Kent Armstrong Tweedtone Pickups & TUSQ Nut Review
 

 

 Introduction

When upgrading a guitar, aftermarket pickups are what mostly seem to make a difference guitars tone. It has to be remembered that a pickup after all, is what is responsible for transferring the sound of the vibrating string into electrical energy, which your amplifier will output. This will most definitely colour the tone in many ways.

To this effect we are upgrading our WD Music Stratocaster style kit, which we assembled in an earlier review.

The kit originally came with a pre-wired pickguard, which I would recommend to any novice attempting a build of this type.

For this review and for A/B testing purposes I am actually going to mount to Tweedtone pickups onto a new pickguard. However for most people’s purposes these can be directly swapped for their current ones without the need to purchase extra parts.

Tweedtones.

The Tweedtones are offered as individual neck/middle/bridge pickups for a Stratocaster style guitar, but when purchased together combine as a matched set.

The set is calibrated as follows neck (mild), middle (medium) and bridge (hot) for level volume and tone. Magnets used are Alnico-5 and the pole pieces are vintage staggered. Maintaining the vintage look is also cloth-covered wire for the connections.

Pickup covers can also be additionally ordered in whatever colours one prefers I choose aged white.

Installation

As mentioned beforehand for most people it will just be a question of removing your existing pickups and installing the new ones. Single-coil pickups just have two wires and these are simply to be de-soldered from their current locations and then the new ones installed in the same manner.

If you are however replacing the entire assembly as I am for this review there is more work to be done.

Wiring a Stratocaster style pickguard involves a fair bit of work but with patience this can be achieved in not too much time.

What I would suggest is either working from a diagram (which can be found on the internet) or simply copying the connections from the old pickguard, which is what I did myself.


Soldering Tips

The most important part to be considered when installing pickups or indeed any electrical component in an instrument is that of soldering. Soldering can be easy when done correctly and with the correct tools but can lead to disastrous consequences if not done right. If you have never soldered before I would strongly suggest you practice an old circuit board or discarded radio.

The most important points are as follows.

  • Use the right soldering iron: For wires etc 15-20 watts is sufficient, for pickup covers or soldering to volume or tone pots a 40-50 watt iron will be needed.
  • Always use the lowest wattage iron possible, for the application at hand.  Only apply heat for the shortest time possible to avoid damaging the components being installed.
  • Make sure all your components are clean; if necessary use sandpaper or a fine file to clean contacts, soldering flux can also be used clean contacts.
  • Be Tidy; once you are finished the whole assembly need to fit into the control cavity.

Setup

Once the pickups are installed the next step is to adjust the height.

Fender recommendations for a Stratocaster with standard single coil pickups are as follows:

Bass Side: 5/64" Treble Side: 4/64"

Once adjusted to standard specifications they can be tailored to individual preferences but it is important that the pickups are neither too far as to lose the sound, or to close that the strings touch the pole pieces or are affected by their magnetic field as this can even cause intonation problems.

 


Tone

Tone is quite subjective and personal so rather than try and describe this with words I have recorded an mp3 demo using the different pickup positions.

Text Box:  Tusq Nut

In addition to the pickup upgrade I decided also to upgrade the nut to a TUSQ PQ-5000-00 nut. This is synthetic material that emulates ivory, and improves tone. The nut is pre-slotted so installation was a simple case of filing the bottom for height and placing a spot of white glue in the nut slot to hold it in place. Tone and tuning stability were indeed improved by this simple upgraded.

Summary

A successful upgrade which, has improved the tone and quality of my instrument.

By Ernest H Slade
www.gear-review.co.uk