The “Tel-o-tron” ?


Would love someone to chime in with technical theorization on this idea.

I'd like to mimic the Hilotron neck pickup, and put it in a favorite tele of mine.

I do not want to rout the guitar, or change bodies.

So - there are many manufacturers out there who make "P90-style" pickups for the telecaster - where the magnet(s) are placed UNDER the tele pickup, and the magnetic pole pieces are replaced by screws.

Of course - these are wound with resistances that are high enough to mimic a p90 - midrangey and nasal and not what i want at all. Really - i do not want a P90, i want a chimey, woody, hilotron neck pickup.

So - under the hood of a Hilotron - it basically looks like a tele single coil, with that metal contraption holding the magnet to the side of the bobbin/coil.

I'm curious - could a hilotron be fashioned in the way those P90 style pickups are (magnet under a normal tele pickup configuration), but wired to hilotron specifications and come relatively close to the tone of a hilo ?

i've asked around to some boutique pickup winders, and they have responded by saying - we can just make the p90 tele pickup, but under wind it. I'm a little hesitant - if it's to mimic a hilo - doesn't it have to be the same kind and gauge of wire. (does anyone know what that is by the way) ?

any thoughts would be welcome.


all squier tele pickups are just that!..slug polepieces with one or split magnets below the coil…classic p90 arrangement..except that p90 uses slug screws…

most tele necks are wound with 43 wire..tho the squiers may indeed be 42

p90's are 1000 winds of 42 wire

hilotrons are 3000 (vintage)/3200 (new) winds of 44 wire…(that's also what ric toasters use)

any competent string winder cld probably wind you a tele neck pup with 44 wire to a low k...



two more questions for those who can answer

1) what type of magnets in a Hilo ? Alnico 5 ?

2) does the material in the screw need to be a specific thing ?


I might be interested in giving it a shot, sounds like an interesting idea. Do you have any pics of the guts of a Hilo you could send me? Approximate bobbin dimensions would be helpful too to get the coil shape/size as close to a Hilo as possible. Not sure on magnet type, but the screws don't have to be anything special as long as they're magnetic.


i do not know the dimensions... but im usually able to find lots of pictures online of ones that have been pulled apart. For example :



I wonder if there's someone out there who knows the dimensions. It seems Setzer has experimented with this (given that some of these pics are his), but i think he has stepped away from the GDP to tend to other things.


that magnet is ginormous. I wonder if the dual magnet on the bottom (that so many tele pickup manufacturers use to emulate p90's in tele pickup housings) will have the power that thing has ??


Strange design, but I think we can get pretty close and still make it fit a Tele. The magnet will definitely have to go underneath so that'll change the magnetic field compared to a Hilo but I think it's worth trying. I have 44 gauge wire already and some bar magnets that will probably work. A custom bobbin is no problem, I have access to a CNC laser at work to cut the parts for that with.

Let's see if we can come up with approximate dinensions and we can put a plan together!


aaronbrill - this excites me to no end. wow. please let me know if you need any investment funds / startup money !! haha. i'll be glad to help.

here's a few more pictures :

wow.. this is really cool. if i didn't already love the GDP ....i really really really do now :)


That side view helps, I can probably estimate close enough on the bobbin height. I'll try drawing it up and see if it'll fit a standard Tele neck footprint. Do you want to try keeping the Tele mounting screw locations if possible?

Don't worry about the money right now, I'm not out to make a mint on this...just enough to cover materials and a little bit of time. We'll work it out


Yes. would like it to be drop in if at all possible... so preferably, - mounting screws should go in the same place. Of course, if something limits you from being able to do that... well, then... we'll have to figure that out. thanks again !


I just PM'd you but I got an error message back in my email, let me know if you receive it or not.


cool aaron!..the hilo is the same bobbin as used in a fliltertron..obviously gretsch used a single boobin wound with 44 to 3000 winds..with a humbucking filtertron they used 2..with the hilo they used one and side mounted the magnet…ala valco!!…its one magnet…one of the things tv jones does to his bridge hilo is add an extra magnet…

they used alnico v mags

a tele wound with 44 wire, 3000 winds , screw slugs with an alnico magnet on the bottom…or 2 smaller one on each side of the screws (ala squier and mim strats) will get you along way there, to a degree, but the magnetic window is alot smaller, since the magnet is under the bobbin not on the side

maybe an alnico 8 magnet

here's a mim strat pickup



aaron - i did not receive your email. i've gotten PM's from GDP'ers in the last two weeks, so i know my address is correct in the profile. Might be a temporary system issue.

"magnetic window"... i don't know what that means, but i am at least understanding that you're saying the proximity/position of the magnet will make a difference. hmmm. I always wondered if that metal plate contraption in a hilotron impedes the magnet's power or strengthens it.. wonder how that all figures into the equation.


I imagine that the magnet being on the side is a big part of the pickup's sound, at least once you start messing with the pole-pieces. With the magnet on the side, it would have a consistent effect on the pole-pieces at any height, but you couldn't do that with the magnets on the bottom., unless perhaps the pole-pieces extended past the magnet even at their maximum height.

I think it's a mistake to try to replicate one, or to replicate its sound, with having an example or two on hand. In the end, you don't just want to match a set of specs, you want a specific sound, and A/B comparisons are invaluable.


You're right seadevil, changing the magnetic field is going to change the response of the pickup. While we probably won't come up with an exact clone, I think we can at least capture the basic character of a Hilo and may come up with something very cool in its own right in the process.

My plan is to place one or two alnico bars underneath with the pole screws extending well beyond the magnets, like you mentioned. It's as good of a starting point as any I guess.

Variantboy is going to have to be my ears on this one, unless someone wants to loan me a Hilo equipped guitar for a while

Variantboy, I sent you an email last night at the address listed in the error message that I got back. If you didn't receive it, try PM'ing me.


just replied to your email aaron.


Just get a tele body that has a HB route in the neck position and have at it with a stock hilotron.

Also have you contacted Curtis Novak about something like this? He's always thinking outside the box


i've considered the "buy a new body, and hilotron" option. That could range up into the 300-400 range just for the experiment - and then the prospect of repurposing, storing or selling should it be a bust...not to mention that i'd either have to disassemble another guitar (in this case, my main guitar) or buy new neck,hardware, etc... If it has to come to that, so be it. I was just curious to see if it could be done with a little less impact.

i have contacted curtis twice at his published email address - he has not responded... and it's been weeks.

also contacted klein - they were responsive.... but kinda leaned in the "how about a p90 with lower windings". Im not against that idea... but again... it inspired me to come here to ask if there was a more accurate way to do it in a tele neck pickup footprint.


If it was a P90 with fewer winds kinda pickup then Lindy Fralin probably already makes one. At the very least you could ask him to wind one for you. He's a very approachable guy. You could call him and discuss it - he might have some ideas.


Thanks Jimmy - I have actually contacted fralin as well with a few questions regarding this.

After all the research so far, it is kind of consensus that this shouldn't be an under wound p90 - at least that is not the desired optimal configuration.

For the time being - Aaron is generously making a prototype based on some of our discussions. We may miss the mark and eventually opt for either the under wound p90 .... or simply routing the old #1 - but i'm hoping it will work out. we'll see how it goes !


Hi guys did this Teletron idea ever happen? I would love some Hilotron Tele pickups, looking for a bridge Teletron for my Tele.


Yes, the prototype was completed and the concept showed some promise, but we did run into a problem. With the space constraint of trying to fit into a standard Tele neck cavity, the commonly available alnico bars that would fit just didn't allow for a strong enough magnetic field. The sound was actually very nice during my testing, but the output was too low to be useful, especially if paired with a normal bridge pickup. Ceramic bars could be an option, but we were really trying to stay with alnico.

In the end we scrapped it for the time being and opted to rewind a Fralin steel pole neck pickup with some 44 gauge wire. We kept the turn count lower and I really liked the sound of that one. Very clear and balanced sounding, with plenty of output. It wasn't a pure Hilo sound, but it did rank up there on my list of my favorite Tele neck pickups.

I'd be interested to hear back from Dan to see what his thoughts are after getting to play it for a while.



Hey there! Sorry for my delayed response. I only noticed that this thread had been updated after checking on another thread I just recently started.

Ok.. so i'm going by memory now, so forgive me as some time has passed.

I should first state : Aaron was AMAZING in this experiment - really accommodating, gracious and patient, and did some cool stuff! In the end - just like he said - that "tel-o-tron" just did not have the output to do the job, especially when paired with the tele bridge pickup.

Now that final experiment - the simple rewinding of the Fralin steel pole pickup - yielded something that matched better with the bridge pickup, but after some time, it still didn't stand up to the test for me. It had some of the hilo essence for sure, but not quite all of it - and then of course there was the output combination of bridge/neck that just didn't even out as it needed to. My tele is now back to a set of Don Mare green onion pickups which are all tele, but in a very good way. That said - it was a great experiment, and i was glad we did it. ..And as I said, Aaron did great stuff in the process. We actually mailed pickups back and forth twice! Can't thank him enough for his indulgence.

All things considered - my interest and affection for the hilotron was born of and is still alive from my ownership and love for my '67 Rally - which of course sports two hilos - of the original design - that have aged almost 50 years - and is HOLLOW . . and has a floating bridge… and a bigsby… etc..etc..

So many factors make the end sound - and even with the most faithful reproduction - unless it’s tested in a comparable guitar - it’s only going to come so close. Strangely - i have tried a set of TVJones TV-HT’s in a tele before this experiment, and they exhibited this really weird “fizzy” top end when running through even a light-touch overdrive (Xotic RC boost/overdrive). Also they compress in such a way as to not have a forceful impact. My rally DOES NOT DO THIS. It sounds completely different. hmmm. This likely has to do with the age of the pickups, and the 800 other ways that a 50 year old hollow guitar differs from a tele. And i am mentioning this because, interestingly - the couple of incarnations of that pickup Aaron made, including the final fralin rewind also had that fizzy top end when being overdriven. An indication that perhaps we were on the right track to a decent recreation….. just not all the way there? who knows. more time… more money.. more interest.. perhaps there’s something there. who knows.

No matter what - none of them (including TVJones’ pickup) sounds like what i have become accustomed to - for all the obvious reasons.

Fun to remember this though. Thank GDPers.

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