Magnet change - ceramic to alnico. Success!


Thanks to all who post here and share your knowledge and experience. I've lurked a while, and recently acquired a Gretch which I'd been itching to for a while. Tele, Strat, PRS, 335 player. I play in a few bands and duo; I prefer things on the vintage side of the ledger, excepting my 'modern' PRS Custom 24 and Mesa Express and Transatlantic. Built a few 5E3s, owned Silverface Fenders (Princeton Reverb, Vibrolux Reverb, Pro Reverb, Vibrochamp) and currenty own a Clapton Champ.

I picked up a '99 Setzer Hotrod in tangerine - bit cheap for here in Oz (where everything is dear) due to having player wear and a cosmetic fault on the lower bout. Largely, I love it - I played a few Electomatics and Pro FMIC era guits. This was the most 'lively' and although it needs some TLC on frets, some moderate tweaking has made it playable and giggable. I followed the threads on Alnico vs ceramic, HS Filters vs TV Jones etc with interest.

I really love the aged patina on my guitar, where the chrome and nickel has worn and aged. I liked the stock ceramic pickups, a little sterile and brittle perhaps but definitely the Gretsch vibe and nicely-balanced. Very easy to get a controllable howl going with my amps in 'Blackface' mode, and I can hear George, a bit of Chet and even some Brian - not that my playing is up to it.

Was considering buying Gretsch pickups but then I saw where someone checked out magnet swaps. Stewmac has 6 buck magnets, I ordered two each A5 and two A2 based on the advice here and elsewhere.

While waiting I did some tweaking - the guitar had never had a setup, nut slots tight and too high, loose tuners, floating bridge. I drilled and screwed the bridge using 4mm grubscrews. It's not a vintage instrument, has not much intrinsic value and I need it to play in tune up the neck with Bigsby use (keyboard in one band). It now does, and intonates. Lubed everything with chapstick Yes, I have a roller tunomatic style bridge. I can't say if my guit has accurate tone to a 'real' vintage one - but it floats my boat!

Swapping the magnets wasn't as straightforward as it could be - the old ceramics were about 4-5mm shorter, and the new magnets encroached on the mounting screw holes. Sitting outside with a carbonundum block for a few hours I notched the end of the magnets to just let the screw slide past.

It turned out mine had the correct Switchcraft toggle and jack, but a mini 500K pot. I swapped that out for a CTS 500K solid shaft with a .001uf Orange drop treble bleed cap. So far, I've only run it low volume through the Champ - but I have to say I can already hear the warm tones - the neck is clear and articulate and the bridge warm and bitey and smooth. Both pickups measured about 3900kohm. The neck pickup did have the mounting ears. Both magnets were oriented the same way and I took pains to make sure the new pairs were - because the Stewmac magnets are half the height, I used two in each.


I have an Electromatic Corvette that had Megatron pickups with ceramic magnets. I replaced them with alnico and it improved things a lot.


This is great.

I wonder how Blacktop Filtertrons would sound with a magnet swap.


nice looking guitar! And great story... Im currently in oz so let me know if you have any gigs in Sydney


3900Kohms would be 3 million, 900 thousand ohms. I think you mean 3.9K.


Yeah, you gonna make it all 220?

Yeah, 220, 221. Whatever it takes.


Mini pot - working OK, but certainly improved by replacing with new CTS pot with treble bleed, now when you wind it back, it cleans up without losing the sparkle, and it's easy to get a nice woody acoustic tone and string definition. I've used the threaded screws to balance string output, and it's amazing how it's got a lovely 'bite' on the high G-B-E without being overpowering.


Here's the bridge, taped in place with masking tape as instructions, popped a handheld 3.5mm drill through it into the body and tonepost/brace, then ran the 4mm drill through the bridge itself. So the grubscrews went easy through the rosewood, and screwed firmly into the top. Minor intonation adjustment, and the guitar keeps tune really well with up to one full tone drop/pull. Lubed the slots and bridge rollers with chapstick, beeyoodiful!

As I said, I need the guitar to tune quickly and play in tune with whammy use, and now it does.


Now I've had a chance to play with the guitar at volume through the Champ (which is a 5F1 handwired reissue, but fitted with the early 5E9 harmonic-wobble trem off the early Tremolux) it's really nice. That amp, having no tone stack can be thick and raw - and the guitar with no tone circuit, is a match made in heaven. Flat out, amp on 9 - you get some breakup and harmonic 'sing' on single notes, back guitar to '8' it cleans up to nice cleans.

It's lovely and liquid, and alnico magnets in the guitar and amp (Weber Signature speaker badged as a Fender Special Design) is warm, but not muddy or too ice-pick trebly. Picking 'Long Cool Woman' is bitey and twangy - the original is a Tele but it's really nice on the Gretsch, and the Filtertrons have more 'meat' in the rhythm part.

Really pleased with this mod, especially the price - I don't know if HS Filters or TV Jones would be nicer, but these have a really nice vintage vibe to them, and can grunt when you pick harder. Through the little Champ, they sing. I'll try to put a recording up.


This is great.

I wonder how Blacktop Filtertrons would sound with a magnet swap.

– BuddyHollywood

Aren't the Blacktops Alnico already?

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