Correcting wiring flaws in Gretsch guitars

OK, maybe this has been posted before; if so, please forgive this newbie. I was interested in replacing the stock master tone control in my 5120 with a Stellartone JAZZ Jr ToneStyler. Their customer service rep, Don Campbell, had an interesting response: "Gretsch guitars contain some minor original factory wiring errors that need to be corrected to achieve the best tonal performance. Most experienced guitar techs are familiar with these issues, and have been remedying these problems for decades. Here is the link to the most common Gretsch wiring schematic: http://www.gretschguitars.com/resources/schematic1.pdf Different diagrams are also available on the Gretsch web site: http://www.gretschguitars.com/resources/schematics.html However, the proper connecting point for any tone control, whether it is a standard tone pot, a Gretsch "mud switch", or a ToneStyler, remains the same for any Gretsch model. To correct the original tone pot wiring error as shown on the Gretsch diagram linked above, the master volume pot's center output terminal needs to be connected only to the 1/4" output jack, not "stopping off" at the tone pot, as shown. Once this wire is corrected, the center terminal of the tone pot then needs to be properly re-connected to the master volume pot's input terminal (that's the outer terminal, which is also connected to the 3-way toggle switch's output wire). Here is the remaining problem in most Gretsch guitars... the additional pickup sub volume pot(s). In order to produce perfect tone control results, these sub volume pots must be left on full volume, at all times. If either pickup is reduced in sub-volume, the tone control will also be reduced in effectiveness and quality. This is because the sub-volume pot is inserting a series resistance between the tone control and the pickup. This is undesirable, as it also produces a muddy & indistinct tone, due to a phase shift between the direct pickup signal and the signal being sent to the amp's input. For optimal function in ANY electric guitar, tone controls are first connected to the full-strength pickup output, never to the adjustable output of a volume pot. Once the master volume pot wiring is corrected, the tone pot, the Gretsch tone switch, or the ToneStyler will function perfectly, at any master volume pot setting from zero to full volume... provided that any additional pickup sub-volume pots are also left on full volume at all times." Does anyone have any experience using a ToneStyler in a 5120? I'm not very happy with the stock tone control, seems to just muddy the sound. Thanks y'all! DD
That's a new take on the age-old discussion about Gretsch wiring. But it doesn't explain what what "best tonal performance" MEANS, nor what problem "correcting the error" (third paragraph) is intended to solve. The fourth paragraph seems aimed at making the tone control behave more consistently at all volume-pot settings. I don't recall complaints about that. One typical mod is to put a 'treble bleed cap' on the master volume control, so that turning it down doesn't also dull the highs of the guitar, but that's different - in my mind - than trying to make the tone control consistent at all volumes. Other perennial discussions are the taper of the volume pots - how quickly they roll off volume at the top end of their travel - and/or the "independence" of the volume pots. (In Gibson-scheme wiring, turning down one volume pot when both pups are selected kills the OTHER pup as well; on Gretschs, the two are completely independent.) In previous discussions here, it's emerged that volume-pot independence and taper may be related. It's a bit off-putting when wiring gurus pontificate about "correct" or "errors" relative to guitar wiring, because any wiring scheme has its own characteristics, and may be "correct" for the guitar it was originally installed in. A scheme may be different - or "weird" - compared to other brands. That doesn't make it incorrect for its application. A player may prefer the performance of one scheme over another, but I don't know how to apply some absolute standard of correctness to guitar wiring any more than to amp circuit design. Lots of technicians are much less familiar with Gretsch wiring than with Gibson/Fender types, and it may come naturally to them to make the Gretsch work just like the others. But, again..."correct"? "Errors?" If a guitar's wiring harness works as the factory design intended, that's "correct" - though indeed judicious mods might improve it for a particular player's purposes. ANYway, those semantics aside, the Stellartone discussion may not apply to the 5120, which has a different wiring scheme from any of the linked documents. Any passive guitar tone control just bleeds off high frequencies, which dulls, darkens, softens, or 'muddies' the tone. Can you go into more detail about what you'd rather have your tone control do? GDP member gretschman36 has installed the ToneStyler in many guitars, including Gretschs - let's hope he'll chime in here with his direct experience.
Thanks Proteus, you know your stuff. I didn't even realize that links he sent weren't for a 5120; but then, I'm not much of a tech guy. I like big fat clean neck PU tones, ala the neck PU of a vintage ES335. As you know, I'm planning on installing some Carvin chrome-top PAFs, and I thought it would be nice to have the ability to quickly dial-in some sweet dark complex tones, expand the palette and possibilities... DD
Well, I only kinda know my stuff about the nuts and bolts of wiring. It's deep voodoo to me, which may give me too MUCH respect for the original harnesses. I say the 5120's harness may not match any of the linked schemes because there's been discussion here that its volume controls are NOT independent, as Gretsch volumes usually are. That suggests to me it has a more Gibson-like wiring harness, with the addition of the master volume. Any number of guys here have been into the guts of the 5120, and I'm sure they'll be happy to jump in here and correct any misinformation I've passed along. I was just fitting Campbell/StellarTone's take on Gretsch wiring into the context of other Gretsch wiring issues which have come up here, and wondering how exactly it would apply to the 5120, or affect your proposed mods. In your particular instance, you'd be likely to get a different effect from your current tone pot once you install the Carvin pups, as it would be working with pickups of a different tonal spectrum than the Gretschbuckers. It might be a time to play with different cap values on the tone pot. But I think the Tonestyler is a fabulous device. In conjunction with the replacement pups, it's going to completely change the guitar. (I'd be going with TV'trons of some version rather than PAFs, but that's your call!) When the pickups are installed, you'll be completely changing the Gretsch wiring harness anyway, and your tech should make sure the Tonestyler is connected and operating as Stellartone prefers.
Vinkie has also installed a TOnestyler on his COuntry Club. He likes it. Of course, it isn't a 5120 either.
Thanks guys. Now to find a good tech here in northern Colorado. DD
DD, I farm out electrical work too. Some times it's cheaper to pay a pro than jump into the deep end of the pool and get in over your head. Oh how I envy the GDPers with the skill to do this on their own.
nope ... the electromatics (at least the 5100 series) are missing, but the schematics are closer enough for reference. My 5120 and many others had/have the volume pots wired in the interactive scheme (pickups attached to the outer tab of the pot and pickup selector switch attached to the center post). Again ... not wrong, just different .... kinda like my '76 Les Paul. Not Wrong Just Different
I was very unhappy with the original wiring scheme of the 5120 and quickly changed it to the regular Gretsch Tonepot wiring. Now I'm happy. -and it was an easy fix. Might as well put some TV Jones pickups in while your at it
+1 for you, DD and thanks for this post. I can confirm that on my G5122 the volume controls are NOT independent. And I think it will be better for me finding a good tech in northern France
Proteus said: It's a bit off-putting when wiring gurus pontificate about "correct" or "errors" relative to guitar wiring, because any wiring scheme has its own characteristics, and may be "correct" for the guitar it was originally installed in. A scheme may be different - or "weird" - compared to other brands. That doesn't make it incorrect for its application. A player may prefer the performance of one scheme over another, but I don't know how to apply some absolute standard of correctness to guitar wiring any more than to amp circuit design.
Yeah, well, you wouldn't believe the kind of debate that goes on about something as outwardly simple as wiring up the 'correct' circuit a Les Paul...
Hi, I have indeed a Tonestyler in my 'Club and I like the additional tones I can get. At about halfway turned the neck SD Dynasonic in my guitar gets a nice P90-like growl. It's also effective for getting thicker bridge PU sounds when overdriven, or for quick tonal changes if to just roll down a little bit of treble. As for the wiring, I agree with Proteus that there's not really a "right" or "wrong", just different wiring plans with different results. I did it completely "wrong" anyway by disconnecting the individual pickup volumes :)
Proteus, I'm curious about your statement, "When the pickups are installed, you'll be completely changing the Gretsch wiring harness anyway." Assuming someone didn't want to make any other internal modifications, couldn't new pickups just be attached to the existing harness?
Yes, of course. If you just did that much, it's a direct swap and all is as it was, wiring-wise. (Still not the same as any of the diagrams at the GretschGear site.) But the ToneStyler has to go somewhere, and - depending on how seriously your installer takes the essay from Stellartone - that will change things.
Montaigne: I swithced some wires in my 5122 and now the pup volume controls operate independantly from one another. Just switched the pup wires on both pup volume controls and walla, they now function the way I like. Pop's
Call me a Gretsch Virgin, but why would you screw with any Gretsches tone anyways? If you didn't like it to begin with why buy the guitar? I really don't get it. If you really are a fuss budget and want to tweak the tone a little or even a lot why not just get a great EQ pedal? I have a great Allums modded Boss EQ. This wiring stuff seems like a lot of bother. As for the great mud switch debate, I wouldn't have it any other way. On every guitar I ever owned, I NEVER screwed with the tone control. I usually set it and forget it. The mud switch gives you three instant tone variations. I really like that idea personally. Guess I'm a KISS advocate and I have enough problems just playing tha damn thing correctly. Just my two cents.
I did not fuss with the tone switch, it was the volume controls for both pups. It was a very simple fix. Was able to fish the pots out the f hole after removing the pickguard. Took all of 20 minutes. Just a matter of preference, I did not like the way one pup volume affected them both. Pops
Pops:- are you saying that if you've got both pickups turned on, you can wind either one back to zero and the other one keeps working at full volume?
CaughtInTheACT: Yes that is what it can now do. With the pickup switch in the middle position, I can dial down either pup and the other one stays put. Pop's
Mine is wired the same weird way and I would love to change it to the way yours is Pop, but that is for another day. I plan on doing that when and if i can swing for some new TV classics.
CPR: Maybe TVJones can recommend a proper wiring schematic for you to follow if you go that route. I wish there was a schematic precisly for the 5122 that a person could look at. I just worked through the F holes and with a mirror and flashlight it is kind of hard to determine the exact routing of everything. I made a sketch of what I ended up with but it does not make sense to me. Of course guitar wiring is another animal at best. Pop's
Pops, i would never try to do it myself. I felt as though i was doing pretty good figuring out how to put the strap on my gretsch. I don't want to risk doing anything untoward. So I will probably be taking a trip to ponca city to see Joel when I get the scratch to pay for some TV Jones.
Joel should be able to meet your needs as for the volume control setup you are seeking. Much less stress having a tech do it but I have always been a little adventurous. Made a quick schematic before starting so I could undo if necessary. Pop's
The wiring is indeed not what I expected, in the middle switch position of my 5120! I was really surprised when I found out that in the middle position you can not turn down one pickup without taking down the other one. This means you will deminish the signal of the pickup that you don't want to lower as much. Dialing in a 75% to 25% ratio, gives a weak signal, which really is not necessary. At this moment, I don't understand the thoughts behind such a wiring. One could call it typical Gretschy quirkiness, but I would like to have a logical setup myself. Having three volume pots, gives the perfect opportunity to have a great mixer on the guitar itself. The double lowering of the mixed output can allways be recreated by turning down the master volume. The wiring of most 6XXX series (guitar wiring schematic #1), seems to be the logical wiring I desire. I can't see an influence of one pot volume over the other pickup. I may be cross-eyed here... Also connecting the tone pot first, is a more logical choice, since it's "side effect influences" is least in such a way. I do wonder however, how you want to get this done with only one pot. Connecting two fully powered pickups to one tone pot first, makes it impossible to have separate volumes. afterwards. Unless... you are using a tandem pot, in which case you'd better use a dual concentric stack model to set the tone for each pickup independently. Pull for puckup A and just turn for pickup B. Yes, that would be the way I want it. Most common 6XXX wiring with dual concentric stack tone pot for seperate tone control. ALPS build the best potmeters by the way. Their top series are expensive but no crackles as long as you live. When I change to GFS pups, I'm gonna have problems. I want to be able to have serial/parallel/phase/tap for each pup and have the same possibilities for combining them both. That would give about 65535 different settings but it could be a bit less because tapping the coil cancels having serial/parallel within the pup itself and tapping is not a setting for combining two pickups. Help, I want to go to the funny farm...

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