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Thread: SSL-5 Bridge PUP Sounds Bright And Harsh

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    Default SSL-5 Bridge PUP Sounds Bright And Harsh

    I've been dealing with an issue with my rig for a while now and have only really narrowed it down now to the pickups, or at least my guitar. I own a MIM strat that has a great set-up and feels great to play. A while back I replaced the bridge pickup with a ssl-5 to try to get closer to some Gilmour tones. Since I've gotten into recording recently I've really started to listen closely to my tone and have noticed that the bridge pickup has this insane high-end on it, which I have noted occurs at about 3khz.

    I recently went to a trusted guitar repair shop and demoed it for them, plugging into a few different amplifiers they had there to make sure it wasn't an amp issue. I can vividly remember the way the repair guy's head whipped back as I hit the 15th fret on high E and this ice-pick ringing came out (it doesn't occur only on that note). Although the repair guy is phenomenal with body work he isn't so knowledgeable on wiring, but he told me that it sounded like the pickup was way too hot and that I should try wiring it to a tone pot to try to attenuate those high frequencies, and I was pretty satisfied with that explanation.

    However, I noticed that nobody has had almost any issues like this before with this pickup, I go to glimourish.com, a great resource when seeking those David Gilmour tones, and he described the pickup as slightly dark sounding even when not connected to a tone pot, opposite to what I'm experiencing.

    It's also not really just the bridge pickup either, the stock middle and neck pickup seem to be creating this ice-pick ringing usually more evident in the high registers of the guitar. I've been dealing with this issue for a while and just want to get a usable tone for recording that doesn't make every headphone user throw their cans against the wall.

    I generally love the tone of this pickup but the ice-pick ringing makes it almost unusable when playing clean, which I do often.

    This issue is not related to pickup height, or "Stratitis", as adjusting the pickup height has little to no difference on the issue.

    I'm having a little trouble posting pictures with this interface so if you want to see some pics of the original wiring and the current wiring of the pickups you can head to the link posted below.

    Extra info:
    I do not have the RWRP version of the ssl5, which does means that I don't get hum-cancelling in the mid/bridge position. I'm not sure this info really has anything to do with the issue but I'm just putting it out there.

    I also posted this to the forums on StratTalk so if you wanted to check out some of the info that's over there, here's the link: https://www.strat-talk.com/threads/s...-harsh.530067/

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    Default Re: SSL-5 Bridge PUP Sounds Bright And Harsh

    Welcome to the forum!

    Make sure the hot and ground of the SSL-5 is reversed for use with Fender pickups. An SSL-5 should not sound harsh at all.
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    Default Re: SSL-5 Bridge PUP Sounds Bright And Harsh

    Hi & welcome.

    1)Listen Mincer: reverse the hot and ground of the SSL5 relatively to the other PU's. Because if you play it out of phase with the mid PU (2d position of your switch), it will be all treble.

    2)In most cases, the SSL5 is a dark pickup. The last one that I had was way too middy for me.

    Now, passive magnetic transducers haven't a sound in themselves. Their tone depends on various external parameters. Let's start to think about it.

    Quote Originally Posted by ZolloKaptain View Post
    It's also not really just the bridge pickup either, the stock middle and neck pickup seem to be creating this ice-pick ringing usually more evident in the high registers of the guitar. I've been dealing with this issue for a while and just want to get a usable tone for recording that doesn't make.
    So, the first cause of your issue appears to be the guitar itself, with its own frequency spectrum.

    Which strings do you use? Brand, gauge?

    Has the hardware been modified? Nut, saddles, trem block?

    I recently went to a trusted guitar repair shop and demoed it for them, plugging into a few different amplifiers they had there to make sure it wasn't an amp issue. I can vividly remember the way the repair guy's head whipped back as I hit the 15th fret on high E and this ice-pick ringing came out (it doesn't occur only on that note).
    Did you use a cable belonging to the shop? of which lenght?

    And which cable(s) do you use at home? Brand, lenght?

    These questions may seem strange BUT passive magnetic transducers find their voicing by cooperating with the resistance of pots AND with the "stray" capacitance of the whole wiring. More later on this if necessary.

    That brings another question: I can't see on the other forum what is the resistance of your pots. Are they the stock 250k controls?

    Last question for the moment: what is the DCR (resistance) of the SSL5? Put the positive probe of a digital multimeter on the tip of your output jack and the negative probe on the sleeve. You should read something like 12.6k (= 12600 Ohm = the theoretical 13.3k of a SSL5 in parallel with the 250k of a normal Fender volume pot). This reading might vary of +/- 10%, depending on other variables.

    More later on the basis of your answers, if you want to continue this tedious trouble-shooting... LOL. :-)
    Last edited by freefrog; 01-05-2020 at 12:00 AM.
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    Default Re: SSL-5 Bridge PUP Sounds Bright And Harsh

    Hi, thanks for all the awesome suggestions!

    I use David Gilmour custom strat strings normally, I have also used D'Addario strings which hasn't made much of a difference. The DGs are .10 - .48 gauge, I can't remember exactly what the D'Addarios were but I imagine they were probably similar gauge. My nut and saddle haven't really been modified I've only had standard set-ups done, however my trem block had to be replaced.

    I use a variety of different cables, a livewire cable that is about 10ft I believe and a bunch of different Fender cloth cables. Furthermore, I have tested each cable running straight to my amp and have noted no difference between them regarding the existence or severity of the issue.

    At the shop I used my cable and one of theirs although I can't recall exactly what brand cable they had. It made no difference in the end.

    My pots are stock 250k.

    I will get you the DCR resistance readings as soon as possible.

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    Default Re: SSL-5 Bridge PUP Sounds Bright And Harsh

    Quote Originally Posted by ZolloKaptain View Post
    Hi, thanks for all the awesome suggestions!

    I use David Gilmour custom strat strings normally, I have also used D'Addario strings which hasn't made much of a difference. The DGs are .10 - .48 gauge, I can't remember exactly what the D'Addarios were but I imagine they were probably similar gauge. My nut and saddle haven't really been modified I've only had standard set-ups done, however my trem block had to be replaced.

    I use a variety of different cables, a livewire cable that is about 10ft I believe and a bunch of different Fender cloth cables. Furthermore, I have tested each cable running straight to my amp and have noted no difference between them regarding the existence or severity of the issue.

    At the shop I used my cable and one of theirs although I can't recall exactly what brand cable they had. It made no difference in the end.

    My pots are stock 250k.

    I will get you the DCR resistance readings as soon as possible.
    OK.

    Regarding cables, here is the link that I use to post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2sjeVQpS94

    You'll build your own conclusions on this basis. :-)

    Regarding the ways to tame the treble peaks of passive transducers, you have two simple tricks at disposal:

    1)lowering the resistive load. That's what you do when you roll off a tone pot (since the tone cap actually starts to play a role only below 3/10).

    You wouldn't even have to connect the bridge pickup to a tone pot for that: a resistor in parallel with the pickup(s) would suffice.

    If you want to test this solution, use alligator clip to put various resistors between the hot and ground of your output jack, play and listen. You can start with values like 470k, 330k, 270k, 220k (I wouldn't go lower than this).

    2) 2d trick: rising the "stray capacitance". A longer cable would do that but is not necessary since it can be emulated by a low value capacitor between hot and ground. You can test it on alligator clips, in the same way than the resistors mentioned above. Values to try would range between 470pF and 4700pF (albeit the tone should become really mid centered above 2200pF).

    These tricks can even be used together to tune passive PU's. :-)

    And resistors as well as capacitors cost a few cents.


    Now, checking the actual DCR reading of your SSL5 remains important, for reasons that I might explain later.

    See ya!
    Last edited by freefrog; 01-05-2020 at 12:25 AM.
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    Default Re: SSL-5 Bridge PUP Sounds Bright And Harsh

    Here's few things I've found out hunting down offending freaquencies in high register:

    1) Pickup height: I used keep them relatively low, especially with vintage stagger as that really helps even out frequencies. It's not just stratitis, but the overall sound of pickup as well.

    2) Tremolo setup: Setting tremolo floating will reduce offending frequencies, if guitar has them. It will also make the overall sound of guitar softer.

    3) Related to floating tremolo; Trem springs make huge difference: I've had three types of them and it really can get guitar from too harsh to too mellow switching them, when it's set right otherwise. Black springs from Am. Deluxe are by far the mellowest, which I'd suggest you to try out. Some of the random imports are really hard, when standard budget Fender springs are quite balanced.

    4) Old strings can sound really offending, as well as brand new ones for the first hours of playing.

    5) In terms of high frequency harshness, EB strings are the worst.

    6) Strats are bright guitars, and playing style is important to suit for that. I have SSL-5 in middle position and playing just straight heavy handedly does sound pretty offending. However it sounds brilliant when played more laid back and taking care of dynamics; diffusing the excess attack out.

    7) Of course it's also possible that something went awry when changin pickups. So if you think you've tried every easy solution, I would rewire the guitar changing pots as well (they maybe be burned in wiring process), and test again if it makes difference.

    8) Ear fatigue makes you lose the perspective how your guitar sounds when fixing things like that. So keep breaks. Often I've figured out how the guitar now sounds really after the mods the next day.
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    Default Re: SSL-5 Bridge PUP Sounds Bright And Harsh

    Thanks for the ideas!

    I do have a floating trem on my strat and I usually use GHS strings/ DG strings.

    I agree that Strats are bright guitars, however the issue I have is present even when playing softly. Of course it is exacerbated when playing with more force but that doesn't seem to be the culprit itself.

    The trem springs is a very interesting suggestion that I will look into. I remember I tried dampening the tremolo springs with no luck. However, I think my tremolo springs might be a bit tight. Maybe that could affect the tone?

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    Default Re: SSL-5 Bridge PUP Sounds Bright And Harsh

    Quote Originally Posted by ZolloKaptain View Post
    The trem springs is a very interesting suggestion that I will look into. I remember I tried dampening the tremolo springs with no luck. However, I think my tremolo springs might be a bit tight. Maybe that could affect the tone?
    It's for such reasons that I've asked if the trem block had been changed. I've forgotten to react to your answer about that but fortunately, Jacew was there. :-))

    I'd still be curious to know the DCR reading of your SSL5, for some reasons still to explain if needed (and my suggestions about resistive/capacitive loads remain at disposal for any moody passive transducer but that's secondary for the moment) . :-)
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    Default Re: SSL-5 Bridge PUP Sounds Bright And Harsh

    Have you measured the value of your pots (especially the volume pot where a high value makes pickups sound more peaky)? If you're using regular 250k ones +/-20% they might actually read as high as 300k . . . and that will sound noticibly brighter.
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    Default Re: SSL-5 Bridge PUP Sounds Bright And Harsh

    My DCR reading is about 12.7k.

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    Default Re: SSL-5 Bridge PUP Sounds Bright And Harsh

    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarStv View Post
    Have you measured the value of your pots (especially the volume pot where a high value makes pickups sound more peaky)? If you're using regular 250k ones +/-20% they might actually read as high as 300k . . . and that will sound noticibly brighter.
    I'm not exactly sure how to measure a volume pot, when I try it it seems like I'm just getting the resistance readings of the pickups.

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    Default Re: SSL-5 Bridge PUP Sounds Bright And Harsh

    Quote Originally Posted by ZolloKaptain View Post
    I'm not exactly sure how to measure a volume pot, when I try it it seems like I'm just getting the resistance readings of the pickups.
    You'll need to pull the guard, but try measuring between the two outside lugs of the pot.
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    And that's probably because most people with electric guitars seem more interested in their own performance rather than the effect on the listener ... in fact i don't think many people who own electric guitars even give a poop about the effect on a listener. Which is why many people play electric guitars but very very few of them are actually musicians.

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    Default Re: SSL-5 Bridge PUP Sounds Bright And Harsh

    That's what I tried at first but I couldn't get a stable reading no matter what I did, it would jump from 200 to about 350 and then go to 0. But I'm mostly seeing values above 300 when anything even displays.

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    Default Re: SSL-5 Bridge PUP Sounds Bright And Harsh

    Quote Originally Posted by ZolloKaptain View Post
    My DCR reading is about 12.7k.
    OK. It exorcizes a possible problem of "broken capacitive coil wire" and that's a good thing. :-)

    If your SSL5 measures the standard value of 13.3k, your external reading of 12.7k suggests that your volume pot measures 280k.

    If you want to see how I calculate that, see here : https://www.allaboutcircuits.com/too...ce-calculator/

    Of course, the actual DCR of your SSL5 might be lower than the theoretical resistance of this model so, the only way to be sure would be to open the guitar and to measure the pot directly.

    Anyway: with the springs evoked by Jacew and the simple tricks mentioned in my post 5, you have a few things to try against this annoying brightness that you described. Replacing the volume pot would be a possible solution if the brightness is due to the wiring but using parallel resistor(s) or capacitor(s) could be cheaper and easier...

    What to do is up to you now. Let us know what you'll have decided and good luck in your tone quest!
    Last edited by freefrog; 01-05-2020 at 11:24 AM.
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    Default Re: SSL-5 Bridge PUP Sounds Bright And Harsh

    I must confess that I didn't get to watch the video you linked until now.

    Anyways, the sounds you hear at about 0' feet especially when he gets into the high registers of the lick he uses, is very similar to the sound that I'm hearing except mine can be a little more ear-piercing.
    I remember hearing an interview with Alan Parsons once about how David Gilmour would run this super long guitar cable from the mixing room out into the recording space when they recorded DSOTM. They said they hadn't realized until after that it could really affect your tone.

    I think I'll try rewiring my pickup so it matches what Seymour Duncan told me on the StratTalk forum, possibly do a blender pot mod with a no-load Master Tone. Then, I'll try out the cable lengths for myself. If that doesn't seem to work or alleviate the issue then I'll test out the resistors. If that makes a difference, unfortunately I'll have wasted a pair of strings, but losing $10 for fixing this issue sounds like a steal to me.

    Anyways, thanks everyone for your help, I really appreciate it! And of course I'll update you all with my findings.
    Last edited by ZolloKaptain; 01-05-2020 at 11:59 AM.

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    Default Re: SSL-5 Bridge PUP Sounds Bright And Harsh

    Try a 200k resistor in parallel with your volume pot and you'll drop the value of your pot down a bit.

    Given what you're describing, I'm not sure a no load pot is what you really want.
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    Default Re: SSL-5 Bridge PUP Sounds Bright And Harsh

    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarStv View Post
    Try a 200k resistor in parallel with your volume pot and you'll drop the value of your pot down a bit.

    Given what you're describing, I'm not sure a no load pot is what you really want.
    Well, it's my understanding that a no-load pot removes itself from the chain when at 10, or disengaged. I don't want to stack capacitance on itself by possibly using a regular tone pot and capacitor/resistor simultaneously by default. This way, if I feel I need more attenuation of those high frequencies I can choose to do so or not. I rarely ever go below 3 on a 250k tone knob anyways so I don't I'll be losing too much range. Unless if I'm thinking of this incorrectly?

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    Default Re: SSL-5 Bridge PUP Sounds Bright And Harsh

    Quote Originally Posted by ZolloKaptain View Post
    I don't want to stack capacitance on itself by possibly using a regular tone pot and capacitor/resistor simultaneously by default. This way, if I feel I need more attenuation of those high frequencies I can choose to do so or not. I rarely ever go below 3 on a 250k tone knob anyways so I don't I'll be losing too much range. Unless if I'm thinking of this incorrectly?
    FWIW, any user of passive pickups stacks capacitance on itself, since a guitar cable is nothing else than a "tubular capacitor" (this expression coming from Bill Lawrence). :-)

    What GuitarSTV said relies on the same idea than my post 5 : a resistor in parallel with the volume pot would lower its resistance and would give a rounder "resonant peak".

    Now, it's true that a master no load tone would do the same thing once lowered @9/10 or under, for exactly the same reason (added parallel resistance).

    Regarding cables: don't be afraid to experiment also with LOWER stray capacitance (= low cap cables or shorter ones). It would shift the resonant peak ABOVE the frequency that you find annoying and might solve the problem as well, albeit for paradoxal reasons (a higher pitched resonant peak makes a PU brighter, of course, but it locates this brightness in a frequency range that many guitar loudspeakers struggle to reproduce, so it might ultimately contribute to "transparency" rather than to painful harshness... Not sure it will work with a high inductance PU like the SSL5 but it is worth a try) .

    Oh and... the question of trem setting and springs remains a parameter to consider IMHO. :-)
    Last edited by freefrog; 01-06-2020 at 03:34 AM.
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    Default Re: SSL-5 Bridge PUP Sounds Bright And Harsh

    It's not unusual for strat pickups to sound harsh even if the bridge is overwound. Just adjust your load to suit whatever sound you want. Like stv said, add a resistor. You can use the no load tone if you want for a bigger range of tones. 250k works best for no load in my opinion. You get max bright on 10 and you notice a subtle darkening as soon as you hit 9. Use audio if you want the dark portion to take up most of the sweep or linear if you want the bright portion to take up most of the sweep.
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    Default Re: SSL-5 Bridge PUP Sounds Bright And Harsh

    Quote Originally Posted by freefrog View Post
    FWIW, any user of passive pickups stacks capacitance on itself, since a guitar cable is nothing else than a "tubular capacitor" (this expression coming from Bill Lawrence). :-)

    What GuitarSTV said relies on the same idea than my post 5 : a resistor in parallel with the volume pot would lower its resistance and would give a rounder "resonant peak".

    Now, it's true that a master no load tone would do the same thing once lowered @9/10 or under, for exactly the same reason (added parallel resistance).

    Regarding cables: don't be afraid to experiment also with LOWER stray capacitance (= low cap cables or shorter ones). It would shift the resonant peak ABOVE the frequency that you find annoying and might solve the problem as well, albeit for paradoxal reasons (a higher pitched resonant peak makes a PU brighter, of course, but it locates this brightness in a frequency range that many guitar loudspeakers struggle to reproduce, so it might ultimately contribute to "transparency" rather than to painful harshness... Not sure it will work with a high inductance PU like the SSL5 but it is worth a try) .

    Oh and... the question of trem setting and springs remains a parameter to consider IMHO. :-)
    That's a good point about stacking capacitance, it's just that I want to be in control of it as much as I can.

    I believe I might have used a 5 ft cable before with no noticeable difference but I'll try it again.

    Anyways, about the trem setting and springs, do you believe that I should replace the springs? Reduce the tension?
    I could also probably float my trem a little more as well because it is relatively flush right now.

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