This week I had the pleasure to work an a Schecter Dream Machine. It is a really lovely hard-tail Strat with gold hardware. I am not sure about the wood (none of the codes that normally identify these) but the neck might be Pau Ferro (“Bolivian rosewood”). I am rather lost with the body, maybe ash that is stained, or Shedua, walnut,… ?? Any help is welcome so use the comment function to let me know what you think.
The main “problem” with the guitar is that the pickups have been replaced with some kind of Seymour Duncan Hotrail humbuckers – surely good pickups but at leat not my cup of tea for a Dream Machine. The Hotrails required a completely different wiring of the mini switches and also the addition of two push-pull switches. To be honest, I did not fully understand the way the up and down positions of the mini switches were combined with the two push-pull potis.
As I had a set of original F500T pickups waiting for a guitar like this, it was no question that these two had to come together.
In the following you will find a photo tour that demonstrates the work – hoping some folks will find it interesting or useful.
After assembling the pickups – it was a complete set with all wires still being taped together – I found it impossible to follow which wire end belongs to which of the three pickups. I connected a volts meter and touched the pickups with a screwdriver until the meter reacted to identify the corresponding pickup.
Watch out for more details and pictures of this wonderful guitar in a future blog post.
In these videos I am a/b comparing two different guitars side by side: Mark Knopfler’s famous sunburst Schecter Dream Machine Strat and my pink part-o-caster, built from a Japanese Squier body in metallic pink with a nice bird’s eye maple neck I bought on ebay some time ago (actually a noname product), equipped with the loaded Schecter-style pickguard with the F500T pickup replicas, and with a prototype of the coming brass Dream Machine tremolo bridges (to be released as it seems at the end of this month, note that this prototype is not finished yet, the release version will be available in chrome or gold plated, like Schecter).
Of course these guitars do not have too much in common, the body wood and the kind of laquer alone (poly on mine 🙁 ) are reason enough so that they can never sound 100% identical – besides one has a value probably 50 times as much as the other – but of course I was curious how my guitar compares to the Telegraph Road Schecter, especially to see how close I can come with the F500T-style pickups in my pickguard. (After measuring various specs on the Mark Knopfler guitar pickups, I meanwhile even updated my pickups to have not only electrical values of a Schecter guitar but of this particular Schecter.)
Both guitars re-amped with identical settings
As I recorded the Schecter directly into a portable recording device (via a buffer that avoids the normal treble loss you will encounter when recording a guitar directly into such a device), I could do the same later with my guitar, which means both were recorded not at the same time and in different countries, but with the same cable into the same buffer and into the same recorder. I then re-amped both guitar samples with the same software amp, of course with 100% all identical settings, not even a volume match. This way I got two absolutely comparable files, with the same signal chain except the guitar itself.
When I had the chance to play the Mark Knopfler Schecter, I filmed about 20 minutes. I tried to play the same licks on my guitar so that I can edit both videos to put the same licks side by side for ideal comparing. This video might also be of great help to see in how far it is the guitar that matters (“Do you need the same guitar to get that sound?”), or do only all the other sound factors matter, or just the player (“It’s all in the fingers”). All in all I am pleased with my 1,000 Euros guitar against such a famous piece of rock history, however, there are moments when that Schecter sounds so beautiful, just listen to the tone on the Tunnel of Love licks (2nd video towards the end, well, it IS the Tunnel of Love guitar (live version) 🙂 ).
some chords on the different pickups, various licks and tunes, Where do you think you’re going:
A guitar pickup does not contain any moving parts, and for this reason it is generally free of mechanical wear and might work for many decades (maybe even for centuries?). Nevertheless, certain pickup models seem to be prone to die earlier than others. One example are Fender pickups from the 50ies or early 60ies. For this reason you will often see vintage Stratocasters with rewound pickups. The same is true for the Schecter F500T – a tapped pickup which consists of two individual coils.
It is mostly corrosion of the magnets that kills the pickup
The reason is simple. A pickup consists of some magnets and a coil – in case of a standard Fender-type singlecoil pickup we have individual magnetic pole pieces for each string, but some pickups also have non-magnetic metal pieces (or screws) that are connected to one bar magnet that often sits below the bobbin. The coil consist of hair-thin wire that is wound around the magnets. The wire is an extremely thin copper wire that is insulated with some film (e.g. laquer, formvar or enamel). For this reason – the wire itself is insulated – it is not necessary to insulate the magnets from the wire.
Now the problem: the magnets are made of metal – normally alnico which is an alloy of ALuminium, NIckle, and Cobalt – , and metal can corrode when exposed to humidity or other environmental factors like sweat, beer, or whatever. It is this corrosion of the magnets in the interior of the pick-up that can destroy the wire of the coil. There are two different things that can happen: (a) the wire breaks and the pick-up will not produce any output at all anymore, or (b) only the insulation is destroyed and the coil is shortened. The pick-up will still produce some output but not as much as it normally does. It depends on the number of turns that are shortened how much output the pick-up will produce – any value from 0 – 100% is possible.
Fender reacted to the problem which killed so many pickups from the 50ies and applied a thin coat of laquer on the pole pieces before winding the coil. Alternatively some manufacturers put some tape around the pole pieces.
Measurung the resistance of the pickup
The exact diagnosis of a defective pickup is simple. All you need is to measure the resistance of the coil with a multi meter (or to be concrete an ohm meter). Make sure that the pick-up is NOT switched on at the 5-way (or whatever) pick-up switch, but switched OFF. Then measure between the two poles where the cables are soldered to the pick-up. If you don’t want to open the guitar, you can also turn up the volume and tone controls, switch on the pick-up and measure at the output jack (plug in a guitar cable and measure between the two poles of the other plug). However, this measurment is not as exact as the other method since the potis will be in parallel to the pickup and reduce the resistance you will measure)
If the wire is broken, the multimeter will read an extremely high value (indefinite), if it is shortened it will read lower than the normal resistance of the pick-up (which is about 6 kohms in case of a vintage-style Stratocaster pick-up)
If the pickup is defective, there is nothing you can do to repair it except exchange it or let it be rewound by a specialist. If the correct type of wire is used, there should be no audible sound difference after the job.
If you are looking for a replacement for the Schecter F500T pickup, you should check out our tapped pick-ups by the German pick-up specialist Harry Haeussel. Click on the image below for more info.