The dual-pickup or “Broadcaster blend circuit.” Wiring diagram courtesy of Seymour Duncan.
For many months we’ve been investigating
mods for the Fender Esquire. Our
journey began in the May 2012 issue with
“Fender Esquire Basics.” From there we
started tinkering with the Esquire’s wiring
and electronics, and even explored schemes
for using humbuckers designed to fit a Tele
bridge. In my prior column, we wrapped
up a two-part investigation into the “ultra-flexible
Esquire wiring” that yields nine
switchable sounds from a single pickup.
Now let’s conclude our Esquire odyssey by
exploring Leo Fender’s “two-pickup Esquire
circuit,” which was also the circuit in the early
Broadcaster/Nocaster models. Also called
the “Broadcaster blend circuit,” this wiring
is the transition circuit between the single-pickup
Esquire and the Telecaster with its
well-known dual-pickup configuration. The
original circuit of the two-pickup Esquire/
Broadcaster was only used in 1950 and 1951,
and today it’s almost forgotten. But it’s an
important historical circuit and a really cool
wiring, so let’s bring it back to the light again.
Some background: Based on the success of
Leo’s single-pickup Esquire, it seemed logical
to develop a model with two pickups. In the
early ’50s, “more is better” was an omnipresent
part of the urban lifestyle. Other guitar
companies already offered dual-pickup guitars,
so Fender’s sales manager Don Randall
essentially forced Leo to come up with his
own two-pickup model.
Leo began by borrowing the bridge pickup
and circuit from his early lap-steel guitars,
modifying them slightly to work in a two-pickup
Esquire. With two pickups and a standard
3-way pickup selector switch, this circuit
yields the following combinations:
• Bridge pickup with blend option
engaged to allow the neck pickup to
be added with no tone control.
• Neck pickup alone with the blend
option disabled and no tone control.
• Neck pickup alone with 0.05 μF
tone cap engaged and blend option
This seems like a strange wiring, but it’s
more versatile than it looks and it’s part of
the original Broadcaster sound. Leo also
used a slightly modified bridge pickup from
his lap steels, and these Broadcaster pickups
differ significantly from the Telecaster
bridge pickups we know today. They are louder and rawer with more punch, guts,
and midrange, but they still remain snappy
and twangy. If you’re looking for this
original tone, you can buy faithful recreations—just search online for “Broadcaster”
and “Nocaster” pickups. Some makers
offer another great choice for vintage tone:
Fender steel-inspired pickups shaped like a
Telecaster bridge pickup.
This transitional circuit consists of:
• Two 250k Ω pots, originally from the
Stackpole company. One is a master
volume, the other a blend control.
• A 3-way pickup selector switch, originally
a CRL with the 1452 imprint.
• One 15k 0.5-watt carbon comp resistor,
originally with a 10 percent
• One 0.05 μF 150V DC paper-waxed
tubular cap, originally from Wesco.
Modern clones of the pots and the 3-way
switch are available, and you can also still
get NOS carbon comp resistors (we use the
Allen-Bradley type in the shop) and paper-waxed
caps should be obtainable, too. The
wattage of the cap and resistor is not that
important (this mostly influences their size,
not tone), so it’s okay to use a 1- or 2-watt
resistor instead of the 0.5-watt version, or
a paper-waxed cap with more or less than a
150V DC wattage. If your goal is to strictly
follow the vintage road, chances are good
you can recreate a circuit that’s very close to
This circuit doesn’t offer a standard tone
control, so it’s not a good choice for players
who like to coax Roy Buchanan-inspired wah
tones from their Esquires or Teles. But if you
don’t use your tone control a lot, or simply
use it to take off a little top end when you’re
in the bridge position, this blend circuit may
be all you need.
This wiring really starts to shine with the
bridge pickup and blend option engaged.
In this position, you can mix in as much
or as little of the neck pickup as you like,
using the tone knob as a blend control.
There are some really nice blend tones in
there you can’t dial in with a standard wiring
scheme, which is one reason why nailing old
Broadcaster tones with a standard Telecaster
can be so frustrating.
With the neck pickup alone and the 0.05
μF tone cap engaged, the tone is very dark
and bassy—a preset “organ tone” Leo thought
would encourage guitarists to play bass lines.
Some contemporary jazz players like this
dark tone, but if you want a clearer and more
transparent sound, try a smaller value—0.022
μF, for example. You can also use a different
type of cap and experiment with other values
for the pots.
In closing, let’s look at that single 15k Ω
resistor on the 3-way switch. This acts as a
kind of “mix resistor” and controls the volume
balance of the two pickups in the blend
mode. In this circuit, the resistor slightly
decreases the volume of the neck pickup,
which usually seems too loud. I suspect Leo
determined this value by trial and error, but
it’s perfect when using two vintage-style pickups
in this circuit.
When you change the 15k to a different
value, the tone will get unbalanced. However,
you may need to pursue this when using
other pickups. If you increase the 15k value,
the bridge pickup will be louder. Decrease the
15k value and the neck pickup will dominate.
So this is yet another area to explore, as well
as using a different type of resistor, such as
metal or carbon film.
So that’s it for our Esquire series—next
month we’ll open a Telecaster chapter. 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.