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May 2014
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Exploring Fender's 5-Way Super Switch

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Exploring Fender's 5-Way Super Switch
Last month, we started discussing 5-way switches that offer more wiring possibilities than the standard-issue Strat unit we all know so well [“Introducing Fender’s 5-Way Super Switch,” September2011]. Ready to explore the technical aspects of this beautiful beast? This is where the fun really starts!

I’ll keep it as simple as possible because the switching matrix of this device is much more complex than it seems. I’ll guide you step-by-step through all five switching positions and show you which lugs are active and connected to each other in each position.

Let’s recap the essential points: The 5-way super switch is not simply two standard 5-way switches in one package. Nope, there’s more—lots more: Instead of two stages of the normal 5-way switch, this switch offers four completely independent stages with six terminals each, so we have a total of 24 terminals. Here’s another way to look at this: We have six lugs on each stage, rather than the five that are on the standard 5-way switch.

To simplify things, we can say that each stage has five input lugs and one output lug (aka “common”). Keep in mind that all four stages are completely independent from each other, but they all switch at the same time! So if you want to combine two or more stages for a special wiring, you need to connect them with a short jumper wire.

Fig. 1
illustrates what this super switch is doing in position #1. This would correspond to the bridge pickup alone on a normal 5-way switch. In these diagrams, “C” is short for “common.” You can see that in this position, input lug #1 is connected to the corresponding output lug—C—of all four stages.



Look at Fig. 2 to see what’s happening at position #2, which corresponds to the bridge and middle pickups connected together in parallel on a normal 5-way switch. We’re following the same principle as before: On all four stages, input lug #2 is now connected to the C output lug.



I think you’ve got the working principle of the switch now. Fig. 3 shows position #3, which would be the middle pickup alone on a standard 5-way switch.



And position #4 (middle plus neck pickup wired in parallel on a normal 5-way switch) is shown in Fig. 4.



And finally, Fig. 5 reveals how position #5 is configured. On a normal 5-way switch, this would select the neck pickup alone.



All right! That’s the basic principle of the 5-way super switch. You can spend hours developing your own custom wiring using this device to implement all kinds of gimmicks like out-of-phase, series/parallel, and countless other options.

To get a sense of how complex wiring schemes can get with a super switch, go to the Fender website and look at the various “Fat Strat” wiring Exploring Fender’s 5-way Super Switch BY DIRK Wacker diagrams. These schemes can make a great starting point for your own custom variations.

Thanks to our friend Bartek from the Guitar Wiring Blog (guitarwiring.blogspot.com) for granting us permission to use his great diagrams in this column.

Stay tuned for more Strat mods coming next month, when we’ll return to more practical mods after all the switching theory we’ve covered in the last few columns. Next up: Wiring a “tone switch” for your guitar. Until then, keep on modding!


Dirk Wacker lives in 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 website—singlecoil.com—on the subject.

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