24 October 2013

DIY - Wiring for 3 single pickups in series / parallel V2 (Complete combinations)


After introducing my previous DIY entry, related to a way to get most of the possible combos arranging three single pickups with just three "common" 4PDT on/on/on switches (please, see http://hermeticoguitar.blogspot.com.es/2013/10/wiring-diy-3-single-coils-in.html), I was challenged by a customer to find a solution for every possible combination.

I knew how this would end, since this is a "problem" that was always in background in my "designer" mind.
This is a clear example on how a solution that can be designed in theoretical world cannot be implemented in real world, because of the constrains of existing technology and the limited room that guitar electronics cavity have.

But, let's introduce the diagram first and then, we will comment everything related to it and, real feasibility of this project.

You will learn also how to approach a complex design, with the help of a decision table.

The Diagram

Please, click on the diagram to see it full sized.

At left hand, you can see a table. Columns correspond to the status of the three switches and the resulting combo of pickups.

To avoid conflicts when just two pickups are active and one is in parallel and the other in series mode, we always resolve this conflict by putting them both in parallel.

When two pickups are in parallel and the other in series, we link the output of the two parallel pickups to the input of the series pickup, to have combos as (N + M) & B, (N + B) & M  or (M + B) & B.

If you think on the switching possibilities you have, for neck switch 3 posibilities for each pickup wire.
Taking into account every pickup wire except bridge's negative wire, we have the following combinations:
3 * 5 = 15 combinations, in a first decission level.

Now, for each of those combinations (related to the neck switch), we can have 3 more possibilites on the middle switch. That would give us 15 * 3 = 45 new combinations, in a second decission level.

Each of those 45 combinations will branch in three new more possibilities on the bridge' switch, which would represent 45 * 3 = 135 different combinations in total.

So, imagine all this like a decission three were, for each pickup wire, we can take three decisions in a first level and, every of those first level decisions will need three more decisions at a second level and, for each of those decisions, we will still need to take three more decisions at the third and last level.
So 5 wires * 3 (first level) * 3 (second level) * 3 (third level) = 135 combinations (note: bridge's negative is always ground so, it doesn't count as a wire for decision).

For each decision we would need two poles of same switch so, this would give us the following needs:
First switch: 5 wires * 2 poles-a-wire = 10 poles, 3 throws.
Second Switch: 2 poles for each throw of the first switch: 30 x 2 = 60 poles
Third Switch 2 poles for each throw of the second switch 60 x 2 = 120 poles.

This is just crazy. Don't?.
That's why for each complex design, a decision table is the best tool you can use and, the decision table comes always BEFORE starting your wiring design.

The Decision Table

There are some wiring projects were options are so clear and standard that I don't use a decision table but, when things start to go weird, I always prepare a Decision Table BEFORE starting diagramming.
The aim of such a table is to put together repeatitive combinations so we can reduce the switching possibilities, combining together some cases.

This is the decision table I've built for this particular case (please, click it for full size):

The three first columns correspond to each of the three switches (neck, middle and bridge) and, the combination of the three possible status of each switch respect to the other two.
For each of those combinations (3 * 3 *3 = 27), the 4th column has the guidance for the wanted combo, meaning:

N = neck pickup
M = middle pickup
B = bridge pickup
& = in series with
+ = in parallel with

Then, next columns corresponds to each one of the pickup wires and, to where they would be switched on, for each combination.
You can see four possible "destinations" for a certain wire:

HOT = the signal output that will be eventually regulated with a volume pot and filtered with a tone pot.
GROUND = ground
X = this is a temporary link, where two different wires are being linked together
Y= as X, but not same link

In this table, under the columns corresponding to each wire, you can see that, for each wire, I've grouped together (in a different color) combinations of three status (which corresponds to the three status that the bridge switch can take for each combination of neck and middle switches).
I've painted in same color same combinations (please, notice that bridge's negative wire is always ground).

This different combinations are being reproduced on right hand and, I've assigned a character to each one.
That means that, whatever are the combinations in switches neck and middle, they will always land into up to 8 different combinations, that can be represented by using the bridge' switch.

But, combinations that have the 3 decisions equal (as HOT/HOT/HOT, GROUND/GROUND/GROUND. X/X/X or YYY) are just a lug, a wire that links same lugs.
Rest of combinations (with at least one different decision) need a couple of poles to represent the three options.

If you look again to the diagram, you will see on the lower switch (bridge' switch) those combined decisions that you can easily identfy with the typo in the wire that gets the first of the two poles (E, F, H, D, G).
Notice, as a difference, how the X/X/X option was implemented (follow that purple wire that links two lugs in the middle switch) or, HOT/HOT/HOT (just follow the red wire) or GROUND/GROUND/GROUND (just follow the dark blue wire) or, Y/Y/Y (just follow the pink wire in bridge switch).

Notice here that I would be able to simplify just a bit more this design by linking the neck positive always to hot and then, removing the pickup by putting the neck negative also in the hot path but, this can lead to unwanted antenna-effects and, this would save just two poles in neck' switch, which means nothing, compared to the whole thing.

Theory crashes against Reality

Notice that the diagram is showing "theoretical" existing 3-way on/on/on toggle switches.
I don't know any toggle switch that handles more than 4 poles at once and, if it exists, its size should be big enough to compromise the available room of any guitar's electronics cavity.

This is just a demostration that I can figure out very complex wiring designs, as complex as the requests of my customers but, also a demonstration that not everything that you can design in a theoretical world can be implemented in real world.

Which are the contrains related to this project?.

In first place, this switching system should be maped to real existing components.
As I said, I don't know (it doesn't mean that they don't exist) toggle switches that handle more than 4 poles in three ways and, if they exist, I don't want to even imagine the size of a 20 poles toggle switch.

One alternative is to use rotary switches but, a 10 poles, 3 positions rotary (10P3T) is ususally implemente with three waffers and, will not suit no guitar's cavity, for sure.
Imagine now that a 20 poles, 3 positions rotary (20P3T) will need 6 waffers!!!.

Ok, another alternative is to use an slide switch. I've found some 10P3T micro-switch of that kind but, no 20P3T was found on a global Internet search.
Those 10P3T I've found were appropiate to be mount in a PCB (Printed CardBoard) but, for manual soldering they would be a real mess.
I could even imagine three of those along the pickguard but, I have my concerns about if they would leave some room for a couple of pot and, I am barely possitive that some wood routing would be necessary.

Conclusion is that even that practically everything is possible in a theoretical world, we will be always limited by current technology, available components and room in our guitar's cavity. All them are our contrains, when projecting a wiring design.

Final Comment

When a customer orders me a new design project, I am always weighting utitly of combos, feasibility and real options.

I have the impression that some want to challenge me just for fun (and, it's really funny, indeed!).
As you can see in this weird example, I can handle barelly every complex switching project but, certain project have no way to be feasible in real world so, please, consider that when I am saying "this makes no sense, or is not possible", I am weighting everything together.

After seeing how hard can go to achieve the complete combinations of three pickups, I am quite sure you will appreciate the high versatility of my previous DIY post, achieved with just three "common" 4PDT on/on/on switches.

We can achieve anything but, some times, it simply makes no sense.

I hope that you, at least, understood how to handle complex requirements with a decision table (this is a very secret ingredient... well, it was... ha ha ha).

Ah!, don't doubt it!. If there were toggle switches as the ones represented in this diagram, this project should work. I've tested every single combination !!!.

07 October 2013

Home Studio: Testing new IK Multimedia mixing and mastering plugins


Even that I own the Sonnox plugins and those are absolutelly top-notch, I am finding those more appropiated for Mastering tasks than for Mixing tasks.
I was greatefully surprised with the quality of T.Racks plugins by IK Multimedia and, I am usually working with the Classic Compressor, the Pulteq, Fairchild 670, 1179 and LA-2A emulations with satisfactory results.

I've saw some time ago that they were delivering new stuff but, I wasn't able to buy those until now.
I've upgraded my T.Racks singles to T.Racks Grand bundle and, purchased the remaining plugins.

I've selected one of my well known sounds and, started to mix from scratch, removing all previous plugins from the project and setting everything to its initial status, to check the goodness of some of the new plugins of IK Multimedia which I was more interested on.

I wanted to check, in first instance, the British Channel, the Bus Compressor and the White Channel and, this is all about this blog. I've tried those in my song and had some conclussions.

Once more, I cannot compare the real outboard gear against the software and, this is a point that really doesn't interest to me, since I will be never able to purchase such a kind of hardware. Therefore, my interest focus on whether those new plugins can do any good for my material and, indeed, they do it and, as with rest of their plugins, in a very musical way.

Testing British Channel, White Channel and Bus Compressor

Overall, first thing I want to take your attention to is the high sensitivity of their controls. Each little change has a clear impact in the sound. I would say that the impact by movement of dial is even greater than in their previous top-notch plugins (Fairchild, Pulteq EQP-1A, 1179 and LA-2A).

As always, which plugin (or hardware) to use will always depends on your tastes and on the song itself. To be able to check between several options is always welcome to better sculpt the song to match what you had in mind. And, those three plugins are opening the possibilities in a good way.

I went first with the EQ / volume tasks for each track, to have a mix where each instrument was clearly identificable, even in mono environment. For this, I had to use some compressors to leveling the volume between tracks and some corrective EQ to help to differentiate each instrument.

What I did first is to work on the EQ of each instrument and, for this, I've used the standard 7-bands EQ that comes with Pro Tools, basically to remove high and low end frequencies from each instrument, depending on their own nature.

After that basic EQ correction was more or less ready, I went to each track to help to leveling all volumes and, for this I was trying several compressors, over each track, choosing the one that better worked for this particular song.

I've selected the British Channel for Kick, Guitar and Vocals.
This was the plugin that gave me a better result in those individual tracks.
I had to remove the EQ settings that were focusing over certain frequencies (by example, dip around 125 Hz, where the Snare has it's fundamental sound or any increase over presence frequencies) to be able to get the best results from that plugin.
That leaved the EQ plugin just with two active filters, the one that removes hi-end and the one that removes low-end, leaving an usable range of frequencies for each instrument.

Reason is that, the EQ controls of the British Channel are so smooth and musical that, I've find them more than enough to select which frequency to enhance for each instrument to help them to differentiate in the mix.
Very soft touchs on the dial produce audible changes in the material what helps you to fine tuning the sound.
The EQ section of this plugin is really responsive and musical.
As always, IK Multimedia provides some usefull pre-sets that will help you as an starting point to get your work ready in less time.

The White Channel (the modern version of that British Channel) was used just for the Snare. I didn't exhaustively tried each plug-in so, maybe because of this, the only track where I've found it doing a better job than other plugins was the Snare track.

Same overall comments as for that British Channel are valid for this White Channel.
Results are very musical but, the sound is being colored in a very different way, maybe more accurate and cold, compared to the British Channel, that delivers warmer results, in my opinion.
But, anyway, that was the sound that perfectly matched my needs for the Snare and, I've preferred the White Channel to their White 2A (LA-2A) plugin.

I am thinking that, maybe I need to go deeper to work with this plugin in the vocals track.

But, for Hi Hat, Toms and Overheads, I went to their White 2A plug-in, which I liked more there.
For Bass track, I went for their Black 79 plug-in, which I liked more.

Then, I've used the new Bus Compressor to glue tracks and, it was of great help to glue together the independent instruments of the Drum kit in the Drums bus and, I've found it very good to glue the whole mix in the Mix bus, before sending the results to the Master Fader (for overall Compression and Limiting).

While I don't like that Bus Compressor in individual tracks, I recognize it's a nice tool to put together several tracks sent to a certain bus.
As with the other new plugins, their controls are highly responsive and any little touch makes a clear difference in sound and, as usual in IK Multimedia, there are some very useful presets that you can use as a helpful starting point.


I didn't tested every single possibility of these new plugins so, I bet I can find a broader use for each one but, what I liked is that they all produce their own sound and, that each one, together with the rest of T.Racks plugins, can bring you the right tool for the right work.

I highly appreciate the pre-sets that each plugin comes with, since this gives you an overall idea what each one is usually used for and, this gives you a nice starting point that, for sure, you have to fine tune for your track, bus or song.

Not being able to compare hardware with software, my interest focus on if those plugins worth the money.
My opinion is that those three are very useful weapons and, of same quality as their Pulteq, Fairchild, LA-2A and 1179 emulations and, all them together deliver very musical and usefull results that help to bring some life to your mixes.

If we compare the prices of T.Racks plug-ins against the big companies (Waves, URS, Avid, etc...), we are getting top-notch plug-ins (second to none) for an "affordable" price, delivering musical results and, helping to anyone who wanted to mix ITB (In The Box).

I'm lacking the quality user's manuals that came with their first takes of mythical studio outgear (like the Pulteq or the Fairchild), that were of great help to understand how to handle each virtual hardware.
Other than this, I can just to thanks IK Multimedia for their work to leave us to come closer to real studio gear for an "affordable" (compared to real gear and other plug-ins) price.

Wiring DIY: 3 single coils in series/parallel in any combination, with 3 switches


I am going to gift you with a real pearl of wiring designs.
For a very long time, I've tried to be able to run the three pickups of a Stratocaster in parallel or series, on demand and, the design always hited the same stone: when some of two pickups that should be in series is inactive then, the series link breaks and we get no sound.

For some years, I gave up trying it again but, thanks to a reader of this blog, that was looking for such a solution, pushed me to re-think everything again.
We crossed few mails and, he was giving me the last  key (even that he didn't realized about it) to complete the puzzle.

Since the last key was given from outside, I am glad to share this design with you all, for your use and convenience.

Even that this basis mod or module is intented to be used with the three single coils of a Strato, there is nothing that avoids you to use it with any other type of pickup (humbuckers, mini-humbuckers...) and, you can combine it with other mods (OOP, bypass, etc) with ease.

I will present first the basis diagram for this mod, including some comments that will help you to understand what's going on there and, later, I will include some sample diagrams on how to apply this tricky wiring design.
I hope you will appreciate it.


Please, click on the diagram to see it at full size.

This design works with the help of three 4PDT on/on/on switches. Each one allows to switch off the pickup (center position) or to add the pickup to a parallel path (down position) or to a series path (up position).
Parallel path is being represented here in Orange. Series path in Pink. Ground is being represented in Dark Blue and, the path represented in Purple is the tricky part (the last key) of this design.
The Purple path allows me to delay the decision on when to ground a pickup, depending on the status of the rest of pickups.

On left hand, you can see which combos are being obtained depending on the positions of the three pickup switches.
The tricky part is always the series path. If you have a pickup assigned to the series path and one more the the parallel path, that series combination cannot happen so, you should run both pickups in parallel. To be able to put two pickups in series, both should be assigned to the series path, therefore, when just one pickup is in that series path, it will work in parallel (since there is no one more pickup to stablish the series link).

This design has two output spots, that you can see in the upper switch and, that correspond to both differentiate paths. For sure, you can jumper both outputs to have a single output or, you can send each path to a different input, if you wanted separated controls (by example, different value pots) for each path.

Even that this mod is related to three single coils in this diagram, nothing avoids you to use it with any kind of combination of humbuckers and single coils as SSS, HSS, HSH or HHH.

In principle, this three 4PDT switches substitute any blade switch used to select pickups combinations and, allows you to combine the three pickups alone, two of them or three of them in any parallel/series combination what at the ends will give you all the following possible combinations:

Neck alone
Neck in parallel with Middle
Neck in series with Middle
Neck in parallel with Bridge
Neck in series with Bridge
Middle alone
Neck in parallel with Middle in parallel with Bridge
Neck in parallel with Middle in series with Bridge
Neck in series with Middle in parallel with Bridge
Neck in series with Middle in series with Bridge (the three in series)
Middle in parallel with Bridge
Middle in series with Bridge
Bridge alone

And all this is compatible with any other mod, as coil-splitting if you have some humbucker around, by example.

This is a very powerfull mod that can be achieved by removing your blade switch and installing 3 x 4PDT on/on/on switches instead (just drilling de slot that was taking your blade switch).
But, this makes sense for guitars that doesn't need a quick on-fly switching, because to get one of the three single coils alone, you should put off the other two. Just take this into account.
If you are going to use one sound for a song or, you can take a rest between you need one or other pickup combination then, yes, this is a very versatile combo, that could work great for Studio works, by example.

Application Examples

As always, applications are so wide as our needs or willings but, here you are some few examples on how to integrate this mod in some typical situations.

Mod 1 - Single output, Master Volume and Tone

For most super-stratos alike guitars, where you only need a master tone and volume, both output paths are linked together and routed to a volume and tone controls.
For sure, any pickup layout is possible: SSS, HSS, HSH or HHH.
One possible useful mod would be to have a bridge-on switch (a pull/push) that will give you the bridge pickup alone (instantanelly), independently of which combination of pickups is actually seelected in the three switches. Pushing back that bridge-on switch will return you back to the current switch selection. I think that this can be of great use when you want to soloing for a while and return back to your basis sound.
Same bridge-on mod can be of help for rest of example mods presented here.

Mod 2 - Separate outputs, separate volume and tone controls

This is an example on how to handle with different controls each output.
For each path (parallel and series) we are using an stacked pot that allows you to control the output volume and tone for each path. In that way, we could use different pot and cap values for each path because pickups in parallel are a brighter sound than pickups in series.
The output could be even separated for an stereo jack, to run each path output in a different amp, by example. Interesting?.

Mod 3 - single output, independent volumes by pickup

In this example, we are using a dedicated volume control for each pickup that will allow us to blend the exact amount of each pickup in the mix. This would give us a wide range of nuances of parallel and series sounds.
Be carefull to not completly roll off one of the volumes when two or more pickups are in the series path, because that could lead you to no sound. Use the central positions of the switch to remove a pickup from the path, don't roll off it's corresponding volume, instead.
Well, you can use here stacked pots to have independent tones, as well.

Mod 4 - single output, independent volumes and tones

Well, this is as mod 3 but, having indpendent tones by pickup, also. Nice?.
Did you ever dreamed with such a complete control over your Strato sounds?.

Mod 5 - Single output, master volume and tone and bridge-on switch

And, here we are an example on how to integrate the bridge-on switch with a master volume and tone.
This bridge-on switch will let you to instantanely select the bridge pickup (for soloing, by example), independently on which combination of pickups do you have actually selected with the other three switches.
When switching off the bridge-on switch, whichever it was the combination of pickups in those three other switches will come back.
A trick is to change pickups combinations (in those three switches) while you are soloing if you plan to change to a new sound when switching off the bridge-on switch.

So, imagine you had selected Neck alone, you switch on the bridge-on switch and you get Bridge alone. While you are in bridge alone, you can change the other three switches (without affecting your bridge alone sound) to neck in series with bridge, by example. When you switch off the bridge-on switch you will go for neck in series with bridge instead of the neck alone sound where you came from, by example.

Final consideration

I hope you can appreciate the power of this mod and the beautiness of its tricky design.
As it can be applied to any pickup layout (SSS, HSS, HSH, HHH) and, it's compatible with any other mod, the playing ground is huge, as big as your imagination and needs.
I don't recommend it for direct situations where you need to quickly select the right pickups combinations on-the-fly but, it's a wonderful weapon for studio guitars, where you want a broader array of tones available on demand.
Imagine you have an axe with a couple of Seymour Duncan P-Rails (neck and bridge) and a single coil in the middle and, that you are using the Triple Ring Shots for those P-Rails. Everything together combined with this mod. Can you imagine the versatily of such an axe for studio work?.

Ah, I know, your head is humming now!.
ha ha ha.