Help!!! Wtf Did I Do To This Wilkinson Humbucker?

Discussion in 'Guitars' started by toomanycats, Apr 20, 2017 at 8:30 AM.

  1. toomanycats

    toomanycats Well-Known Member

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    IMG_0748.jpg

    Some of you guys will remember this guitar. It's a Harley Benton L-550 Paradise, which is clearly a clone of Slash's Kris Derrig built "Les Paul." It's a copy of a copy if you will. It is a darn good guitar, with excellent fretwork, quality hardware, and a Gibsonesque style horn, body contour, and headstock shape.

    Thomann specified that this guitar should have Wilkinson Alnico humbuckers. It is now known that Thomann played fast and loose with some of the specs on these Bentons. Case in point, my Harley Benton rosewood Tele has ceramic pickups, though they are supposed to be Alnico. Granted, they are nice sounding ceramics . . . but that's not the point.

    For the record, I never hated the Wilkinson pups in the L-550 Paradise, especially the neck, which was warm and full but very clear and articulate, almost like a SD Jazz. The bridge measured approximately 15.5K resistance and had a lot of output and attitude. For my personal taste, which is blues, classic rock, and old school metal tones, it needed to be toned down just a bit. I assumed that the magnet was Alnico 5 and intended to swap to Alnico 2. What was revealed when I opened them up was a big, fat, black ceramic bar magnet nestled between the two coils. I was surprised, but not surprised, if ya know what I mean. So in went the Alnico 2 magnet. After putting it back together and tuning the guitar up I was rewarded with a very pleasing tone. Much less boomy and in your face, more detail and character, just all around better for my purposes.

    But now the volume of the neck pup seemed to overpower the bridge. I figured that a similar magnet swap would better balance them out. Right up front, let me say that I can't remember what the neck originally measured for resistance. This is a relevant detail which may be of some significance for latter consideration. So I opened the neck pup, removed the ceramic bar, and put in an Alnico 2 magnet. After this is when my problem started.

    Below are the facts as I know them:

    *After the A2 magnet went in the volume decreased dramatically. The tone became thin like a single coil. I had to raise the pup to almost the height of the strings to get any sort of output, though it still sounded extremely thin.

    *The pup now read approximately 6.5K resistance measured at the output jack.

    *Both coils seemed to be functioning, as tapping on the slugs and the screws produced sound from the amp.

    *When the toggle was set in the middle position the guitar was not producing an out of phase tone (the magnets did not seem to be oriented Peter Green style).

    *Oddly, the two coils of the neck pup seemed to be, if such a thing is even possible by way of magnet orientation, out of phase with themselves. All of the bass appeared attenuated. The pup had almost a cocked wah tone.

    *The tone knob for the neck pup now seemed to operate like a volume knob. When the tone knob was turned to zero the pup became nearly inaudible.

    *At a loss, I put the ceramic magnet back into the neck pup. Output noticeably increased, though the thinness of the tone remained. The pup did not sound as it originally did with the ceramic magnet. Additionally, the pup no longer measures any resistance.

    So there's where I'm at right now. I've got to admit, in a way it sounds kind of cool, what I imagine the Dimarzio Humbucker From Hell sounds like. It's like having a very weak and thin single coil in the neck position of an LP. But at this point I'd just be happy to get back to the original tone of the pup, which as I said, was not at all bad. I'm also curious to know exactly what I did to this pup to make it sound this way. I've changed dozens of magnets before and never encountered this problem.

    Any insight, suggestions, diagnostic advice, and so forth would be much appreciated. Thanks fellas.

    IMG_3311.JPG

    The ceramic magnet I pulled out of the L-550 Paradise neck pup.
    IMG_3312.JPG
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2017 at 8:38 AM
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  2. Frankenfretter

    Frankenfretter Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Swapping the magnets would not change the resistance/impedance, so I think you have a wiring issue. Although I've wired plenty of pickups, I am far from an expert. That said, is it possible that you switched the ground and hot when you replaced the pickup?
     
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  3. Mark W

    Mark W Well-Known Member

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    I was going to suggest a wiring issue also. Perhaps something was knocked loose while replacing the magnet?

    May I suggest having @Buddha Pickups make a set of custom Slash spec A2 zebras?
     

  4. PsychoCid

    PsychoCid Well-Known Member

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    Yeah you need some Alnico II Pro's (NOT the Slash model, that's not what he uses, that's just a sales ploy)
     
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  5. RedLesPaul

    RedLesPaul Well-Known Member

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    My one attempt at a magnet swap yielded a dead pickup, so I'm no help there. Seems to me those Wilkinsons aren't anything special though and Zebra Alnico IIs could be had for not too much $$. That guitar is WAY too pretty not to keep zebras in.
     
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  6. RockYoWorld

    RockYoWorld Well-Known Member

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    I've never done a magnet swap, but I'd agree with Frankenfretter that it seems like a wiring issue to me, possible ON the pup???
     
  7. nomadh

    nomadh Well-Known Member

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    Im thinking a coil shorted out. Partially or totally? Can you measure each coil seperately? Also desolder 1 end from the controls. If something went off there it'll effect the #s.
     
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  8. kungphugrip

    kungphugrip Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    spin the magnet round the other direction?

    Edit: wait i think that only works if they are out of phase?
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2017 at 11:27 AM
  9. PsychoCid

    PsychoCid Well-Known Member

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    Yeah it seems like you're reading just one coil, at that measure!
     
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  10. toomanycats

    toomanycats Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for all the input guys.

    I never took the pup out of the guitar or unsoldered the leads.

    This is possible. But when I put the ceramic magnets back in I did a pretty thorough check and all the wires seemed unbroken and attached.

    I just so happen to own a set of Tim's pups, zebra and A2 to be exact. They're residing in a 98 Unsung Epi LP Standard. Damn good pickups.

    Yes, I believe that would only have an effect on the guitars tone when the toggle is in the middle toggle position, putting the neck pup out of phase with the bridge pup.

    Since I can't recall what the neck pup measured before the problem started, and it does read 6.5K now, it would be a reasonable assumption that it was 13K to begin with. That wouldn't be surprising for a neck pup paired with a 15.5K bridge pup.

    Here's the mystery: Why do both coils seems "live"? I can tap the screws/slugs with a screwdriver and hear the sound. It seems like the entire pup is working, but at 1/2 output and each coil out of phase with the other. That's the best way I can describe it. Nevertheless, no resistance reading. Just weird.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2017 at 2:35 PM
  11. mozz

    mozz Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    6.5k may be normal for that pickup. Bridges are often higher because they use more wire but also............use 43 gauge wire instead of 42awg. Smaller wire you can fit more on the bobbin to get your output higher, but smaller wire has higher resistance per foot. Numbers are very misleading. It's like the treadwear numbers on tires, it only applies to that manufacturer's line of tires, you can't use it to compare it to other brands.

    Ok, back the the question. Try flipping the magnet around and see what that does for your middle sound.
     
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  12. honyock

    honyock Well-Known Member

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    Is it a 4 conductor or 2 conductor wired pickup?

    If you get output, but can't measure resistance, have you tried isolating it from the pot? You shouldn't have one without the other.

    Sent from my SM-N910V using Tapatalk
     
  13. Tsukiyomi

    Tsukiyomi Well-Known Member

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    I've fucked up pickups with Dr Frankenstein-esque magnet swaps so I can sympathise. One thing that came to mind - did you put the magnet in the right way around?

    EDIT: I was trying to post this quickly but see it's already been asked. As you were.

    If you can't sort it I'll happily take the guitar off your hands. It's obviously useless now ;)
     
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  14. andrewsrea

    andrewsrea Well-Known Member

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    Hey Cats: one beautiful guitar!

    Alnico magnets are conductive and ceramic are not. The coil 'starts' and 'finishes' connect to the lead wires, are taped and usually tucked in between the bucker coils bobbins sometimes on top of the magnet. Sounds like you shorted a coil. I am guessing it had an exposed area of wire at the connections and is shoring on the magnet - or the magnet swap knocked off the tape, etc.

    Tap tests can fool you. Take a steel jeweler's screwdriver and just scrape it across he slugs and again the screws with the amp up vs. tapping. One side should sound much louder.

    If you decide you shorted a coil, carefully undo the plate screws holding in the bobbins. Carefully remove the bobbins (if its wax potted - you know what to do - melt it a bit). Look for the offending connection & re-tape. Carefully reassemble and carefully tuck the leads in between the coils. Squeeze the bobbins to the plate when installing the plate screws - don't let them do the work, as they strip easy and you want the assembly tight. Use a hair drier or heat gun on very low and give the wax a little melt to re-pot.

    If you feel squeamish about it, send it to me and I'll repair it for free, as long as you pay shipping.

    Let us know how you make out.
     
  15. nomadh

    nomadh Well-Known Member

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    This sure sounds right to me.
     
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  16. Buddha Pickups

    Buddha Pickups Well-Known Member

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    Andrew is right on.
    Sounds like a coil is shorted. I don't see many 6k Chinese humbuckers.
    A humbucker can be out of phase with itself if wired incorrectly but that doesn't seem to be the case as the reading seems sketchy.
    I'd offer the same to look at it as Andrew.
     
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  17. toomanycats

    toomanycats Well-Known Member

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    I can't recall if it's 4 or 2 conductor. When I go back in I'll verify plus see if I can get a resistance reading with the leads isolated from the pot.
     
  18. toomanycats

    toomanycats Well-Known Member

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    Thanks so much for contributing your expertise @andrewsrea and @Buddha Pickups, as well as your very generous offers to look at it if necessary. Hopefully I can resolve this issue myself, though if necessary I may take you up on it.

    I've just got to find time to open the guitar up again. Maybe this afternoon, though if not definitely over the weekend. I'll do all the tests and inspections you advised and report back.
     
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  19. PsychoCid

    PsychoCid Well-Known Member

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    We appreciate sharing the adventure!

    Happy Friday
     
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  20. RedLesPaul

    RedLesPaul Well-Known Member

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    Do whatever you have to do to get a working set of zebra A2's into that fiddle ASAP!
     
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