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Anyone Add a Switch To Put Pickups Out of Phase?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by jgroh, Sep 11, 2008.

  1. jgroh

    jgroh Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007
    I had a local tech fix my amp recently and when I went to pick it up, he had some cool basses there. One was an old Fender (wasnt a P or J...and Im not an expert so I dont remember exactly what it was). But, he had done some mods to it and one of them was a switch to put the pickups out of phase.

    It sounded awesome! Really funky but still subtle (i.e. not like an effect so much, just a little coloration if you know what I mean) I asked him if he could do it to my Geddy and he said yes and recommended a push pull pot to do it.

    Has anyone done this to their bass and if so, did you like it?
  2. 62bass


    Apr 3, 2005
    I did it to a new Fender Jazz bass about 1976. I didn't like it and the tech I had do it told me "don't do it-let me wire it so you put the pickups in series, but in phase". But I wouldn't listen. All it did was make the bass sound very thin. It wasn't a sound I'd ever want to use and it certainly wasn't subtle, at least, when both pickups were at equal settings.
  3. Series/Parallel is a much more useful option. When pickups are out of phase, there is cancellation at certain frequencies which, as 62bass noted, tends to thin out the sound.

    Are you sure the switch was to put the pickups were "out of phase"?
  4. jgroh

    jgroh Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007
    This tech may be doing something more than just that...he tends to speak in very technical terms and I start drifting off, but the sound he was getting from his bass sounded awesome (and he is the type that wouldnt go ahead with something if he thought it was going to sound like garbage, or he would AT LEAST give me a pretty fair warning like your tech did)

    Luckily this is a very inexpensive operation, but thanks for your input. I will quiz him more on the subject before going ahead with it.
  5. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    I have one on my fretless 6. Thins the sound out a great deal, don't use it much though.
  6. jgroh

    jgroh Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007
    Hmmm...I will need to ask him about this now. Thanks for the input everyone. The sound he had wasnt what I would call thin (it was exactly booming either)...more of a funky sound. But Im not going to do it if it will thin out the sound too much. Maybe the series/parallel switch is the better option.
  7. Cernael


    Jun 28, 2008
    How would a series/parallel switch affect an out-of-phase pair of pickups? I'm thinking of getting the o-o-p option for the neck & bridge p'ups on my JunkStrat, just to test...
  8. You would have two settings (series and parallel) instead of one that would sound like crap. :)
  9. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    Series out-of-phase is less thin that parallel out-of-phase, and has more mids.

    Back when I had a zillion and one switches on my Ric, I was able to put the pickups out-of-phase, which is really fairly useless on bass unless you are doing a solo or something. Series out-of-phase was slightly less useless, but still pretty thin. But I also had three pickups, so I could put one o-o-p with the other two, and still have some low end. If you blend the pickups you can change how out-of-phase they sound.

    It sounds cool on guitars though. Fender Mustangs have phase switches.
  10. Cernael


    Jun 28, 2008
    It sounds like crap as is, so that's not a problem.

    I'm thinking, though, that as they are somewhat far from each other, the signal difference is as big as can be; and series wiring, in general, is more midsey than parallel, which might counter the thinness to some extent. Also, as the neck and bridge on a stat are both RWRP to the middle p'up, the hum of them are in phase with each other, meaning it should get cancelled in the o-o-p wiring.
  11. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    The distance between pickups will have an effect, but generally what is common between them is canceled, and that's the low end.

    Not all Strats have reverse wound middle pickups. The single act of winding it in the opposite direction puts the pickup out-of-phase, as does the reverse polarity of the magnets, which then puts the pickup back in phase.

    To have two coils hum cancel they have to be either wired out-of-phase, or wound in opposite directions, and then have the magnets reversed in one.

    So if you have a ReverseWound/ReversePolarity middle pickup, throwing it out-of-phase with one of the other pickups will render it no longer hum canceling.

    If you middle pickup is not RWRP, throwing it out-of-phase with the other two will make it hum canceling, but the signal will also be out-of-phase.
  12. I have a bass with three single coil PUs in series, with a phase switch and an off/on for each PU. The out of phase settings almost completely kill the low end, so not useful for fulfilling a BASS role, but they do produce really interesting balances of overtones in certain areas on the fretboard, producing an octave effect that sounds like a 12-string baritone guitar or something.
  13. +1. I modded my Squire VM Jazz with push-pull pot for Series/Parallel. Sounds highly awesome.
  14. jgroh

    jgroh Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007
    What exactly did it do for you in terms of tone? Did it give you more tonal options or change the basic overall tone, or...?
  15. coreyfyfe

    coreyfyfe Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2007
    boston, ma
    FWIW, the peavey T-40 (bass) and T-60 (guitar) came stock with a phase switch. You might check out what people think of those for an opinion on how useful it is for bass playing. I've played with it on the T-60 I have, but never really found it entirely useful.
  16. Cernael


    Jun 28, 2008
    I think, also, that the more relative distance you have between them, the bigger is the amplitude of the fundamental; at least unless you play so far up the neck that the half-way point passes the neck pickup, which I'd guess is around the 12th fret or so - that's probably where you have the most fundamental-content in an o-o-p signal, given that the pickups are at the same volume.

    Something else to note is that when the node for the first overtone passes the neck pickup, it's turned back in phase with itself, making it all the more pronounced. Anything played above the 12th fret, then, will sound as though there's an octave-up effect slapped on, to some extent at least.

    So, yeah. I'm so gonna try this.
  17. RyreInc


    May 11, 2006
    Kalamazoo, MI
    I had a phase switch in my bass for a while, but found it totally useless for regular playing (i.e. not soloing). Even using the blend to control the amount of out-of-phase-ness didn't really help the sound--sure it reduced the effect, but the remaining effect was still pretty lame.

    Also, I have a series/parallel switch as well, and although it thickened up the sound in out-of-phase mode, it wasn't blendable like in parallel mode.

    I ended up replacing it with a tone switch.

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