Thinkg about getting heavy mods done to my BilT

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Kihtaristi
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Thinkg about getting heavy mods done to my BilT

Post by Kihtaristi » Wed Jun 16, 2021 11:42 pm

Hi,

I wanted to get some feedback about having some mods done to my BilT. This is how it currently looks Image

The pickups in it are Curtis Novak Gold Foil: GTX-HMB. These are low output humbuckers that have some single coil style snap with higher output than standard single coils. My problem with this guitar is that I don't like how close it is tonally to my Novo with Lollar Imperials. They are now slightly different, but I would like to make them even more different. I have been thinking this long time, but I've been too lazy to get this thing started. I will get all the mods done probably by luthier, because I don't want to practice my modding skills with guitar of this price level.

I have been thinking two options that I could go with: either get Jaguar pickups or then Filtertron style pickups. At the moment I'd like to get Jaguar ones and maybe some other mods. I realize that jaguar option requires more work too (costs increase) and what makes me hesitant is that I have zero experience with Jaguars. I've always been more into Jazzmasters and Mustangs and I think that I havent even played Jaguar ever :-[ I hope that I can still post here after saying that ;D

If I go Jaguar route I also think of having 500k pots in standard circuit (I like 500k more at least with JM-style so I'd probably want to go with them here too) and 250k pots in rhytm circuit. If I can fit it I also dream of having separate volume for each pickup and master tone in standard circuit. I am also thinking 3-ply white pickguard and white tips and white mustang knobs to make it purple/white colour scheme.

So my questions here would be:

1. How close to regular JM would this BilT sound with jaguar style pickups and 25,5 inch scale length?

2. Jaguar pickups are contacted in body if I am right so there's a chance case that I would need to have some wood on bottom of pickup cavity. This sounds simple but is there something that can make this more difficult than I think?

3. How close would the rhytm circuit sound to strat neck pickup? Same pot values and scale length so I'd think that it would be quite close. Ofc the trem/bridge differences add to this equation. opinions on this?

All opinions regarding whole project are welcome and if someone has Jaguar style guitar with 25,5 inch scale length please share your opinions how it compares to regular JM. I know that here are plenty of people making far more complex mods than these by themselves so I trust on knowledge of this forum on things like this a lot.

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Re: Thinkg about getting heavy mods done to my BilT

Post by Gavanti » Thu Jun 17, 2021 4:48 am

I’ve had a Relevator LS modded from WRHBs to Senn Model One pickups, which have a wide mounting screw spread like a Jag pickup. The guitar is likely pool routed with a rectangular channel on each side for the humbucker tabs. When they did mine, BilT inserted blocks into those channels to provide a mounting point. If you’re lucky these channels might be the size of a square dowel, and that would simplify the addition. I think my blocks were screwed in to be reversible.

There are lots of options in the humbucker form factor though if you’re still ok with the aesthetics. I’d be tempted to look around before having a new guard cut. Maybe Fralin Twangmasters, Big Singles, or Silver Hand Missing Link S pickups would work. Taking a cue from Jessica Dobson, I put El Rayos (under JM covers) in my Zaftig, and those are much brighter and more articulate than Imperials.

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Re: Thinkg about getting heavy mods done to my BilT

Post by mbene085 » Thu Jun 17, 2021 10:22 am

A couple of thoughts:

1) I've never liked how filtertrons sound with Offset vibratos. A lot of the "kerrang" that makes them unique gets lost for some reason. I've had them in Fenders with TOM hardtails or TOM + Bigsby and they worked well, but the BTB length and break angle were much shorter and steeper. They seem to need a certain kind of attack and sustain from the guitar to sound their best and for whatever reason, a JM configuration doesn't seem to do that. I've owned several Gretsches and a few Fenders with filtertrons and am a huge fan of the pickup style, but wouldn't choose it for your guitar personally.

2) Personally, I'd stick with PAF form factor or something else that can be pickguard-mounted because the mod will just be so much simpler. You've got a swimming pool rout so anything attached to a guard will be a piece of cake. There's nothing inherent to Jaguar pickup tone that you couldn't get from a Strat pickup, and those can be pickguard-mounted.

3) I'd stick with noiseless. You have an almost infinite array of tones to choose from among noiseless/humbucking designs, including ones indistinguishable from Jaguar pickups, so I'd see no need to spend money modding your amazing noiseless guitar into an amazing noisy guitar.

Having said all that, let me make a pickup recommendation to you:

Zexcoil Tribuckers.

Zexcoil is known for their really, really good-sounding noiseless single coils. They use six individual coils wound around alnico polepieces to get really strat-like tones noiselessly.

Image

The Tribuckers are just two of their coils side by side, and you can pick any of their models to combine. They have a few "standard" suggestions but you can call/email them and tell them what you'd like.

The basic premise of their standard models is that one coil is wound like their vintage/underwound strat pickup, and the other is wound like their PAF-sounding model. A little three-way mini toggle, slider, or rotary switch can then be set up to choose the single coil tone, the PAF tone, or the two in series (which sounds like your typical overwound "distortion" type humbucker). They rate the coils by inductance, which is a sure sign of a pickup designer who actually understands how pickups work instead of one marketing based on voodoo and buzzwords.

They sound freaking unbelievable, they're humcanceling in all positions, they're priced similarly to many boutique humbuckers, and they also look totally badness with their solid, Firebird-like covers.

Image

As fate would have it, I've never had a "main player" type guitar that is set up as HH, but if I did, these would be the pickups I put in it. I have only one HH guitar, a Jaguar, and honestly the main reason I've never bought myself a pair is that I've spent a lot of time and money setting myself up with separate "vintage," "noiseless single coil," and "humbucker" Jaguars, and I'm nervous that discovering that a single guitar could aqequately cover all those bases would force me to sell some guitars I'm sentimentally attached to. I'm not emotionally ready to confront the redundancy of my guitar collection.

But I digress. Check out the various single coil and humbucker-voiced zexcoil pickup demos on YouTube. They all sound great, and having three genuinely nice noiseless voicings per pickup is the kind of thing pickup designers have been working toward for decades - just look at the technological lengths Fishman went to for their dual-voice Fluence pickups.

If you want to go another direction entirely, check out Bill Lawrence's L500 series (Wilde is the "real" source, wound by Bill's daughter Shannon, ignore the "Bill Lawrence USA" brand sold by his old business partner from the 80's).

The L500 uses a unique magnetic circuit that gives it a far narrower string sensing window than what you probably think of when you see two blade polepieces. The L500C ("clean") has an inductance of 2.8H, similar to a strat or Jaguar pickup, so it sounds more like a Fender/Firebird type of tone in the neck. It matches the L500L ("lead") which is 6.8H and has a very bright but full tone. The L500R and L500XL are the high output neck/bridge pair and are ultra-high output but way brighter and clearer than other high output humbuckers. The XL was Dimebag Darrell's signature pickup for quite a while, and was Billy Joe Armstrong's pickup used on Dookie, but to put it in perspective, is also the pickup Johnny Lang has used in the bridge of his telecasters for years.

They're sort of criminally underrated because they look like shredder pickups and were used by some shredders. You don't find a ton of great demos online but this is a pretty good L500L demo, and this one is probably the best-recorded demo of non-shredding L500 tones on the internet. It really shows off how incredibly versatile they are. They're also $85 each, made in the US by a small family business (Shannon winding, and her mother Becky selling) which should probably mean something to some people.

L500s are a bit smaller/narrower than PAFs so you either need to get a guard cut for them, or use the mounting ring, which has a standard PAF footprint. Otherwise you end up with small gaps in the guard along the top and bottom.

Ok, so that turned out to be more than a couple of thoughts. Sorry. One last one - whatever you put in that Bilt, I'm sure it'll sound great, because that's a great guitar.

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Re: Thinkg about getting heavy mods done to my BilT

Post by Kihtaristi » Thu Jun 17, 2021 12:23 pm

mbene085 wrote:
Thu Jun 17, 2021 10:22 am
A couple of thoughts:

1) I've never liked how filtertrons sound with Offset vibratos. A lot of the "kerrang" that makes them unique gets lost for some reason. I've had them in Fenders with TOM hardtails or TOM + Bigsby and they worked well, but the BTB length and break angle were much shorter and steeper. They seem to need a certain kind of attack and sustain from the guitar to sound their best and for whatever reason, a JM configuration doesn't seem to do that. I've owned several Gretsches and a few Fenders with filtertrons and am a huge fan of the pickup style, but wouldn't choose it for your guitar personally.

2) Personally, I'd stick with PAF form factor or something else that can be pickguard-mounted because the mod will just be so much simpler. You've got a swimming pool rout so anything attached to a guard will be a piece of cake. There's nothing inherent to Jaguar pickup tone that you couldn't get from a Strat pickup, and those can be pickguard-mounted.

3) I'd stick with noiseless. You have an almost infinite array of tones to choose from among noiseless/humbucking designs, including ones indistinguishable from Jaguar pickups, so I'd see no need to spend money modding your amazing noiseless guitar into an amazing noisy guitar.

Having said all that, let me make a pickup recommendation to you:

Zexcoil Tribuckers.

Zexcoil is known for their really, really good-sounding noiseless single coils. They use six individual coils wound around alnico polepieces to get really strat-like tones noiselessly.

Image

The Tribuckers are just two of their coils side by side, and you can pick any of their models to combine. They have a few "standard" suggestions but you can call/email them and tell them what you'd like.

The basic premise of their standard models is that one coil is wound like their vintage/underwound strat pickup, and the other is wound like their PAF-sounding model. A little three-way mini toggle, slider, or rotary switch can then be set up to choose the single coil tone, the PAF tone, or the two in series (which sounds like your typical overwound "distortion" type humbucker). They rate the coils by inductance, which is a sure sign of a pickup designer who actually understands how pickups work instead of one marketing based on voodoo and buzzwords.

They sound freaking unbelievable, they're humcanceling in all positions, they're priced similarly to many boutique humbuckers, and they also look totally badness with their solid, Firebird-like covers.

Image

As fate would have it, I've never had a "main player" type guitar that is set up as HH, but if I did, these would be the pickups I put in it. I have only one HH guitar, a Jaguar, and honestly the main reason I've never bought myself a pair is that I've spent a lot of time and money setting myself up with separate "vintage," "noiseless single coil," and "humbucker" Jaguars, and I'm nervous that discovering that a single guitar could aqequately cover all those bases would force me to sell some guitars I'm sentimentally attached to. I'm not emotionally ready to confront the redundancy of my guitar collection.

But I digress. Check out the various single coil and humbucker-voiced zexcoil pickup demos on YouTube. They all sound great, and having three genuinely nice noiseless voicings per pickup is the kind of thing pickup designers have been working toward for decades - just look at the technological lengths Fishman went to for their dual-voice Fluence pickups.

If you want to go another direction entirely, check out Bill Lawrence's L500 series (Wilde is the "real" source, wound by Bill's daughter Shannon, ignore the "Bill Lawrence USA" brand sold by his old business partner from the 80's).

The L500 uses a unique magnetic circuit that gives it a far narrower string sensing window than what you probably think of when you see two blade polepieces. The L500C ("clean") has an inductance of 2.8H, similar to a strat or Jaguar pickup, so it sounds more like a Fender/Firebird type of tone in the neck. It matches the L500L ("lead") which is 6.8H and has a very bright but full tone. The L500R and L500XL are the high output neck/bridge pair and are ultra-high output but way brighter and clearer than other high output humbuckers. The XL was Dimebag Darrell's signature pickup for quite a while, and was Billy Joe Armstrong's pickup used on Dookie, but to put it in perspective, is also the pickup Johnny Lang has used in the bridge of his telecasters for years.

They're sort of criminally underrated because they look like shredder pickups and were used by some shredders. You don't find a ton of great demos online but this is a pretty good L500L demo, and this one is probably the best-recorded demo of non-shredding L500 tones on the internet. It really shows off how incredibly versatile they are. They're also $85 each, made in the US by a small family business (Shannon winding, and her mother Becky selling) which should probably mean something to some people.

L500s are a bit smaller/narrower than PAFs so you either need to get a guard cut for them, or use the mounting ring, which has a standard PAF footprint. Otherwise you end up with small gaps in the guard along the top and bottom.

Ok, so that turned out to be more than a couple of thoughts. Sorry. One last one - whatever you put in that Bilt, I'm sure it'll sound great, because that's a great guitar.
Thanks for the long and thoughtful reply. I will have some googling and video watching to do cause I'm not familiar with those pickups you recommended. I will check those out.

Also regarding your comments

1) This was nice to know that it might not be best pairing. It would also be nice that I could still justify getting Black Falcon at some point for the Filtertron sound :D

2) Maybe the way would be to go with strat pickups here. I did some googling and the difference construction wise seems to be the metal "claws" that jag pickups have that may eliminate some hum.

3) I don't mind some hum and have played a lots with Jazzmaster, P90, and strat so I'm used to have some hum. I am more single coil guy even though I love my Novo with Imperials. It's my first guitar with humbuckers in couple years with all kinds of single coils. But like I said, I will surely check those pickups you recommended out. It never hurts to think different options.

And one last thing, I loved this sentence in your post: "I'm not emotionally ready to confront the redundancy of my guitar collection."

I am also having hard time with that and that's why I want to mod this BilT instead of selling it :D


Gavanti wrote:
Thu Jun 17, 2021 4:48 am
I’ve had a Relevator LS modded from WRHBs to Senn Model One pickups, which have a wide mounting screw spread like a Jag pickup. The guitar is likely pool routed with a rectangular channel on each side for the humbucker tabs. When they did mine, BilT inserted blocks into those channels to provide a mounting point. If you’re lucky these channels might be the size of a square dowel, and that would simplify the addition. I think my blocks were screwed in to be reversible.

There are lots of options in the humbucker form factor though if you’re still ok with the aesthetics. I’d be tempted to look around before having a new guard cut. Maybe Fralin Twangmasters, Big Singles, or Silver Hand Missing Link S pickups would work. Taking a cue from Jessica Dobson, I put El Rayos (under JM covers) in my Zaftig, and those are much brighter and more articulate than Imperials.
Thank you for your reply! Something reversible would probably be smart idea. I feel that El Rayos might be relatively close to current gold foils I have in and I would like to get maybe even further away from current ones. And it's not like there's nothing wrong with current ones or El Rayos (I'm huge Lollar fan), but I feel that I it might not be best option for maximum tonal difference between My Novo with Lollar Imperials.

The new guard would be part of the charm. I am not huge fan of the current one so I don't mind if I have to go that route. I still can live with it and am not too picky with looks of the guitars if they play well.

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Re: Thinkg about getting heavy mods done to my BilT

Post by mbene085 » Thu Jun 17, 2021 1:09 pm

Kihtaristi wrote:
Thu Jun 17, 2021 12:23 pm

Thanks for the long and thoughtful reply. I will have some googling and video watching to do cause I'm not familiar with those pickups you recommended. I will check those out.

Also regarding your comments

1) This was nice to know that it might not be best pairing. It would also be nice that I could still justify getting Black Falcon at some point for the Filtertron sound :D

2) Maybe the way would be to go with strat pickups here. I did some googling and the difference construction wise seems to be the metal "claws" that jag pickups have that may eliminate some hum.

3) I don't mind some hum and have played a lots with Jazzmaster, P90, and strat so I'm used to have some hum. I am more single coil guy even though I love my Novo with Imperials. It's my first guitar with humbuckers in couple years with all kinds of single coils. But like I said, I will surely check those pickups you recommended out. It never hurts to think different options.

And one last thing, I loved this sentence in your post: "I'm not emotionally ready to confront the redundancy of my guitar collection."

I am also having hard time with that and that's why I want to mod this BilT instead of selling it :D
Hah, I'm glad you liked it. The truth is that I could sell most of my instruments and have no fewer musical options, but there can be reasons to own instruments other than them sounding different. I'm not good at minimalism.

If you go for strat type tones, my point was simply that you can get plenty of those pickups without them having to be noisy. Especially in a strat or PAF form factor - options abound so I really can't imagine deliberately choosing to add noise to a guitar. The Jaguar claw raises inductance a touch and provides a bit of shielding but any guitar with strat pickups can be shielded and any pickup can be wound to any desired inductance.

I understand liking the aesthetics, especially on a vintage-looking Jaguar, which is why two of mine still look that way, but you've got carte blanche to put any pickup in the world in that Bilt so my strong vote is to just go noiseless. Zexcoil, Kinman, Wilde and Mojotone in particular make noiseless pickups that sound as much like single coils as anything you could ask for these days.

People get obsessive when it comes to strats and teles, wanting the pickups to sound exactly like whatever their idea of an ideal strat or tele sounds like, but the reality is that there are plenty of actual single coils that you could A/B that a given guitarist won't like anyway - too thin, too flat, too warm, or whatever. But when you're sticking them in something like a Bilt? What would a '54 strat pickup or '62 Jaguar pickup sound like in a Bilt with a Mastery vibrato? Nobody has an archetypal reference, so you'd basically stick the pickup in and say, "huh. I guess this is what it sounds like." So why not just do that with a very single coil-sounding noiseless pickup? I'm sure my TV would still be perfectly usable as a TV if the sound had a hum in the background if you turned it to face certain directions, but if given the choice, I'd prefer that my TV didn't do that. Same for my guitars :D

I will crusade against noise until the end of my days. Maybe it stems from having mild tinnitus since I was a child. I like my world to have as few droning noises as possible.

But mostly, I think it comes from years of swapping pickups and discovering that lots and lots of noiseless pickups sound amazing. I've been a Fender fan my whole life and love single coil tone more than anything, but slowly discovered that it's not really "single coil tone" at all. It's more, "sharp attack, low compression, lots of string definition, and low inductance" and there are all manner of designs these days that do that without being a true single coil.

My current favourites are Wilde and Kinman. Bill Lawrence made some amazing noiseless designs if you're willing to step outside the mindset that everything has to sound exactly like a specific pickup from 60 years ago. Kinman makes some amazing noiseless designs if you decide that it does. They're two different flavours but are both awesome.

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Re: Thinkg about getting heavy mods done to my BilT

Post by noisepunk » Thu Jun 17, 2021 5:33 pm

another vote for "don't modify more than you need to". i'm with you on the pickguard (though i'd probably go for black, personally), but there are so many guard-mounted pickup options out there, doing jag pickups is just going to needless complicate your upgrade (and make it needlessly more expensive).

personally, i wouldn't go with anything smaller than a humbucker: again, no need, plenty of options in that form-factor, you could also try a few things out before committing to a new pickguard. mostly, i think something strat sized would look odd on such a large body.

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