Right, so this is where the real fun ends. Or starts. Bear with me.
One - I have a slight colour perception impairment, of the “red-green” variety. Reading resistor codes is fun, and if not a combination of white, blue, black, red and yellow, any wiring soon deteriorates into a “?”.
Two – I have studied many (internet) wiring diagrams. Besides being either in black/white, or with rather faded colours (refer point One), many do not make sense to me. Apart from “same” guitars showing different wiring. Some do not explain exactly what is achieved with the provided wiring.
Three – There is no industry standard for pickup polarities (magnet pole direction and coil wind). There is no industry standard for leadout colours. I read somewhere that normal single coil convention is polepiece magnets South to strings. I planned accordingly. No. Not always. Humbucker convention might be counterclockwise wound, and slugs “north” screws “south”. Or is it? (Some winders wind bridge and neck humbuckers different.) Single coils can be either, for Reverse Wound Reverse Polarity use. Or not. Just swop the leads. Re-magnitize the magnets. Flip the magnet. Turn the pickup around. I have studied pickup lead colour comparisons. My unwillingness to learn to discern between colours (lazy, yes), why does nobody think of including simple words like “green” or “red” or “grey” on these charts?
I would like to keep the original Ibanez HSH five-way switching:
1 – Bridge humbucker (coils in series)
2 – Middle single coil parallel to inner (slug) coil of bridge (in-phase, hum cancelling)
3 – Single coil
4 – Middle single coil with inner (slug) neck coil
5 – Neck humbucker (series coils)
Seymour Duncan’s helpline said, no, I do not need a RWRP single to achieve this. This was while I was still saving up for those Alnico Pro II pickups (still want them). Eventually I buy the DiMarzio’s, specifically with a normal polarity normal wind (neck or bridge) single coil, only to find it has North to strings. To DiMarzio’s credit, well hidden somewhere in a DiMarzio pickup description, is one sentence saying the the tech minded players might like to know that, for DiMarzio, reverse polarity is South up. A subtle hint could be that the DiMarzio RWRP true single coils (for middle position in paddle head guitars) have a “DP-num-S” designation. “S” for “south” maybe? More on this later.
Trying to understand polarity and wind direction and connecting leads left my head in a frustrated messy spin, trying to unravel various diagrams, trying to make sense of what I should do with my new set. It is all rather straightforward, once you get around the normal internet forums information (“just follow the diagrams/follow the colours/use the colour conversion charts/just switch the leads” (yeah, strip down guitar again…)/”flip the magnet”/”we did try to help you, are you an idiot?” (no, colour blind/I do not understand the meaning of the technical terms you fling around/I am from Groothakskeenpan and do not follow English well)/ “cannot do that without a super super megaschaller and ten push-pull pots/yes you can do that with the standard Fender five way/if you do not know what you are doing, rather take it to someone who does”etc.). Seems as if most of the people posting there do not have a clue either, but insist that you do it their way/their buddy’s way/that diagram’s way (even if is perfectly clear, to me, that the answer does not relate to the question).
I found pointers to “just match the coil polarities”. No idea. One site actually discussed coil polarity. Oh? Some sites still use the “start” and “end” leads and normal vs reverse wind terms to connect up, after they explained in detail how to check coil wind polarity. I guess, if you do know which leads are “start”, you could quickly draw out the current directions (clockwise/anticlockwise) in your pickups and decide which lead goes to ground and which one connects somewhere on the switch. If.
A rather helpful site showed checking magnetic polarity of the pickup, using a compass. I did try my old GPS, but it refused to work. Dug out the Brunton. Never discard obsolete technology. I would advise you invest in a cheap compass if you plan to do pickup swops.
1. For those who do not yet know how to do this coil polarity thing, you use your multimeter on DC Volts, milliVolt scale or less if available. Locate the two leads for the coil you are investigating (Use the 5/10/20 KOhm function? Seeing as the coil is several thousand Ohm, do not expect your “beep” continuity tester to be of help here. This sommer checks continuity as well as DCR.). Connect multimeter positive (red) lead to one, negative (black) lead to the other pickup lead. Press screwdriver onto the relevant coil’s poles. Note if the multimeter (DC Volts) goes positive. Remove screwdriver, see if the reading goes negative. If so, assign the relevant leads to be “+” where the multimeter red wire is, and “-“ where the black wire connects. (If the multimeter goes negative, then positive, reverse the above assignments. If you are me, you will swop the leads and do it all again, just to be sure…) This way, you have notes of what colour wire is “+” and “-“ polarity. I agree that manufacturers should supply this polarity information with the pickup specs (and, just maybe, for the colour perception challenged, tags listing the lead colour?).
- As for magnetic polarity, find a magnetic compass (if you are of very recent internet smartphone generation, googling “compass” to learn about that ancient technology might be required. OK, Joking.): The needle attracted to the poles is opposite the pole polarity, or, the needle extending away from the poles is the polarity. Not so simple with pickups in the guitar with strings all over.}
A good place to start your research on all this might be
stewmac.com : understanding guitar wiring
humbuckersoup.com : Lindy Fralin Pickup Phase – What’s the Deal? and Guitar Pickup Wiring
Then progress (?) to TDPRI and Jemsite and such.
OK, so series wiring coils (normal “humbucker”): Connect the one coil’s “-“ lead to the other coil’s “+” lead. The two leads left over, one goes to ground and the other (“hot”) to one of the many tags on the switch. Depends on the polarity you need.
Parallel wiring, like making the humbucker a (double) “single coil”, or combining two pickups as with the typical Strat position “2” and “4”, connect “+” to “+” and “-“ to “-“, they are in phase. Try to decide which set goes to switch, somewhere, the other set goes to ground. Check for opposite magnetic polarity if you want hum-cancelling.
Question time: What tone/volume difference should I expect if I split the humbuckers to the outer (screws) coils instead of the “standard” Ibanez way of using the inner (slugs) coils? Weaker at the bridge, yes, thicker at the neck? Seeing as I split to half the humbucker DCR value, which is way less that the singlecoil DCR value (in my case), the single coil will dominate the sound anyway? I do realise, for my humbuckers, I can turn them around (slugs outside, screws facing inside) to get the split coil “next to” the middle single coil. Still, the slugs vs. screws should have an effect?
There are opinions on the internet that indicates using the outer coils in the 2 – 4 switch position will enhance “quack”. Could not yet find someone who actually “dunnit”. I am about to find out.
All very interesting and exasperating. But, I hope I have it sorted now. I basically want the middle single coil to be parallel with the relevant opposed magnetic polarity humbucker coil, in phase. Sketching out a humbucker, connected in parallel, helped me to wrap my head around this. I hope. I really do hope I have it now. I do not enjoy assembling/disassembling/assembling if the leads needs to be reversed or such. Better to sort it out before I cut and paste. One way would be to make up a dummy plank guitar, and play around with the leads (crocodile clips?) untill I get what I need. Might be fun. A good Garage Day practical tutorial class. Better idea: I could buy a “Prestige”/Les Paul-alike, allowing me to access the wiring from behind, so no taking off the pickguard all the time to get to it. Slack off the strings, insert pickup with masking tape, tune up, lay guitar on face, hack at it, test sounds. Hmm, money well spent, I think? No expense spared in the quest for scientific knowledge. Not to mention how easy it becomes to test different pickups too! Being recently divorced, I do not even have to sell this plan to my wife. Being recently divorced though, R&D budget was re-allocated.
How does all this relate to what I have?
Ibanez Jem-JR pickups:
The pickups are installed with humbucker screw coils to the outside, slug coils to the inside. The humbucker slugs are “north” and the screws are “south”.
The single coil slugs are “south”.
I measure the coil polarities, on the guitar cable:
Single coil (switch position 3) “-“ for the tip
Bridge humbucker (coil split to slug, switch position 2) “-“ for the tip
Neck Humbucker (coil split to slug, switch position 4) “-“ for the tip.
This corresponds to what Ibanez claims the switch positions do, and yes, I did tap the pickups with the screwdriver to make sure which coil is on with each switch position: In position “2” and “4”, the slug coil is indeed the active humbucker coil. (I must confess that adjusting the screw poles and fitting/removing pole piece caps does result in “clack” “clock” “whump” from the amplifier, when I neglect to turn down the guitar’s volume knob. I have a formed good idea of what pickup is active, when.) If I have all my ducklings in a row now, the above position “2” and “4” switching will have the relevant coils in phase with reverse magnetic polarity – maximum output with humbucking.
DiMarzio PAF 36 humbuckers and Red Velvet single coil:
Humbuckers have slugs “north” and screws “south”.
Single coil has slugs “north”.
Humbucker coil polarity:
Slug coil – Red lead (“start”) "+" , Black lead (“end”) “-“
Screw coil - Green lead (“start”) “-“ , White lead (“end”) “+”
Single coil polarity - Black lead (“start”?) “+” , White lead (“end”?) “-“
I cannot get in-phase humbucking in switch positions “2” and “4” with the humbuckers split to the slug coils. In the case of DiMarzio’s, I do indeed require a RWRP single coil to achieve this. Hence my question about splitting to the “outside” coils.