassing all tone and volume controls. It works great when I want to punch through with a volume and treble boost, but I'm never going to play like that all night. Maybe 5% of the time, if that.

 

And you can't do a descent sounding jazz comp without flatwound strings, a woolly neck pickup with the tone pot rolled back.

 

There are so many different music styles that require different tonal flavours, that one-size-works-for-all just isn't a reality.

 

Unless you only play one type of music one way. But that would get awfully boring awfully quickly.

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On 8/31/2015 at 6:18 PM, Verne Andru said:
Quote
I want to upgrade the pickups in my Epiphone Wildkat. They are really dark and muddy sounding. I know about the wiring deal and plan on rewiring it. It is mainly the micro-phonic squeal I cannot deal with so I want something with plastic covers. I know people will say just replace the metal cover with plastic' date=' but this is easier said than done considering the neck has wacky pole spacing and the are welded to the pickup. Any suggestions preferable from someone has done it and it worked out to be an improvement. So far I have heard good things about GFS that they fit good-any truth to this? [/quote']

 

Okay, I have a Wildkat and can offer some first-hand advice. I was thinking of starting a thread on this, but this will do.

 

First, the pickups are quite brilliant but need a bit of help, so hold off spending any money just yet.

 

First thing you need to do is remove some of the wire. You don't need to upgrade the wire, pots, etc., just remove a couple feet of cable and do a quick rewire job to the tone pot. Here are the schematics for the Wildkat and a Gretsch.

 

music-electronics-forum.com/attachments/31424d1415833551-epiphone-diagram.pdf

music-electronics-forum.com/attachments/31425d1415833567-gretsch-diagram.pdf

 

Both instruments have the same control compliment - master volume, 3-way selector, separate volume for each pickup and a master tone. The main difference is in how they wire the tone pot.

 

On the Wildkat the tone-pot is wired in series and sits between the 3-way and the master volume pot. This means there is a ton of wire going from the front of the guitar to the back, back to the front, then to the back for the output jack.

 

This can be reduced to one length going from the front to the back by wiring the 3-way to the master volume, and the master volume to the output jack. A short length of cable is needed to wire the tone-pot to the output jack, but they are literally inches from each other.

 

On the Gretsch the tone-pot comes after the master volume and is wired in what's known as a "50's" wiring. 50's wiring has the signal in parallel, coming off the center lug of the master volume then to the output jack. It allows you to roll down the volume knob without the signal getting muddy and was used widely in the 50's. I prefer it. Read more about it here: http://www.premierguitar.com/articles/19909-mod-garage-50s-les-paul-wiring-in-a-telecaster - google is your friend.

 

Changing the wiring is actually quite easy. The Wildkat is an extremely well made instrument, and they spared no expense on the wiring. Some could argue they went a bit overboard. To keep track f things they have grouped wires going to different parts of the guitar and have them run through black sleeves.

 

What you want to do is desolder or cut the wires coming from the 3-way and the master volume at the tone pot. Once cut, pull the wire from the 3-way and the master volume cavities mindful that they are coming out of tube and will pull at surrounding wires.

 

Decide if you want to wire from the 3-way to the master volume, or vice-versa, which doesn't matter. Remove the wire from one of them and run the length remaining under the pickups and solder it to the other side.

 

So if we're going to keep the wire attached to the 3-way, remove the wire from the master volume, run the wire from the 3-way under the pickups and solder it in place where the wire you just removed was, reducing excess wire as you go.

 

Now you should have the guitar working without a tone pot. Since the Wildkat is already 1/2 way to the 50's wiring, and is running hot off the center lug of the master volume, all you need to do is move the tone cap from the center lug to the right lug, as shown on the Gretsch wiring, and run a short cable from the hot on the output jack to the center lug of the tone-pot.

 

It's actually quite an easy mod - easier to do than explain.

 

Once you've sorted out the wiring, the next thing I did was flip the neck pickup so it's RWRP to the bridge and hum-cancels when both pickups are selected.

 

There are numerous tutorials on this, so google is your friend. I recommend you reverse the neck pickup because doing so reverses the ground, so you end up with a hot signal going to the metal pickup chassis - when your hand touches it, a buzzing happens. Reversing the neck pickup minimizes contact between hand and pickup. If you do it to the bridge, your hand will always be in contact just through normal playing. Trust me, I did the bridge first and learned the hard way.

 

To get the pickups apart, I used a dremel to chew away most of the solder on one leg of the pickup, then heated with a soldering iron and pried with a screwdriver to get at the pickup's innards. Be careful you don't overheat the pickups - windings have been known to break under too much heat.

 

Once apart you'll find these are very well made P-90's with wax potted Alnico 5 magnets. They are one of the better sounding P-90's I've encountered, once wired properly and RWRP to each other.

 

All electronic components are top-shelf on my Wildkat. They are full-size pots all around, a nice string gauge, solid 3-way and time spent keeping a crowded control cavity organized. The Gibson click-apart pickup connectors [that make it real easy to reverse the winding on a pickup] are a nice touch.

 

I also suggest spending some time adjusting the pickup pole-pieces. While you can't adjust the pickup height, the pole-pieces are the next best thing. Out of the box the pole-pieces are way too high causing an over-driven sound regardless where the volume is set. Run the guitar through a clean amp and work with each pole-piece until you get a nice, clear signal. Once set, your Wildkat will chime like the best single-coil but get down and dirty when pushing some distortion.

 

Doing the above takes some time, but it costs nothing and turns a muddy sounding guitar into a super-sweet player.

So where can I take my Wildkat to get it rewired? And can you explain how to tell them what they need to do when rewiring?

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On 10/11/2020 at 12:41 AM, Warning500 said:

So where can I take my Wildkat to get it rewired? And can you explain how to tell them what they need to do when rewiring?

Any competent tech should have no problem doing the rewiring. The problem is they run a wire from the switch on the upper horn down to the tone pot then back to the upper horn and over to the master volume on the lower horn then back to the output jack. You  can eliminate about 2 feet of wire by going from the switch on the upper bout to the master volume on the lower bout then to the output jack and tone pot and doing a 50's tone pot wiring.

Basically you want to rewire your Wildkat using the Gretch wiring scheme.

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