The modified Eldred Esquire wiring. Any
ideas for a cool name? Illustration courtesy
Now that we’ve investigated Mike
Eldred’s wiring scheme (“The Eldred
Esquire Wiring,” August 2012), I’d like to
show you a modified version of this circuit
I developed for my personal Esquire—the
one I play onstage, which is nicknamed the
“Luthercaster.” More about this Esquire and
its complete wiring diagram next month.
The basic Eldred wiring is very useable
and flexible, and that’s the main reason why
so many pro Esquire players choose it. Some
years ago, I wired my Esquire this way too.
But after some time, I realized it’s not exactly
what I need onstage when playing with my
local Johnny Cash tribute band. So I started
experimenting with the wiring, tweaking it
to meet my personal needs, and came up
with this version. It’s still unnamed, so if you
have a cool suggestion, please email me.
It’s not a complicated modification of the
Eldred wiring, but very effective. It affects
switching positions #1 and #3—position
#2 is identical to the original Eldred wiring.
Here’s the switching matrix of my modified
version of the Eldred Esquire wiring:
Switching position #1. This rear position
is true bypass. The guitar’s single pickup
is routed directly to the output jack, with
the tone and volume control removed from
the signal path for maximum twang and
spank, and to provide a good solo boost.
Switching position #2. This middle
position is also the same as on a standard
Esquire, with the pickup signal routed
through the volume and tone controls. It
sounds a little warmer than position #1.
Switching position #3. In this front
position, the pickup is routed through a
single, small capacitor and volume control,
and the tone control is bypassed.
To sum up the differences compared
to the original Eldred wiring, my version
sports a true-bypass wiring in position #1
(rather than routing the pickup through the
volume control and bypassing only the tone
control). For position #3, I chose a different
value for the capacitor, and I also chose a
different type for the standard tone capacitor
that is connected to the tone control.
Let me explain what I did and why.
True bypass in position #1. This option
connects the pickup directly to the output
jack, completely bypassing the electronics.
In this position, you hear the pure sound of
the pickup. Personally, I think the difference
between the pickup connected to both controls
and connected to only one control, as in the
standard Eldred wiring, is clearly audible, but
also kind of subtle. By comparison, the sonic
difference between the pickup connected to
both controls and true bypass is huge.
As you know, there aren’t many Johnny
Cash songs that feature an overdriven guitar
sound, and most solo parts are played clean
and loud. This was the main idea behind this
modification. I play the rhythm part in position
#2, so I can fine-tune every song with
the volume and tone control. For the solo,
all I have to do is switch to position #1 and I
have exactly the additional amount of volume
I need to cut through the mix. To return to
playing rhythm, I simply flip back to position
#2 after the solo. This works like a kind of
clean solo boost, with position #2 being my
rhythm preset. No messing with the controls
is required to get a good solo tone.
Different capacitor value for position
#3. Instead of the original 4700 pF value, I
chose a slightly smaller 3300 pF value and
installed a 225P series Orange Drop cap on
the 3-way switch. I chose this smaller value
because I think it enhances the vocal quality
of this switching position, and also makes
it perfect for some old-style garage rock sessions,
giving you an early ’50s guitar tone
you can hear on countless old records.
As another benefit, I can use this position
as a second preset for songs like “I Walk the
Line,” where Luther Perkins chose a very
similar tone to play his part. With their typical
mid-scooped tone, Orange Drop caps
work perfectly for this, as they support the
vocal qualities of the tone. Physically, the
225P series is much smaller than the common
Orange Drop series for tube amps—
this is because of their smaller wattage. It’s
much easier to place them into a Telecaster
control cavity than the big 600V types. Yet
in a passive circuit, they offer the same tone.
Different capacitor type for the tone
control. The standard Eldred wiring uses a
modern 0.047 μF film/foil cap on the tone
control, and that’s what Mike Eldred prefers.
I experimented a lot with the tone cap in this
circuit and ended up with a new-old-stock
(NOS) 0.05 μF “high voltage” ceramic cap
from the early ’60s, manufactured by the
Sprague company. That’s exactly the cap
Fender used in the ’60s as a tone cap in their
Strats, Teles, and some other instruments. The
difference is that Fender used a 0.1 μF value,
while I agree with Eldred, that a lighter 0.05
μF value is much more useable. This cap offers
an unheard amount of harmonic overtones
(mostly at 2k and 3k) and are simply perfect
for this circuit. At least, that’s my two cents.
As always, this circuit is not set in stone!
Experiment with different cap types and values
to customize the wiring to your personal taste.
So what do you need to set up this
switching? Not much: a 3300 pF (0.0033
μF) capacitor, a 0.05 μF tone cap (or 0.047
μF for modern caps), and some wire—that’s
it. Basically, you remove the standard Eldred
4700 pF cap, throw in the new 3300 pF
capacitor, change the tone cap, and move
some wires. In general, this wiring sounds
best with two 250k pots and a traditional
Esquire/Telecaster bridge pickup.
Stay tuned for next month’s column where
I’ll show you the complete wiring diagram of
my personal Esquire, plus share some secrets
on how to achieve an authentic Johnny Cash
tone with an Esquire—it’s an email question I
receive a lot. 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.