#1
..just an observation.

In my quest for a guitar (which ended in a Gibson LPJ), I came across loads of guitars with coil-splitting.
I just noticed the LPJ Pro has coil-splitting and I got to thinking just how useless this is.

It's a complete gimmick.

Every time I've used this feature on a guitar, it sounds absolutely horrible - it doesn't sound like a Fender, it doesn't give you that "single-coil" sound you want, all it does is thin out the original sound and make it have that bloody hum that nobody likes.

Why is coil-splitting even a thing? Does anybody actually use it in a practical, real life, gigging kinda sense?
#2
I enjoy coil-split tones on both my RG and RGD-guitars. I like the coil split cleans for certain things.
It sounds to me like you had the misconception that it'd actually make it sound like a single coil. It doesn't...it has its own sound.
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#3
Some like it, some don't.

One of my good friends and bandmates has a bass roll-off wired into the neck pickup tone pot on his '58 Reissue Les Paul. I'm guessing you'd probably prefer the sound of the bass roll-off to a coil-split.

Granted, the guitar I'm talking about has custom wound pickups in it that are pretty vintage and uncompressed, but when he does use the roll-off there is a bit of that single coil flavor in the tone.
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#4
I definitely had the "misconception" it was supposed to make single coil sounds.
Isn't that exactly what it does?

I don't get the "coil-split cleans" thing. I know I'm basing this off a very small sample size - but every guitar I've played that has coil-split goes all thin and hums.
Humming to me destroys any possibility of there being a nice clean tone. :/

I hate hum. I feel like turning on coil-split is just turning on bad tone and hum.
#5
You can put single-coils in a Gibson and it will never sound like a Fender. And a Strat with a humbucker will never sound like a Gibson. The guitars' designs are radically different and are practically polar opposites. There are a ton of single-coil flavors such as the Mustang, Strat, Tele, P-90, Lipstick, Jazzmaster, Jaguar, DeArmond, Rickenbacker and many more. And the types of single-coils grows when you include bass designs. There is no such thing as "the single-coil sound" as you put it. There are so many types of single-coils out there and they all sound different. Coil-splits make a single-coil sound but that literally means nothing when you consider how vast the range of single-coil flavors is.

If you want someone who utilizes coil-splits, check out Tosin Abasi. His guitar has an HSH configuration with a 5-way switch and a mini-toggle. That's 10 options all-together. 3 are humbucker settings and the other 7 are either just coil-splits or coil-splits with the single. He doesn't even have a setting for the single-coil alone. All of his single-coil tones come from coil splits or combinations of coil-splits with the single.
#6
Coil-split has its own unique sound - it was never meant to make it sound exactly like a single-coil. It was always meant to sound like... well... a coil-splitted humbucker.

Lots of brilliant musicians embrace that fact and use a combination of coil-splits, humbuckers and single coils. The aforementioned Tosin Abasi is just one example.
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#7
there are coil taps and coil splits. i may be getting these mixed, but i believe a tap simply cuts the output of the pickup to single cil levels. a split actually splits the two coils of the humbucker and one is active LIKE a single coil EXCEPT - physically it is still made, wired, and designed as a humbucker. so it will never sound like a strat. it will just be a little closer to a strat.

secondly - a gibson les paul cant be any further away from a strat design wise. no matter what you do or what pickups (unless some con-fangled active system) a passive humbucker in a les paul will never be a strat and visa versa. if you need to ask why, research guitar types and tonal differences in set neck / bolt on, scale length, wiring, etc.

lastly - i have coil splits in my carvin and LOVE EM!!!! my carvin is a lot closer to a strat than my old epi les paul, and can pull off a more convincing strat tone for sure. the taps also change the dynamics and output. they really feel more like a single coil to me, are less compressed, and less full, less bassy.

from a 3rd party standpoint, you may not pickup on this. you notice the humbuckers seem to come through a bit more "in your face" and the compression might change the expressiveness of the playing, the humbuckers have a little more grunt and growl to em.

but really, for the player i have a HUGE change in response. the lack of a coil, less bass, less output, less compression, etc for all intents and purposes makes me feel like i am playing a single coil guitar.

is it a strat? nope. but its the next best thing. and all i gotta do is pull a switch. keeps me happy. i like it enough that all guitars i buy in the future should have it or i will have it wired that way.
_____

about the hum - probably dont use the split for higher gain stuff, or if you are using a lot of dirt pedals, etc. common issues and its why humbuckers and stacked noiseless single coils were invented. i use em strictly for lower gain or clean stuff.
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#8
My PRS has it and it sounds really good, very close to a Strat sound when using. But Very few companies get the pickups right so it sound good.
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#9
The problem isn't that splitting a humbucker to a single coil is useless, it's that it's oversold and doesn't do what people assume it will because nobody takes the time to understand how it works.

Splitting a normal humbucker doesn't sound like a Fender-style single coil because the magnets are different shapes. The coils themselves can be exactly the same, but most humbuckers use large bar magnets under the coils, and most Fender-style single coil pickups use six rod magnets spaced under each string, running the vertical length of the pickup.

P-90s, the Gibson-style single coil pickup, do use bar magnets like humbuckers. However, a P-90 also has a much wider coil and two of those bar magnets, so it 'sees' a wider portion of the string. When you split a humbucker, what you're really being left with is a kind of weak P-90 as the remaining coil and single bar magnet do not sense such a large area.

You can buy humbuckers which are made with Fender-style pole pieces, in one or even both coils. When you split those pickups they do then become exactly like a common Fender-style single coil pickup. The trade is that the humbucker tones will not sound like a normal humbucker. You can even buy humbuckers which have magnetic pole pieces in the coils and a bar magnet underneath, which do offer a best-of-both-worlds solution, but these are harder and more expensive to make and the magnetic pull from such a pickup can affect the strings' movement, even pulling the guitar out of tune.

So, how useful a coil split feature is to you depends on what kinds of tones you are expecting and the nature of the pickup being split.

Of note is the 'coil tap', which often gets confused with a 'split' but is very different. When you 'tap' a coil, what you are doing is removing some of the wire from the coil (within the system; you don't have to physically cut the wire out), which lowers the output and gives a brighter sound. This is almost always only done to single coil pickups, most notably Telecaster bridge pickups. It is very rare to see a humbucker which can actually be 'tapped'.
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#10
Thanks for clearing up what coil-splitting is. I understand that it's not intended to do what I thought it was intended to do.

This still begs the question - what exactly is it supposed to achieve then?

It sucks all the tone away, and adds in a shitty hum.

I don't play with distortion at all - I would have thought distortion would sorta override the hum and you wouldn't hear it, I play basically entirely clean all the time.

To me, from my tiny sample of guitars with coil-splitting, it's just useless. I can't imagine any instance where I would ever intentionally destroy my nice, thick, humless humbucker sound, for a thin airy toneless sound with a hum.
Every guitar I've done this on has done the same thing. Wrecks tone, adds hum.

Maybe it's just not a sound that I like personally, and am having a hard time understanding why anyone else would want that sound.

I checked out Tosin Abasi and some Animals As Leaders stuff, yeah, not my thing at all.
I also didn't even notice if he ever switched his pickup selector, all sounded the same to me, a bunch of scale wanking. :/
That "technical" style of playing isn't something I can listen to for very long to try to appreciate, is there any other examples of coil-spitting being used in a band?

Something really specific would be awesome, like "X uses coil-split in this solo".
#11
I don't understand why people use regular single coils without at least a hum-cancelling dummy coil, vibrato bridges, tone controls, fretboards with a radius of less than 12", thicker strings than .010s or a scale length longer than 24.75". But Jeff Beck exists, so evidently my tastes can't account for everybody.

I know people who use a split humbucker sound as their main sound and only kick the pickup into humbucker mode as a solo boost. I know people who use guitars with single coil pickups and have a mid boost installed to fake a humbucker sound—but with hum included—the few times they want it. I don't have coil splits installed in any of my own guitars, but I'm happy to install them in other peoples' and my guitars use out of phase pickups to achieve a similar, lower-output and thinner-toned option. If I did buy a guitar which had coil split switches as standard, I doubt I'd remove them and I probably would use them at some point.

Horses for courses.

Try splitting your pickups, set your pickup selector to the middle position and play the intro of Little Wing. Even though all my guitars uses humbuckers or hum-cancelling and very overwound, thicker single coils, I still can't get used to that tune being played with anything other than a neck & middle or neck & bridge single coil or split humbucker sound.
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#12
Quote by King Turi
..just an observation.

In my quest for a guitar (which ended in a Gibson LPJ), I came across loads of guitars with coil-splitting.
I just noticed the LPJ Pro has coil-splitting and I got to thinking just how useless this is.

It's a complete gimmick.


Not even close.

It's been showing up on guitars since the early '70's, and if it were a gimmick it would have long since died by now. You simply haven't figured out how to use it yet.

For starters, it works a bit better if you're splitting a more powerful pickup. One of my favorites is the Carvin M22SD, a 13-14kohm A5 pickup that, when split, is still easily as powerful as most strat single coils.

Second, it works better if you set up the amp specifically for the split mode, rather than simply flicking into it from a serial (full humbucking) mode with the amp set for the full-on humbucker. Think of the split mode as a whole different pickup. I've used the split mode as the main pickup in a song, switching to serial mode as a solo boost.

Third, it's a great way to reduce bottom-end muddiness on an LP when playing in the neck position. And more.

I've had coil splits (including parallel options in some cases, such as on the Ibanez Artist, which has Tri-Sound serial/parallel/single coil switching) and phase switching on a lot of my guitars over the years. The reaction of newbs and single-genre players is usually the same: it's useless and "I always play in humbucker mode."

One of the benefits of playing with a modeler is that you can set up whole individual rigs for different sections of a song. This *really* allows you to take advantage of single coil modes.

Give it some time and play with it a bit.
#13
For me personally, coil-splitting is useful for when I primarily want humbucker tones but I also need some single coil tones occasionally, because they allow me to get something close to a single coil tone from the same guitar so I don't have to bring a strat or a tele with me.

So it's useful to me for convenience and nothing more, because I think coil split tones are a big compromise on a "true" single coil tone, but it's better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them.
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#14
I like the HSH setup with splits, I'd love to put a toggle as well and reverse the pups so the split side is actually closer to the neck or bridge. My Evo's split ok, but for cleans the single is way better.

Someone should make a guitar with thin singles inserted at the neck and bridge, with H's right in beside them, so 4 pups with no middle.
Last edited by Tempoe at Mar 25, 2014,
#15
MrFlibble - never thought of using the middle position with both pickups on split-coil. I'd imagine it'd probably cancel out the hum and sound a little more like how a real single-coil would sound.

dspellman - if they've been around since the 70's then I'm obviously missing something, or maybe it's a "marmite" feature. I really don't like the sound it produces and find it hard to comprehend why anyone else would want it. To me there's just no upside. Bad tone and a hum. :/ I can't play one to give it some time - I already settled on an LPJ - it's just something I observed.
That said, I read the LPJ's have 4 wires, but the stock pickups only have 2 - is this true, and does that mean I could cram a coil-splittable (is that a word?) pickup in it if I wanted?

Blompcube - fair enough.. I don't believe it's better to have them and not need them, than to need them and not have them - I can't see why I would need them in the first place.
Does a pickup having split-coil capabilities compromise the humbucker sound at all?

Tempoe - yeah, that's what I figured, if I really wanted a single-coil sound, I'd just have a single coil pickup or a single-coil guitar available.

The sound of a split-coil humbucker doesn't do what I thought it would do, and now that that's been verified as it wasn't the intention in the first place, I just don't see why I'd want it.

Probably personal preference more than anything, given you guys seem to disagree with me and that it's been around since the 70's apparently, surely it has it's fans.

I just mustn't like the sound. :/
#16
My own 2¢: it also depends on the pickups that are being split. Some sound good, some never will.
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#17
Quote by King Turi

That said, I read the LPJ's have 4 wires, but the stock pickups only have 2 - is this true, and does that mean I could cram a coil-splittable (is that a word?) pickup in it if I wanted?

Does a pickup having split-coil capabilities compromise the humbucker sound at all?


1. Yes

2. No

Proper grounding and shielding go a long way toward taming the hum, and folks obviously manage to work around it. The strat remains the best-selling guitar on the planet.
#18
Quote by dspellman
The strat remains the best-selling guitar on the planet.

Bah, humbuck! That has more to do with market penetration than anything else. The probably isn't a guitar retailer on the planet that sells the major brands that doesn't sell Fender and/or Squier Strats.

(And, FYI, the same definitely cannot be said of Gibson & Epiphone products. For a while, the company with the 3rd party vendor contract with the American military's PX service did not offer any Gibson or Epiphone guitars. A new vendor currently has that contract...)
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#19
dannyalcatraz - fair point. Some pickups are probably better suited to it.

I might do a little research on coil-splitting, see if I can like it. Could be useful if it's not always shit.

Just noticed the Classic 57's are available with 4 wires - this is my favourite pickup.. Could be cool? They are way expensive though.

I'm going to noob around on youtube and see if I can find some good examples of coil-splitting, maybe I've just played pickups that don't really work for it.

It would be nice to get that thinner tone and a thick humbucker tone from the same guitar - I'm a huge Bruce Springsteen fan so I mean, if I could get anything that sorta resembled that single coil twanginess from a coil-split pickup dropped into my LPJ, I would definitely be cool with that.
#20
Quote by King Turi


dspellman - if they've been around since the 70's then I'm obviously missing something, or maybe it's a "marmite" feature. I really don't like the sound it produces and find it hard to comprehend why anyone else would want it.


It does tend to be a bullet-point feature for the Marketing boys, but there's a chance you just haven't heard it properly done/used. I have a Carvin DC-145, for example, an H-S-H configuration with a mahogany neck and body wings (neck-through construction) and a quited maple top. It's got a relatively simple control configuration, with a single volume/tone, a five-way and three miniswitches. The minis toggle each individual pickup between humbucker/single coil modes and the third mini is a "bridge pickup add-in" switch. It adds the bridge pickup to the two forward positions of the five-way, with the most forward position a duplicate of the LP middle position when both pickups are in humbucker mode.

With the pickups switched into single-coil mode, the cream coils are left active, and the guitar operates and sounds very much like a strat (except that it has the unusual bridge plus neck choice available. When the pickups are left in humbucker mode, the guitar does acceptable LP sounds. Very versatile.

#21
Quote by dannyalcatraz
Bah, humbuck! That has more to do with market penetration than anything else. The probably isn't a guitar retailer on the planet that sells the major brands that doesn't sell Fender and/or Squier Strats.

(And, FYI, the same definitely cannot be said of Gibson & Epiphone products. For a while, the company with the 3rd party vendor contract with the American military's PX service did not offer any Gibson or Epiphone guitars. A new vendor currently has that contract...)


I agree with this.

I've never even seen anywhere that doesn't sell Fenders, yet for Gibson, I'm lucky enough to have a dealer in my town, because the next one is about 3 hours.
I should probably mention here that I live in QLD and basically if something isn't in my town or the next town (30 mins away - sells Fenders), then it's 3 hours from THAT town until I get to where everything would be.
#22
dspellman - that's a sick looking guitar. You happen to have any little demos of the different sounds it can make?
#23
Quote by King Turi
Blompcube - fair enough.. I don't believe it's better to have them and not need them, than to need them and not have them - I can't see why I would need them in the first place.
Does a pickup having split-coil capabilities compromise the humbucker sound at all?

Given that two of my best sounding humbucker equipped guitars happen to have coil splits as well, I have no reason to believe they compromise the humbucker sound in any meaningful way. It's entirely possible that it affects things in some microscopic way that only serious audiophiles will be able to detect using precise measuring equipment, but nothing a musician should be worrying about as long as the guitar sounds how they want it to sound.

Just like everything else relating to guitars/gear, it's definitely a matter of preference - Things that are useless to you will continue to exist because they are useful to someone else, even if you can't imagine how anyone else would find it useful.
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#24
Having a split switch certainly can not affect the dual-coil sound at all. All a split switch is doing is swapping between connecting the series link (humbucker) and sending one half of that link to ground (split). You are literally just removing one coil from the system, or keeping it in. With both coils on, the signal is only passing through the additional switch, which is a piece of metal so tiny it can not possibly make any difference, no more than an additional inch of wire can.

A coil tap (a true tap, not a split which has been incorrectly named) can change the 'full' sound a little, as some portion of the signal will always be bleeding to ground. However, even that will only be a very small difference, like having a tone control on '10' and moving it to '9.5'. It would be impossible for anybody to hear it during playing, only in lab-like testing.
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#25
I play mostly single coil guitars but don't really care for coil split HBs. If I want SC, I play SC. If I want HB, I play HB. About a gazillion records have been sold over the last 50 years with the single coil guitar sound so apparently it doesn't totally suck. The guys below are a small sample of guitarists who have used single coil guitars to great effect. Perhaps give their music another listen and see if there is something you may have overlooked.

Buddy Holly, Dick Dale, Jimi, George and John, Clapton, Page, Jeff Beck, Pete Townsend, James Burton, Mike Campbell, David Gilmour, SRV, Steve Cropper, John 5, Brent Mason, Muddy Waters, Brad Paisley, Will Ray, Joe Strummer and many more.
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#26
Quote by Blompcube
For me personally, coil-splitting is useful for when I primarily want humbucker tones but I also need some single coil tones occasionally, because they allow me to get something close to a single coil tone from the same guitar so I don't have to bring a strat or a tele with me.

So it's useful to me for convenience and nothing more, because I think coil split tones are a big compromise on a "true" single coil tone, but it's better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them.


That would be my approach, too. I figure I might as well have them since I don't lose anything by having them.

As flibble said, there are reasons why they don't sound exactly like single coils.
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#27
Awesome, thanks for the help.

I'll check out some of those artists Cajundaddy mentioned and do a little reading on the web 'n' watching some youtube clips to see if I can start to like it.

I think it'd be awesome if I could get that kinda twangy vibe like the Boss has from the same guitar as I get that thick humbucker sound I like.
I've probably only tried humbuckers that sound shit when they're split.
#28
Quote by MrFlibble
I don't understand why people use regular single coils without at least a hum-cancelling dummy coil, vibrato bridges, tone controls, fretboards with a radius of less than 12", thicker strings than .010s or a scale length longer than 24.75". But Jeff Beck exists, so evidently my tastes can't account for everybody.

Neither of my two main guitars, both Strats, have noiseless pickups. Both have 9.25 radii and I use standard 10-46 with the standard 25.5" scale. Bridge has been hardtailed on both (via springs, no block). No noise issues at all.

Admittedly, I do use an NS-2, but it's set at a fairly moderate gate setting, probably somewhere around 30-35% on the dial.

I think the key to really making an S/S/S Strat rock is by having a tone control wired to the bridge pickup.
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#29
I don't like coil splitting, but I'm a fan of running a humbucker parallel. Basically that makes both coils into single coils and it still cancels the hum. As others have said, don't expect it to sound like a strat, but it's totally usable, far more so than a split humbucker.
#30
Quote by W4RP1G
I don't like coil splitting, but I'm a fan of running a humbucker parallel. Basically that makes both coils into single coils and it still cancels the hum. As others have said, don't expect it to sound like a strat, but it's totally usable, far more so than a split humbucker.


I don't know that I agree that parallel mode is "far more" usable than a split humbucker, but I've certainly used it over the years. I have an original LS6, which made great use of parallel modes back in the early '70's. It has a six-way pickup selector switch and several of the selections are both pickups in parallel mode, both in and out of phase. The Ibanez Artists that have Tri-Sound switches (starting back in the '70's) offered serial/parallel/single coil modes for each pickup.

The SD P-Rails are extremely versatile pickups, with both a full-on single (rail) coil and a full-on P90 coil in the same pickup. Full switching for this pickup will allow you to use either coil on its own, or in humbucking serial/parallel modes as well. In addition, you can combine the two pickups in any variation of those modes.
#31
Quote by dspellman
I don't know that I agree that parallel mode is "far more" usable than a split humbucker, but I've certainly used it over the years.


Agreed. I have more limited experience with parallel wiring, but on the ones i've tried, to my ears parallel wiring sounds more like using a low output humbucker than using single coils- splits sound closer to single coils to my ears, if that's what you want. Not exact or anything like that, but closer. It just depends on what you want, really, and also personal preference.
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Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

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#32
Quote by dspellman
I don't know that I agree that parallel mode is "far more" usable than a split humbucker, but I've certainly used it over the years. I have an original LS6, which made great use of parallel modes back in the early '70's. It has a six-way pickup selector switch and several of the selections are both pickups in parallel mode, both in and out of phase. The Ibanez Artists that have Tri-Sound switches (starting back in the '70's) offered serial/parallel/single coil modes for each pickup.

The SD P-Rails are extremely versatile pickups, with both a full-on single (rail) coil and a full-on P90 coil in the same pickup. Full switching for this pickup will allow you to use either coil on its own, or in humbucking serial/parallel modes as well. In addition, you can combine the two pickups in any variation of those modes.

Bad choice of words. I meant more usable as in for applications where hum cancellation is a plus. That's my preference though, some people might like the hum Also, the humbuckers I've split had a fairly weak sound compared to parallel, but that could just be the pickups I used.
#33
It's like how a neck pickup is useless for Phil X.

If you don't use it... sure it's useless.
#34
Quote by MrFlibble

You can buy humbuckers which are made with Fender-style pole pieces, in one or even both coils. When you split those pickups they do then become exactly like a common Fender-style single coil pickup. The trade is that the humbucker tones will not sound like a normal humbucker. You can even buy humbuckers which have magnetic pole pieces in the coils and a bar magnet underneath, which do offer a best-of-both-worlds solution, but these are harder and more expensive to make and the magnetic pull from such a pickup can affect the strings' movement, even pulling the guitar out of tune.


This is very interesting to me. Do you know of any pickups that utilize this construction successfully?
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#35
Ones I've tried are:

Seymour Duncan Stag Mag, 12 magnetic pole pieces and overwound so each coil matches other single coils for power. Great single coil tone, humbucker tone is kind of like a muddy Wide Range. Not perfect, but far from bad.

Swineshead AMP, 12 magnetic pole pieces and wound to match normal humbucker spec so the split coils are weaker than other singles. No longer made but I've got one knocking about somewhere. Great in the neck, the humbucker mode sounds like a thicker Jazzmaster pickup. Crap in the bridge, just too weak in either mode.

Cats Whisker S-Bucker, 6 magnetic pole pieces in one coil and a bar magnet underneath the whole pickup, coils are mismatched so the single coil sounds full but that means the humbucker mode isn't fully hum-cancelling. Probably my favourite of the ones I've tried since these aren't the sorts of pickups you'd ever want to use with really high gain anyway. Definitely the best single coil sound.

Warman G-Rail, which is really just a Strat pickup and a Hot Rails glued together, for three coils in total. Dirt cheap and actually pretty good, if a bit limited. The three coil, 6-wire wiring makes you think you should be able to get lots of tones out of it, but really the hot rails portion only sounds good as a regular, series-wired humbucker, and mixing the rail and Strat coils kills so much treble it sounds muffled. If you just want a basic Strat and a basic medium-hot, aggresive humbucker tone, though, it's fine. For £25 you can't complain. Does a better job than the SD P-Rail.

The Creamery makes loads of variations of humbuckers with magnetic poles, including putting them under P-90 covers, Jazzmaster covers, Wide Range humbuckers, or whatever else you want. I've used the P-90 and regular humbucker ones. Expensive, but he gets the balance between the humbucker and split modes just right. If it wasn't for the cost I'd say he made the best ones. Just hard to justify when it's something I so rarely use.
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#36
I haven't tried any of those ones (just I'm aware of them), but my big concern would be that you have the opposite problem- the split tones would sound good but the humbucker tones would be compromised. Which is fair enough if you need the single coil tones more, but if that's the case you'd likely be better off with a single coil guitar.

Right?
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I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

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