Pickups

Adding a second treble bleed to a ‘53 RI Duo Jet

1

I absolutely love both of the TV Jones T-Armond pickups, but I've struggled to get a good balance in the middle position. I've tried Tavo's trick of rotating the pickups 180 degrees; in fact, I think I tried it on each pickup and on both simultaneously. They sound better farther apart, but oh! how I was filled with despair as I tried to equalize the volumes by turning down the neck pickup. It would lose treble, and thus need to be turned down even further, and then it sounded awful on its own. I did everything I could with spacers and pole piece height, of course, but it wasn't enough.

Anyway, I slapped a treble bleed on the neck pickup's volume pot. I used a .001 uf cap in parallel with a 220K resistor (no 150Ks on hand, and I didn't like a 130K), and I'm quite happy with the results. Now, with a slight cut in the neck pickup volume, the middle position sounds more genuinely in-between, and the neck on its own still has a pleasing clarity with no adjustments. I'd guess that the pot's at about 8-8.25, and it's a set-it-and-forget-it setting.

The values I used were kind of arbitrary, and I wasn't inclined to experiment too much, so they may not be pleasing to everyone's ear, but I found that it took care of the only tiny sonic shortcoming this absolutely superb guitar had. I recommend it to anyone experiencing similar difficulties. On this guitar especially, the control cavity is very roomy; the soldering took only a few seconds.

I sort of wish it had a nitro finish (a couple whitish dings), and I replaced the Bigsby arm with the "Vintage Narrow" one. I also made a WBW laminate guard for purely aesthetic (and aesthetically pure) reasons. Other than that, it hasn't needed anything else, and I feel as though I'm still in the honeymoon stage after more than three years.

2

Oddly enough, the two guitarists I think of when I hear the sound of that neck pickup are Oscar Moore and Tiny Grimes, neither of whom played Dyna-equipped guitars. Both were Gibson men; Tiny most often played a tenor with P-60 pickups, as Gibson called the 4-string version, and Moore is most often depicted playing a Charlie Christian pickup. It's not too far from the sound of a Gibson staple pickup, either. The same pickup is both throatier and brighter in my hollow Tele (mahogany body with maple cap), so it's some idiosyncratic quality of the match between the pickup and body that's beyond the full understanding of mere mortals.

3

I found a 1meg master volume pot makes the most difference. It allows the highs through to balance out the mids from the neck pickup.

4

I put a treble bleed on my neck pickup also for the same reason you did. I don't feel I need it on the bridge pickup or even the master volume but if I were to add another it would be on the master volume.

5

Sounds good SD. On my 53, I had a similar problem but a lot of tinkering with the pickup heights got it resolved. The neck pickup, in particular, had to be lowered quite a bit.

I agree, the guitar is outstanding in tone as well as fit and finish. I changed the Bigsby arm too as well as going with a shorter spring which made a big difference in performance and tuning stability.

I suspect that a Tru-arc or Serpentune bridge might help a bit with pickup balance and tone too.

6

I use Thomastik Jazz Swings on mine as well. A match made in heaven!

But I seriously doubt that a bridge swap could affect the relative volumes of the two pickups. I like the stock bridge with these pickups, although I did a fair amount of filing and sanding to get it where I wanted it; I did try a few others. Aluminum is the way to go even if you prefer one of the bridges you mentioned, IMO.

(I forgot to mention one more mod: I installed an Electrosocket jack. And I had my initials engraved in the truss rod cover. This one's a lifer.)

7

I’ve got to get an electro socket jack for mine, the stock one drives me nuts. Definitely feel like mine is a keeper as well.

8

My Brass Tru-Arc (on my '53) definitely has a major impact on the volume and overall tone of the guitar. It's much louder, clearer and more even sounding than it was with the stock bridge. I would think an aluminum Tru-Arc would be closer to the stock bridge (also aluminum) but still bigger sounding and with more sustain.

9

With that in mind, I've just installed a brass bar bridge that I made myself. I'm not sure I like it. It's definitely less bright and has slightly increased sustain, but the guitar has a less aggressive attack. Overall, a bit less "snap," for lack of a better term. It takes a few minutes to make the switch, and memories of sounds fade quickly, so I'm not really that sure. It's certainly not night and day.

10

I took the brass bridge off. Sound, radius, and intonation were all just right, but there were other issues. The string spacing was too wide overall, and the slots were all filed a bit too far toward the treble side. (I originally made the bridge for a guitar with an unpinned bridge and non-TV Jones Dynas.) The original aluminum bridge, sculpted fore and aft, above and below, is back on, and it's perfect.

I think the brass bar rolled off frequencies around 5.6-8 kHz a bit and was louder in the muddy lower mids, maybe 175-300 Hz. Attack and decay are both faster with the aluminum bridge, and I think there's more "cross-talk" among the strings, which can kill or enhance sustain depending on what notes are being sounded.

11

That's a good description of the aluminum Bigsby bridge's sonic qualities.

I might give an aluminum Tru-Arc a go. I have them on two 6120s but the Bigsby bridge base is slightly wider than the stock Gretsch base so it has to be a custom order or I'd just swap one over to try it. I thought of just trying the whole bridge from one of my other guitars but they have no pin holes like the Duo-Jet.

12

One thing I did to the stock bridge was to blunt the angle on the bottom side. I didn't make it totally flat, but there's a flattish spot where the knife-edge used to be. It now has a larger contact area with the height adjustment wheels, and it rocks less. That theoretically improves coupling, and unquestionably helps with tuning stability. The bridge doesn't flop over to the side as readily from either hand pressure or Bigsbification.

13

Thanks SD.

I haven't run into that problem with the replacement Bigsby bridge that's matched to a wound 3rd string but having worked for years with Bigsbys I know exactly what you mean. I concluded a long time ago that if Paul Bigsby had access to the materials of today then he wouldn't have gone with a rocking bridge but a secure bridge with either Nylon or Teflon saddles as in Julian Lage's Collings Duo-Jet replica or extensive use of graphite of other current lubricants. Just for information, I've had a lot of success with Big Bends "Nut Sauce" which has been out of stock for some time so moved to Music Nomad's "Tune-It" which I actually now prefer. https://www.musicnomadcare....

It's also important to keep the guitar's frets really smooth and clean to prevent any string catching and again I've now settled for another Music Nomad product, "Frine." https://www.musicnomadcare....


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