WCR has been hand-winding pickups for about 15 years now. I hope I can shed some light as to how WCR’s tones are achieved, and why they have become a benchmark to many
Hello PG readers! I was blown away when Trent and Brett asked me to write an article for the first issue of Premier Guitar. I thank them mightily for the opportunity to try to get some of my ideas across to all of you tone freaks.
WCR has been hand-winding pickups for about 15 years now. I hope I can shed some light as to how WCR’s tones are achieved, and why they have become a benchmark to many.
I was always amazed at the fantastic tones of an old humbucker blasting through Marshalls. Even way back then, those pickups were going for an easy $750-$1500 per set (you know which ones I mean...). Well beyond my reach, I decided to wind my own. Although early on I used the same old material types, I just could not get those magnificent tones. So I tried radically different approaches using different wire, magnet configuration, potting material, and so on. This gave me my first success, the Fillmore Set; I got what I was after, and had my own, new style.
Personal hand-winding style had a huge effect on WCR’s product, and I found I could use brand new materials to get great old, vintage tones (listen to “Stormy” on our website).
Personal hand-winding styles/patterns are of extreme importance to great tone. There are many variants in a wind that can, and will, change the tone. Wire type, gauge, insulation, tension, speed, patterns, magnet type, strength and placement, potting material and application technique, even the type of tape, amount of, and tension on it will all effect the outcome. Each is a very small thing, but they all add up.
Put your ear directly on your favorite axe, and imagine still hearing all of that great tone coming out the speakers when plugged in. That kind of harmonic clarity, sustain, and excellent note separation, even in high gain situations, are all very obvious components in high-end pickups, including those from WCR (you can listen to clips on our website).
The next huge improvement came in the potting, or coil-saturation dept. Wax to me is a huge killer of tone. It acts like one of those run-away-truck stops on the highways. The truck (guitar resonations) plows into the loose gravel (the wax) and quickly comes to a dead stop. Wax is a good thing to use if you need something to kill shrill highs, or squealing caused by a loose, fast, lousy un-controlled wind, or an improperly installed cover. After several years of trial and error, we found a perfect material that not only stops the un-wanted squeals, but also still allows the true tone and resonation of the guitar to shine through the coils like they should. It’s the same with covers; when done right, they can add a different, desirable dimension to the end tones.
Theory has it that the electrons do not move through the inside of the wire, but rather along the outside of it. Since the wire is wrapped over itself many times, there are many different electron collisions happening, and the pattern will shape how they occur, and color the sound. Intense, independent hands-on quality control on each coil will out-do a machine-wind everytime. Automation is too perfect, and the human ear is not. Perfection is just too sterile sounding to the average ear.
Consistency in style is vital, and sadly, very, very few hand-winders are. In fact, there are very few true hand-winders left. I have been jokingly told it is a black art! Just like learning guitar, it takes practice, practice, and practice! It is not rocket science. It is long, hard hours of study. With the proper hand-winding expertise, correct metal alloys, plastics, wire, building techniques and detail, it is more than possible to make pickups that sound as good as, and even better, than the early buckers. They certainly were not cryogenically freezing them in the 50s … and they sounded most excellent both then and now.
After literally thousands of hours of practice, the procedure is extremely well established. Take advantage of true hands-on experience, and give us a try. You’ll never go back!
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
Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.