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Replacing a tele bridge pickup cheaply

Postby garrettendi » Tue Oct 01, 2019 9:49 am

Hi guys, I'm wanting to replace the bridge pickup of my Squier CV tele with a cheap £15 hot rails pickup. The sound samples of the pickup I've heard all suggest it's better than the Squier stock pickup, but if it does go worse, then I'm only £15 down! I am USELESS with all things DIY and especially soldering, and as it's such a cheap pickup with a potential to not be as good as I think, I am loathe to pay a luthier or likewise to replace it for me as I would if it was, say a Seymour Duncan.

But as I say, DIY of myself is not an option. I have a mate of mine who doesn't play guitar, but is a fully qualified electrical engineer by trade, and has repaired and altered many electrical items including even model trains (he is a fellow train enthusiast of mine!). He would probably do the job for the price of a pint of beer, or maybe no price at all (he's a good mate). If I can get the material that teaches how to install pickups, do you guys think he'd be a good option to go with?

The tele is not my main guitar anyway since I bought a new gee-tar, so if the whole thing does go belly-up, I can leave the guitar for until I can pay for it to be professionally repaired with no loss to my playing time.

What are your thoughts guys?
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Re: Replacing a tele bridge pickup cheaply

Postby Wonks » Tue Oct 01, 2019 10:18 am

Well, it's normally only two wires to remove and replace, so that bit's easy enough. You need to remove the bridge - so it's a de-string, bridge off, remove pickup, add pickup, replace bridge and then re-string job. But as long as you don't mess about with the bridge whilst it's off, it should all go back together as before.

You just need to know where the wires go - which he'll see from the existing pickup, and replace them. No learning material needed. It really is very, very simple.

*edit. It will probably come with a 4-wire cable, but two of the wires should be connected together (and left like that). You will need to refer to the manufacturers' wire colours to confirm what is the signal ground and what is the actual signal wire. He may have to strip some of the sheathing back to get the wires long enough to reach the selector switch and the rear of the volume pot.

You may also find that the mid-position sounds a lot thinner than before, If so, the polarity of the pickup is reversed with respect to the neck pickup, so then he'll have to swap the signal ground and signal wires over - but leaving the cable screen connected to the back of the pot. This is a simple job and you only have to undo two screws to take the control plate off.
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Re: Replacing a tele bridge pickup cheaply

Postby Wonks » Tue Oct 01, 2019 10:22 am

garrettendi wrote:Hi guys, I'm wanting to replace the bridge pickup of my Squier CV tele with a cheap £15 hot rails pickup. The sound samples of the pickup I've heard all suggest it's better than the Squier stock pickup

I'd say 'very different' rather than 'better' . If it was the same style of pickup, then yes, it could be 'better'. But a hot rails pickup is going to sound very different indeed with a lot more output, so it won't do some of the things the existing pickup could do, but it will do driven sounds in a way the original couldn't.

Note that the mid-position sound is also going to change.
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Re: Replacing a tele bridge pickup cheaply

Postby garrettendi » Tue Oct 01, 2019 12:53 pm

Thanks Wonks. I think you're right, it should be well within the capability of my friend!

Wonks wrote:I'd say 'very different' rather than 'better' . If it was the same style of pickup, then yes, it could be 'better'. But a hot rails pickup is going to sound very different indeed with a lot more output, so it won't do some of the things the existing pickup could do, but it will do driven sounds in a way the original couldn't.

Note that the mid-position sound is also going to change.

Yes I agree with you there. It doesn't sound "better" per se but hotter. By "better" I guess I mean "more to my tastes". The mid-position sound is not really a problem, I generally tend to only select the neck or the bridge, very rarely the two combined, although reviews on Amazon suggests this pickup does work well with the neck in that middle position.

Two follow up questions though: How much attention should I pay to the difference in outputs? Am I likely to get in a spot of bother if the output is much higher without making any other modifications? Anything else that I might need to watch with regards to pots etc?

Second question: One reviewer on YouTube (and this is only one in all the reviews I've read or heard) suggest the rails are not quite long enough and there is a drop in volume on the two E strings. Personally I think this sounds like bunkem, given that my Harley Benton middle pickup has a pole piece misaligned with the high E and I have heard no difference in volume whatsoever. Do you agree with me on this?

The pickup in question is an Artec Hot Rails Tele pickup btw.
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Re: Replacing a tele bridge pickup cheaply

Postby garrettendi » Tue Oct 01, 2019 12:55 pm

Just seen your edit... I haven't searched yet but reviews suggest that Artec don't provide schematics so spotting which wire goes where may be an issue?
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Re: Replacing a tele bridge pickup cheaply

Postby garrettendi » Tue Oct 01, 2019 1:08 pm

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Re: Replacing a tele bridge pickup cheaply

Postby Wonks » Tue Oct 01, 2019 2:51 pm

Pickup balance will depend on how strong an output the neck pickup has. A traditional Tele neck pickup is rather weak and a bit dull sounding and is not really even a match for the normal bridge pickup in output, though the mixed position normally sounds great.

So with a humbucker bridge pup, your neck pup might be underwhelming in contrast. But if the Squier CV has a hotter output neck pickup, then it probably won't be that big a difference. If it is, and it bothers you, I'd suggest you try the IronGear Steel Foundry Overwound neck pickup. I've got it in two of my Teles. £28, so not expensive (but not Artec cheap) and they sound great.

The Emicaster had a SD Hot Tele bridge pickup and a Strat pickup in the neck for a while, and whilst the SD Hot had a DC reading similar to the Artec, the outputs felt surprisingly similar.
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Re: Replacing a tele bridge pickup cheaply

Postby garrettendi » Tue Oct 01, 2019 2:54 pm

So there's no issue with different spec pickups in the same guitar... Just the levels between the two might sound different?

Think I'll run this by my friend this weekend and hopefully do it later this month!
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Re: Replacing a tele bridge pickup cheaply

Postby garrettendi » Tue Oct 01, 2019 2:54 pm

EDIT: Double post
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Re: Replacing a tele bridge pickup cheaply

Postby Wonks » Tue Oct 01, 2019 3:35 pm

No, no issues. There's always the fact that 'louder sounds better' (well, it's normally the case), so a low output neck pickup might now sound worse to you with the higher output bridge pickup fitted, when you were happy with it before.

All you can do it try it out and see what you think. It's all reversible.
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