Saturday, February 03, 2007

Cool Rails

I have had Hot Stacks in the mid & neck positions on my Warmoth since it was put together. They were never the ideal match for the JB Trembucker in the bridge and too bright for an intrinsically bright guitar from the start. The output mismatch between the Hot Stacks and the JB was just plain annoying, but in my defense I will say I think they were (at the time) my best option for a stacked humbucker for the mid & neck slots.

Times have long since changed, and a change in tone (particularly in the neck position) was well overdue.

I used the Duncan Tone Wizard to find out what they would recommend for overall balance with the JB & the general characteristics of the guitar. In my case it suggested the following:

Neck 1 SCR-1 Cool Rails
Neck 2 SL59-1 Little '59
Middle 1 SCR-1 Cool Rails
Middle 2 SSL-5 Custom Staggered

I even e-mailed them with the current config of the guitar with the Hot Stacks to get a custom recommendation from them, and the response was: go with the Cool Rails.

So I did.

I ordered two of them from an on-line vendor. Their site said they had them in stock, and they had the best pricing. Turned out that they only sent one, and the other went to back-order. When I called to find out when they might be getting the other PUP I was told it would be a month or so before they got them in stock. I e-mailed them and they really had no idea when they would get them so I canceled the order for the second one.

Eventually, I got the pickup via US Postal mail in a crappy padded envelope--how lame is that?! First of all, who ships something like that through USPS with no tracking number, and a padded envelope? Whatever... A return customer? Not me.

I removed the Hot Stack from the neck position and started to install the Cool Rails. It was an extremely tight fit, but I managed to get it in there at the sacrifice of a couple of paint chips (not happy about that one bit). This PUP is obviously designed with Strat pickguard mounting in mind, but a couple of longer wood screws and I was good to go. I wired it right up with no problems and the moment of truth had arrived. Would the output balance with the JB? Would it even out the ultra bright tone that I had grown to despise? The verdict? This is what I e-mailed to a friend: is so nice to have a neck PUP in there that has [output] balance with the JB!!! Although I was really taken by surprise at how much darker it sounded vs. the Hot Stack that was in there previously. As you know, I couldn't stand how bright that PUP was, it was so bright it sounded harsh and of course it didn't balance with the JB at all. Way too weak. Anyway, it initially took me a while to get used to playing a darker PUP in the neck position. Here is the really cool thing though, it sounds totally awesome in the 2 position (mid/neck)!!! I mean it is just great! My favorite Strat sound without any hum! Tone-wise, those two pickups balance so well, it's incredible!

...The guitar looks a little, uh, unique now with the side by side rails in the neck, the stack blade in the mid and the big JB in the bridge as you can see in this picture. Hey, as long as it sounds good and plays well, it's all good to me...
So I ended up with the right combination of pickups even though I didn't get that second Cool Rails for the mid slot. I never play the mid PUP by itself anyway, so the output balance isn't an issue with it. Tone-wise it is exactly what I need in the 2 & 4 positions with the other two pickups.

It has taken me a bit to get used to a humbucker tone in the neck position but now I am using it constantly. It sounds really good clean, and just gets better as you turn up the gain. The sustain is just exceptional with this one. The Hot Stack couldn't even begin to come close.

Initially I thought that perhaps I should have gone with the Little '59 but I have no doubts now. The Cool Rails has provided exactly the output & tone I needed in this guitar.
Cool RailsTM image
provided by

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