Ilitch not possible for JM. Now what?

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Always-Ben
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Ilitch not possible for JM. Now what?

Post by Always-Ben » Sun Feb 21, 2021 9:05 pm

I just found out that Ilitch, while they can do JM types, it requires extra routing, which would also require me to send in the guitar to them. A tad too expensive a prospect for me.

So now what? Outside of living on middle position, riding the volume knob, noiseless pickups or turning "just" the right direction in the room, are there any other good options out there to erase that 60 cycle hum out there?

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Re: Ilitch not possible for JM. Now what?

Post by HarlowTheFish » Sun Feb 21, 2021 9:26 pm

Shielding can help, but it only does so much. A noise gate can really clean the sound up, but it depends on the tones you go for and especially your playing style -- if you have a lighter touch you might find it finicky to cut noise without cutting off your playing. Other than that, you've pretty much covered all the real options.

You can DIY an Ilitch-type thing with an active dummy coil, and if you can get your hands on an older EBMM Silent Circuit, it's a pretty good way to do that in a tiny package. They're only like $60 as a replacement part, but the only place I can find them is Dubaldo music and they've been out of stock for months.

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Re: Ilitch not possible for JM. Now what?

Post by alexpigment » Sun Feb 21, 2021 9:28 pm

Ilitch is just a dummy coil with variable resistance. You can fit a RWRP pickup in the cavity under the pickguard easily (strat, tele, JM pickups) and get the same effect. Just make sure the two pickups in your guitar are not RWRP to each other, and the noise canceling will work in all positions.

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Re: Ilitch not possible for JM. Now what?

Post by Always-Ben » Sun Feb 21, 2021 9:34 pm

alexpigment wrote:
Sun Feb 21, 2021 9:28 pm
Ilitch is just a dummy coil with variable resistance. You can fit a RWRP pickup in the cavity under the pickguard easily (strat, tele, JM pickups) and get the same effect. Just make sure the two pickups in your guitar are not RWRP to each other, and the noise canceling will work in all positions.
So I could just put it a dummy coil in any which way under the pickguard, or does it have to be set in a certain way? Does it have to be wired into the system somehow, or just a pickup by itself?

Wouldn't most JM guitars come stock with RWRP though? So it would involve buying new pickups in addition.

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Re: Ilitch not possible for JM. Now what?

Post by Always-Ben » Sun Feb 21, 2021 9:45 pm

HarlowTheFish wrote:
Sun Feb 21, 2021 9:26 pm
Shielding can help, but it only does so much. A noise gate can really clean the sound up, but it depends on the tones you go for and especially your playing style -- if you have a lighter touch you might find it finicky to cut noise without cutting off your playing. Other than that, you've pretty much covered all the real options.

You can DIY an Ilitch-type thing with an active dummy coil, and if you can get your hands on an older EBMM Silent Circuit, it's a pretty good way to do that in a tiny package. They're only like $60 as a replacement part, but the only place I can find them is Dubaldo music and they've been out of stock for months.
Noise gate could be good, someone suggested the MXR Smart Gate and the Decimator. I don't play with a light touch at all, so don't think that'll be an issue. Clean, the noise isn't too bad, so when I do surfy stuff not such an issue. It's when I add on medium gain and/or fuzz on when things get nasty, like J Mascis type stuff. What tones would this be good for/not good for?

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Re: Ilitch not possible for JM. Now what?

Post by HarlowTheFish » Sun Feb 21, 2021 9:57 pm

Always-Ben wrote:
Sun Feb 21, 2021 9:45 pm
Noise gate could be good, someone suggested the MXR Smart Gate and the Decimator. I don't play with a light touch at all, so don't think that'll be an issue. Clean, the noise isn't too bad, so when I do surfy stuff not such an issue. It's when I add on medium gain and/or fuzz on when things get nasty, like J Mascis type stuff. What tones would this be good for/not good for?
Anything heavy, loud, and gainy works great: the extra compression and sustain from the preamp lets you get away with gating a bit more, and especially if you keep the pickups closer to the strings, use thicker strings, and play harder in general (all of which give you a better signal-to-noise ratio), a gate is pretty good. Fuzzes can be finicky if they don't like buffers or need to be first in the chain, because ideally you want your gate first and all the noisy stuff in the loop of the gate.

As far as an actual pedal, the Decimator and Smart Gate are alright, but I'm not a huge fan personally (the former has no options, the latter just didn't like my rig at the time for whatever reason. The good old NS2 is pretty good, just be prepared and willing to dial in your rig a bit differently to adjust to it, because while I don't think it's a tone-suck, it does change your tone a bit (I found mine brighter, personally). They're pretty easy to mod (and mods are both widely documented and available) for a lower noise floor and more transparency, if you feel like you need it.

I'm a pretty big fan of the TC Sentry, because you can use the Toneprint editor to dial it in really nicely. It's a bit finickier to get set up initially if you're messing with that side, and it's less intuitive to tune it for a venue/rehearsal space quickly, but spend an hour or two really finessing the options in the editor and you'd think it wasn't even there except when you stop playing, there's no noise.

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Re: Ilitch not possible for JM. Now what?

Post by mbene085 » Sun Feb 21, 2021 11:24 pm

I disagree with some of the points made so far.

Firstly, I'd argue that an Ilitch system is not "simply a dummy coil" in the conventional sense - it's a very low resistance, low capacitance dummy coil. It's basically as efficient a mains hum antenna as you can make from copper wire, meaning you get a similar amount of hum picked up compared to your pickups (out of phase, of course), but you're connecting less resistance and capacitance in series with your pickups, loading them down less, and therefore keeping the resonant frequency higher than you get with a standard dummy coil. That's why the Ilitch system has less of a tonal penalty compared to a dummy coil built like the pickups themselves. When people say, "dummy coil", they usually mean one wound similarly to the guitar's pickups, just without magnets.

I've been there, done that. Wired a dummy coil into a JM, wound to perfectly match the pickups in specs. You do lose a fair bit of high end from the added resistance and capacitance. It's unavoidable, but it works for plenty of people.

I also disagree strongly with the use of any kind of noise gate being proposed as a solution, because it fundamentally does not work. Noise gates only stop hum when you're not playing, by design. Turn up the gain, play softly, and the gate is doing nothing while the mains hum destroys your SNR.

Pedals and processors that work to reduce hum while you're playing aren't noise gates, though they sometimes additionally include noise gates, and are sometimes mislabeled as noise gates (kinda like the whole Fender Vibrato on amps being tremolo, and Tremolo bridges being vibratos). Noise-reduction processors aimed at canceling mains hum use a couple of tricks, including generating mains hum and phase-shifting it so that it cancels out what the pickups are generating, applying narrow-band EQ, dynamic filtering, etc.

All of those are expensive bandaids, and all come at a certain penalty, tone-wise, though you might be happy to pay that penalty, or might even enjoy the tone more after processing since it's all a matter of taste.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, though, and preventing hum is way more effective than trying to deal with it once it's there.

To that end, beyond dummy coils (standard and Ilitch alike), there are of course noiseless pickups, which themselves either integrate some sort of dummy coil, or dual coils (as in, both signal-generating). Kinman is top of my list for noiseless JM pickups. His design isn't a simple stacked coil. It actually involves a large number of H-shaped conductive plates spaced apart with air gaps and only a small connection point, placed underneath the string-sensing coil and acting as a sort of mains hum antenna with minimal electromagnetic interaction with the strings. That's how he arrives at a very low-resistance, low-capacitance hum sensor without the typical pitfalls of stacked-coil noiseless design. It's an elegant solution, but one that raises manufacturing cost because of the hand labour he uses to build the hum sensors.

Other options are more conventional, with stacked coils, like Fender's "Ultra" pickups, or PAF-style side-by-side coils in Novak's "JM-HC". Fralin's "noiseless Jazzmaster" is a sidewinder humbucker - two string-sensing coils turned 90 degrees relative to standard pickups and sandwiching the magnets (in the alnico pole version) or steel screws ("P90" version), with bar magnets sandwiching the screws underneath in the latter. Orpheus also makes sidewinders of both type in JM covers. I don't know about those, but I do know the Fralin coils fit a P90 footprint and he just kind of sticks a JM cover on top with lots of air space around it.

And then, of course, you can fit almost any variety of noiseless pickup in a JM cover, as long as your routs are deep enough to accommodate them and/or you're willing to shim the neck to gain clearance. PAF, P90, strat, tele, firebird, mini-humbucker, and filtertron-sized pickups all fit within the width and length of a JM pickup cavity and can be hidden under JM covers, as long as the depth is accounted for, and there are nearly endless noiseless options in those formats.

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Re: Ilitch not possible for JM. Now what?

Post by Larry Mal » Mon Feb 22, 2021 5:27 am

They taught me in school that the best way to deal with noise is to not have it in the first place. Similar to any other problem, I guess. That's my zen outlook for the day.

From my own experience, I am about to pull an Ilitch system out of a guitar and put some very nice pickups on the block because there is still too much noise: I had forgotten that rule, and I counted on the Ilitch system to mitigate the noise rather than disallowed the noise in the first place.

This isn't a slam on Ilitch, they work well at reducing hum in guitars in which noise can be prevented with very effective shielding.

Again from my experience: I see that noise cancelling pickups are not being considered here, but I've been over all the ground there is trying to preserve "real" vintage sound without noise. I've come to conclude that it's not really worth the effort, single coil form factor pickups without hum are every bit as good as vintage type pickups are now, and they do the important thing of stopping noise in your chain before it happens.

In the future, I won't be bothering with Ilitch stuff or other dummy coils and I'll just be pulling the old noisy kind of pickups out of my guitars and putting in noise free pickups.
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Re: Ilitch not possible for JM. Now what?

Post by AztecGold » Mon Feb 22, 2021 6:12 am

Larry Mal wrote:
Mon Feb 22, 2021 5:27 am
They taught me in school that the best way to deal with noise is to not have it in the first place. Similar to any other problem, I guess. That's my zen outlook for the day.

From my own experience, I am about to pull an Ilitch system out of a guitar and put some very nice pickups on the block because there is still too much noise: I had forgotten that rule, and I counted on the Ilitch system to mitigate the noise rather than disallowed the noise in the first place.

This isn't a slam on Ilitch, they work well at reducing hum in guitars in which noise can be prevented with very effective shielding.

Again from my experience: I see that noise cancelling pickups are not being considered here, but I've been over all the ground there is trying to preserve "real" vintage sound without noise. I've come to conclude that it's not really worth the effort, single coil form factor pickups without hum are every bit as good as vintage type pickups are now, and they do the important thing of stopping noise in your chain before it happens.

In the future, I won't be bothering with Ilitch stuff or other dummy coils and I'll just be pulling the old noisy kind of pickups out of my guitars and putting in noise free pickups.
Thank you for your observations. I have also found that in other types of guitars, noiseless pickups have gotten so much better in the last 10 years or so that I don't have any objection to them anymore. I was not a huge fan of them in days gone by but the better ones today are so good that I don't think I could tell the difference in most live situations and the differences are subtle.

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Re: Ilitch not possible for JM. Now what?

Post by Larry Mal » Mon Feb 22, 2021 6:28 am

Incidentally I went through the same process, I've had good luck with Ilitch stuff in Telecasters, and wanted it in my Jazzmasters. No luck, like the OP says.

I ended up buying some Kinman pickups just to try them out and I am an immediate convert to that, and that'll likely be my go to for the future. That being said, I also have some Fralin and Wilde noiseless pickups, they are very good also.

I'm done with single coils. The alternatives out there have arrived and are not only good noiseless single coil alternatives but they are just very good pickups in their own way, they now have the dynamic range and frequency response as the pickups they replaced if not the exact same resonant peak/EQ curve.
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Re: Ilitch not possible for JM. Now what?

Post by adamrobertt » Mon Feb 22, 2021 6:31 am

I've also become a recent noiseless/humbucker convert. I have Kinmans in one Jazzmaster, and a Novak Thunderbird and a Fralin noiseless in another (mismatched pair). I'm not totally done with single coils though, I just ordered some gold foils for another guitar, but I definitely am liking having various options at this point, and having the option for no hum is always there.

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Re: Ilitch not possible for JM. Now what?

Post by alexpigment » Mon Feb 22, 2021 9:27 am

mbene085 wrote:
Sun Feb 21, 2021 11:24 pm
Firstly, I'd argue that an Ilitch system is not "simply a dummy coil" in the conventional sense - it's a very low resistance, low capacitance dummy coil. It's basically as efficient a mains hum antenna as you can make from copper wire, meaning you get a similar amount of hum picked up compared to your pickups (out of phase, of course), but you're connecting less resistance and capacitance in series with your pickups, loading them down less, and therefore keeping the resonant frequency higher than you get with a standard dummy coil. That's why the Ilitch system has less of a tonal penalty compared to a dummy coil built like the pickups themselves. When people say, "dummy coil", they usually mean one wound similarly to the guitar's pickups, just without magnets.

I've been there, done that. Wired a dummy coil into a JM, wound to perfectly match the pickups in specs. You do lose a fair bit of high end from the added resistance and capacitance. It's unavoidable, but it works for plenty of people.
I understand that everyone's experience is different, but having used dummy coils in at least 4 of my guitars, I can say with confidence that *I* haven't experienced any loss of highs or tonal change that even seems worth keeping the switch to turn them off. I previously had a toggle to turn off the dummy coil, but the tone was effectively the same, so no use in wasting a toggle. It's worth noting that I generally use 250k pots, so at the very least, I can say that there is no more loss of high end than what you'd get by using 250k. It's possible that it's a bit of a different story with 1meg pots (although I do know for sure that my 1meg circuit in my main JM still has way more highs than the 250k circuit even with the dummy coil in place).

And I don't mean to trivialize the Ilitch system in any way. It serves a purpose, and the fact that they have optional superswitches to avoid the RWRP gotchas is nice. I also think it's a much more flexible solution that avoids some of the coil-matching woes. That said, a dummy coil should get you at least 90% of the way for a lot less money.

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Re: Ilitch not possible for JM. Now what?

Post by alexpigment » Mon Feb 22, 2021 9:34 am

Always-Ben wrote:
Sun Feb 21, 2021 9:34 pm
So I could just put it a dummy coil in any which way under the pickguard, or does it have to be set in a certain way? Does it have to be wired into the system somehow, or just a pickup by itself?

Wouldn't most JM guitars come stock with RWRP though? So it would involve buying new pickups in addition.
It just needs to be facing upward; the hum that it cancels will be the same if oriented on the same plane as the pickups. Yes, JM guitars are usually RWRP stock, so this would mean a pickup purchase. Having said that, the most cost effective way is to simply buy the same bridge pickup you already have from eBay/Reverb/etc, and use it as the neck pickup (probably about $40). Your old RWRP neck pickup can be used as the dummy coil; there is no need to remove magnets or do anything; just make sure and wrap it in plastic or bubble wrap so that it doesn't touch the shielding in the body cavity. Then solder the ground wire of the dummy coil to the output of the 3-way switch, then solder the hot wire to the input lug of the volume pot. This is a bit simplistic since it doesn't factor in the rhythm circuit (which I don't use), but ultimately, you want it between the output of the pickups and the input of the volume pot.

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Re: Ilitch not possible for JM. Now what?

Post by mbene085 » Mon Feb 22, 2021 12:44 pm

alexpigment wrote:
Mon Feb 22, 2021 9:27 am
I understand that everyone's experience is different, but having used dummy coils in at least 4 of my guitars, I can say with confidence that *I* haven't experienced any loss of highs or tonal change that even seems worth keeping the switch to turn them off. I previously had a toggle to turn off the dummy coil, but the tone was effectively the same, so no use in wasting a toggle. It's worth noting that I generally use 250k pots, so at the very least, I can say that there is no more loss of high end than what you'd get by using 250k. It's possible that it's a bit of a different story with 1meg pots (although I do know for sure that my 1meg circuit in my main JM still has way more highs than the 250k circuit even with the dummy coil in place).

And I don't mean to trivialize the Ilitch system in any way. It serves a purpose, and the fact that they have optional superswitches to avoid the RWRP gotchas is nice. I also think it's a much more flexible solution that avoids some of the coil-matching woes. That said, a dummy coil should get you at least 90% of the way for a lot less money.
Well, everything is subjective, and you may in fact enjoy the tone more with the dummy coil engaged. It's not a matter of better or worse, just of understanding what's happening.

The average single coil has a capacitance of about 100pf, which is equivalent to adding 5 feet of length to a low capacitance cable like my Wilde ones. If I enjoyed the resonant peak of my pickups where it was, that would move it. On the flipside, Jimmy Hendrix would switch to a coily cable sometimes in the studio because it added many times more capacitance than that dummy coil - and he'd lower his resonant peak of his strat pickups by about 50%, down to 2kHz or so, which is how he got some of his thicker tones out of a strat. He didn't know about LCR networks, but he did know that cable made his strat sound darker, and chose it for dirtier tones when he wanted that sound.

So, there's no better or worse, only the electrical impact on frequency response and then our personal taste.

Then there's the matter of the added resistance. I wouldn't call it "no more loss than using a 250k pot," because you're adding something entirely independent of the effect of the pots (which represent a resistance between the signal path and ground).

Adding a series resistor to the signal path forms a low pass filter together with the parallel capacitance of the cable, so you lose additional highs irrespective of what's going on with the pot values.

You may like that sound, you may not, and you or may not notice it depending on your combination of gear and ears, but on my Jazzmaster, it was quite obvious (I also had it on a switch).

I'm not saying dummy coils are bad in any way. I'd rather have one than not, if single coil hum or dummy coil circuits were my only options. I'd just choose a lower inductance pickup with a higher resonant frequency than I wanted, to mitigate some of the effects of adding one.

I'll also add that matching a dummy coil to a set of pickups requires that the orientation and placement is as similar to the pickups as possible. As everyone here has experienced, 60Hz hum is positionally-dependent, and the effectiveness of the circuit depends on being placed and oriented as similarly to the pickups as possible. That's why stacking a dummy coil beneath the main coil (the basic stacked "noiseless" design) is the most efficient, or hiding it in between pickups in thr same plane and orientation, like on the Alembic "series" basses (though those are low impedance, so they have even fewer drawbacks compared to high impedance dummy coils).

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Re: Ilitch not possible for JM. Now what?

Post by alexpigment » Mon Feb 22, 2021 2:38 pm

mbene085 wrote:
Mon Feb 22, 2021 12:44 pm
You may like that sound, you may not, and you or may not notice it depending on your combination of gear and ears, but on my Jazzmaster, it was quite obvious (I also had it on a switch).

I'm not saying dummy coils are bad in any way. I'd rather have one than not, if single coil hum or dummy coil circuits were my only options. I'd just choose a lower inductance pickup with a higher resonant frequency than I wanted, to mitigate some of the effects of adding one.

I'll also add that matching a dummy coil to a set of pickups requires that the orientation and placement is as similar to the pickups as possible. As everyone here has experienced, 60Hz hum is positionally-dependent, and the effectiveness of the circuit depends on being placed and oriented as similarly to the pickups as possible. That's why stacking a dummy coil beneath the main coil (the basic stacked "noiseless" design) is the most efficient, or hiding it in between pickups in thr same plane and orientation, like on the Alembic "series" basses (though those are low impedance, so they have even fewer drawbacks compared to high impedance dummy coils).
It's not that I prefer the dummy coil sound in any notable way. I only started using them when I moved into a location that had a hum problem and I wanted desperately to keep my *existing* sound. I tried various noiseless sets and couldn't get the tone I already had. At any rate, I do understand the science of all this from a fairly basic standpoint. What I'm saying is that I had a toggle, and when the toggle was switched, there was very little tonal difference. That's not really a scientific analysis, but it is what I would call an indisputable statement. This may be related to my pickup choices, pots, positioning, and many other details. Who knows why your experience differed so much.

As for the orientation and placement, I disagree with that fairly wholeheartedly. I know with certainty that the axis is the most important factor (they should both be pointing at the same magnetic direction). The other factors are much, much less important. As you almost certainly know, the middle position on a JM is pretty darn quiet, and the pickups are quite far apart. The strings may sound very different under those two pickup positions, but the hum/interference they pick up should be relatively the same. The same principle certainly applies to normal humbuckers.

More importantly, turning the dummy coil 90 degrees CW/CCW from the orientation of the pickups seems to have very little effect, and is not at all worth the trouble of trying to shoehorn (or route) into a cavity that will not accept them. Fender has known this for years, as they always install the dummy coils in applicable models (certain Strats) along the side of the control knobs, so roughly 45 degrees from the actual pickups in the guitar. My Fender Powerhouse Strat from 98, which came factory with a dummy coil is exactly like this. The guitar is at least as silent as any humbucker guitar I have (and actually more silent in some cases).

In other words, I understand what you're saying from a scientific standpoint, but you'll have to trust that I've done the testing on this, and extensively so, and I think I can speak with some authority that your points are not universally true or relevant in practice. I don't know why your JM sounded so vastly different with a dummy coil, but I ask that you resist the urge to counter these points based on your own less-than-ideal experience, as I believe this information may be very useful to the OP who is asking specifically about Ilitch alternatives.

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