What do the different wires on a humbucker do?
4 Conductor: Red – Hot
Yellow and white – Connected for series link
Black & bare – Connected to ground
2 Conductor: Black cloth centre – Hot
Braided shield – Ground
Due to some supply issues during Covid, we had to buy different 4 conductor wire occasionally, this means that on some older pickups yellow sometimes becomes green and vice versa.
Should I buy my pickups with 2 or 4 conductor wiring?
This partly comes down to personal preference, but we usually recommend 4 conductor. There’s no difference in tone and it allows more complex wiring options such as push-pull coil splitting. Nothing wrong with vintage 2 conductor though if you’re after a simpler, more traditional approach.
What do the wax potting options mean?
We offer two options when it comes to wax potting - ‘coils only’ and fully potted. Waxing just the coils prior to building a pickup ensures that the windings themselves remain secure but gives the pickup a bit more of a microphonic quality, slightly noticeable in the top end when playing clean. Fully potting a pickup gives peace of mind that a pickup will remain squeal-free at louder volumes, perfect for live work in particular. The change in tone is barely noticeable so this is the option we would recommend if unsure.
We don’t tend to do any completely non-potted pickups as our wax recipe leads to a lot less ‘smothering’ of the pickup than can sometimes be heard with other brands. In a few reviews they have been mistakenly referred to as unpotted because they still sound so clear.
Are the Boleros RW/RP?
The middle pickup on a Bolero set is reverse wound/reverse polarity so the set of 3 will be hum-cancelling in positions 2&4. It will also hum cancel when paired with one of our humbuckers in say the bridge when the HB is split, where the slug bobbin is the one left on and not the screw side. It can get a bit more complicated combining with other manufacturers due to different wind directions/magnet orientations between different brands.
What pots should I use?
Most humbuckers are used with 500/550k pots as they allow the tone to come through nicely without cutting any of the higher frequencies that a 300/250k pot would. The latter values are commonly used in a strat/tele to tame the increased treble of single-coil pickups, something that humbuckers don’t need as much due to their fatter sound. Never be afraid to experiment though!
Which capacitors should I use?
For humbuckers, a 0.022uF in the bridge is always a good choice, and a 0.015uF cap in the neck will allow for a mellower sweep on the tone control. Paper in Oil caps are a great addition for a bit of that vintage mojo. Single coils are well suited to a 0.047uF cap, as the higher value lets the tone control take off more treble than you would need to with fatter-sounding humbuckers.
What height should the pickups be?
Feel free to experiment with the height of the neck pickup - we usually like to set the bridge around 2/32" on the treble side as you measure from the top of the poles to the bottom of the string when depressed at the last fret, and 3/32" on the bass side. We then set the height of the neck pickup so it gives an equal volume. You can also back off the pole pieces to adjust the balance between the strings.
Does pickup spacing matter when matching to string spacing?
The short answer is not as much as you might think. A pickup’s magnetic field works in more of a blob shape around the poles versus a laser approach shooting straight up, most clearly heard during string bends as sound is maintained even as the string passes between the poles. This means that many guitars such as Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstrat have used 49.2/50mm pickups in Fender-style guitars with 52/53mm string spacing to great effect.
When measured from centre-centre on the low E-high E pole pieces, exact spacing varies a little from brand to brand. Gibsons are usually 50mm when measured in the same way. F-spaced humbuckers are usually 52/53mm. Our traditional humbuckers measure at 49.2mm whereas something like the Afterburner bridge is built at 53mm.