How heretical is it to swap pickups in a vintage Fender?

Discussion of vintage Jazzmasters, Jaguars, Bass VIs, Electric XIIs and any other offset-waist instruments.
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Re: How heretical is it to swap pickups in a vintage Fender?

Post by jvin248 » Sat Nov 28, 2020 3:15 pm

.

I'd lift the entire wiring harness and pickups out as a complete unit to store to the side.

Then go wild with your pickups and control mods.

I had one guitar I loved the neck pickup tone, didn't like the bridge pickup, and went on a modding spree. Eventually I went to return it to original because I missed the neck pickup tones .... and the parts were too scattered. Pots 'n Caps matter.

.

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Re: How heretical is it to swap pickups in a vintage Fender?

Post by mbene085 » Sat Nov 28, 2020 5:17 pm

Larry Mal wrote:
Sat Nov 28, 2020 1:04 pm
I hear you, though. I am done with 60 cycle hum and buzz. I'm about to buy an Ilitch guard for my Legacy to go with those Wilde Microcoils, even they are too loud for me.

But I won't own any other guitar with single coils that I can't remove the hum from (like the Lead).
Yeah, I feel the exact same way. I need a way to make a single coil guitar noiseless or I am no longer interested.
Larry Mal wrote:
Sat Nov 28, 2020 2:30 pm
And I did buy the Ilitch backplate to use with the Microcoils. I'll be sure to update.
Oh, that should be really silent when you're done. Considering how low-noise the Microcoils are to begin with, the Ilitch should really take it the rest of the way.
jvin248 wrote:
Sat Nov 28, 2020 3:15 pm
I'd lift the entire wiring harness and pickups out as a complete unit to store to the side.
You know, I was thinking of doing just this. I guess it would matter more if the solder joints were original (you could just desolder the ground wire and then lift everything out intact), but in this particular case, I know the pickups were desoldered from the switches for the rewind.
Surfysonic wrote:
Sat Nov 28, 2020 12:39 pm
Interesting! I didn't remember that about the pickups (or missed it entirely, heh) when I bought that guitar from Olivia's Vintage Guitars off of eBay back in 2017 before we did our trade. I was looking in my purchase history on eBay but sadly they only go back as far as 2018.
I found the original Reverb listing from Olivia's here which mentioned it. It's a refin so rewound pickups don't make/break how I feel about it (I adore it), especially since the Fralin rewinds sound so great. Fortunately, the rewind also make me feel much less guilty about contemplating these Kinmans (Kinmen? heh).

I will admit that I have de-torted it as well. The blue sparkle and red tort just wasn't doing it for me. I've been sort of continuously experimenting with pickguards. My current favourites are black (since the few blue sparkle guitars originally done at the time had painted black pickguards) and mint (the other of the three pickguard colours that existed in '62), though my latest experiment was pearloid, which is just crazy enough to work even though it's an anachronism. If I keep the pearloid, I'd probably put black covers on the Kinmans for that Mustang vibe.

Changing the pickguard felt less major than changing the pickups though - screws feel like more minor surgery than solder.

Saying this stuff out loud has made me realize that I was being overly conservative. I think I'll swap the pickups. This guitar is a refin, I've already removed the tort, and a previous owner carved their social security number into the back of the headstock and a control plate for some reason.

I'll probably try replacing just the pickups, and if they don't play nice with the 1meg pots, take the whole wiring harness out to preserve intact, and wire up a new one. Kinman pickups are supposed to behave like normal ones, but I don't know how they'll react to 1M pots, since apparently no evidence exists on the internet of anyone having ever installed their Jaguar pickups before.

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Re: How heretical is it to swap pickups in a vintage Fender?

Post by Surfysonic » Sat Nov 28, 2020 9:59 pm

All sounds good! I think I was liking mint or black as pickguard options when I had it, too. Good luck with the Kinmans, let us know how they work out!

It's a shame Fralin doesn't do pickups for Jags, his hum-cancelling split rail pickups are really wonderful in my Squier VM Mustang and Fender Tele. I just ordered a loaded pre-wired Strat pickguard for my Fender Vintera '50s Strat Modified with hum-canceling pickups and a blender Tone pot for more pickup options (i.e., all 3 pickups, bridge & neck).
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Re: How heretical is it to swap pickups in a vintage Fender?

Post by Larry Mal » Sat Nov 28, 2020 10:34 pm

I have a 1968 Jaguar, and it is a complete gut job that I really need to get going on.

I will feel no burden to put vintage pickups in the thing. It'll get Kinmans.
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Re: How heretical is it to swap pickups in a vintage Fender?

Post by hverlind » Sun Nov 29, 2020 2:06 am

mbene085 wrote:
Sat Nov 28, 2020 5:17 pm
Kinman pickups are supposed to behave like normal ones, but I don't know how they'll react to 1M pots, since apparently no evidence exists on the internet of anyone having ever installed their Jaguar pickups before.
Looks like they come in three different flavors? Do you reckon the “Surf” ones are closest to the original specs? Looking forward to your review!
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Re: How heretical is it to swap pickups in a vintage Fender?

Post by gusgorman » Sun Nov 29, 2020 2:21 am

One other thing you could do instead of swapping pickups is move to the UK. That'd get rid of the 60Hz hum. Unfortunately you'd have 50Hz hum instead. :D

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Re: How heretical is it to swap pickups in a vintage Fender?

Post by Mechanical Birds » Sun Nov 29, 2020 4:27 am

A lot of stuff like this, in my mind, is basic maintenance and should be approached as such. Fetishizing ‘originality’ over functionality seems goofy to me. If a guitar has a non-functioning pot, it needs replaced.

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Re: How heretical is it to swap pickups in a vintage Fender?

Post by Jaguar018 » Sun Nov 29, 2020 7:39 am

I just don’t quite get why some people are so bothered with 60 cycle him? I’m not living in some electronically sealed super house.

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Re: How heretical is it to swap pickups in a vintage Fender?

Post by Larry Mal » Sun Nov 29, 2020 9:25 am

mbene085 wrote:
Sat Nov 28, 2020 5:17 pm


Oh, that should be really silent when you're done. Considering how low-noise the Microcoils are to begin with, the Ilitch should really take it the rest of the way.
I'll probably try replacing just the pickups, and if they don't play nice with the 1meg pots, take the whole wiring harness out to preserve intact, and wire up a new one. Kinman pickups are supposed to behave like normal ones, but I don't know how they'll react to 1M pots, since apparently no evidence exists on the internet of anyone having ever installed their Jaguar pickups before.
Just a couple quick thoughts-

First, in my particular environments anyway (the old apartment and the new house), I did not find the Microcoils to be any less (or more) noisy than a typical Alnico. I have read over and over that other people have found them to be quieter, and from what I understand of the construction I was surprised that I didn't.

I play in a room with two 24" computer monitors, and those are the noise sources. I bought new ones in an effort to get around that but failed. The Microcoils might work well for people not in a room like that. This is just kind of a PSA here.

The pickups sound incredible, though, and while I debated pulling them in favor of Kinmans I'll go the Ilitch route.

Next, I wouldn't have any fear about Kinmans and the stock Jaguar wiring, I have those Thickmasters with the stock AVRI wiring and have no qualms about that. You'll be just fine with the Kinmans.

I think you will love them.
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Re: How heretical is it to swap pickups in a vintage Fender?

Post by mbene085 » Sun Nov 29, 2020 10:12 am

Larry Mal wrote:
Sun Nov 29, 2020 9:25 am
That's all good stuff to know, thanks. I still haven't installed my microcoils yet, because my backlog of stuff to do just keeps getting longer. I'm super curious to test them out in my own environment and see how they are, noise-wise. My environment is about to change anyway, with the move to the new house, so hopefully that doesn't turn out to be a noisier power supply than here.

I will try to get some Kinman jaguar pickups installed before you get to your 68 Jag restoration, though. Hopefully I can be the trailblazer for once!
Jaguar018 wrote:
Sun Nov 29, 2020 7:39 am
I just don’t quite get why some people are so bothered with 60 cycle him? I’m not living in some electronically sealed super house.
How many instruments do you play other than electric guitar? I play classical, acoustic and 12-string guitar, bass, ukulele, piano, clarinet, saxophone, and am now working on the lute. I also sing, though not well enough to brag about.

My point is that absolutely none of those instruments, or any of the instruments I play along to when playing those instruments, generate a droning, uncontrollable musical note that isn't even on the Western chromatic scale (60Hz lands almost a quarter tone between Bb and B). If my vocal mic was playing a microtonal drone note against my will, I'd replace it. I'd ask a trumpeter if they needed my assistance buying a functional trumpet if every note they played also had a "Bb-ish" quarter-tone coming out along with it. If they tried telling me that I had to live with it because the droning trumpet just had "that little bit of extra sparkle to its tone" compared to non-droning trumpets, I'd politely dismiss them from the project and find someone whose instrument didn't distract with dissonant noise.

It's just plain not normal in any musical genre to have a preventable, droning, out-of-tune note be a side effect of an instrument's construction. It's been adopted into electric guitar dogma that single coils are an acceptable thing, because some of the earliest instruments were built that way, and the hum could be concealed on recordings by finding the quiet spot in the room where the player could face the perfect angle and not ruin the track.

There are just so many amazing-sounding pickups these days that don't hum. It's not just "PAF or single coil" like it was in 1957. There are tons of noiseless designs that no listener would ever be able to pick out of a mix and identify as not being a single coil (plenty of people even fail to distinguish humbuckers from single coils in a musical context, but that's another matter).

It's fine if you want to listen to single coils and appreciate them at home, because of their history and their tone etc. But for making actual music, live or recorded, I genuinely don't understand how an electric guitarist should get a pass that no other instrumentalist would for throwing a droning note into the mix.
hverlind wrote:
Sun Nov 29, 2020 2:06 am
Looks like they come in three different flavors? Do you reckon the “Surf” ones are closest to the original specs? Looking forward to your review!
The "Surf" Jag is the Impersonator 56 strat pickup in a Jag shape/claw. The "Blues" is the Impersonator 54 strat pickup. The "punk Jag" is the Texas Jalapeno strat model. There's a lot more info (and youtube clips) for the strat versions. The 56 ("surf Jag") is a bit brighter and more scooped, while the 54 ("blues Jag") has a bit softer treble and slightly more prominent mids. The Texas Jalapeno is supposed to be similar in tone to Fender Texas Specials with a bit more high end, plus a higher output (though, due to Kinman's design, higher output doesn't mean more overwound-sounding, they just mean a stronger signal hitting the amp).

For a '64 or later Jag, I'd go with the Surf. This '62, however, has the early flat-poled pickups that are significantly darker with a more prominent midrange than the later, staggered Jag pickups. My '65 refin Jag sounds similar to the AVRI 62 and AV65 pickups I've heard, as well as all the "vintage style Jag" pickups I've ever tried or heard. The '62-'63 flat poles sound totally different to me. Out of the available options, the Blues Jag sounds like what I'd put in mine to more closely capture the less trebly, more middy tone of the '62, but the Surf Jag would 100% be what I'd put in my '65 refin (and likely will, if the first set impresses me in terms of both tone and noise rejection).

That is, of course, just my educated guess based on listening to the strat pickups and reading about Kinmans. Once I buy the Blues Jag set and install them, I'll have an idea of how they actually compare to my '62 and '65, and will definitely post a review on OSG. There's absolutely no firsthand reports or sound samples of these Jag pickups out there.

It doesn't help that Kinman is constantly revising their designs, which is great from a product quality standpoint, but frustrating when seeking reviews. For example, the Impersonator 56 video I posted above is the "Impersonator A56", which was then replaced by the "Impersonator E56" because Kinman found he could improve it with slightly Enhanced high-end response, and the Impersonator 54 had made it up to the "Impersonator 54 (v5)", the 5th iteration by that name, which incorporated what Kinman calls their "gen2" design, so the first four versions were all technically first-generation construction but with increasing numbers of "2nd generation" elements, the 5th was what he considers a fully 2nd generation construction, and now the pickup has been entirely renamed the "Kinman MV" for "Modern Vintage" with its latest tweak.

What I've gathered from extensive reading is that most iterations are very tiny improvements, with a few generational leaps. In the 2000-2010 era, kinman's first generation pickups could only produce what he called "aged tone", which is marketing speak for "not quite as much treble as a regular, new single coil". He then made a design tweak that was a generational leap forward, and was able to release a whole line of "unaged tone" pickups, which are the ones that have garnered rave reviews.

I admire his commitment to product improvement, but he really needs a marketing consultant and a website overhaul to help people understand this stuff. I had to do a solid 20+ hours of review reading, internet research, and Youtube watching to piece together the history/terminology/tone behind the confusing model names over the years.
Surfysonic wrote:
Sat Nov 28, 2020 9:59 pm
All sounds good! I think I was liking mint or black as pickguard options when I had it, too. Good luck with the Kinmans, let us know how they work out!

It's a shame Fralin doesn't do pickups for Jags, his hum-cancelling split rail pickups are really wonderful in my Squier VM Mustang and Fender Tele. I just ordered a loaded pre-wired Strat pickguard for my Fender Vintera '50s Strat Modified with hum-canceling pickups and a blender Tone pot for more pickup options (i.e., all 3 pickups, bridge & neck).
Yeah, those Fralins sound great on all the videos I've watched, but Kinman remains the only game in town for something that'll drop right in to a vintage Jaguar. I also like that they look vintage-correct as well. The Fralins look cool, but the kind of cool that I only want on a modern guitar and not a vintage one :)

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Re: How heretical is it to swap pickups in a vintage Fender?

Post by Larry Mal » Sun Nov 29, 2020 10:54 am

Jaguar018 wrote:
Sun Nov 29, 2020 7:39 am
I just don’t quite get why some people are so bothered with 60 cycle him? I’m not living in some electronically sealed super house.
I'll just add that I have some instruments that I've rendered so quiet that they don't make any sound until I pluck the string. A Telecaster, a Jazz bass, and an AVRI Jazzmaster with Kinman Thickmasters and an aluminum guard. A Les Paul Studio, I think my Firebirds at this point.

And I mean that, there is simply no sound until I generate sound.

It's wonderful. Once having that I basically can't go back. It always annoys me and distracts me.

All I do is record music at home at this point- well, I guess I've been known to record music for other people lately. And some of the music I record is electronic in nature, and buzzing guitar really stands out. You can have these otherwise pristine synthetic sounds and then some buzzing and crackling guitar, I described it as "here comes 1958 all of a sudden".

I basically despise noise in the recording process and seek to eliminate it constantly. I have a BA in audio production which was a lot of fun, and the professors would always remind us that the only good way to deal with noise is to not have it in the first place. I remember one class we were listening to a Michael Jackson song and the professor pointed out that the song starts very sparse and there is a finger snap in the beginning of the song or some other percussive element like that. I forget exactly, but the point was that by the middle of the song when all the rest of the elements came in, you could still hear that finger snap very clearly, it hadn't been drowned out by the rest.

Well, that made a big impression on me, at least as a concept. If you capture everything cleanly, you can always make artistic choices down the road to have any kind of mix you want, you can get to dirty, crowded, busy and distorted if you want. If you record a whole bunch of noise at each step, the noise floor will crowd out the more fragile elements like a finger snap and you will never be able to have any other kind of mix even if you want it.

Now, this is just me and the way I look at things, and bear in mind that I'm not any kind of audio professional and haven't done any of this for money except for very briefly years ago. But I have been trained to hear noise in everything I'm doing and consider it and eliminate it if possible, squeaky floor boards and drum seats, all that stuff.

And since there is no reason to tolerate the noise of single coil guitars in 2020, I don't. It's only still there because of complacency in the guitar market and fetishization of the past. I'm over it.

The fact is, in 2020, noise free pickups sound very good. As good as the things guitar magazines tell us all to worship. Kinman pickups don't just sound good "for noise free pickups" they simply are very good sounding pickups.
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Re: How heretical is it to swap pickups in a vintage Fender?

Post by Joey Ace » Sun Nov 29, 2020 12:24 pm

My Novak pups are a lot quieter than the the originals.

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Re: How heretical is it to swap pickups in a vintage Fender?

Post by mbene085 » Sun Nov 29, 2020 3:52 pm

Well, I've done it. Kinman "blues jag" pickups ordered. I'm trying not to let the name deter me, as I've never desired to play the blues on a Jaguar and never will. They're the middle output of the three options, though it's not entirely clear if they're the middle of the road in terms of darkness and midrange. They'll be fuller and a bit darker than the surf jag for sure, but the punk jags are a wildcard. The strat pickup they're based off of have virtually no reviews or sound samples online, and it sounds as though they might be brighter and more aggressive sounding despite being higher output. Perhaps just more "modern" sounding.

Of the two pickups that are based on vintage Fender archetypes, this is the higher output and fuller sounding option, though. My '65 Jag may end up with the surf or punk option, depending on how these sound.

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Re: How heretical is it to swap pickups in a vintage Fender?

Post by Jaguar018 » Mon Nov 30, 2020 7:57 am

mbene085 wrote:
Sun Nov 29, 2020 10:12 am
It's fine if you want to listen to single coils and appreciate them at home, because of their history and their tone etc. But for making actual music, live or recorded, I genuinely don't understand how an electric guitarist should get a pass that no other instrumentalist would for throwing a droning note into the mix.
Everything that you and Larry bring up is quite valid. At this point for me I am realistically done doing any serious recording aside from minor home stuff when I have the inspiration and oodles of free time (and a newer computer...). It just doesn't bother me that much, and these days it's pretty easy to digitally dial out that stuff if you so desire. For live stuff, I don't totally get your complaint. For a four piece classical ensemble performance I'd want/expect dead silence from the audience, but my experience with live shows that involve electric guitars is that there is no quiet reverence for the performer. There is a constant din of conversation and bar noises. At full tilt, maybe a person with trained ears will still hear that drone, but I can't say I ever have.

Still, I get what you're saying. Regardless of what I'm bringing up, classic single coils produce that sound (though you should hear my Jaguar-- it's pretty damn quiet, like more than most of my other single coils).


mbene085 wrote:
Sun Nov 29, 2020 10:12 am
It doesn't help that Kinman is constantly revising their designs, which is great from a product quality standpoint, but frustrating when seeking reviews. For example, the Impersonator 56 video I posted above is the "Impersonator A56", which was then replaced by the "Impersonator E56" because Kinman found he could improve it with slightly Enhanced high-end response, and the Impersonator 54 had made it up to the "Impersonator 54 (v5)", the 5th iteration by that name, which incorporated what Kinman calls their "gen2" design, so the first four versions were all technically first-generation construction but with increasing numbers of "2nd generation" elements, the 5th was what he considers a fully 2nd generation construction, and now the pickup has been entirely renamed the "Kinman MV" for "Modern Vintage" with its latest tweak.

What I've gathered from extensive reading is that most iterations are very tiny improvements, with a few generational leaps. In the 2000-2010 era, kinman's first generation pickups could only produce what he called "aged tone", which is marketing speak for "not quite as much treble as a regular, new single coil". He then made a design tweak that was a generational leap forward, and was able to release a whole line of "unaged tone" pickups, which are the ones that have garnered rave reviews.

I admire his commitment to product improvement, but he really needs a marketing consultant and a website overhaul to help people understand this stuff. I had to do a solid 20+ hours of review reading, internet research, and Youtube watching to piece together the history/terminology/tone behind the confusing model names over the years.
This is the rub for me, and living in 2020. It's something that Brad/øøøøøøøø has brought up too: obsolescence. Constantly improving and updating your pickups is great, but it does lead to that feeling of obsolescence that can gnaw away at some of us (like me, for example). I have an iPhone X, and I'm the kind of person that can live with an 'older' phone up to a point. I HATE this feeling, and how slow my seven year old computer is. They work fine, but just knowing that there is a new and 'better' version of what I have really starts to bother me after a while.

Now if you buy a new set of Kinmans you'll be fine. They will get the job done and they aren't computers that will feel 'slow' after five years, but if and when Kinman comes out with a slightly more interesting pickup that uses a few different adjectives that sound interesting it might bother you a little wondering about the grass on the other side of the pickup fence. Vintage style aftermarket pickups tempt people with this and that, but it's just the same boring old ideas.



With my super-insightful observations made ( :mellow: :whistle: :unsure: ) I think a lot of it has to do with your sonic background/upbringing. For many people with golden ears, serious recording experience, and/or a number of other things, clean pure sounds are THE BEST. Noiseless single coils are really sounding great these days and it's cool to see offsets getting some pickup attention.

For that hum I don't really care that much up to a point. I have an amp that has a nasty buzz when the reverb is engaged; that's too much. But yeah, I'm one of those people with a decades-old built in hum tolerance. I don't have a super hifi system either-- just an okay set up.

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Re: How heretical is it to swap pickups in a vintage Fender?

Post by algeriet » Mon Nov 30, 2020 5:38 pm

That's fucked up...


Nah just kidding. I say go for it. As long as the "damage" has already been done and you're not adding to it, experiment as you wish!
You have my blessing!

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