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Thread: The Ultimate Stratocaster Tone!

  1. #41
    Toneologist Alvin Lee Fan's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Stratocaster Tone!

    Wow, fantastic post Lew! Absolutley riveting reading. Have you ever had the chance to compare your pickup combinations to any of the Fender Custom Shop pickups like the CS '54 or CS '69?

    I'm in the midst of Strat fever right now and this post came along at precisely the right time. Thanks!

  2. #42
    Fuzzy. Guitars the guy who invented fire's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Stratocaster Tone!

    Thats what i wanted to know...I'm at the start building a strat...If I don't go with Duncan's I was thinking about Fender CS 69's...anybody got any feedback?

  3. #43
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Stratocaster Tone!

    Same here.

  4. #44
    Lewguitar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Stratocaster Tone!

    I'm sorry guys, but I don't have that much experience with many newer Fender pickups. I've owned some Nocasters and some Texas Specials and tried a few others but haven't actually owned any others. When I do reviews, it's only on pickups I feel like I know well and actually have tried in my own guitars. I'm glad you're enjoying this thread though...thanks!

  5. #45
    Fuzzy. Guitars the guy who invented fire's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Stratocaster Tone!

    Lew

    This thread has been a HUGH help, I'm getting ready to put together my Strat, and this is like a little bible of answered question I had...thanks.

    P.S.
    Where's the Les Paul Tone Thread!

  6. #46
    Lewguitar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Stratocaster Tone!

    Quote Originally Posted by the guy who invented
    Lew

    This thread has been a HUGH help, I'm getting ready to put together my Strat, and this is like a little bible of answered question I had...thanks.

    P.S.
    Where's the Les Paul Tone Thread!
    That's coming! Not from me though. I only have one Les Paul and I'm not pulling the double cream Tom Holmes humbuckers out of it for anybody.

    I need to try some of the Fender single coils though and can order them at dealer cost. Which would you guys like me to order and comment on?

    I'm a vintage kinda guy...so I'd like to try a set or two of what you all think are Fender's finest 50's and 60's pickups.

  7. #47
    Toneologist Alvin Lee Fan's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Stratocaster Tone!

    Quote Originally Posted by Lewguitar
    That's coming! Not from me though. I only have one Les Paul and I'm not pulling the double cream Tom Holmes humbuckers out of it for anybody.

    I need to try some of the Fender single coils though and can order them at dealer cost. Which would you guys like me to order and comment on?

    I'm a vintage kinda guy...so I'd like to try a set or two of what you all think are Fender's finest 50's and 60's pickups.
    Definately the CS 54's and 69's!! (IMO of course )

  8. #48
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Stratocaster Tone!

    Hey Lew, how about trying the fat 50's and 57/62's also? then you'd have pretty much covered them all!

  9. #49
    Mojo's Minions flank's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Stratocaster Tone!

    the Fender CS69s are very low output, but very clear and glassy......... they have cool bottom end that kind of thumps, and the top end is kind of hollow

    overall, they just weren't strong enough to keep up with my twangbanger, so im gettin rid of them
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  10. #50
    Fuzzy. Guitars the guy who invented fire's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Stratocaster Tone!

    Lew,

    Why do I have a feeling that Gearjonser will be doing this bucker shootout?!?

    As for Fender pups, I really wannt know aobut the CS 54's and the CS 69's...any who, killer reading and I like it alot! ...After reading this, me thinks it's gonna be 2 APS, and a Twangbanger

  11. #51
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Stratocaster Tone!

    I've tried most of the Fender CS pups and the CS 54's are my favorite Fender, hands down. They're warm and sparkley when clean, have a nice quack and are snarly enough when flogged.

    I tested these in an alder body, slab-board Custom Shop Players Model thru a Vic tweed Bassman. I owned this guitar and used the VN's that came stock (if you've had VN's, you know why I changed 'em), Fat 50's (great quack, icepick bridge), Hot Gold sensors (great pickups, definately not vintage sounding) and the CS54's.

    I also have a '62 Am ri that had the 57-62's (another good pickup with redeeming qualities but an icepick bridge).

    There's Surfers in that '62 ri now and they're not going anywhere.
    God bless Tweed, Tele's

    and Tung-Sol

  12. #52
    Moe's Bluesman Curly's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Stratocaster Tone!

    I think Gearjoneser can help as far as the Fender pickups are concerned.

    BTW, my favorite set of the Duncans I've tried is APS-2s neck and mid/ SSL-3 Hot bridge.
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  13. #53
    Gear Ho Gearjoneser's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Stratocaster Tone!

    I'm pretty much a diehard Les Paul/Strat guy with no preference between the two.
    I love strats and great strat tones! I agree with installing 5 springs, clamping it down, and throwing away the bar. Worthless to me. Since most of my strats have the 2 point Am Std trem, I've come to my personal conclusion of leaving the E,A,D saddles alone, but replace the G,B,E saddles with Graphtech stringsavers. I never break high strings anymore and the icepick highs are pulled back with the graphite saddles. I keep the steel belltones of the stock saddles on the low notes.

    After spending years playing nothing but strats, and moving from stock pups to all the Fender Custom Shops, I prefer Fat 50's and 69's out of the Fender camp.
    Then, after posting another Ultimate Strat tone thread, Lew convinced me to try the Antiquity Surfers, along with an Ant I (Alnico 2) Custom bridge 9.7.
    THE SURFER NECK AND MIDDLE ARE THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD! PERIOD. Did I just say that?
    The Ant I bridge still bugs me, slightly. A good pickup, but I need Alnico 5.
    My next move is to PM Lew and get an Antiquity Custom II bridge w/Alnico 5 magnet.
    Then, my ultimate strat tones will come from my #1 SB strat Ant II Custom bridge 9.7, Surfer middle 6.4, Surfer neck 6.03. THE BEST! I'll always have a place in my heart for Fat 50's, so my other strat has those. 2 different strat tones, but both great ones. I used to use 11-49, but backed down to 10-46 on strats. On LP's, it's always 11-49 in Eb tuning with C-5/59 or
    CC/Seth.
    Quote Originally Posted by Boogie Bill View Post
    I've got 60 guitars...but 49 trumpets is just...INSANITY! WTF!

  14. #54
    Lewguitar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Stratocaster Tone!

    Thanks for your insights Gearjoneser...much appreciated.

    I spoke with Mrfjones (Scott Anstine) on the phone the other day about using the brass saddle on the high E string suggestion I'd made, and he told me he used those graphite String Saver saddles too, and they accomplished the same basic thing as using the brass saddle I'd suggested. Never tried them myself, but I probably will. I'm not a string breaker though.

    I removed the bridge/tremolo from the remaining MIJ Strat tonight and weighed it: 315 grams compared to the 375 grams the Fender '62 Vintage Reissue bridge/tremolos are weighing. I installed the '62 Reissue bridge and once again felt the immediate tonal improvement. The bass strings just ring more deeply and simply sound alot better with the heavier bridge/tremolo.

    I followed Dr. Barlo's suggestion and installed a Fralin Blues Special Telecaster bridge pickup and Fralin Vintage Hot neck and middle pickups in that guitar.

    Very nice!

    I wanted this ax to be a little more Tele like so I even used a 3 way switch instead of a 5 way and used two controls (with domed chrome Tele style knobs) instead of three.

    I made the master tone pot a push/pull pot and connected the middle pickup to it so when I pull up on the switch the middle pickup is combined with whatever the 3 way switch is set for.

    I wired the 3 way switch like a Tele:
    1. neck
    2. neck & bridge
    3. bridge.

    And when I pull up on the tone pot I get:
    1. neck & middle
    2. all three pickups
    3. middle and bridge.

    It's a little unusual but I wanted to try it.

    You already had the Ant I Custom Bridge pickup so it made sense to try it with the Ant II Surfer neck and middle pickups. After you tried it I installed the same mixed set in one of my Strats and compared it to my Strat that's had the full set of the Ant II Surfers for some time now.

    I really like both the Ant I and the Ant II Custom bridges. The Ant I has more quack and pluck to it...very cool. And the Ant II has more snap and glass to it...equally cool. I think the Ant II Surfers and Ant I Texas Hot Custom bridge sound fine combined...but it's all personal preference.

  15. #55
    Fuzzy. Guitars the guy who invented fire's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Stratocaster Tone!

    That's what I've done with my Strat...kinda! I've got 2 Dimarzio blue velvert pups in the neck and middle(not crazy about the , but ther were free!), a Tele lead coil in the bridge, a 3 way switch, master volume, master tone and a blend pot for the middle pickup, I even went as far as to drill new holes in the bridge and it had 3 compensated brass Tele saddles in a tremolo bridge! That was my Tele before I finished my Tele...it's kinda cool.
    If you just read a post by The Guy Who Invented Fire please understand that opinions change, mind sets change and as players our ears mature...not to mention our needs grow and change. With that in mind, today I may or may not agree with the post you just read!

  16. #56
    Toneologist Alvin Lee Fan's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Stratocaster Tone!

    Well that does it! I'm planning a project Strat and it's now getting a full set of Ant II Surfer pickups with Custom bridge!

    Wondering a bit about a comment re: fretboard radius in another post here,
    Quote Originally Posted by wonsup
    I forgot to mention that if you are going with any of the stagger pole pickups, make sure you have more vintage radius neck. Otherwise the imblalance among the strings will drive you nuts.
    Lew and Gearjoneser, what radius are the necks on the Strats you've got Surfers in? Any problem with string balance or anything? It doesn't sound like it from your descriptions, but I want to make sure during the planning stages!

    Thanks again for a great article

  17. #57
    Lewguitar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Stratocaster Tone!

    No problems whatsoever!

    I think the issue brought up by "wonsup" is one of those "what if" sort of thought problems that when you actually try doing the thing you're worried may not work, you find out it works fine either way!

    I've installed flat poled Strat and Tele pickups on a 8 1/2" radius neck and the guitars sounded fine and I've installed raised and staggered pickups on more modern Strats (SSL-1's in my best friend's Jimmie Vaughn Strat) with flatter radius necks and they sounded just fine too.

    The real problem with Strat pickups is finding the sweet spot height wise. I think I'll do a little post on this thread (when I wake up a little more...) about how I adjust Strat pickups so they're close enough to the strings to get great tone but not so close that the magnets pull the wound strings out of tune...

  18. #58
    Lewguitar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Stratocaster Tone!

    When adjusting Strat pickups you don't want to get them to close to the strings or else your low E will play out of tune when you fret it above the 12th fret. That's because the polepieces are alnico magnets and they'll attract the low E and pull it out of tune. (polepieces in humbuckers are not magnets...the magnet is actually UNDER the coils in a humbucker)

    I've also learned that the magnetic effect is cumulative: I can adjust one pickup far away from the strings (usually the middle pickup) and that'll allow me to move the other two closer if I want to.

    I can have the bridge pickup closer to the strings than the neck and middle pickups because the string itself moves less near the bridge and feels stiffer and won't get pulled out of tune as easily by the bridge pickup.

    So what I do is start by holding all of the strings down at the highest 21st or 22nd fret and adjusting all three pickups to about 3/32" away from the underside of the high E string and about 1/8" away from the underside of the low E string.

    Then I plug the guitar in and play above the 12th fret on the low E. Usually it'll sound out of tune because the magnetic polepiece are pulling it out of tune. So I move both the neck and middle pickups a little further away on the low E side and then check again. If it's still out of tune and sounds "warbley" and "funny" I move those two pickups a little further away again.

    Usually I'm able to find a happy medium when I can hold the low E down at the highest fret and measure about 1/8" or 3/16" between the neck and middle polepiece and the underside of the low E string.

    I don't like to have the neck and middle pickups to much further away than that. But if I have both the neck and middle pickups adjusted 3/16" away when I hold the string down at the 21st fret and the low E still sounds out of tune, then I'll move the middle ( and maybe bridge pickup ) further away on the low E side until the warbling stops...but NOT the neck pickup unless I have to.

    Eventually I'll get the "beating" or "warbling" to just about stop.

    Generally, when I'm done, I can hold the strings down at the highest fret and the bridge pickup will measure about 1/8" away on the low E and a little more than 1/16" away from the underside of the high E.

    And the neck pickup will measure about 3/16" away from the low E and a llittle more than 1/16" away for the high E.

    The middle pickup is usually set almost identicaly to the neck pickup or just a little but further away.

    It's best to strat with a new set of strings, perfectly intonated at the bridge and with the action set to whatever you like best before adjusting the pickups.

    I usually set the intonation and actin with the pickups pretty far away from the trings so they are not influencing the intonation at all.

    I use .010 through .046 strings. If you use heavier strings you'll need to adjust the pickups a little further away than I do. That's because there's more steel a heavier low E and more steel will be attracted to the magnetic polepieces more easily than a skinnier one.

    Hope this helps.

    Lew

  19. #59
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Stratocaster Tone!

    It sure does. It's pretty similar to what I've been doing after a fair amount of fumbling. The old 1 nickel / 2 nickel gauging is good for starters, but then it's up to the ears to decide -- unfortunately, they don't always cooperate.

  20. #60
    Ultimate Tone Slacker mrfjones's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Ultimate Stratocaster Tone!

    my saddles are the kind that are mostly metal with just the graphite under the string. very smooth sound and takes care of the sometimes rattling and harsh high strings

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