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Thread: TL- electronic or pickup upgrades

  1. #1
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    TL- electronic or pickup upgrades

    Hi everyone,

    Got two upgrade questions that I couldn't find in the archives, your help is much appreciated!


    GAS starts to play up again, but as opposed to building something new, I am thinking of perfecting what I have:

    - TL-1A
    - Kit bridge pickup
    - GFS goldfoil Alnico Single coil < Link >
    - Kit electronics
    - Shielded

    Some notes:
    - Really like the sound of the GFS pickup, but want to make my Tele a true tele before building something else.
    - Seldomly play the kits bridge position as I find it a bit too harsh.

    Questions:
    - What electronic updates would you recommend and how will it make a difference?
    - I have seen a set of Tele Wilkinsons, tone riders and fender 52 classic's, Will I notice a big difference in swapping these for the kit pickups?


    Thanks!
    Again your input is much appreciated :-)

  2. #2
    Overlord of Music McCreed's Avatar
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    Well, a change is as good as a holiday, right?

    Like you, I have taken the same path of re-working some of my previous builds in lieu of building anything new.
    I really don't need any more than I already have (13) and can't justify adding more.

    But anyway, do I understand that you're wanting to go with a traditional tele bridge and neck pickups?

    I can testify to the Tonerider Hot Classics set. Great value and sound. I've heard good things about the Vintage Plus as well, but have no direct experience with them. FWIW, I typically don't like the tone of most tele neck pickups on their own (I find them too dark or even muddy) but the Hot Classics neck sounds really good IMO.

    Personally, I would probably choose Toneriders over Wilkinson. I haven't played the Wilkinson tele pickups, but I've found Wilkinsons to be a bit hit or miss with their other models, and I've had good results with all the TR's I've owned.

    As for electronics, changing out the kit pots and switch aren't going to change or improve your tone IMO. You should gain in reliability of the components in the long term if you upgraded to CTS, Bournes, CRL, Oak Grigsby etc, but unless the kit pots or switch are faulty/noisy I don't think you'll notice a difference in performance TBH.

    Also, if you didn't expand the control cavity routing beforehand, you would need to do so if upgrading to 24mm size pots. IIRC, the cavity only needs about 1.5-2mm widening, so not a big deal, but should be taken into consideration since the guitar is already finished. However you can get CTS and Bournes pots in 13mm.
    Making the world a better place; one guitar at a time...

  3. #3
    Mentor Andyxlh's Avatar
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    Agree with McCreed on everything
    I have a Tele with the hot classics which are superb.
    But I have another, the TL51 model, with the toneriders vintage classics, I like them at least as much. They bite through without sounding brittle
    I upgraded to the Pitbull Tele electronics upgrade kit on the 51, widening the hole with a chisel for the wider pots.
    I’d recommend the orange capacitor as a minimum upgrade
    Best mod I have ever made? On the 51 I wired the tone with a pull-up pot the puts both pickups in series. Without pulling it up, the guitar is a totally standard Tele. You can go from chicken scratching’ to full throated roar by pulling that thing up, I highly recommend it, it’s a huge laugh when playing with others as they wonder how you get that tone out of that country geetar!
    Last edited by Andyxlh; 14-09-2021 at 07:09 PM.

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    ...-and holidays are good!

    Thank you, yes I meant traditional tele bridge and neck pickups. To be honest, I have never played a traditional TL neck pickup, so I will rewatch some of the review videos with that in mind and eliminate the Wilkinsons from the search. <Hard to test anything as a lefty...>

    Would you say the tone riders are a big improvement over the kit pickups?

    I have no problems yet with scratchy pots or faulty switches, so I will leave them for now. I did change to a Pure tone-multi contact jack following Simon's advice after the kit jack started getting noisy. MAJOR improvement!

    Thank you!

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    Hahaha Great idea!! gives me something to do other than just switching pickups, and sounds like a solid addition!

    Setting the pickup in series will turn the bridge and neck into a humbucker, correct?

    Thanks!

  6. #6
    Mentor Andyxlh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RocknRolf View Post
    Hahaha Great idea!! gives me something to do other than just switching pickups, and sounds like a solid addition!

    Setting the pickup in series will turn the bridge and neck into a humbucker, correct?

    Thanks!
    Yes kind of, like a giant one
    Replace your tone cap with an orange one from Pitbull too, nicer when u roll off, and I use the tone on the Tele, not on the humbucker guitars

  7. #7
    GAStronomist Simon Barden's Avatar
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    Two of my three Teles have overwound neck pickups (all Iron Gear Steel Foundry overwounds) which really help to give a clearer and louder output that balances the bridge pickup. The other has a Bare Knuckles Strat pickup in the neck, again giving that much clearer sound and more balanced output level.

    Be aware that to do a series pickup mod, you'll have to break the ground connection to either the neck pickup cover or the bridge pickup baseplate and run a separate ground wire in its place (all depends on the order you arrange the pickups in for series mode as to which one you need to do.

    I've just fitted a BK Tele bridge pickup in one of mine, and had to ground the baseplate separately because I needed to swap the pickup wires over to get the bridge+neck combination the same polarity, and it was easier to mod the bridge (snip a link and solder a wire on) than do something similar to the much smaller neck pickup.

    I'd certainly agree that the vintage style neck pickups can sound dull and weak, especially compared to the bridge; partly due to the physically smaller pickup with less windings and partly because the grounded nickel-silver cover adds a lot of capacitance that takes a fair bit of treble off the tone.

  8. #8
    GAStronomist Simon Barden's Avatar
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    And if you are going to change the pickups, then I'd go and change the pots and switches as well whilst you're at it. Always easier to solder to clean pots, and better pots and a switch will last you for many years.

    'Proper' Tele pots have solid shafts and grub screw knobs, so if you want to get more authentic, then I'd go for short-shaft solid shaft CTS pots and some matching knurled knobs as well. You'll probably also find that the kit switch tip won't fit properly on a CRL or Oak Grigsby switch, so I'd get a a new one of those as well.

    The costs soon mount up, but no-one said this was a cheap hobby....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andyxlh View Post
    Yes kind of, like a giant one
    Replace your tone cap with an orange one from Pitbull too, nicer when u roll off, and I use the tone on the Tele, not on the humbucker guitars
    Do you change it for the 0.022MF or 0.047MF?

    I just had a look at the series-mod, is there any advantage of having a push-pull pot over a 4-way switch for this mod?

  10. #10
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    Thanks Simon,
    so much great info as usual, much appreciated!

    The bare knuckles are priced a bit high for me, I probably wouldn't make them sound better than a slightly more affordable option :-)
    The Iron gear look like a solid option though, bit cheaper than the tone riders, but they might come out similar after int. shipping.

    'Proper' Tele pots have solid shafts and grub screw knobs, so if you want to get more authentic, then I'd go for short-shaft solid shaft CTS pots and some matching knurled knobs as well. You'll probably also find that the kit switch tip won't fit properly on a CRL or Oak Grigsby switch, so I'd get a a new one of those as well.

    The costs soon mount up, but no-one said this was a cheap hobby....
    Ow, I am not too bothered about authenticity, with 'true' tele I meant, pickup wise. Just after changing the pickups so that it is a tele-sound-wise. And no it is not a cheap hobby, but we do learn a lot for what we pay haha.

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