So Tell Me What I Can Do With These Cheap Harley Benton Pickups To Improve Them.

Discussion in 'Guitars' started by toomanycats, Sep 1, 2015.

  1. toomanycats

    toomanycats Well-Known Member

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    I'm a tinkerer. Since I was a kid I've been inclined to take stuff apart to see how it works. I often enjoy a thing more when I understand the process that goes into making it work.

    So with that caveat, which should preemp any responses such as, "Throw them in the trash can!" I submit to you the following question:

    What can I do to the pickups I just took out of my Harley Benton Ex-76 to improve their sound?

    I'm not planning on being a pickup winder or anything like that. Heavens no! I'll gladly keep paying the professionals who really know what they're doing for the good stuff. It's just that I've got these things laying around and I'd like to see what's in the realm of possibility for a gentleman guitar tweaker such as myself.

    pickup c.jpg

    I suppose that I'm obligated to clearly define the terms "bad" and "good" here.

    The "badness" of these pickups is the result of their sounding slightly muffled and fuzzy. The neck pickup in particular lacks clarity and snap.

    What I would be aiming for as "goodness" would be increased definition, more airiness, a tight yet full and crisp warm sound. Basically, a more dynamic and dimensional quality.

    The Neck Pup is reading 11.78 K. The Bridge Pup reads 11.75 K. The bridge should normally be hotter than the neck, right?
    k reading.jpg

    A shiny black magnet in a cheap pickup is probably ceramic, right?
    IMG_1424.JPG


    I have read a number of things online about what can be done with these things.

    *Swap out the magnets for some type of weaker Alnico.

    *Use a hair dryer to melt out some of the wax. This supposedly can give more air to the sound. Is this worthwhile, or is it bullshit?

    *Alter the length of the screw protruding out of the bottom (there's no protrusion at all here, just slugs visible on the bottom side of both coils).

    Are any of these things worthwhile?

    Thanks in advance for your input fellas. (y)
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2015
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  2. uwmcscott

    uwmcscott AGF Survivor Champ

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    Sometimes cheap pickups are just cheap pickups. Other than a magnet swap I can't really see all that much you can do that would make them much better, and it's questionable if the magnet would even make a difference. Consider that you paid well under $100 for the entire guitar - they had to cut corners somewhere to get to that price.
     
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  3. Perfect Stranger

    Perfect Stranger Well-Known Member

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    I hear that if you tie enough of them together that they make a nice boat anchor? :raisedhands:
     

  4. toomanycats

    toomanycats Well-Known Member

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    Oh man, I saw this coming and probably asked for it! Good one though, I'll give you that. (y)

    How about I tie a rope to them and drag em' around the yard to pick up any screws, nails, and other assorted scrap iron laying around? :wink:

    Okay, seriously guys, is it even worth messing with these things? :confused2:
     
  5. uwmcscott

    uwmcscott AGF Survivor Champ

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    NO.
     
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  6. tvvoodoo

    tvvoodoo Well-Known Member AGF Registered Dealer

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    I see you have all your pole adjustment screws right down, have you tried messing with them?
    I think it was a gfs crunchy pat I have where pulling up the bass E and A, and keeping the d/g downish, pulling up the B/E slightly
    in sort of an EQ smile profile seemed to help a bit - could be just my ears/tone tweak bullshit, but also... stock strings on those guitars
    sometimes we forget how bad those strings can be in the throes of an NGD
     
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  7. idiotsdelight

    idiotsdelight Well-Known Member

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    You could unwind them some, swap magnets, play with pickup height, etc. I'd look at the pot value for starters to make sure they're acceptable for ME. I've never been happy with anything under 500k for hb's. If they're really dark/muddy sounding try a 1meg pot for a higher wind pickup.

    But like what's already been said, sometimes they're just placeholders.
     
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  8. toomanycats

    toomanycats Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, but there's got to be a way to "put those corners back," if only to just a degree. Maybe?

    No, didn't adjust the individual screws whatsoever. I only adjusted the overall height, which did yield some amount of improvement, though not as much as I was looking for.
     
  9. uwmcscott

    uwmcscott AGF Survivor Champ

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    Sometimes the pickup height itself can make a difference too, along with strings, pots, etc. But sometimes they are just junk. I had a Douglas WNO that had some ultra-cheap open face HB's and no matter what I did they sounded muddy and dark.
     
  10. uwmcscott

    uwmcscott AGF Survivor Champ

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    Yep - put better pickups in ;-) Many of the guitars we buy here are well known as "modding platforms". There is a reason they have that moniker.
     
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  11. Mark W

    Mark W Well-Known Member

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    Aren't these the ones you replaced with Buddhas?
     
  12. toomanycats

    toomanycats Well-Known Member

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    That is correct Sir.

    While they're not the worst pickups I've ever heard, they are the most lackluster of any that came loaded in my Bentons. All my other Bentons have Wilkinsons in them, which I'm happy enough with at the moment that I feel no pressing need to swap them out.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2015
  13. Frankenfretter

    Frankenfretter Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    I'd use some alnico II mags, and play with the pole height. Hot alnico 2 pickups sound great to me. Also try a different pot value, as Patrick said. Maybe a different value cap as well.

    Or just have Tim rewind them. Bet they'd sound good,after that!
     
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  14. howardlo65

    howardlo65 Well-Known Member

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    You do know that you can replace them with Giovanni's for about $50 for the pair?

    Those stock pickups do seem to be wound really hot. Changing the magnets won't change that.
     
  15. toomanycats

    toomanycats Well-Known Member

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    It would be possible for me to unwind some of the wire and thereby lower the resistance, correct? Another poster suggested this.

    Also, just in case anyone didn't see my recent thread about the Harley Benton Ex-76 that these pickups came out of, there's now a pair of Buddhas in there. I'm messing around with these just for educational purposes.
     
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  16. howardlo65

    howardlo65 Well-Known Member

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    Yes, you could do that. That and changing the magnets would make a definite change to them.
     
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  17. Chocol8

    Chocol8 Well-Known Member

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    Switch the magnets to Alnico ii, iv or v.

    Unwind to get to 7-8k neck and 8-9 bridge, assuming wire isn't thin crap.

    Removing wax will not help unless you get rid of ALL of it, and then only under situations where you are pushing it hard enough to get the coils to move/ become microphonic.

    Adjust pickup height and screw pole height.

    Replace other electronics. Higher value pots, treble bleed mods etc.

    Just throw them out and order more Buddahs, wishing you had saved the time and money by doing that in the first place.
     
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  18. dabbler

    dabbler Well-Known Member Supporting Member+ Supporting Member Gold Supporting Member

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    Most everybody understands that raising or lowering a pup changes the strength of the signal it puts out and also the tone to a certain extent. But most people seem to forget that the most effective way to alter the tone of a HB is the pole screws.

    Simply put, when you move a pole screw you are affecting the relative amounts of signal from the 2 coils mostly affecting the closest string (the one under the screw). So generally, for a neck HB where the screws are closest to the neck, when you screw it out (up) you give the neckmost coil more relative output than the other coil and, since string tone gets mellower as you approach its middle, the pickup tone for that string gets mellower. Conversely, if you screw it IN, the neckmost coil's effect on tone is reduced and the tone gets brighter (or at least LESS mellow).

    For bridge pups, the screws are typically closest to the bridge, so the effect of screwing in and out are reversed. When you screw the bridge pup screw out (up) the tone will get brighter, because in this case the screw coil is closer to the bridge so increasing its signal relative to the other coil increases brightness.

    And you don't have to turn the screw much at all to hear the difference! I generally make my changes in 1/4 turn increments. The only time I do 1/2 or full turn changes is when I'm trying to make a drastic tonal change.

    For a long time, I'm ashamed to admit, I simply thought that the screws were a way to balance the pup's string output. And actually if you split the coils and only use the screw coil that IS their primary effect. But in humbucker mode what adjusting the screws really changes is tone and, at least to my ears, much of the preceived volume change is because of the tone change.

    Try it! It really gives you a fair bit of control over the sound of your pups. You think your neck pup is too muddy? Screw the screws in (assuming that they are in the coil closest to the neck).
     
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  19. toomanycats

    toomanycats Well-Known Member

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    If someone could please humor some more naive questions:

    Why would any pickup manufacturer want to wind a pair of pickups pushing 12k resistance and pair them with a powerful ceramic magnet? Is there any reason why somebody would intentionally want to use these specs?

    If they had just wound them with less wire to begin with would this had improved their sound?

    Many times I've read members here singing the praises of stock AL-2000 ceramic magnet pickups. Does anybody know what the typical resistance is on these?
     
  20. toomanycats

    toomanycats Well-Known Member

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    Best place to buy magnets?

    I know that Stewmac has them, but there was an even less expensive vender I was looking at a few months ago, though for the life of me I can't remember who it was.
     

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