With its dual-coil construction, the Chopper
T Bridge pickup offers three switchable
modes—series, parallel, and split. Photo
courtesy of DiMarzio
In recent months, we’ve been exploring
wiring options for the Fender Esquire.
This time around we’ll continue our
journey by investigating Esquire-friendly
humbuckers. With some body routing and
a special bridge, you can use any full-sized
humbucker in an Esquire, and mini humbuckers
or Filter’Tron-style pickups are also
fair game. But today I want to share the
glory of mounting a single-coil-sized humbucker
in an Esquire.
These pickups are often called “stacked
humbuckers” because in this design, the two
coils are arranged one on top of the other,
rather than placed side-by-side, as in a standard
PAF-style humbucker configuration.
Because stacked humbuckers are made to fit
into the standard single-coil space, there’s
no routing required—swapping the pickup
is a simple solder-and-play operation. Other
designs arrange the two coils side by side,
while keeping the single-coil dimensions.
These pickups are not new—we’ve had
them since the late ’70s. Larry DiMarzio was
one of the pioneers in this field and his company
still holds a leadership position in the
replacement pickup market today. DiMarzio
and others made it possible to install humbuckers
into a Stratocaster or Telecaster without
any additional woodworking or having
to replace the pickguard or bridge. This was
a real revolution at the time.
Today we can choose from countless
“stealth” humbuckers from many companies.
They all have two coils and are made in a
similar way. Some sport the classic 2-conductor
wiring you know from a single-coil, others
have a 4-conductor wiring that gives you
access to the start and end of each coil. Some
use ceramic magnets, while others use alnico,
cunife, or even more exotic materials placed
side by side or on top of each other.
There are pickups with classic rod
magnets or screw pole pieces, or the more
modern blades, or a mix of both. These
pickups come in all colors and shapes, with
or without covers, and are available with
low-vintage or high-modern output. And
they all sound a little bit different.
So how can you find the right pickup
when there’s such an enormous choice?
Sure, thanks to eBay you can buy, try,
and resell pickups until you find one that
you like. You can get ideas from the many
internet forums that discuss pickups 24
hours a day. But as you know, tone is
always an individual and personal subject,
and what a pro player uses might not suit
your individual needs. So let’s see if we can
narrow down the pickup choice right now
in this column.
To modify your Esquire, you need a
humbucker designed to correctly fit into a
Telecaster bridge—in other words, shaped
like a standard Tele single-coil with its
particular height-adjustment screws. Many
companies make such a humbucker, but
not all of them. For complete tonal flexibility,
you’ll want a model with a 4-conductor
wiring. And last, but definitely
not least, you want a tone that works well
with an Esquire.
If you read Mod Garage regularly, you
know I usually don’t recommend specific
brands or models of pickups. I have several
reasons for this: What fits my playing
style might not necessarily be your cup
of tea. Also, I don’t get paid in any way
by any companies—my recommendation
or endorsement is not for sale. But in the
spirit of giving honor to whom honor is
due, I’m going to make an exception and
recommend a particular brand and model
of pickup. It’s really one of the greatest
pickups I know of. In fact, it’s one of my
personal top three favorites.
Before I let the cat out of the bag, let’s
start with a little background knowledge.
As I mentioned, a humbucker with a
4-conductor wiring gives you access to
the start and end of both coils. With such
access, you have the flexibility to switch
the two coils in series (like a standard
PAF-style humbucker) or in parallel to get
a hum-free tone that still sounds more like
a single-coil. But that’s not all: You can
shut down one of the two coils (aka “splitting”),
so only one coil is active. This is a
true single-coil mode, so the pickup is no
longer hum-free. When split, it reacts like a
normal single-coil, picking up all kinds of
hum, noise, and interference.
That’s a total of three sounds from one
pickup—perfect for the single-pickup
Esquire! So far, so good. But the problem
with most pickups of this type is that they
are designed to sound very good as a humbucker,
but they leave you with more-orless
useless sounds when operating in parallel
or split mode. Often, it’s difficult for
even a trained listener to tell the difference
between the parallel and split modes. I’ve
encountered this a lot with customers who
have these kinds of pickups in their guitars.
But I’m glad to say I’ve found a
Telecaster/Esquire bridge humbucker that
really shines in all three modes on almost
every guitar. Ladies and gentlemen, we
proudly present DiMarzio’s Chopper T
Bridge pickup, model DP384. It’s a humbucker
with side-by-side coils, ceramic magnets,
4-conductor wiring, and two blades. It
has been available since 1994 and comes in
a bunch of different colors.
When I heard this pickup for the first
time, I was instantly stunned by how
good it sounds. In the shop, we install this
pickup for all customers who want the
functionality I just described, and they’ve
all been totally happy.
Next month I’ll dive into the Chopper T’s
modes, discuss various wiring and potentiometer
options that work well with Esquires
and Teles, and provide a wiring diagram.
Until then, keep on modding!
Germany and is fascinated
by anything related to old
Fender guitars and amps.
He plays country, rockabilly,
and surf music in two
bands, works regularly as a
session musician for a local studio, and writes
for several guitar mags. He’s also a hardcore
guitar and amp DIY-er who runs an extensive
—on the subject.