Do­ing the SplitS – part 2

In last is­sue’s Mod squad we looked at the ba­sics of coil split­ting – here Dave bur­rluck in­ves­ti­gates some dif­fer­ent con­cepts

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You’ll al­ready know that if you want to get the most from your hum­buck­ing pickup, then you’ll need four­con­duc­tor wiring. Don’t worry, you won’t lose your ‘vin­tage’ tone, but it’ll give you max­i­mum flex­i­bil­ity, es­pe­cially if you want to get some sin­gle-coil sounds.

One seem­ingly new con­cept is the ‘par­tial’ coil split. This was ex­plained to me by luthier Brins­ley Sch­warz who, at the time, worked at Chan­dler Gui­tars in Rich­mond. As we said last is­sue, a coil-split is achieved by knock­ing out one coil. But that, on a lower-pow­ered hum­bucker, can lead to a thin sound. The par­tial coil-split, how­ever, puts a re­sis­tor be­tween the split point and ground so some of the dumped coil is re­tained pro­duc­ing a slightly thicker, big­ger sound­ing split. PRS is one main­stream com­pany that, since the launch of the David Gris­som DGT, in­stalls a dif­fer­ent value re­sis­tor for the neck and bridge pickup to achieve these ‘big­ger’ sound­ing coil-splits. You can even use a vari­able re­sis­tor, like a vol­ume con­trol or (more usu­ally) a smaller trim-pot, so you can tune in ex­actly how much of that dumped coil you want to hear.

This turn­ing down, rather than dump­ing, of one whole coil can also be achieved by tak­ing the split out­put to your tone pot, so fully ‘on’ the pickup is split and, as you turn it down, the dumped coil is grad­u­ally rein­tro­duced to voice the full hum­bucker be­fore the tone cap re­duces the high end as you’d ex­pect. This hum­bucker-to-sin­gle coil grad­u­a­tion is the prin­ci­ple be­hind Trev Wilkin­son’s Vari-Coil that you’ll find on var­i­ous Fret-King and Vin­tage gui­tars. An­other idea, the VCC (Voice Con­tour Con­trol), used by Wash­burn, is to use a 500k lin­ear ganged stereo pot to move from full se­ries hum­buck­ing to that thin­ner and brighter (but still hum­can­celling) par­al­lel mode.

You don’t have to use the tra­di­tional coil-split to thin out a hum­bucker. Again, with an ad­di­tional pot (or switch) you can fil­ter the hum­buck­ers, re­mov­ing some bass, to sim­u­late a sin­gle coil. This is the con­cept be­hind Rev­erend’s vari­able Bass Con­tour Con­trol and Yamaha’s Dry Switch that was in­tro­duced on cer­tain Revs­tar mod­els. The neat thing is you don’t need a pickup with four-con­duc­tor wiring and it’ll also work on a fat-sound­ing P-90 or in­deed any sin­gle coil. Aside from that ex­tra pot (Rev­erend uses a 1meg ohm pot) all you need is a tone ca­pac­i­tor, again Rev­erend uses a .022mi­cro­farad. If you don’t want to in­stall an ad­di­tional pot, you can do the same thing on a switch for a pre-set bass cut – pretty much what you’ll find on Charvel’s Guthrie Go­van mod­els, called the ‘se­cret’ switch.

Some com­pa­nies call our clas­sic coil-split a coil-tap. This is ac­tu­ally a dif­fer­ent con­cept. When a coil has been wound to a cer­tain per­cent­age an out­put can be at­tached. The coil is then con­tin­ued and the fin­ish wire be­comes the nor­mal full coil out­put. This gives, for ex­am­ple, an over­wound sin­gle coil, or a P90, two voices. When the two coils of a hum­bucker are both tapped we can achieve, for in­stance, a ‘hot’ and ‘vin­tage’ hum­buck­ing out­put.

I’m not say­ing Paul Reed Smith was the first to ex­ploit this to achieve a more re­al­is­tic sin­gle coil voice from a hum­bucker but he was the first I was aware of. The con­cept means one coil of the hum­bucker is tapped and the smaller per­cent­age of that coil tap is added to the voiced sin­gle coil, in­creas­ing the num­ber of coil winds we’re hear­ing and re­duc­ing the vol­ume drop as­so­ci­ated with a ba­sic coil split. As a re­sult it beefs up the sin­gle coil sound. The trou­ble is any of PRS’s ‘multi-tap’ hum­buck­ers come only with a gui­tar and a £3k plus price tag – you can’t buy them with­out the gui­tar (aside from on eBay or Re­verb). We’ve writ­ten about the UK’s Catswhisker S-bucker be­fore and, as well as of­fer­ing this tap func­tion, the slug coil (the one that’s voiced in the tapped split mode) has six Fender-like mag­netic poles to cre­ate one of the nicest-sound­ing hum­bucker/ sin­gle coil pick­ups we’ve heard.

Sey­mour Dun­can of­fers op­tions too. The Stag Mag loads two Fender-style sin­gle coils into a hum­buck­ing for­mat, which can be wired in nor­mal se­ries hum­buck­ing or voiced as sin­gle coils. Then there’s the SH-16 59/Cus­tom Hy­brid. It uses the screw coil from a 59 and the slug coil from the higher out­put Cus­tom (with a mea­sured DC re­sis­tance of 7k ohms) and it’s that one that’s voiced with a stan­dard split.

A con­ven­tional coil-split, where one coil is dumped to achieve a sin­gle coil sound from hum­buck­ers, is so last year.

Mi­cro switches are one way to con­trol your coil-split tones

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