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Fixing muddy pickups in my DAW

Postby garrettendi » Fri Aug 16, 2019 9:48 am

Hi guys! So I got a new guitar... A Harley Benton Fusion II HSH and it is awesome. The only issue I have is the pickups are pretty "muddy" sounding. They seem to lack punch and definition.

This is not a huge issue, and it's down to the Roswell pickups they use. I don't want to send it back because even if the pickups are muddy I'm having an absolute whale of a time playing this thing and I am pretty content with the sound as it is even if it's not 100% there. My SoloC amp sim (a clone of the Soldano SLO) has never sounded better (although my TSE X50 - a 5150 sim - doesn't sound as good as for my other guitar).

Eventually I'll swap out the pickups with DiMarzio Evolutions, but to buy them and pay for them to be fitted comes to about £300 which is out of the question at the moment. What would you guys suggest as a stop-gap solution with a parametric EQ in my DAW? I have MEqualiser and all the standard plugins in Reaper and all my practice and recording these days is done on my PC.

I know this won't be as good as new pickups, but can I at least clean a little of the mud? Give it a bit more high end and sparkle...
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Re: Fixing muddy pickups in my DAW

Postby CS70 » Fri Aug 16, 2019 10:06 am

Hm "muddy" normally refers to excessive emphasis on the midrange, and sweeping a simple medium/high Q EQ cut in the 200-600Hz region or whereabouts will tell you all you need. Start with a huge cut, say -10dB, to hear what's what and when you find the offending band, reduce the gain and tweak the Q to get it just so.

As a note, I seem to be a little extreme among fellows guitarists, but I've never ever found a pickup that cannot be worked with, and in 35 years of playing I never swapped a single one. It's all down to learning how to set up the amp, effects and the guitar volume/tone controls and of course control the sound with your hands.

Check out Zack here, he must have great kit.. :D

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwhvFLHIlBs
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Re: Fixing muddy pickups in my DAW

Postby Wonks » Fri Aug 16, 2019 11:52 am

I'd certainly EQ before the amp sim rather than afterwards, to get the pickups sounding more like you want them to before the sound hits the 'amp'.

However if the mud is due to lack of treble content, rather than excessive mids, you may struggle to put that treble back, if it's not there in the first place.

One cheap way to add more treble is to swap out the pots for 1 Meg pots (have you any idea what the pots fitted are?) and also make the tone pot a 'no-load' type. No guarantees that it will give you just what you want, but for £10's worth of parts, plus a few minutes of soldering, its a cheap way to try and make it sound better. It will certainly sound a bit brighter, and that may be all you need.
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Re: Fixing muddy pickups in my DAW

Postby blinddrew » Fri Aug 16, 2019 12:36 pm

Just on Wonks' point about a lack of treble from the guitar in the first place, try lobbing an exciter on it. The standard JS one in Reaper does the job nicely.
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Re: Fixing muddy pickups in my DAW

Postby garrettendi » Fri Aug 16, 2019 1:07 pm

Thanks very much guys! Lots of a great advice which is what I came for!

CS70 - Cheers for the encouragement about your experience with pickups, I guess maybe putting in new pickups is a bit extreme at this early stage! I'll be sure to give the Roswell pups a good use/abuse before I give up. Also thanks for the EQ advice, I'll give that a belt - hopefully this weekend.

Wonks - Rest assured, I was 100% planning on applying the EQ before the amp not after! I agree with you entirely on getting the tone right before hitting the amp. New pots are a possibility, especially given I'll be getting the guitar serviced after I've had more experience of it. I will, however, exhaust all the free options before laying down any cash, but as you say pots are cheap, so I'm certainly not throwing out the idea altogether.

Drew - Good shout on the JS exciter in Reaper, I didn't think of that! I'll go an EQ route first, then apply the exciter.

EDIT: Wonks, I don't know what pots are installed, and Thomann frustratingly have no documentation on any of their guitars :protest: As I go down that route if needed, I can give the Harley Benton group on Facebook an ask as I'm sure someone somewhere will have upgraded that part.
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Re: Fixing muddy pickups in my DAW

Postby Wonks » Fri Aug 16, 2019 1:22 pm

You may only need to take the control cover off as many pots have the value stamped or engraved on the back. Of the mini-pots normally have the value on the insulation pad the three input/output connectors sit on. Take a photo and post it if it's not obvious.
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Re: Fixing muddy pickups in my DAW

Postby Wonks » Fri Aug 16, 2019 1:28 pm

FYI, Roswell humbucker pickups web page: http://www.roswellpickups.com/pickup/pro_list.php

The guitar should have HAF-B and HAF-N humbuckers, which are supposed to be classic FAP (PAF!) types.
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Re: Fixing muddy pickups in my DAW

Postby garrettendi » Fri Aug 16, 2019 1:32 pm

Thanks Wonks!

Yes the pickups are HAF but they don't really sound as articulated as real PAF standard
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Re: Fixing muddy pickups in my DAW

Postby Wonks » Fri Aug 16, 2019 1:37 pm

Indeed not. Vintage PAFs normally range from fairly to very bright. There look to be other Roswell pickups that would have been a better choice for that guitar, but I expect it all comes down to cost. Although a quick browse seems to show they all tend to have rather subdued treble outputs compared to other manufacturers own ratings.

Personally, I'd fit some Irongear pickups in it for some great tone at a low price.
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Re: Fixing muddy pickups in my DAW

Postby garrettendi » Fri Aug 16, 2019 1:41 pm

Those IronGear pickups look nice!

Yes, the bass is high and there's not much treble according to the Roswell site. Hopefully Drew's suggestion of an exciter will make a difference pending new pups
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Re: Fixing muddy pickups in my DAW

Postby MOF » Fri Aug 16, 2019 3:58 pm

As a temporary measure play closer to the bridge and/or only use the bridge pickup.
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Re: Fixing muddy pickups in my DAW

Postby garrettendi » Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:03 pm

Thanks MOF!

I'll give that a try, but I think at certain points last night I was playing near the bridge (probably palm muting), and I tried all the pickups. Still quite a bit of mud!
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Re: Fixing muddy pickups in my DAW

Postby MOF » Fri Aug 16, 2019 7:41 pm

I'll give that a try, but I think at certain points last night I was playing near the bridge (probably palm muting), and I tried all the pickups. Still quite a bit of mud!

Another thought, have you tried lowering the the pole pieces at the bass and middle strings and/or raising the top string ones?
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Re: Fixing muddy pickups in my DAW

Postby garrettendi » Fri Aug 16, 2019 7:44 pm

MOF wrote:Another thought, have you tried lowering the the pole pieces at the bass and middle strings and/or raising the top string ones?

Good shout! No I haven’t done that and to be honest I’m not sure I’d trust myself with the screwdriver!

I’ll try the EQ and Exciter ideas first and then think about that!
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Re: Fixing muddy pickups in my DAW

Postby Watchmaker » Fri Aug 16, 2019 8:37 pm

I'd look at the setup first and make sure the pups are seated correctly.

Have a go at this https://www.premierguitar.com/articles/22114-mod-garage-humbucker-height-adjustment
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Re: Fixing muddy pickups in my DAW

Postby garrettendi » Fri Aug 16, 2019 8:39 pm

Thanks Watchmaker!

I’ll be getting a full service in a month or two. In the meanwhile it’s worth noting that muddy pickups are rather commonly said about the Roswell stuff
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