Kinman Jaguar pickups - possibly the first online account of them ever being installed

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Kinman Jaguar pickups - possibly the first online account of them ever being installed

Post by mbene085 » Mon Jan 11, 2021 4:37 pm

So, Kinman has been making noiseless Jaguar pickups for a few years now, but I've literally never seen a firsthand account of anybody purchasing, owning, playing, reviewing, recording, or otherwise commenting on them other than acknowledging that they exist.

I've got a '62 Jag in a blue sparkle refin whose pickups were rewound by Jason Lollar, so I decided that I don't feel guilty about disturbing solder joints or replacing pickups since those two things have essentially happened already. I've been obsessed with noiseless pickups for some time and have been systematically replacing pickups and/or entire guitars to eliminate noise. I just wasn't playing this incredible vintage Jag nearly enough when my cheaper guitars sounded great and were noiseless, so I decided to do something about that.

They're literally the only Jaguar-format noiseless pickups on the market. Many noiseless strat pickups are made without the triangle baseplate and can fit in a Jaguar, but they don't have the square cover and claw and leave big gaps around the pickup unless you get a guard cut for them. If you want something traditional-looking for a Jag, Kinman is the only option, and I definitely didn't want to go so far as to stick strat-looking pickups in a vintage Jag.

So, I went ahead and ordered a set.

Image

I've had very limited play time on them, but here are my thoughts on the process so far.

Choosing the pickups
Kinman has many virtues, but clarity of differences between pickup models is not one of them. There are three models, called "Surf Jag," "Blues Jag," and "Punk Jag." They're quite terribly named, since there are no famous blues tones to emulate with a Jag, nor are there famous punk guitarists whose tone those would be emulating. With some digging, this is what I learned.

Surf Jag: This is just the Impersonator E56 Strat pickup in Jaguar form factor. The E56 is the third-lowest output strat pickup Kinman makes, and is the "low output 50's tone" pickup in their Strat lineup.

Blues Jag: This is the Impersonator E54 Strat pickup in Jaguar form factor. The E54 is one step up in output from the E56 and is just a little bit softer around the edges, being the "fat 50's" type pickup in their Strat lineup.

Punk Jag: This is the Texas Jalapeno strat pickup in Jaguar form factor. The T.J. is itself very stupidly named and long story short, is the highest output Strat pickup that they make that is advertised as sounding truly like a Strat - the only higher-output ones are the Big Nine-O which aims for "P90-in-a-strat" tone and the Kick In The Arse which aims for "PAF-in-a-Strat" tones. The T.J. is also a new name for the fifth iteration of a differently-named model that has been eliminated from the Kinman lineup (the "Fat 50"), so you more or less can't find any demos online. It seems that, despite being high output, it doesn't sound like an overwound pickup. Certainly the one or two demos I could find lacked the overblown midrange and blunted treble I associate with high-output strat pickups.

I have '62 and '65 Jags, with the '62 being darker and fuller and the '65 being thinner and brighter, as you'd expect from flat-poled '62 black bobbins vs staggered grey bobbin Jag pickups. I figured I'd try the Blues Jag for this guitar, since I wanted to buy a second set for the '65 if I liked them, so I figured I could go a step down to the Surf Jag for that one to maintain the traditional difference between them, or put these in the '65 and step up to the Punk Jag if they turned out to be too thin.

Kinman recommends 250k pots, but that didn't seem to be design-related. After all, vintage Jaguar pickups were wound much the same as vintage Strat pickups, and everyone would tell you to use 250k for those, but the exaggerated resonant peak of the 1M pots is part of the whole Jaguar "thing" IMO, so I decided to start there (plus, I wanted to leave the vintage harness in place - if it comes to swapping pots, I'll be lifting the whole thing out and putting in a new one, so this seemed like the logical place to start).

Installation

This wasn't clear to me from the Kinman site before ordering, but was mentioned in the documentation it came with - the covers Kinman provides are 1mm wider than stock, and won't fit in a pickguard until you file 0.5mm away from the round ends of each pickup rout. Fortunately, I was already using replacement guards on this guitar. No way in hell I'd be filing a vintage celluloid guard to fit Kinmans, so beware of that.

The pickup covers are replaceable, but you have to be wary of pole spacing. Kinman offers multiple, slightly altered pole spaces to line up ideally in the neck and bridge with the different bridge options (e.g. 55mm Mustsang bridges vs 52mm Staytrems ), so you need to remember what you ordered or choose standard spacing if you want an easy swap. There's also an interesting mechanism on the pickups where two metal tines on each side are pressure-fit into the cover and need to be bent in order to remove one and then bent back after replacing the new one. Kinman says this is to prevent microphonic feedback, and it's certainly a cool way to immobilize a cover, but you need to know that it's there or else you'll mess up your cover and/or pickup trying to change it.

All in all, I'd probably have made sure to order standard pole spacing if I knew the Kinman covers were slightly too wide, and just thrown a pair of my own on it when it arrived, so please do so if you have a vintage guitar or a nice guard you don't want to have to modify.

I decided to use this B/W/B guard I had around because I wanted to try something new anyway, and it was like $10 from EY guitars so I didn't mind experimenting with it in terms of fit. The vintage blue sparkle Jags had black guards so it seemed like a good fit, although I ordered my pickups with black covers instead of vintage-accurate white because I thought that'd coordinate better. A bit of sandpaper wrapped around a dowel got the round ends filed sufficiently in just a few minutes. Mildly annoying and preventable by just providing vintage-sized covers, but not the end of the world on a modern guard.

Another fun discovery was that the pickups are slightly taller than the vintage ones. This wouldn't have been an issue, except my Jag has about a 1/4" thickness of original foam that has melted into some sort of toxic goo beneath each pickup, and there are vintage cloth-covered wires that are embedded in the stuff beneath the neck pickup as they run between the lead and rhythm circuit. I didn't want to be scraping out the original foam and risking damaging the original wires, so I was forced to install the pickups on top of all that. What that meant was shimming my guitar by about a degree. Not the end of the world, but the setup was really dialed in on the guitar and I may or may not have been uttering cursewords as I had to pop off my neck and readjust the bridge for what was supposed to be a simple, 2-solder-joint pickup swap. I was already salty from my discovery that I had to sand the pickguard, because I started this all on a break from packing my house and didn't want to be dealing with so many extra steps.

Oh well. None of these were insurmountable obstacles, they were just annoying. Almost as annoying as finishing the whole installation and setup, stringing the guitar up, and discovering that I had managed to forget the vintage pickup shield sitting on my workbench. Sigh. Had to disassemble the whole thing to put that back on there.

Plugging it in

These were my first Kinman pickups. I listened to every Youtube clip out there, talked to OSGers like Larry who was kind enough to record some comparison clips of his Kinman JM pickups and send me the Logic files to play around with, and finally bit the bullet on these expensive pickups from the guy with the weird-ass website and the noiseless design with a large number of patents and a number of devoted fans.

After all that, I plugged it in...and it sounds like a vintage Jaguar, but noiseless. I strung it up with Elixirs which are insufferably bright for the first few hours after you put them on, and it certainly sounds a lot brighter than it did before the pickup swap, but the last time I played it was with old strings so that's not a fair comparison.

I did a quick A/B with my '65 Jag and the '62 with the Blues Jag pickups and fresh Elixirs is significantly brighter than the '65 Jag with vintage pickups and old strings. Again, not a great comparison, but it confirmed at least one thing - these Kinmans do the "single coil Jag" thing amazingly well. The spank, they sparkle, they don't sound in any way shape or form like some sort of compromise in "single-coil-ness" for the sake of losing the noise.

If anything, they do it too well, and might indeed benefit from dropping the pots to 250k. I'm rolling back the tone knob to 5-7 to get it to where the guitar was before the swap - but, again, this is with fresh Elixirs, and I haven't had time to play with pickup height either. I need to get 6-8 hours of playtime onto them before I can really judge, and see what range of pickup heights is permitted by my gunky-foam-lined pickup routs. I always find these strings to be unflattering and harsh when fresh, but I have a bunch of guitars and I like that I can get 6+ months of life out of those strings once they break in. It lets me cut down on restringing time (plus I always feel guilty about the waste generated by frequent string changes, since there are no ways to recycle them that I've found here in Canada).

So there you have it. As far as I can tell, this is the first ever firsthand confirmation that Kinman Jaguar pickups sound like true single coils.

I'm going to get to know these for a little while, and then decide whether to step down in output to the Surf Jags for my '65, or step up to the Punk Jags. I was initially worried that the Punk Jags would be a hot, midrangey mess unfit for a vintage Jaguar, but with the high end clarity and sharp pick attack coming out of these Blues Jag pickups, they could easily be named "Sparkle-Surf Jag" or something IMO. As an owner and lover of a '65 Mustang and '65 Jaguar I find myself wondering how anybody could ask for more vintage-style treble out of a pickup than these pickups possess.
Last edited by mbene085 on Mon Jan 11, 2021 4:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Kinman Jaguar pickups - possibly the first online account of them ever being installed

Post by Larry Mal » Mon Jan 11, 2021 4:45 pm

Glad you like them! That's a great review. I was kind of nervous that you wouldn't be into them when you got them.

And while I already have decided that those will be going in my Jag if I ever get it going, it's still good to hear such a good review.
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Re: Kinman Jaguar pickups - possibly the first online account of them ever being installed

Post by Unicorn Warrior » Mon Jan 11, 2021 5:47 pm

mbene085,

The Jag is gorgeous

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Re: Kinman Jaguar pickups - possibly the first online account of them ever being installed

Post by Larry Mal » Tue Jan 12, 2021 11:25 am

So, not to derail the conversation, Mike, but which of your guitars do you have the Ilitch guard on?
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Re: Kinman Jaguar pickups - possibly the first online account of them ever being installed

Post by mbene085 » Tue Jan 12, 2021 1:50 pm

Larry Mal wrote:
Tue Jan 12, 2021 11:25 am
So, not to derail the conversation, Mike, but which of your guitars do you have the Ilitch guard on?
Currently, none. It was a Strat backplate and I've since divested myself of Strats during the great guitar purge of 2020. I'm also embarrassed to say that I have managed to misplace the bloody thing, which is incredibly aggravating, because I really wanted to do some more experiments with it.

Why do you ask?
Unicorn Warrior wrote:
Mon Jan 11, 2021 5:47 pm
mbene085,

The Jag is gorgeous
Thank you kindly. It's a keeper!

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Re: Kinman Jaguar pickups - possibly the first online account of them ever being installed

Post by Larry Mal » Tue Jan 12, 2021 2:06 pm

mbene085 wrote:
Tue Jan 12, 2021 1:50 pm


Why do you ask?
Purely for my own benefit, I was talking to Kinman today and wondering how much merit my ditching the Ilitch solution in favor of Kinmans in my ES-330 had. I didn't think you would have Ilitch in your Jaguars but thought I would ask anyway.
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Re: Kinman Jaguar pickups - possibly the first online account of them ever being installed

Post by jonnyrocket » Thu Jan 14, 2021 11:20 am

Larry Mal wrote:
Tue Jan 12, 2021 2:06 pm
mbene085 wrote:
Tue Jan 12, 2021 1:50 pm


Why do you ask?
Purely for my own benefit, I was talking to Kinman today and wondering how much merit my ditching the Ilitch solution in favor of Kinmans in my ES-330 had. I didn't think you would have Ilitch in your Jaguars but thought I would ask anyway.
I have been very interested in trying the Ilitch systems on my Jazzmaster. I do have an Ilitch pickguard on my tele with Budz pickups. For the Jazzmaster, I was thinking about routing the channel around the pickup cavity but Ilitch stopped responding to my emails. I think he might not have liked when I told him that I was planning on doing the mod myself given that I don't have much experience routing. I know on their website they mention quite a bit to send the guitar to a good luthier for the job.

I also have been looking at the Kinman pickups for Jazzmaster and there are reviews around but not that many. I didn't realize there were zero accounts on their Jaguar pickups though!

Thanks for providing the review and let us know if you end up replacing the pots.

cheers,
Jon

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Re: Kinman Jaguar pickups - possibly the first online account of them ever being installed

Post by Larry Mal » Thu Jan 14, 2021 11:31 am

Hi Jon-

So, not to derail the thread, but I have some experience with both.

I have Ilitch systems in two Telecasters, one G&L Legacy, and now the ES-330. It works great in the solid body guitars and not all that great in the ES-330. Ilitch doesn't want to admit that you need shielding in the guitars his systems go in but you do.

I only have the one Jazzmaster with Kinman pickups, and that guitar is also completely shielded. It is dead quiet, and really, I'll just be using Kinman pickups in things going forward.

In my ES-330, I tried to preserve the "vintage" P90 sound but make it be clean and it's kind of a failure. It would probably satisfy a lot of people. But to me, there's considerably more noise than there is with me ES-335... talk about first world problems, I guess!

My recommendation would be to not rout your Jazzmaster, and to get Kinman pickups, and shield your pick guard and such if you haven't already.
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Re: Kinman Jaguar pickups - possibly the first online account of them ever being installed

Post by mbene085 » Thu Jan 14, 2021 11:51 am

On a related note, I'm currently losing my mind trying to debug noise in my rig.

I'm in the process of moving, and when I say process - I mean process. With the pandemic, my province has hit an emergency stay-at-home order on top of the previous lockdown. So, in order to be able to sell my house, I've had to move into a short-term rental and keep the house empty in order to be allowed to show it.

My crusade against hum and buzz intensified these last couple of years because, for whatever reason, my house was a noisier environment than the place I had lived prior to that. I shield my guitars and have been switching to noiseless pickups to cope with it.

But this rental unit? My god. My Kinman Jag has such bad EMI-type buzz that I thought a ground had become disconnected while moving it. It's a vintage jag but it's got brass shielding plates in every cavity, grounded control plates above them, and the vintage shielding plate under the guard that covers most of the wiring. It's also got grounded claws surrounding 3 sides of the pickups.

If I let go of the strings, the buzz is insane, easily as loud as the pickup output, and grounding myself via the strings or metal parts only reduces the intensity of the buzz by maybe 30%.

I didn't have a multimeter handy because of the move, but I found a time window where I could return safely to the house and grab it because I need to confirm that the wiring hasn't gone awry.

I don't think it has. I have another couple of guitars with me and they're behaving similarly to a degree. The 60Hz hum is gone but it's so hard debugging this buzz when I don't know if it's now the power or something else. I'm testing it with my AxeFX and a pair of headphones (and nothing else) so there shouldn't even be the possibility of a ground loop. Maybe I need to get an outlet tester and confirm that the power is actually grounded here.

The curious thing is that I had a similar buzz in my house, just not as severe, when I tested this briefly - and that buzz has been plaguing me ever since I moved there. It's much worse here though.

No computers anywhere near the amp, no dimmers on the lights...it's all quite baffling and I'm not sure if I should even be worrying about debugging it for another month or two since this might be location-related in this rental unit. If this buzz rears its head in my new studio though, I might lose my mind. It's like it's mocking me, increasing in intensity now after I've basically eliminated unshielded guitars and single coils from my life.

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Re: Kinman Jaguar pickups - possibly the first online account of them ever being installed

Post by Larry Mal » Thu Jan 14, 2021 1:58 pm

Mike, do you have a power conditioner?
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Re: Kinman Jaguar pickups - possibly the first online account of them ever being installed

Post by mbene085 » Thu Jan 14, 2021 2:13 pm

Larry Mal wrote:
Thu Jan 14, 2021 1:58 pm
Mike, do you have a power conditioner?
No, I don't.

This seems like an obvious place to start, doesn't it? :fp:

I kept putting off the idea, telling myself that I'd wait until I was setting up my studio to get one, so I could match it to my needs and physical setup there. But taking a look at Furman, I see that they have an affordable 1U supply that would fit right in underneath my AxeFX, which is currently in a tolexed head mount like this one:

Image

It's their "prestige" model, which seems to be the cheapest, but it would literally pop right in to my amp setup as-is, and I can worry about the rest of the studio when I'm setting it up over the course of 2021.

I know you use a conditioner, Larry - which one do you have, and how much of a difference did it make?

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Re: Kinman Jaguar pickups - possibly the first online account of them ever being installed

Post by Larry Mal » Thu Jan 14, 2021 2:50 pm

I have this one, and I'd say it helps.

Granted, I'm in a new house, and have a brand new line running directly from the box to my room. There is nothing else on the circuit, so how much noise can there be?

When I researched line conditioners, and especially Furman, I had the idea that they aren't all the same and that the cheap ones might not be doing very much.

I forget exactly what made me think this, but I came away from my research feeling that anything that Furman made that didn't have the LiFT technology in it probably wasn't going to be doing much. If I remember why I'll get back to you, but it may only be that I read someone saying that on the internet and found it compelling.
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Re: Kinman Jaguar pickups - possibly the first online account of them ever being installed

Post by mbene085 » Thu Jan 14, 2021 3:32 pm

Hmm. It definitely seems to have some features that are lacking in the Prestige model. Reasonably priced, too. Cheaper than their rackmount models that have the same features.

Thanks for pointing me toward it. I'll probably give it a go. Will probably need more than a single unit for the studio, anyway, so I'm probably overthinking it. Depending on total current draw, you can just get a rack mount power distributor that connects to this one and shares the same filtering and surge protection, which is a nice and inexpensive option for cable management (I like the idea of everything in the rack connecting locally with a single cord leaving it).

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Re: Kinman Jaguar pickups - possibly the first online account of them ever being installed

Post by Larry Mal » Thu Jan 14, 2021 5:03 pm

No reason to buy that floor unit other than a rack mount one that I can see, it would really come down to a cost/form factor ratio more than anything else. I'm unaware of that unit being better from a technological standpoint.

The better Furmans have a little meter that shows you the voltage being regulated, as well as some other metering.

Like this.

I think this would be something that would be appropriated to purchase used.
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Re: Kinman Jaguar pickups - possibly the first online account of them ever being installed

Post by tammyw » Thu Jan 21, 2021 3:14 am

Thanks for sharing, I'm interested in hearing your final verdict down the line.

The website says they make either 51mm or 49.5mm spacing, which both seem narrower than standard. Did you get the narrower ones to go with the Staytrem bridge?

How is the balance between the neck and bridge, is the bridge pickup like overwound more than the neck, or are they pretty similar?
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