When installing replacement pickups from different manufacturers, it’s a crap shoot whether they’ll be in phase with each other. This fun DIY project helps you avoid out-of-phase nightmares.
Photo 1 — Photo courtesy of singlecoil.com
When modding an electric guitar, one of the most common projects a player might tackle is replacing stock pickups with aftermarket units. Ever since the '70s, when replacement pickups became readily available, we've come to understand that instead of buying another instrument, we can alter the tone and response of one we own for a lot less money. The technical aspects of a pickup swap aren't too daunting, and it requires only hand tools and soldering gear.
But as anyone who's a regular reader of Mod Garage knows, a seemingly simple project can become a nightmare if the pickups you drop into your beloved 6-string are out of phase with each other. To avoid this vexing problem, you need a handy-dandy pickup phase tester.
Too bad they don't exist—at least I've never come across a commercial device dedicated to this job. But hey! That simply gives us an incentive to build one. It's inexpensive and it will help you avoid out-of-phase issues that might ruin your day.
We started this project in my previous column (“Build a Pickup Phase Tester, Part 1"). If you haven't read this yet, check it out before going any further.
Okay, let's resume where we left off. After installing and mounting the parts, as described in Part 1, we now have a unit that looks pretty good (Photo 1), at least from the front.
Photo 2 — Photo courtesy of singlecoil.com
The next step is to study the inside (Photo 2) and then wire this meter up. This isn't hard because both input stages are wired in parallel. To make it even easier, I took our red and black wires and cut them in two to make miniature Y-cords (Photo 3).
Photo 3 — Photo courtesy of singlecoil.com
Here's the signal path, as shown in Photo 4:
Photo 4 — Photo courtesy of singlecoil.com
• The meter's plus terminal connects to the red banana input jack and the red clamp of the speaker terminal.
• The meter's minus terminal connects to the black banana input jack and the black clamp of the speaker terminal.
Photo 5 — Photo courtesy of singlecoil.com
After you've soldered the wires to their respective points, there's one last important step to take before closing the case. On most analog meters, you'll find a tiny metal spring between the plus and minus terminals, as indicated by the red arrow in Photo 5. You need to remove this spring to allow the meter to work as intended.
So what's the spring doing there? It's a transportation lock designed to protect the very sensitive measuring mechanism during the shipping process. (In case you're curious, this little spring is called an “eddy current brake." It works like a jumper wire, causing a short circuit in the meter. This short circuit establishes an eddy current that dampens the measuring mechanism and makes the needle rest in the zero-center position.)
Okay, once you've removed the spring, assemble the case, install the rubber feet, and go find a pickup so you can test out your new meter.
Check, check—one, two. Here's how to connect the pickup wires to the meter: The white (hot) wire goes to the plus (+) and the black (ground) wire goes to the minus (-).
Note: For this test, it's important to connect the wires exactly like this. If a given pickup's wires have different colors, simply follow the color scheme that indicates hot and ground as defined by the manufacturer.
Photo 6 — Photo courtesy of singlecoil.com
Next, take a big screwdriver, wrench, or a piece of steel or iron and slowly bring it toward the pickup's pole pieces (Photo 6). If the phase-testing unit's needle starts moving toward the plus (+) range of the scale, this means the wire that's connected to the plus input jack is the pickup's hot connection. If the needle starts moving toward the minus (-) range, this means that the pickup wire connected to the plus input jack is the ground.
You'll be surprised how many times the white wire is not really the pickup's hot wire. Why is this? Even though it's common to identify a pickup's white wire as positive and the black wire as negative, that doesn't take into account the pickup's magnetic polarity. Because of this, to avoid an out-of-phase nightmare when combining several pickups—particularly when they're from different manufacturers—it's always best to check each unit with your meter and make note of the hot and ground wires.
Congratulations—you've built your own phase-testing unit! Next month, we'll dive into our next project, which involves humbuckers. Until then ... keep on modding!
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Flare is a dual-function pedal with a tube-like booster and a 1970s-style ring modulator effect that can be played separately or together.
Flare’s ring modulator is based on the iconic tone of the original Dan Armstrong Green Ringer. This vintage classic was made famous by Frank Zappa who loved the unusual modulations created by generating a harmonic octave over notes. Messiah’s version offers two control knobs: a “Sparkle” tone attenuator and output Level control. Its taupe-gold body, purple and green knobs and stick-figure rock ’n’ roller holding up a flame convey an appropriately rockin’70s vibe.
In a unique twist, Messiah’s Flare pairs the ringer with a warm tube-style boost instead of a fuzz. Flare feeds the booster into the ringer for an extra punch, while preserving the Green Ringerspirit. The ringer side also turns any fuzz into an octafuzz, and it has the ability to quiet signal background noise fed through it.
The booster side features a single Boost knob to control the MOSFET circuit, making it very tube-amp-friendly with a warm, organic boost and gain of up to 32dB.
The pedal is a distinct improvement over the 1970s pedal that inspired it. “Most ringer pedals don’t track well,” Tom Hejda, owner of Messiah Guitars. “The player can’t rely on repeating the same effect even with the most consistently played notes. We carefully matched the components, so our ringer follows your every move, producing that slightly dirty octave you expect on demand.”
Messiah developed this vintage octave pedal with flexible features so that people who love that messy, dirty Zappa-esque sound can get there with ease but there’s also something for those who have not fallen in love with fuzz or the Green Ringer alone. Flare offers an array of sonic options while retaining simplicity in the controls.
Each Flair Pedal Includes:
- 3 control knobs: Boost, Sparkle, and Level
- Two effects – Ring Modulator and Boost – can be used together or separately
- Space-saving top side jacks
- Durable, cast aluminum alloy 125B enclosure with fun artwork
- Easy to see, illuminated True-bypass foot switch
- Standard 9V pedal power input
Flare Pedal Demo
Messiah Guitars pedals are designed with an explorative player in mind. Like their custom guitars and amplifiers, Messiah’s pedals are hand-crafted in Los Angeles for a long life with guaranteed quality.
Flare retails for $199.00 and can be purchased directly at Messiah Guitars or you can hear it in person at Impulse Music Co. in Canyon Country, CA.
For more information, please visit messiahguitars.com.
This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal.
If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and QUACKS like a duck, then it must be a duck. That's how we came up with the name for our new envelope filter. This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal. Trevor explains how this is possible in the launch video, as well as gives a demo on Le Canard’s operation.
The attack control determines how quickly the filter responds to the envelope, and the decay sets how quickly the filter releases afterward. The range controls which frequency spectrum the filter does its magic on. Add to this relay-based full-bypass switching with failsafe, and you've got one crazy little quacky beast. It is so expressive that you'll want to give up on your rocker-wah forever.
The MayFly Le Canard envelope filter features:
- Super fast responding envelope follower. Touch it and it jumps!
- Range control to dial in the character of the filter
- Attack control to control how fast the filter moves on that first touch
- Release control to control how slowly the filter slides back to baseline
- Full bypass using relays with Fail SafeTM (automatically switches to bypass if the pedal loses power)
- Cast aluminum enclosure with groovy artwork
- MSRP $149 USD ($199 CAD)
Introducing the MayFly Le Canard Envelope Filter
All MayFly pedals are hand-made in Canada.
For more information, please visit mayflyaudio.com.
Outlaw Effects introduces their next generation of NOMAD rechargeable battery-powered pedal boards.
Available in two sizes, NOMAD ISO is a compact, versatile tool that offers the convenience of a fully powered board plus the additional freedom of not having to plug into an outlet. NOMAD ISO is ideal for stages with limited outlet availability, quick changeovers, busking outdoors, temporary rehearsal locations, and more.
NOMAD ISO builds upon the legacy of the ultra-convenient and reliable NOMAD rechargeable pedalboard line originally launched in 2018. The brand new NOMAD ISO editions feature eight isolated outputs (1 x 9V DC, and 1 switchable 9V/12V DC) for even more versatility and clean, quiet power. With an integrated lithium-ion battery pack boasting 12800mAh capacity, NOMAD ISO can fuel a wide array of pedals, and will last over 10 hours* on a single charge.
Each NOMAD ISO pedal board includes adhesive hook & loop pedal-mounting tape, eight (8) standard DC connector cables, and one (1) reverse polarity DC cable, giving you everything you need to build your ultimate "off-the-grid" rig. A rugged, road-ready padded gig bag with shoulder strap is also included, to safely protect your gear while you're on the move.
NOMAD ISO S
NOMAD ISO S: MSRP $309 / MAP: $249
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 5 ¼"
NOMAD ISO M
NOMAD ISO M: MSRP $349 / MAP $279
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 11"
More info: https://www.outlawguitareffects.com.