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MIM Strat upgrade


(@brian-f)
Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 122
Topic starter  

This topic has to have been beaten into the ground, and maybe even recently, so at the risk of bugging everyone...

I just got a '96 MIM Strat...essentially my first elctric guitar. I've had others including a LP studio, but the LP never felt right in my hands and I ultimately never played it. So, I like the strat..feels good...so it'll get me playing electric, but i can't help myself...I like messing with stuff, so I want to make it sound a little better. It's got the stock pups in it and I play it through a Vox AD30VT combo. I be playing lots of different stuff on this guitar, but lots of country, blues, & classic rock. It will likely be my only electric for some time to come. Not much to compare these stock pups to, but they sound pretty muddy.
I've thought about getting a HB for the bridge, like a Duncan Lil '59, but I thought maybe I would get a whole replacement set of single coils first...???? Then there are things like the Callaham term block replacement, wiring, etc.

So, If you were going to spend $100 or less on a MIM Strat upgrade...what would you get? What would give you the most bang for the buck?

Thanks
B


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(@gnease)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5058
 

Muddy? First try lowering your pups, especially the neck and middle. On a Strat, pups too close to the strings cause all sorts of issues such as poor sustain, unusual harmonics, wolf tones ... all of which can contribute to "muddy."

-=tension & release=-


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(@scrybe)
Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 2246
 

+1 what Greg said.

And I'm not sure of exact prices in the US, but I'm guessing $100 wouldn't get you very far if you want a pup change, new trem block and possibly other new hardware. If it helps, I try to have a rule of thumb which is don't spend more on upgrades than you did on the guitar itself. That said, my tendency tor escue gutiars from skips, etc, means I break this rule fairly often.

Ra Er Ga.

Ninjazz have SuperChops.

http://www.blipfoto.com/Scrybe


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(@alangreen)
Member Moderator
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5366
 

I think I'd be fiddling with FX pedals and the knobs on the amp - there's nothing fundamentally wrong with a Mexistrat unless you're an elitist, and Vox amps are Exhibit C in the argument for the existence of the supreme being.

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


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(@citizennoir)
Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 1248
 

Muddy? First try lowering your pups, especially the neck and middle. On a Strat, pups too close to the strings cause all sorts of issues such as poor sustain, unusual harmonics, wolf tones ... all of which can contribute to "muddy."

Could be right.... Can you provide a measurement of the distance between a fretted (e) string and a pole piece????

The only problem that I have with thinking that the pups are too high, causing the monster string pull problems
that Greg has indicated is that on a MIM Strat, the pups are not built the same as a SC Fender pup.

On a SC pup, the pole pieces ARE the alnico V magnet....
On a MIM Strat the pole pieces are 'slugs' while the magnet is a bar beneath the pup's coil.
So, I'm thinking that proximity may be less of a factor with stock MIM pups.

If you can provide a distance, we'll know for sure if that's the cause.

A Callaham Block/Heavy Gauge Stainless Bridge/Saddles would be a GREAT addition/improvement to a MIM Strat.
Those are very important items in the tone chain.
They add a higher degree of resonance, higher acoustic volume, & cut the harshness inherent in Fender's, leading
to more warmth.
I would def. advocate that upgrade.

On the other hand - true single coil pups are good to have as well.
Something like Fender Fat 50's can be had for $160 to $190 U.S.

I think you're on the right track with what you want to upgrade with.

A proper set up (including proper pup height/balance) is a great way to dial in tone without spending money.

And - Agree.... LOVE that smooth warm Vox sound!
Playing with the adjustments on an amp is always fun!

Ken

"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
-Orson Welles


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(@brian-f)
Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 122
Topic starter  

Great thoughts...thanks guys. I do have a lot of experimenting to do with my amp, and I certainly don't want to put a few hundred into the guitar.

Ken -
distance from top of pole to bottom of low E fretted at 3rd fret is:
Bridge - 7/64"
Middle - 11/64"
Neck - 8/64"

The bridge is the closest to the strings, then the neck, and the middle is the furthest. The pole pieces for all pups are staggered with both E's at the same height, A & B at the same height (a bit closer), and D & G are closest to the strings.

D & G strings, unfretted are as follows:
Bridge - 5/64"
Middle - 10/64"
Neck - 8/64"

There is also some corrosion on all pole pieces...not sure if this matters at all.

If these measurements are way off, maybe all I need is a solid setup and I can play it "as is" for a good while before deciding what else to do to it.

Thanks again for any further info.

Best,
Brian


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(@citizennoir)
Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 1248
 

Hey Brian :D

Well.... I don't think that those distances are too close to cause massive string pull problems....
Still sounds like they are a bit too close for my liking though.

On my wore out old tape, it seems that my neck pup/low E distance from the pole, fretted at the 3rd fret (from the nut)
is about 7/32 (or 14/64 for an 'improper' compariason).
And my High e is about 3/32 away.

Basically, I lowered the Low E side down til I thought that the screw would come loose.... Just over 1/16" higher than the
pickguard.... then I adjusted the High e side til I heard a nice even response in frequencies.

I did the same for the Mid pup, with excellent tone there.... though it makes it a bit harder to use for the #2 & #4 pup positions that way - I personally like the Mid pup best

I also adjusted the bridge that way, and it's very low for a bridge pup (which usually sit high - since the bridge is right there,
the close proximity of a bridge pup will have less affect as far as string pull goes - since the string is weaker at the neck pos., the pup should be lower there).

I don't normally play with my bridge pup, and it doesn't really do much for me set so low playing my usually clean way....
I am curious to hear if it has a more 'airy' quality when I turn the guitar volume up to 10 though.
To do that I have to turn the volume on my amp down.... and that's a bigger project than it seems!

So, if you like, try setting your neck/mid pup like mine.
Since you know the settings that they are currently on, you can always put them back the way they were if you don't like
the tone change.

Ken

"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
-Orson Welles


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(@citizennoir)
Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 1248
 

As far as amp settings go....

Turning down the mid, while turning up the High/Low, will provide something with a bit more of a country feel.
(Turning down, I mean: Down to one. All the way to Zero removes that frequency completely and lends a sorta 'gap' in the sound. 'One' cuts it, while still having it present) (Up means to 10 - unless you bought your amp from Spinal Tap.... then of course, your's go to 11!) (And some Fender's go to 12)

To get an 'Amp Tone' like Johnny Winter - Turn down the Low/Mid, turn up the High.

Just a few ideas to play with

Ken

"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
-Orson Welles


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(@mikethaninefive)
Eminent Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 26
 

I also have a MIM Strat and I love it! But like Scrybe I tend to break the "don't spend more on parts than you did on the guitar" rule,lol I'm by no means an expert but when I added Graphtech (saddles, nut, trees) it stayed in tune alot better- then I added locking machine heads from a MIA Strat (ebay 50.00 bucks) now it stays in tune better than my Jackson with a lic. Floyd. Or if you don't use the bar you can block it for nearly nothing. I'm prolly gonna catch some crap for saying this, but I bought a Duncan Performer for the bridge from GC when I first started (30 bucks) installed myself (which was alot easier than I thought it would be) and with a real Duncan SHR-1 in the mid, and a JB Jr. in the neck it's still there b/c I love the way it sounds and I'm scared to spend 75 to 100 bucks for the real one and still like the performer better,lol the only thing I don't love are the stoopid tiny vintage frets. :( soooo, I hope this helps (oh yeah Upgrade that cap, it made a huge difference for me and cost less than 5 bucks)

Sorry about my writing skills, but my grammar sick.


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