This was an interesting upgrade. The customer got in touch saying he wanted something different from his stock pickups so after a wee chat about the kind of tones & versatility he was after, we settled on a Wide Range Humbucker style pickup for the bridge & more of a higher output, balanced single coil for the neck.
The bridge would give him more versatility, a pickup responsive to the volume & tone controls that would give him a range of sounds. The neck pickup would be balanced in output and provide a sweeter tone to the current pickup.
The first thing to notice when the covers are taken off, is the sheer amount of wax surrounding the coils. Wax potting needn’t be so full-on, just enough to hold everything in place. Some would argue that to fully wax-pot pickups in this style gives the pickup more of a sterile tone. I’m inclined to agree that too much wax like this can choke the pickup somewhat but I can appreciate why manufacturers do it this way.
The first task was to work on the bridge pickup, essentially using just the unique cover, shape & chrome casing to create a whole new pickup underneath.
One of the differences between these particular pickups and the Wide Range Humbuckers is the baseplate underneath. In the Maton Mastersounds, there’s is an internal brass baseplate that holds the coil(s) within the cover. In the Wide Range Humbucker the internal baseplate as ferrous, meaning it has a whole different effect on both the magnetic field & tone of the pickup. Somewhat akin to the ferrous baseplate underneath a standard Telecaster bridge pickup, the internal reflector plate of the Wide Range Humbucker increases the perceived output and gives the pickup that ‘spank’. In pure terms, the ferrous internal plate offers Ferromagnetic & Electrodynamic functions whilst also offering an extra layer of shielding.
The Mastersound bridge pickup here is a twin pole humbucker with 4-way wiring for a true single coil split but the customer found it lacking somewhat. What provided the challenge for this pickup upgrade is the dimensions. Maton Mastersound pickups are slimmer than a standard humbucker and longer, somewhat similar in size to a standard P90 pickup. The challenge was to make new coils to fit the unique dimensions. In this case I made new pickup bobbins to take the new coils and fit the custom threaded magnets.
Due to the geometry of the original pickup the coils couldn’t be wound as fat as my standard Wide Range Humbucker so I chose to mix the magnets. The three-a-side threaded magnets would remain to keep the look of the Wide Range Humbucker but the hidden magnets would be custom charged Alnico 2 magnets to give the pickup a little more warmth.
The cover was also modified to take the six poles. Usually a Wide Range Humbucker has three-a-side holes but as the original cover already had six holes down one side, the customer asked for a further six holes to be drilled so all twelve individual magnets could show through. To ensure accuracy I made a custom jig to ensure the new holes lined up.
The magnets were staggered to match the neck radius to give good string balance.
With the bridge pickup now completed and tested it was time to move onto the neck. Initially the idea was to create a neck pickup more along the lines of a standard Telecaster neck pickup. With a hotter output to balance the new Wide Range bridge pickup I wound the pickup and although it worked well with the new bridge; well balanced with a sweet tone, we agreed that aesthetically it just wasn’t working. Also, with the versatility of the bridge pickup design, we agreed “Why not make it a set” and so I created a new neck Wide Range Humbucker in a similar style to the bridge.
And here’s how they look in the actual guitar:
Happy with the pickups, Mike the owner got back to me with this comment”
“Received, installed, and adjusted :D
Love them. Plenty of character, all three positions sound immense, and at this point I can’t choose a favourite. It sounds more refined and restrained than I was expecting, gives the neck and both pickups on positions a bit of that 50′s hollow body vibe somehow? Usually I go all out on surf-style reverb or slapback (Jaguar, Strat), but this may well be the first guitar which I prefer 100% dry, there’s a warmth there, and just the right about of bite at the top end – my other guitars do that edgy ice-pick top-end, this doesn’t, it’s smooth all the way up. The bridge pickup used to have a big too-much-output midrange ‘honk’ that is totally gone now, it’s clean and clear, and it takes overdrive and fuzz far more easily. I’m fairly certain your skills must extend to witchcraft, the difference it’s made.
And they look stunning :D
Definitely glad we went for both in the end. Most certainly worth the wait.
What’s your poison, chief?”
Yours mega gratefully,
If you’ve got a set of pickups that need upgrading, or just want to change the pickups in your guitar, get in touch.