Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

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Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by Lillebeng on Fri Apr 20, 2012 8:51 am

Ever since I bought my Thunder, I´ve been contemplating what to do with the mmk45´s. Last night I decided to try the ´half air´mod (where you swap out the steel spacer between the magnet and the slugs with a non-ferrous one) on the neck pickup, and I was a bit surprised at how good it sounded. Smooth and rich, but also more dynamic. Anyone else tried this?

As it was, having tried another pickup in the neck for a while, I wired it wrongly so that I got the ´aired´ coil active when splitting, getting a chance to listen to that, too. As expected, it sounds pretty much like a coil backed way down. With a 2mm spacing between the magnet and the poles, I could just get the slugs high enough to be in the ´sweet spot´, without getting the screws too close. I think I´d get better balancing options if the gap was more like 1mm instead of 2. scratch

I have been fiddling a bit tweaking the screws on pickups, spin-a-split and such, and I expected the half air to sound somewhat like a hummer with the screws turned up a cm or so. This, in my ears, makes a hummer sound almost p90sh, more open and dynamic, with a rougher edge. The half air mod does some of the same, but blends the sound very smoothly. The same ingredients, only now they´re cooked! tongue I imagine altering the magnetic field inside the coil as opposed to outside, makes a difference here, but I am not close to understanding it.

So, I am looking at the bridge pickup, wondering what to do... One option is putting just one or two layers of insulating tape on the spacer to tame the magnet ´just a little bit´. Another would be swapping the magnet, anyone tried that on an mmk45? Ceramics, right? Ought to be a good candidate for swapping!

Thanks for your time...

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by Barry on Fri Apr 20, 2012 9:19 am

All new territory to me...but as far as tinkering with the proven sound of an MMK45? Well, that's just not the pickup to be experimenting on in my opinion. These are considered by most here to be the classic and definitive sound of the Mats era and should not be molested. No

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by gittarasaurus on Fri Apr 20, 2012 10:05 am

i do lots of guitar mods, and i have never come across this idea before. can you direct me to some place with more info on this kind of pickup modification?

i have to agree with Barry, the MMK45 is a great pickup with lots of engineering that went into it's design. they are no longer made anywhere, so if it get snoogied, then game over.
i would suggest that you leave the MMK45 as original and try out these ideas on a pickup that is currently made so if it gets wrecked, then you can easily get another.

i would like to hear more of your experience with this kind of modification.
do you have any recordings comparing the different setups?

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by Lillebeng on Fri Apr 20, 2012 11:27 am

Thanks for the quick replies.
Barry wrote:All new territory to me...but as far as tinkering with the proven sound of an MMK45? Well, that's just not the pickup to be experimenting on in my opinion. These are considered by most here to be the classic and definitive sound of the Mats era and should not be molested.
I know, I know. Just can´t help myself... Rolling Eyes But seriously, this is a very simple mod, with little or no danger to the pickup. You don´t even have to peel off the tape around the coils, only the outer layer.

I really enjoy the Thunder, built like a tank and with features, particularly the sustain, like guitars I just can´t afford. But I´m not entirely pleased with the sound, I find her a bit too shrill. If I can fix that with some simple, inexpensive and reversible tweaks, and keep the original pickups as well, perfect! Otherwise I´d probably just hold on to the guitar, and never use it. Shame.

That said to my defense, I appreciate your advice! Smile

What kind of amps/setups do you guys use? I have only really played the Thunder on my Vox Night Train, and that may be a less than perfect match, due to the NT´s ´chimey´ sound.

gittarasaurus wrote:
i do lots of guitar mods, and i have never come across this idea before. can you direct me to some place with more info on this kind of pickup modification?

Basically, it´s DiMarzios patent for their ´Air´ pickups (Air Zone/Norton Air), applied as a simple mod, with lots of options.
Tutorial:
http://www.lonephantom.com/2010/07/modifying-pickups-the-half-air-mod/

Discussion on the Duncan forum:
http://www.seymourduncan.com/forum/showthread.php?t=161341
Several other discussions here on the same subject...

And, gittarasaurus, that looked like a gorgeous paint job in your avatar, done it yourself?

Edit: I was afraid someone would ask for recordings! I won´t promise anything, but in the name of science etc., I´ll see what I can do. Wink

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by Barry on Fri Apr 20, 2012 2:31 pm

I found that lonephantom.com reference independently and it does look interesting. However, the advice to use something other than an MMK45 still stands. One busted strand on the winding and you're SOL.

To each his own, but keep in mind that it's called "Thunder" for a reason...it's meant to be anything but subtle!

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by Westbone on Fri Apr 20, 2012 2:50 pm

That's a good mod for coil tapping, ie using the coil with full contact on the magnet as your tapped coil.
This process has been used for many years and does give a pickup a slightly different edge.
It's a good mod. All depends what sound we are all looking for. The Holy Grail.

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by Sgt. Vimes on Fri Apr 20, 2012 2:58 pm

Really really interesting discussion......I wonder what can be done with a pair of EMG selects, closed type hb......surely ANYTGHING would improve them.
Im with Lillebeng on this one, the mmk45s are nice, crunchy and punchy, but not smooth, at least not on my (late) thunder, if its reversible and little risk of destruction, then go for it!

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by Barry on Fri Apr 20, 2012 3:31 pm

Sgt. Vimes wrote:...I wonder what can be done with a pair of EMG selects...
You could try that "perfect pitch" alluded to elsewhere for handling the banjo! clown

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by Sgt. Vimes on Fri Apr 20, 2012 3:44 pm

Barry wrote: You could try that "perfect pitch" alluded to elsewhere for handling the banjo! clown

very very tempting Neutral

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by gittarasaurus on Fri Apr 20, 2012 4:21 pm

i think you should do what ever you want to with your guitars. this is a forum to exchange ideas, advice, experiences. hopefully everyone feels free to offer up what they have interest in and not be deterred by the possible displeasure of others. it is quite a friendly bunch here, so thanks for joining in.

i have found many cheep or broken guitars to experiment with and have had lots of fun with it. :idea: i just got an Ibanez RG for $25, it has 2 humbuckers, maybe i'll try your suggestion on that one! i couldn't make myself take apart a functional MMK45. 'cause they just don't make 'em like that no more!

to me, westones are different for sentimental reasons too. my avatar is my first-ever guitar and it made westone guitars something special for me. i have always felt that westone guitars were well above the others in their class for value and workmanship and quality, and most of all where it counts, in the way they play and sound. i would rate my thunderIIA as good as any gibson or fender in quality, even now at 30 years old. at first it was just a "my guitar" thing, but over the years i have found very very few guitars that match up in quality and playability.

yes i did the paint job (in a psycho-delic outburst one nite). played it onstage that way for a few years in the early 90's. don't play in a band these days, just collect and play and tinker with the toys.

i used my thunder IIA thru a 70's fender twin reverb for a lot of the time with the band. i used it on the studio recordings we made. here is one....
earth for a day

later i used a TOA solid state amp with a large assortment of pedals that i built, along with a few commercially made ones too. i was going for a more lush and processed tone and less color from the amp itself.
mostly now i play with a Blackheart BH5H thru a closed cabinet with 2-12" celestion greenbacks.
or a fender deluxe 112 plus.
when i'm feeling really frisky i pull out the peavey stereo chorus 400 and hook up 4 separate speakers for some surround sound! 2 columns in back and 2 floor monitors in front. ooohhh yeaaahhhh!!!!!


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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by corsair on Fri Apr 20, 2012 5:39 pm

I agree with the sentiment that says that if you ain't satisfied with the sound you're getting, then tinker away!! As stated, this part of the forum is for sharing ideas about making the little buggers sound different, and this is a mod that is just a little fascinating; I mean, I'd not do it to anything of mine simply because its a permanent mod and I feel a little wary of permanently modifying 30 year old instruments.

... and because this sort of thing is well beyond my meagre skill set!! That said, you'll all be pleased to know that the Urchin is just about ready for stain.....

I alter the sound I'm getting through outboard means; EQs etc....

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by westcoaster on Fri Apr 20, 2012 7:06 pm

Of course when you've f***ed up your pups you can always install them in an an accordion and improve it's tone Smile

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by Sgt. Vimes on Fri Apr 20, 2012 7:12 pm

corsair wrote:I'd not do it to anything of mine simply because its a permanent mod and I feel a little wary of permanently modifying 30 year old instruments.

Actually its not permanent, it seems to be completely reversible.

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by corsair on Fri Apr 20, 2012 7:23 pm

There you go, then! Have at it!!

.... and let us know what happens! Very Happy

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by Sgt. Vimes on Fri Apr 20, 2012 7:37 pm

I fully intend to, with the EMGs....if I can get the buggers apart!

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by Barry on Fri Apr 20, 2012 7:55 pm

corsair wrote:...I alter the sound I'm getting through outboard means; EQs etc....
I think that's a sensible route to take, especially when experimenting with "vintage" equipment as the source.

That said, one of our regulars at the shop decided to get a couple of Chinese "Gibson" Trini Lopez knock-offs to play live instead of the real vintage Trini's that I recently restored for him. Well first off, I have to say they are a total POS, and one had a neck pickup which was dead on arival! But they only cost CAD$300 each including case and shipping so...

The proud owner is now going to spend God knows how much to upgrade these things, including machine heads, bridges and pickups. But here's the kicker: he ordered 2 sets of genuine Gibson burst buckers and then...(wait for it)...he plans to play them through a distortion pedal!! Rolling Eyes

So you see, some folks just can't get it right.

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by Barry on Fri Apr 20, 2012 7:57 pm

Sgt. Vimes wrote:I fully intend to, with the EMGs....if I can get the buggers apart!
Two words: Sledge Hammer!

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by Lillebeng on Sat Apr 21, 2012 6:27 am

Sgt. Vimes wrote:I fully intend to, with the EMGs....if I can get the buggers apart!
Aren´t the EMG´s fully dressed in epoxy? If so, I doubt you could take them apart without the aforementioned sledge hammer. Rolling Eyes

Really just chiming in to say the recording project is on it´s way, but I won´t rush it. (Rushing and taking pickups apart just doesn´t go together...). First two tracks down, and the mmk is for the moment back in it´s original shape, so more to come.

Funny how the Thunder grows on you, isn´t it? At first I thought it was downright ugly, and contemplated sanding it down. Now I see it as an italian sports car: it´s unique! (Yup, mine´s one of the allegedly "100 red with gold crowns".) Luckily for us they´re not built like italian sports cars as well...

And I will tolerate no puns at the expense of my favourite instruments; the Accordion, the Pipe organ, the Bag-pipes, oh, and of course the poor Banjo!! Honestly. I like it loud... What a Face

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by Sgt. Vimes on Sat Apr 21, 2012 6:42 am

Lillebeng wrote:And I will tolerate no puns at the expense of my favourite instruments; the Accordion, the Pipe organ, the Bag-pipes, oh, and of course the poor Banjo!! Honestly. I like it loud... What a Face

You really have set yourself up for a bashing here! Twisted Evil Twisted Evil Twisted Evil Twisted Evil

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by Sgt. Vimes on Sat Apr 21, 2012 6:44 am

Lillebeng wrote:
Aren´t the EMG´s fully dressed in epoxy? If so, I doubt you could take them apart without the aforementioned sledge hammer. Rolling Eyes

Yes they are, I dont mind leaving them without the case if I can get them apart, but I'm not holding my breath Neutral

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by westcoaster on Sat Apr 21, 2012 12:02 pm

Oops - just read that as half arsed - obviously subconsciously thinking about EMG selects, I've got them on my steinberger and they really let down an otherwise great little guitar.

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by Lillebeng on Sat Apr 21, 2012 7:01 pm

Sgt. Vimes wrote:
Yes they are, I dont mind leaving them without the case if I can get them apart, but I'm not holding my breath Neutral
The epoxy pickups are actually dipped in epoxy, so I´m afraid you cannot take it apart without ruining it. Neutral

Btw, Sgt Vimes: great character! I´m a big Pratchett fan.

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by Sgt. Vimes on Sat Apr 21, 2012 7:07 pm

yeah, I cant find ANY info of successfully opened epoxy hb's, damn shame.

on the name....it was a toss up between Vimes and C.M.O.T Dibbler Wink authority won!

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by Lillebeng on Sat Apr 21, 2012 7:41 pm

Back on topic: To those who haven´t taken their mmks apart, the wiser among us, I can confirm that they are almost annoyingly well built. The bobbins are held to the baseplate not only by screws, but by addhesive on the rubber spacers on the outside of the poles. The spacers make room for an extra thick magnet, which again makes the adjustable poles possible. Cool
It was tough to take apart the first time. Between the glue and the magnet, that baseplate was pretty stuck! The easiest is still just to push the mag out with a screwdriver. Edit: meaning you don´t really have to take it apart, just loosen the screws in the baseplate and push the mag and steel spacer (which is also glued on) out. No force required.

Two more tracks recorded, with the mmk in original setup. Not revealing too much, I can at least say the difference isn´t exactly radical... Wink

AFAICT, it´s still the regular pole coil that is active when you split them, is that right? In the OP I mention having "wired it wrong", but that was a mistake. What I have to do now is put the pickup back together, this time with the magnet against the poles and the spacer against the screws. Because the split to the aired coil was very weak, shame I forgot to record that the first time around.

And that will have to do for tonight, see ya with results tomorrow.

on the name....it was a toss up between Vimes and C.M.O.T Dibbler Wink authority won!
If only everyone with authority were like Vimes...

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bb pjådøksjn presents: THUNDER AIR!

Post by Lillebeng on Sun Apr 22, 2012 2:11 pm

(how´s that for a name... Rolling Eyes )

So, here are the recordings of the Half-air mod. But first some dry facts:
Recorded in Logic, through a GutarRig2 control/soundcard. Neck pickup. I recorded two tracks for each mod-stage, Old Triangle w the "Boutique chunk" Logic sound, and Hey Joe w the "American Vintage" clean sound. First you hear the first half air mod, then the pickup in its original setup, and third, the final half air mod with the new spacer against the screws. I tried to keep other variables constant, without apparent success. So here they are listed:
First Mod (wooden spacer against poles): -
Original: A harder pick was used. Tried to keep pickup flush with the ring like in the first take, but who knows...
Second mod (plastic spacer against screws): Same harder pick used, but somehow these takes are louder and bassier, I have no idea why!

Also, the intensity varies with the time of day and my mood, which makes just as big a difference! Anyways:

http://soundcloud.com/user3468345/mmk45-half-air-mod

Now, what do you hear?!? silent


Last edited by Lillebeng on Sun Apr 22, 2012 9:32 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Edited with more user friendly link!)

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by gittarasaurus on Sun Apr 22, 2012 6:58 pm

Lillebeng wrote:
If anyone know of a more user friendly way to post this file, please let me know! silent


these are 2 quick and easy ways to post and share your own music online ->

the internet archive
soundcloud

soundcloud is faster and easier
archive.org is just simply amazing........

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by Lillebeng on Sun Apr 22, 2012 7:22 pm

gitarrasaurus wrote:
these are 2 quick and easy ways to post and share your own music online ->

the internet archive
soundcloud

soundcloud is faster and easier
archive.org is just simply amazing........
Thanks!! I´ll check it out. Smile

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by Westbone on Mon Apr 23, 2012 12:56 pm

Prefare the original.
The half aired has less peaks. ie. bland

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Re: Half-aired mmk´s and other mods...

Post by Lillebeng on Mon Apr 23, 2012 1:56 pm

Westbone wrote:Prefare the original.
The half aired has less peaks. ie. bland
Ha-ha, I was afraid noone would tell the difference! It really is subtle... Rolling Eyes Thanks for listening. I like the feeling playing alone with the half air, the extra sustain and "chorusy" feeling is inspiring. Question is for how long that will remain interesting, and whether it will just be less clear in a band setting.

I´ll leave it like this for now, but one lesson from these recordings is that time is (obviously) better spent practicing my playing than tinkering with the pickups! Still, it´s fun, and I decided to start turning all the stones I got curious about. This was one. Imagine DiMarzio has taken a patent on it... Suspect

As for the "other mods" mentioned in the OP, I have applied the ´Kinman treble bleed´ to the Vol pot, (.001 uF cap and a 0-250k trimpot in series), which really makes the Volume control useful. Rolling the vol down to 8 gives me a more paf-ish sound now, without cutting the bass too much. Just for the record. Rolling Eyes

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