Modern Gretsch Guitars

New Off-Kiltertrons

26

Had a special visitor stop by this morning - Tomas Salcedo, lead guitar for grammy winner the Fantastic Negrito and generally all around great guitar player. He came by to check out the Off Kiltertrons in a couple of different guitars, which we ran through his pedalboard into the Cave Valley 5F1 beast Ethan brought to the NorCal roundup. It's really exciting to hear my pickups in the hands of a such a talented musician who approaches music so differently that I do.

He left with my OKT loaded 5420 for field testing. I'm looking forward to what he'll report back!

P.S. check out the Fantastic Negrito - very cool soul/roots music: FantasticNegrito

27

I'm green with envy Mel. The next FN record is gonna be pretty cool!

28

Has anyone heard from Mel? I've been emailing him about this pickup but can't get a reply. Hope he's ok, he seemed to have some problems mentioned in the messages above

31

Cool ! Though the names remind me of a chapter in the SAS survival handbook on traps!. Mangle, Dangle, Tangle, and Strangle!

32

But how do you throw the switch accurately from position 2 to position 5 on the fly for the bridge?

33

I think it has appeal for folks who like this range of pups but can't quite decide what works best for their guitar. There's things about filters and Dynas that I do and don't like. Plus, as happens often, there's inevitably going to be a favourite setting so the switching doesn't worry me. Good to have options

34

I think it has appeal for folks who like this range of pups but can't quite decide what works best for their guitar. There's things about filters and Dynas that I do and don't like. Plus, as happens often, there's inevitably going to be a favourite setting so the switching doesn't worry me. Good to have options

35

It is remarkable that pretty much all those selections in all three positions sound sufficiently distinct, usable, and pretty darned good, at least in the compressed youtube audio.

36

I've never been a fan of splitting humbuckers to give a single coil option and the cynic inside me makes me think that this is a fancy version of that. But it is damned fancy! You're right Strummerson, the voices do all sound useable and the fact that their volumes match is excellent. I'm thinking of putting it in my Jet Firedbird. It's a guitar that I love playing, it looks killer but I've never had a pickup in it that I've been happy with. And if this Killertron doesn't give me SOMETHING that works, it must be my playing that's to blame!

37

Firebirds are indeed fiercely beautiful instruments.

38

The cool thing about these pickups is the absence of any volume drop when switching from humbucker to single coil. Mel has engineered these to have the same apparent output on any selection.

39

Tom Presley called his pickups “Unbalanced Coil” when he did this with standard-sized humbuckers in the 80s for Electra/Westone. Those remain great pickups decades later, with convincing single-coil tone when tapped - and surprisingly few winders have followed suit.

But those had “only” two wind options per pickup - not six! And, it being the 80s, they have ceramic magnets, making them a bit harder and brighter in tone than I now prefer.

I have two guitars with tapped FilterTron(ish) pickups - each some variety of GFS RetroTrons. They sound good - usable - but the single-coil tones are audibly weaker. When adjusted for best dual-coil Filter sound, the tapped option sounds more HiLo than Dyna. And when amp and pedals are tuned for a meatier more Dyna single-coil sound, the ‘bucker mode is muddier and looser than FilterTrons. They’re good - but not quite great. They’re also humbucker-sized.

To have Filt-factor pickups with one convincing tapped tone along with the dual-coil spread is pretty special. To get SIX usable tones from one pickup is something on the order of loaves AND fishes (with a menu of three choices for each).

I wonder if this is all being done with multiple tap points per coil (which, by my understanding, would take five per coil and be a maddening winding challenge) - or whether there’s (also?) some resistor options a la Varitone in the switch.

In any case, a kind of tour de force, and I’m only deciding what guitar to put them in - and if they can be wired with a rotary selector per pickup, to expand tonal options from 18 (3 pup-selector-switch positions times 6 settings) to the vastly greater number you’d get if you could be twanging at the neck and crushing at the bridge. (And many etceteras following).

I bet I find out!

40

Tom Presley called his pickups “Unbalanced Coil” when he did this with standard-sized humbuckers in the 80s for Electra/Westone. Those remain great pickups decades later, with convincing single-coil tone when tapped - and surprisingly few winders have followed suit.

But those had “only” two wind options per pickup - not six! And, it being the 80s, they have ceramic magnets, making them a bit harder and brighter in tone than I now prefer.

I have two guitars with tapped FilterTron(ish) pickups - each some variety of GFS RetroTrons. They sound good - usable - but the single-coil tones are audibly weaker. When adjusted for best dual-coil Filter sound, the tapped option sounds more HiLo than Dyna. And when amp and pedals are tuned for a meatier more Dyna single-coil sound, the ‘bucker mode is muddier and looser than FilterTrons. They’re good - but not quite great. They’re also humbucker-sized.

To have Filt-factor pickups with one convincing tapped tone along with the dual-coil spread is pretty special. To get SIX usable tones from one pickup is something on the order of loaves AND fishes (with a menu of three choices for each).

I wonder if this is all being done with multiple tap points per coil (which, by my understanding, would take five per coil and be a maddening winding challenge) - or whether there’s (also?) some resistor options a la Varitone in the switch.

In any case, a kind of tour de force, and I’m only deciding what guitar to put them in - and if they can be wired with a rotary selector per pickup, to expand tonal options from 18 (3 pup-selector-switch positions times 6 settings) to the vastly greater number you’d get if you could be twanging at the neck and crushing at the bridge. (And many etceteras following).

I bet I find out!

– Proteus

It's the future!

41

As I say in the video, Off Kiltertrons are an asymmetric, dual bobbin design. It actually bares little resemblance to the internals of a Filtertron; the build is more similar to a TVJones Magnatron, in that the magnets are in the coils instead of underneath. I've spent several years working on the recipe of custom magnets, wire type and winds to get them where they are, so I'd rather not get into the specifics, but suffice it to say that the magic is in the sum of the parts and how they interact with each other.

Essentially, I wanted to have the ability to get a wide range of tones without switching guitars for every song. The settings and their general voice targets are:

JANGLE: hilo or Ric toaster TWANGLE: Tele/Strat WRANGLE: Dynasonic/Mosrite TANGLE: Filtertron MANGLE: Gibby CRUSH: HOT!!!! RAWR!!!!!

As for volume levels, there is a range, with the hottest single coil setting (wrangle) being somewhere in between the base and middle humbucking settings (tangle and mangle), at least with the way I eq my amps.

Personally, I use the rotary to set the configuration I want for a given song, but on occasion I change mid song. I've found it interesting how different players have adapted them to their purposes. Some have found a particular tone, and leave it there. Some use the rotary essentially as a boost, say plugging into a dimed Champ and using the pickup setting to drive the amp harder or softer. Some use the settings on the fly for particular passages.

You can absolutely use a rotary per pickup, I've wired up a few guitars this way. A buddy of mine has his guitar wired with independent selectors for each pickup and likes to go from say a jangle neck pickup to a mangle bridge for lead. Personally, I've found it to be simpler to have the single rotary for my needs, but I'm not as good a player, so maybe that's part of it.

The rotary has no resistors or caps - it's just providing pathways between the coils. I've also wired the pickups using mini-toggles, but I find the rotary to be simpler to understand and operate. Moving around between positions isn't that difficult, I use a lever on the control knob (see image from the video above) that makes it easy to see/feel what position you're currently using and to feel the clicks moving between positions on the rotary. No more difficult than moving a Strat 5-way rotary.

My preferred setup on a tone-pot Gretsch is to replace the neck pickup volume with the rotary and put a bass tone in place of the bridge pickup volume. On tone-switch models, I usually put the rotary in place of the bridge pickup and leave the rest of the circuit alone.

42

Well, we'll have to talk about a set, and I'll give some thought to how to wahr it. The guitar I'm thinking of has a master volume and three other knobs (who cares what they do now).

I'm thinking two of the rotary switchin' pots and a master tone. Wouldn't need individual pickup volumes.

I'm looking for English mount, humbucker holes, but Filter'Tron rings.

The rotaries are fine: I don't care how "hard" it is to find my place among the clicks. I'll just twist till it sounds good, and off we go. If it all sounds good, I'll play one combination until I've had too much of a good thing, then go to another one for too much of another good thing.

If I, with my glut of guitars, am talking to you about pickups sporting three speeds in both single- and double-coil mode - well, this isn't a conversation about parsimonious sufficiency in the first place. It's about MORE being MORE, and too much never being enough.

AINIT?

43

Well, we'll have to talk about a set, and I'll give some thought to how to wahr it. The guitar I'm thinking of has a master volume and three other knobs (who cares what they do now).

I'm thinking two of the rotary switchin' pots and a master tone. Wouldn't need individual pickup volumes.

I'm looking for English mount, humbucker holes, but Filter'Tron rings.

The rotaries are fine: I don't care how "hard" it is to find my place among the clicks. I'll just twist till it sounds good, and off we go. If it all sounds good, I'll play one combination until I've had too much of a good thing, then go to another one for too much of another good thing.

If I, with my glut of guitars, am talking to you about pickups sporting three speeds in both single- and double-coil mode - well, this isn't a conversation about parsimonious sufficiency in the first place. It's about MORE being MORE, and too much never being enough.

AINIT?

– Proteus

I would love to see a video if and when you install these pickups.

44

I did a video of my most-recent Off-Kiltertron installation in December:

I did a diatribe of the installation somewhere, but I can't remember whether it was here or on Facebook. Or maybe I just took pictures. With better recording gear, I'm confident Proteus can do a better demonstration.

And sorry I was monopolizing Mel's time, Vince, sending him pictures of my Surfy Bear reverb project, which I'm building, in part, to have a reason to buy one of his Drip Switches. But that's a topic for another thread.

45

I did a video of my most-recent Off-Kiltertron installation in December:

I did a diatribe of the installation somewhere, but I can't remember whether it was here or on Facebook. Or maybe I just took pictures. With better recording gear, I'm confident Proteus can do a better demonstration.

And sorry I was monopolizing Mel's time, Vince, sending him pictures of my Surfy Bear reverb project, which I'm building, in part, to have a reason to buy one of his Drip Switches. But that's a topic for another thread.

– giffenf

Frank you rule.

46

That's a fine demo, Frank. Makes me want'em even more!

47

Frank's demo is great - backed by picking skills that far exceed what I managed in my demo. At least I attempted to make up for it with humor and charm*

I'm finishing up a few sets (all spoken for) but I'll be winding some more in a week or two. Proteus, and anyone else interested in pickups, feel free to drop me a line to talk details or more info.

  • charm and humor both debatable, I know.
48

Mel I really think these pickups are great. Judging from your video and Frank's video it seems you nailed what you set out to deliver. In my opinion it's only a matter of time before the Custom Shop starts installing these in some of their guitars.

49

How do these sound in a solidbody? Seems like they might be a good option for a tele neck pickup.

50

How do these sound in a solidbody? Seems like they might be a good option for a tele neck pickup. -- Strummerson

I put a set in the Chet-a-caster II that I built a couple years ago. I don't think I've done a demo of that one, however. Those who went to the Norcal Roundup of 2017 got an earful of it, though.


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