#1
For a while I had been considering buying a HH Strat and decided to buy a Fender Blacktop HH Stratocaster. Overall I like the design and 5-way pickup switch, but I think the humbuckers sound a bit muddy for my taste. I like the combined coil-split sounds that the 5-way switch provides (inner coils together and outer coils together). I am thinking about replacing the pickups, and I'd like to find humbuckers that are compatible with the Blacktop HH Strat electronics, or perhaps a loaded pickguard that provides similar capabilities so that I could swap the original pickups & electronics back in if I ever decide to do so.

I saw this Seymour Duncan P-Rails loaded HH pickguard on Amazon, and it seems like it might provide similar features but perhaps a clearer sound:
http://www.amazon.com/Seymour-Duncan-P-Rails-Loaded-Pickguard/dp/B008I4ZL6S/
Does anyone have any experience with these loaded P-Rails pickguards? My understanding about the P-Rails pickups is that they can be wired for many combinations. That Amazon page says the loaded pickguard has 2 push-pull pots, but it doesn't go into detail about what pickup combinations it allows. I'd like to know what exactly the push-pull pots do - if they allow only the P-90 coils, only the rail coils, etc.

With a HH Strat, I wanted to get something somewhat similar to a Les Paul sound (similar to Joe Walsh and Alex Lifeson); I prefer Strats as I think they're more comfortable.
#2
I found a video on YouTube for one of these loaded pickguards, or one similar. It's from the 920D custom shop, so I don't know if it's exactly the same as the one on Amazon, but it explains what the push-pull pots could do:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xjO9fc2PtY

I imagined the Seymour Duncan P-Rails pickups wouldn't sound exactly like Les Paul pickups, but I've seen a video on YouTube that had a sample of a P-90 that sounded somewhat like the tone I wanted from a humbucker:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyVuHAskeUg
#3
So I've found two very similar versions of this pickguard:
http://www.amazon.com/Seymour-Duncan-P-Rails-Loaded-Pickguard/dp/B008I4ZL6S/
http://www.amazon.com/Pickguard-Seymour-Duncan-P-Rails-Trembucker/dp/B00CRH3Q0K
There are a few minor differences. The first one has more shielding, and one of the push buttons is on a different pot. The 2nd one (from 920D) says it has a Trembucker P-Rail in the bridge. The Trembucker sounds like a good feature for a guitar with a tremolo in the bridge, but I'd think it would be good to have more shielding as the first one has. I'm not sure which one would be better to buy, or if it would really matter that much. Any ideas/opinions?
#4
Why not wire the pickups yourself? Wired pickguards need to be soldered in anyway. You can get the pickups and a couple switches for a lot cheaper than a prewired guard and have the same end product. Putting the originals back in wouldn't be hard either, no sense in paying for a bunch of stuff you don't need with that prewired business. It adds no value here.

If you do it yourself you can get the switching combinations you want with better electronics at a cheaper price. Buy a set of P-rails and some mini switches and experiment with the wiring until you find a setup you like. There are tons of wiring diagrams for the P-rails on the Duncan site and in the manual that comes with the P-rails.
#5
Switching is everything with these pickups.

You actually have four different choices with each P-Rail: P90 coil, rail coil, serial (standard) humbucker and parallel humbucker. Each sound is distinctly different. In addition to the individual choices, of course, you're going to want to have pickup selection switching and maybe even phase switching (when both pickups are selected). I have a BLEND knob and a phase switch on one P-Rail guitar.

There's also this: There are three different "strengths" of P-Rail. SD markets two different "bridge" versions and a "neck" version. I didn't go with their recommendations <G>, and I did NOT put a "neck" version in the neck position.

Second, you may want to flip one (or both) of the P-Rails around so that the rail coil is nearer the bridge or the neck, etc. SD will actually provide you with a pickup with the SD logo correctly oriented if you tell them what you need.
Last edited by dspellman at Nov 1, 2014,