Finding the ideal sweet spot for your Strat doesn't have to be a guessing game.
One of my all-time favorite Stratocaster mods is also the cheapest and most effective mod you'll ever perform: adjusting the height of your pickups. All you need is a screwdriver, a small ruler, and your ears.
Over the years at our shop, we've received countless Strats with descriptions like "it doesn't sound Stratty enough" or "there's something wrong with the pickups." Most of the owners were looking for a set of replacement pickups to solve the problem. There are good reasons to replace a Strat's pickups—such as getting an ultra-hot output to drive your amp into crazy saturation. But if you feel something is missing in your tone, play around with the height-adjustment screws before buying a set of new pickups. In most cases, our customers were more than happy with their stock guitars once we "sweet-spotted" the pickups.
Many players think their Strats come from the factory with perfectly adjusted pickup heights and are afraid to change them. The goal of this column is to encourage you to pick up a screwdriver and play around with the adjustment screws. Before we start, take some low-adhesive masking tape and stick it on both sides of the pickup covers. With a sharp pencil, mark the current height of the pickup where it emerges from the pickguard. As long as you leave the tape on the covers, you can always return to the old adjustments within seconds.
To start, put a towel, a piece of foam, or a blanket on a table or your workbench, tune your Strat, and then place it on the work surface. You can use any precision ruler to measure the pickup height. The folks at stewmac.com have developed a tool called the String Action Gauge—part #0670 (inch) and #0670-M (metric)—that I use and recommend for this work. Besides measuring pickup height with this tool, you can also measure string height, saddle height, nut height, saddle-slot depth, and more—it's very versatile.
I built myself another little helper for measuring Strat pickup height. I found some precision square brass rods in exactly the heights I needed. I cut off a small piece for each height, and I place the bar on top of the pickup magnets, following the measurements detailed below. Then all I have to do is raise the pickup until the bar touches the string. Better yet, if you can find square rods made out of a magnetic material, the pickup magnet will hold the bar in place.
Finally, you need a screwdriver that matches the head type and size on your pickup-adjustment screws. Get the right kind—flat-head screwdrivers are not made for Phillips screws and vice versa!
Okay, here are the specs I use to set the heights for each Strat pickup. These measurements make a very good starting point for any Strat with standard Strat single-coils:
- Low-E string: 2.5 mm/0.0984"
- High-E string: 2.0 mm/0.0787"
- Low-E string: 3.0 mm/0.1181"
- High-E string: 2.5 mm/0.0984"
- Low-E string: 3.5 mm/0.1378"
- High-E string: 3.0 mm/0.1181"
Chances are that these heights will work for you right from the start, but it's important to realize these specifications aren't set in stone. Your perfect pickup height depends on the pickups themselves, your strings, and, of course, your playing style, your amp(s) and outboard gear, and personal taste. Some players like the tone of the pickups close to the strings, while others don't.
There are no factory specs, and if you talk to 10 different guitar techs, you'll hear 12 different opinions about it. These specs are based on my experiences and data I've collected over the years working on countless Stratocasters. Surprisingly, these heights seem to work every time.
If you have very powerful single-coils such as Fender's Texas Specials, you should lower the pickup height a tad to avoid having the magnets pull on the strings and interfere with vibration. This causes tuning problems and robs sustain. If you have very weak, vintage-flavored single-coils, you can place them a tad closer to the strings to boost the output a bit. Adjust humbuckers a tad lower than powerful single-coils, as a starting point.
Once you've adjusted all three pickups using the specs in this column, play your guitar for a while with the same amp settings as before to get a first impression of your Strat's new tone. If you're completely satisfied, great. Leave the new settings alone and you're done. If you feel that your Strat sounds better than before, but you still miss that certain something, it's time for some sweet-spotting fun. More about this next month.
- Mod Garage: Before You Swap Out Those Tele Pickups … - Premier ... ›
- DIY: How to Set Up a Fender Stratocaster - Premier Guitar ›
- Adjusting Stratocaster Pickup Height, Pt. 2 - Premier Guitar ›
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Recreating the preamp in Silvertone’ssignature ’60s amp results in a surprisingly multifaceted overdrive.
Great drive sounds, ranging from characterful boost to low-gain overdrive. Unique personality. Powerful, flexible EQ.
Arguably a bit expensive for what it does.
Jackson Audio Silvertone 1484 Twin Twelve
Once harvested for peanuts at garage sales and pawn shops—or free for lucky dumpster divers—the Silvertone Model 1484 Twin Twelve amplifier of 1963-’67 graduated to legend status over the past couple decades. Like a lot of ’60s gear with department store catalog origins, Silvertone amps and guitars provided great bang for the buck when they were new. But perhaps no Silvertone product—apart from the company’s Danelectro-built guitars—is as revered as the Twin Twelve. Mudhoney’s Mark Arm and Steve Turner discovered their charms early in their career, and Twin Twelves and their siblings remained backline fixtures for punks, garage rockers, and indie kids. But once the likes of Jack White and Dan Auerbach got on board, the market heated up considerably.
Now a collaboration between the revived Silvertone Guitars and Jackson Audio brings us the Twin Twelve pedal, an overdrive/EQ/booster designed to replicate the tone of the original 1484 piggyback tube amp. To accomplish this, Jackson essentially recreated the topology of the 1484’s preamp, effectively replacing vacuum tubes with JFETs. This method is common for many amp-in-a-box-style pedals. But the result here is a drive of many personalities.
Listen to the demo: https://soundcloud.com/premierguitar/sets/twin-twelve-review
The 1484 pedal does a beautiful job of evoking the look of the original 1484 amplifier, including the silver control panel, simple and elegant black lettering, black knobs with silver insets and red indicator lines, red amp-style jewel light, and even the humorous “Foot Switch” legend over the footswitch. What’s more, this pedal seems built to fend off home invaders and stage divers. It’s notably hefty in its heavy-duty folded-steel chassis, which measures 5" x 4" x 2".
Controls include treble, bass, volume, and gain—the latter of which never appeared on the original amp. A look inside the enclosure reveals a lot of space and few components. Juice comes from 9V DC that hits an internal voltage-doubler to improve headroom.
I tested the Twin Twelve pedal with a Fender Princeton combo and a 65amps London head and 2x12 cab as well as a Gibson Les Paul with humbuckers and a ’50s-style Fender Telecaster, and the first impressions were surprising. Expecting a characterfully sludgy mud machine and grungy pawnshop sonics, I experienced instead a toothsome and impressively versatile overdrive that works in a broad range of genres and playing styles. Fundamentally speaking, the Twin Twelve adds lots of character via a combination of thickness and edgy harmonic content. There’s a barky midrange bite that calls to mind the voice of many catalog amps. But it also has a lot in common with low-gain overdrives, like the Klon and Tube Screamer. Those similarities aside, it has a flavor and sound all its own.
Expecting a characterfully sludgy mud machine and grungy pawnshop sonics, I experienced instead a toothsome and impressively versatile overdrive that works in a broad range of genres and playing styles.
Silvertone may talk a lot about the 1484 as an exact recreation of the Twin Twelve circuit. But in some ways that might sell this pedal short. It’s a great-sounding overdrive by any measure. And, interestingly, it is better at generating American-toned twang, bite, crunch, and lead tones than just about any pedal I’ve played in a while. Clarity and articulation are good, and it makes a great clean boost at lower drive settings while retaining amp-like personality and sensitivity. The pedal is made even more flexible thanks to the 2-band EQ, which provides a lot of room for cutting and boosting the low- and high-frequency bands to taste. It means you have a very flexible boost before you even push your amp into overdrive. It pays similar dividends in overdriven settings, enabling players to explore both the dirtier, thicker side of the American amp tone spectrum or more sparkling variations.
The 1484 Twin Twelve is a great overdrive pedal. And the fact that it doesn’t simply clone one of the already popular drive circuits is a major bonus. The EQ is a great asset, too. But while the 1484 excels at capturing the spirit of the amp that inspired it, I’d argue that with most decent tube amps it sounds better than many real Twin Twelves I’ve played. Certainly, it’s more versatile. And that combination of tone and flexibility make it a very appealing overdrive alternative.
Mystery Stocking is coming soon! Sign up for PG Perks below so you don't miss it.
Sign up for PG Perks on the form below to make sure you don't miss the launch announcement!
About Mystery Stocking
Each year, Premier Guitar likes to put out these mystery boxes as a part of bringing some fun to the holiday season. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun holiday treat! If the contents of this box will ruin your holiday, deplete the last of your bank account, or end your ability to see the good in humanity, it may not be for you.
- This year's Mystery Stocking will cost $44.95. ($39.95 + $5 Flat shipping)
- Each box will be guaranteed to contain $40 or more in value.
- US only. (Sorry World.)
- Make sure your shipping address is correct.
- Have your credit card ready to go before you refresh the page. Paypal is not available. Autofill may not fill in your information.
- There will be NO REFUNDS given.
- There has been a huge demand for these in the past. We really did sell out in less than 4 minutes last year. When they are gone, they are gone.
- One per household, one per person.
Q: What's in the Mystery Stocking?
A: It wouldn't be much of a surprise if we told you, now would it?
Q: Will I definitely get my money worth?
Q: Can I return it if I don't like it?
A: Nope. All sales final.
Q: What if I live outside the US?
A: Sorry, US only.
Q. How much is it?
A. $39.95 Plus $5 shipping
Q. When will it ship?
A. On or before December 10, 2022.
Q. What form of payment do you accept?
A. Credit cards only. Sorry, no Paypal for this.
Q. Can I ship to a different location than my billing address?
Q. I tried last year and didn't get one. Will I get one this year?
A. There is an overwhelming demand for Mystery Stocking. Be sure you have a fast internet connection and be ready when they go on sale. Last year we sold out in 3 min 33 seconds.
Q. I want to buy 5. How can I buy 5?
A. You can't. This year, we're limiting to one per household, so more people can get in on the fun!
Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
Origin Effects introduce the new M-EQ DRIVER mid booster & drive pedal. Based on a vintage Pultec studio EQ, this unique pedal offers a range of mid-focused tones, from a subtle mid boost to thick, resonant overdrive. Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
A choice of three mid-range frequencies ensures that you can boost just the right part of your guitar signal and, when pushed harder, can elicit a range of saturation from a classic “mid-hump” overdrive to fierce “cocked wah” distortion. Thanks to the Adaptive Circuitry, the high-end roll-off of the Cut control is reduced as the pedal cleans up. This allows for a smooth transition from warm overdrive to bright clean tones in response to playing dynamics or guitar volume knob changes.
Introducing... M-EQ DRIVER || Mid Booster & Drive
Built-in the UK to the highest standards, the M-EQ DRIVER continues the Origin Effects tradition of vintage, studio-inspired tones in modern guitar pedals. The Origin Effects M-EQ DRIVER is available now from Origin Effects dealers worldwide.
RRP: 259 GBP (Inc VAT) / 319 USD (Ex TAX)
For more information, please visit origineffects.com.