Public Service Announcement: re-wiring an Ibanez S770 PB

Already great guitar has unexpected bonus

Ok, they’re loaded in — now how do I hook them up?

A little luck

So, I had some luck on the horsies recently (*cough* Trump *cough*) and had some spare cash to play with.

I’d had my eye on this number a while back and nipped out and made the purchase.

In all its glory

First Impressions

I knew in the shop, as they had a couple of other versions for comparison that I liked the guitar, but I was a little iffy about the sound of the pickups.

The other examples had the stock Ibanez pickups, which I quite liked the sound of, and were nicely balanced.

Judging from the inlays — WHICH I LOVE, BTW — this is a circa 2013 model, so the original pickups were — 2 Humbuckers and a single coil in the middle of the Infinity Ibanez model.

What was in the box

The first surprise upon taking a close look is that the thing is loaded with a full set of Seymour Duncan humbuckers — 2 humbuckers and a rail style in the middle.
That’s almost the cost of the guitar all over again to fit those babies in!

How it sounded

As to the sound, well, the Bridge and Neck pickups sounded OK — they’re humbuckers, which are not necessarily my favourite pickups, but the proof is in the hearing.

The middle pickup is a humbucker also, and to my ears, a little indistinct, but then that is the middle position, which plays a special role in the strat config in my opinion.

But, in the positions joining the middle and the other pickups — oh, my.

Something was not right
unclear to me what the intent was here

The switch did work, and the pickups matched the position, but the bridged switch positions were very quiet and did not sound how I would expect.

Time to bite the bullet

I’d briefly done a set up on the guitar, which was ridiculously easy to set up to a very nice playability.

So no more excuses to not dive in and fix the wiring. It was not longer mint condition from the factory and basically sounded a bit weird.

Step 1: break it down

Simplest thing is to unpick everything

Step 2: wire them back up

In this case, the wiring is pretty simple and again SD have some great resources:

Basically you have 4 wires (plus a shield you wire to ground) — these need to be wired in series, by convention and need to be wired such that the string signals are in phase — the diagrams give the wiring colours for the relevant points in the pickups.

So, all 3 pickups have the same wiring layout, making this very easy.

For each pickup — bind the white and red together (+ some insulation); green to earth and black to the pickups selector, which taps off the pickups to the top of the volume pot., and you’re done. Don’t forget to wire up all the earths.

If you are thinking of doing this yourself

  • take your time
  • double check all the wires / switch position go where you think they do
    - beware assembling circuits upside down ending up with backwards volume controls
    - just saying — it happens to every one
  • try to avoid excessive heat being applied to the pots / switches
    - practice getting a quick, good solder joint done
    - they look metallic and quite shiny.
  • Go one pickup at a time and check each time
  • make sure you have plenty of room / slack in order to position the parts back once finished.
  • Don’t forget to wire all the earths
This is the simple “all humbuckers, aligned with the switch” wiring.
Verdict: Sounds great

So a week goes by

So, the problem was, I’d already seen this…

I felt getting it working was a good initial challenge, but having found it has decent pickups, I felt the need to try coil splitting.

The idea is, a switch on the volume knob flips all the humbuckers into being just one of their two coils, accessing a range of new single coil sounds.

This was just too tempting

So I got it right, and only on the second go (it is quite a bit fiddlier).

Measure twice, cut once.

Something was not quite right

Technically, it all worked.

But.

The middle and the middle pickup solo positions were very quiet.

On a hunch I went back to the original diagram:

I can’t give the one-line description here like before, due to the choice of treating the middle pickup differently.

Also, the fancy footwork with the pot switch takes some unpicking, depending upon your turn of mind.

However, you can see neck and bridge are wired the same — red, white bound together, black to switch and green to earth.

The outlier is the middle pickups: here the order has been flipped and black and green are joined.

Anyway, as described earlier, remember the pickups only have to be in phase — not a particular order, and luckily the earth wire is a free choice, so I guessed I could rotate the pickups in the middle to the other order.

If the two coils in the rails pickups were entirely matched in function, this should make almost no difference, apart from the tiny different in centre of sensing.

However, it seems like one coil dominates the sensing of the string. Selecting that one to be the pickup in the coil tap mode would be ideal.

My modification now makes more sense to read on the face of it.

bind red,white green to earth, black to switch.

Update to reference diagram, swapping the middle pickups’ wires,

And here it is.

The enhanced wiring, finally done.

Does it work?

Yes

How does it sound?

Really good, that coil now used from the middle pickup balances in volume solo, and when bridge, gives a balanced and full in-between position sound.

Summing it all up

It does take a little effort, I’m not going to gloss over that, but the range of sounds is extended massively, and if you’re a single coil fan, these are the sounds for you.

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