Pickup Measuring Techniques

Pickup Measuring TechniquesI often refer to (and recommend) Helmuth Lemme’s article The Secrets of Electric Guitar Pickups.  The author succinctly describes the guitar circuit and discusses how each component of the circuit contributes to the resulting guitar tone.

Mr. Lemme recently got in touch with me, and forwarded me a new article Pickup Measuring Techniques that he wrote for Sustain Magazine.   The author discusses methods of characterizing the quality of pickups- from the useful (inductance) to the not so useful (DC resistance).  He also describes a Pickup Analyzer device for measuring pickups which generates an alternating magnetic field across the entire audible frequency spectrum and captures the results from the pickup, with a selectable load capacitance.  Neat!  Click here to read the article.  Thanks to the author for permission to share his article here with you.

Helmuth Lemme also has written a book- Electric Guitar Sound Secrets and Technology.

Knobs and O-Rings

Mackie DL1608 KnobsOur Mackie DL1608 Mixer has a frustrating flaw. And I have an inexpensive low-tech solution that works.

See that row of 16 gain knobs along the DL1608 back panel?  They are super-low torque and easy to turn, which means that every time we transport the mixer between gigs and rehearsals, something gets bumped.

DL1608 Knob PositionsThis defeats the entire purpose of a digital mixer’s ability to reliably reproduce a mixer setup from one gig and rehearsal to the next. I had to resort to taking pictures of the mixer knobs before moving the mixer!

This problem isn’t confined to the mixer of course. Any guitar player with a bunch pedals strapped to a pedal board knows how frustrating it can be when all the pedal knobs get bumped in transport.

So here’s what I did to solve the problem:

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Output Jack Considerations

In this article, Pete Biltoft at Vintage Vibe Guitars goes in-depth on the simple, often overlooked output jack. 

Thanks again to Pete for the permission to post this here!


September 2013


The topic for this tech tips newsletter is the all-important output jack.

While there are a few different styles of output jacks have been used in electric guitars and basses including cables with XLR connectors, ¼” stereo output jacks and 1/8” size mono and stereo jacks, for the purposes of this newsletter I plan to focus on the industry-standard ¼” mono output jack. I quite often use output jacks manufactured by Switchcraft and unless specified otherwise in this discussion I will be referring to the Switchcraft model output jack designed for strat, tele and Les Paul style instruments.

This simple and often overlooked component provides both a mechanical and an electrical interface to the guitar cable and is one of the most frequent causes of electrical issues in an electric guitar or bass.

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Satchurator Volume Mod

Vox SatchuratorMy pedal board is flush with overdrives, but sorely lacking in distortion.  I’ve never loved my RAT – it has scurried on and off my pedalboard over the years, never finding a permanent home there.  I’ve really been needing a solid traditional distortion lately, to use with my band covering tunes by Green Day, Blink-182, Weezer, etc.

I love my Vox Ice-9 overdrive, so I decided to try out the Vox Satchurator.  It’s apparently a boutiquey version of  the classic Boss DS-1.   When I received it, I immediately plugged in and lost myself in its glorious tones for an hour or so.  It sounds really really good.   Very different from my overdrives and fuzz.  It has a big, saturated, overtone-rich distortion.  Excellent for thick heavy leads, but also equally good for massive chunky rhythm.

So, when I first played with the Satchurator in a loud rehearsal context with my band, I was utterly disappointed to find that the thing just isn’t loud enough.   No, it doesn’t go to 11- not even close!!  Searching for answers, I see a number of other Satchurator users with similar complaints.   Even with the volume up full, I find there is very little volume boost when switching on the pedal.  And unlike the Ice-9’s 12db volume boost when engaging the “MORE” switch, the Satchurator’s “MORE” switch instead kicks up the gain voltage, providing more gain and distortion, but not much volume boost.

These pedals are a collaboration between Vox and Joe Satriani, and I’m sure these work great in the context of Joe’s live rig.  But in my rig, I need more volume out of a distortion pedal.

Reluctant to bail on the Satchurator, I instead decided to modify the circuit.  There’s no simple component change that’ll boost the signal, so I added an extra clean boost stage:

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On Feedback, Good and Bad

In this article, Pete Biltoft at Vintage Vibe Guitars describes the various causes of guitar feedback, both good and bad, and provides some suggestions for eliminating unwanted feedback.

Thanks again to Pete for the permission to post this here!

Vintage Vibe Guitars

June 2013


Feedback: when it is used in an appropriate, controlled manner it can be glorious; when it appears unwanted it is about the worst sound ever. In this Tech Tips newsletter both types of feedback will be discussed.

Let’s start with the undesirable out of control high pitched screech we want to eliminate, and then move on the good stuff.

Unwanted microphonic feedback in guitars with magnetic guitar pickups usually arises from one or more of the following sources listed below. With each of these sources I have added suggestions in italics for eliminating the associated feedback.

Vibration of the coil windings inside a magnetic pickup. Most modern pickups are potted in molten wax under vacuum to reduce the possibility of unwanted microphonic feedback.


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New Amplitube iRig HD interface

iRig HD with iPhone and AmpliTubeIn my series on building your own iDevice Guitar Interface, I demonstrated an interface which connects through the headphone/microphone jack.  This is similar to the commercial products like IK Multimedia Amplitube iRig, Peavey AmpKit Link, Griffin GuitarConnect.   And like all those, it works well, but it is not the most high-fidelity solution.

There are also a number of products that instead connect using the dock connector on the bottom of the iDevice, for example the Apogee Jam, Sonoma GuitarJack, Alesis iO Dock and Line 6 Mobile In.  These interfaces have their own A/D converters, and pass the signal digitally to the iDevice providing higher quality audio.   The downside is that you can’t charge the iDevice on battery while using the interface, which may be an issue for live performance and recording.

There’s a new contender in the dock-connected interfaces, and it looks pretty nice: the IK Multimedia iRig HD.  In appearance, it looks very similar to the Apogee Jam.  I prefer this style of interface, rather than the Sonoma, and Line 6 approach which have the entire unit hanging off the dock – that seems very precarious and likely to break the dock. 

iRig HD connector cabllesAlso, at $99 the iRig HD is cheaper than the $129 Apogee Jam.  If you have a newer iDevice with the lighting connector, the iRig HD is an even better deal, as it includes the lightning adapter cables as well as the older-style 30-pin connecter, and also a USB connector for use with a computer.

All that said, I’m perfectly happy with my DIY interface for practice, but if I was using it for recording or live performance, I might consider buying this iRig HD.

Alternative Pedal Enclosures from Rixen

Rixen Pedal EnclosuresIn pedal building, we almost exclusively see the Hammond-style diecast aluminum enclosures.  You know their names- the ubiquitous 1590B (aka 1290NS) and its plus-size cousin the 125B.  Then there’s the larger 1590BB, and the tiny and temperamental 1590A.     What these all have in common is the simple generic rectangular shape.

Rixen Chorus ExampleBut what if you’re a fan of the spring-loaded foot-pedal enclosures made famous by the BOSS and Ibanez pedals? 

Typically, the only way for DIY pedal builders to achieve that look was to buy an old pedal and gut it- but then you’re stuck with the original pedal’s drilling layout. 


Now there’s a new option- I just came across these new enclosures from Rixen Pedals.

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When is 9V not 9V?

Measuring Korg 9V power supplyAnswer:  when it’s 13V! 

As I mentioned previously, my pedal board’s power supply died, so I’ve been temporarily using an old Korg 9V power supply.

I’ve been getting some hum from Ryan’s Fulltone Fat-Boost, and finally decided to do some sleuthing to figure out why.

Fortunately, before I even cracked open the Fat-Boost, I hooked up a multimeter to measure the voltage output of the Korg supply, and it turns out that this little guy is really putting out 13V, not 9V.    Well, that’s annoying.   Is it mislabeled, or just over-compensating for something?

Measuring 1 Spot 9V power supplySo, I decided to pick up the relatively inexpensive and well-reviewed Visual Sound 1 Spot.    Quoting from the FAQ:   “The voltage output is fully regulated.  It’s at least as quiet as the PedalPower, maybe even quieter.”

Measuring the 1 Spot with the multimeter, I see this one is putting out 9.5V.  I’m guessing 5.7% over is within normal tolerance for a 9V supply.

Better yet, no more hum on that Fat-Boost.

Note to future self, don’t trust power supply labels!

Update: Several people asked how the power supplies behaved under load, so…

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Why “saw-der” instead of “sole-der”?

LYou wouldn’t believe how often I get asked this, in the comment-responses to my electronics videos.  (I’ve just added this to my FAQ)

In the US, solder is pronounced "saw-der" (ˈsɑːdər) without the L. My family is Australian- I grew up doing electronics projects with my Dad, pronouncing it with the L as "sole-der" (ˈsɒldər).  I have to really make an effort to say it the American way.

Here’s an interesting etymonline entry that shows the original mid 14th century word was “sawd” with no “L”.   It seems unlikely that this is the reason Americans pronounce it without an “L”, but it’s as good an excuse as any Smile

solder (v.)
mid-14c., sawd, from Old French soldure, from solder "to join with solder," from Latin solidare "to make solid," from solidus "solid" (see solid). Modern form is from early 15c. The -l- still is sounded in Great Britain. Related: Soldered; soldering. The noun is first attested late 14c.

For reference, here is the entry for "solder” in the Oxford English Dictionary, including recordings.  The pronunciation with the L is listed as British English, while the other is listed as American pronunciation.

And here’s a fun article about other words with missing L’s.

GarageBand feedback resolution

Some users of guitar interface cables like my DIY cable project have noticed an unreasonable amount of feedback when using Apple’s GarageBand iPad app. 

Good news- Apple rolled out an update to GarageBand yesterday which appears to resolve this. 

Garage Band Update

Thanks PaulB for letting me know!

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