Gibson SG Special 2018 PCB to 50s wiring conversion

Discussion in 'Gibson SG' started by Nathan Martin, Jul 20, 2021.

  1. Nathan Martin

    Nathan Martin New Member

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    So, this is my first post on this forum but thought it may come in handy for someone. Any feedback welcome and hopefully it helps.

    FAIR WARNING. Long post. I'll try and do some subheadings and I'll try and post pictures in the order I mention them but this is purely for fun and to hopefully help anyone who's doing the same.


    As a preface, I did this purely out of boredom and something to do. I am electrically based (ex electrical engineer) but never really done any guitar mods, except swapping a 5 way switch on a G and L s type guitar, and just general tinkering so this was all pretty new to me.


    Now, I'm not a PCB vs hand wired snob, and I loved the sound of my SG, it was great but like I said previously, just wanted something to do so just risked doing tbis

    Short version is, to my ears at least, it sounds better! Better obviously the subjective word of the day. For want of a better description it seemed more bity, better volume taper/reaction. Seemed clearer. And, because I'm weird, I like knowing it's got hand wired 50s wiring in, wired by me - so it's more of an inspiration to play.


    I did a lot of research and forum surfing and YouTube watching before hand.


    Make of that what you will, It does sound "different" which surprised me, and I'm quite fortunate I like the difference. The only positive I can say that maybe is the least subjective is it is definitely clearer, so if that's what you're after then this may help. I'm not a tone snob, by ant means, but this seemed to add a bit more growl and bite.




    Parts:

    I'll add the parts as a comment

    Walk through and help





    Process:


    First, I removed all the PCB stuff in order to create a template of the pot positions. Then I drilled this template onto some old laminate flooring. It's A LOT easier to do this rather than solder in the guitar. I deselected the selector switch and input jack as these are switchcraft and qood quality anyway.


    Note: I loved the sound of my SG before. But "apparently" this is better, and again this was out of boredom.


    Then I mounted the pots, switch and jack to the flooring (ha) and used the youtube video for the order on which to do things. I opted to use cloth wire to earth the pots to each other, rather than braided wire, and I used the tinned copper wire to earth the pots. (Look at the video for this, I'm not explaining what I did, and the video is pretty damn good, at least I thought so)


    I did the caps last as I was waiting for them in the post, and as I'll explain later, they were a bit of a pain.


    I soldered the molex (more on this later), fitted the hardness into the control cavity, soldered the earth wire from the bridge (stop bar or ToM) to the back of the bridge volume pot. As you'll see in the pictures, there's copper wire soldered to the earth wire that goes into the body of the guitar. This is because I have copper tape on the back of the cavity plate (a previous mod I did to stop the annoying electro static pop and noise) and had to join the guitars ground to the control cavity plate, granted it looks messy but it has worked even better than when purely relying on the tape.


    Molex:


    I know it seems daft, but I wanted to try and leave the molex connectors on the pickups, just incase something went wrong, or just because I'm strange like that and wanted to keep everything that the guitar came with (even if it's not on the guitar) as you'll see, they don't seem like they'll last so I probably would snip them off and go from the wire to the harness, or buy more connectors and solder to some tiny bread board or something.


    Now, what a pain in the arse this was. It took me a while to find the actual connectors online (forum digging) and I had to take a gamble on them being the right one. I think someone on a forum posted the american part numbers and some Internetting got me these. I paid £2.10 for 5 connectors (and £4.99 shipping!!!!) My only regretting is not getting more of the buggers as they are quite fragile when being soldered by hand


    I used a multi meter to find the "hot" and ground wires but wasn't too sure on what to do with the extra wires and luckily found a diagram that explained what everything was.


    Pins 1 and 2 are for coil splitting and need to be joined and capped off. The middle pin, pin 3, is the hot wire. 4 and 5 are the ground and screen wire and these need to be joined together, AND joined to the guitar ground circuit.


    I used a pair of needle nose pliers to bend Pins 1 and 2 together (just sightly) to make them easier to solder together, and easier to solder onto the middle pin.


    I tinned the wire and the iron so as to minimise the amount of time, and thus heat on the actual molex connectors. As they are smaller than they look, even though the same ones are used on the PCB


    I used the braided cloth wire and took the single core to the middle Pin, and had pre put on a touch of heat shrink, then I slid this over which made it easier to solder Pins 1 and 2, and then 3 and 4, as it left a nice gap. I found when I tried to add heat shrink to the ground, the heat of the braid shrank it and on the hot, it didn't quite work.


    The issue I had was, even with tinning my iron and the wire, and pretty literally dabbing the iron on the connector, if you apply just a touch too much heat, you start to melt the connector.


    I soldered the first 2 first time, and they were alright. However, whilst messing with the harness and unplugging the pickups and then messing with the caps (I got impatient so left the caps out until they arrived, so I soldered then whilst the harness was in the guitar) I snapped the hot pin off the connector. So I made another up, and snapped the hot off the other pick up. I think I maybe applied a bit too much heat because when I remade them, I turned my iron down and was "quicker" and they seem to have lasted. I even checked them the other day, realised one of them wasn't fully making and managed to resolder it.


    I regret not buying more (for the postage I paid) just incase but didn't anticipate my poor soldering skills or how much of a pain it would be. But I enjoyed the project none the less, and I kind of like messing up and fixing things, and learning.


    So much so, I've bought some CTS pots for my Les Paul Special Tribute DC and Im going to do the same to that and install a treble bleed circuit and a better cap. It's not pcb mounted, but I get the impression gibson doesnt use American made cts pots, and couldn't find much in the matter, but still decided just do it, again through boredom.


    Now. The whole PiO NOS VOS and any other TLA (three letter acronym) you can think of doesn't float with me. These caps are £3 each, which is expensive compared to bulk buying but they are sprague (they seem like a good make?) And no where near as expensive as others online. Plus you only use the caps if you roll your tone tone pots down alot. Which I don't really, but the tone frequency taper seems smoother and more usable.


    Thoughts. Costs and anything else. Lessons etc


    The pots for £20 for 4, the caps for £6ish for 2, the wire I already had but it was £10 for 3ft. The Tinned wire was £3 for more than I'll ever probably need, heatdhrink same again. Nearly £10 for the molex (because I'm an idiot)So call it £60 and I had the iron, solder etc. And genuinely say I think it was worth it. I enjoy the sound more. I play it more. I felt good doing the work, it kept me busy and I'm happy with the result. I enjoyed looking on forums, youtube videos and comments and the like looking for information and figuring stuff out. So for me it was worth it. I like the 5os wiring set up as well.


    In terms of tone, no matter what anyone says, ever, no matter who they are - is completely 100% subjective. People perceive different frequencies, volumes, muddies, clarity differently, and depending on what you're after - that may or may not be true.


    I'm quite fortunate in the sense that I had not preference or perceived snobbery into PCBs so I was genuinely not expecting anything different, maybe just the affect of 50s style wiring as it is TECHNICALLY doing something different. But for.me, the pots seem better, the caps seem better. The wire is better (looking at least) and I must admit I now can snobberly say "mines got a hand wired harness in that I researched, and wired, not a piece of junk PCB. It has changed my mind slightly on good old hand wired point to point. Still definitely a buzz word snake oil point in the guitar community, (hand wired, vintage. Paper in oil, bumble bee, klon) but its opened my eyes for definite. I'm convinced there's an element of a placebo affect and confirmation bias. Buy if I'm happy that's all that counts right?


    It's like the klon argument. You can beat a proper klon, yet the people that say this use it as a clean boost, and if josh from JHS knows anything about klons, he said you don't use the unique diodes or circuitry the klon has until you crank the gain.


    We guitarists definitely hear with our eyes and brain and feelings, long before we use our ears. Well, in my opinion anyway!


    Hope this helps. Hope people made it to the end!


    But, nothing wrong with PCBs. Buy I think if I ever bought a guitar with PCB the cost and time it took me (or would take me) would be worth me swapping it out, I'd definitely do it again.


    Thanks! And any questions feel free!


    Nath
     
  2. Nathan Martin

    Nathan Martin New Member

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    Screenshot_20210720-202042_Samsung Internet.jpg

    I can't add the Imgur link just yet so here's the url
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2021
  3. Nathan Martin

    Nathan Martin New Member

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  4. cerebral gasket

    cerebral gasket Well-Known Member

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    Last edited: Jul 21, 2021 at 6:55 PM
  5. Les’s Nemesis

    Les’s Nemesis New Member

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    I would have ditched those Molex connectors... way too much fun working with those tiny terminals.

    Nice job.
     
    Nathan Martin likes this.
  6. Nathan Martin

    Nathan Martin New Member

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    I was tempted! Thanks.
     
  7. Les537

    Les537 Member

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    I did this to my 2018 special as well. All my guitars are wired in this way.

    In my case the input jack was physically touching the back service plate when plugged into the guitar making it snap and pop as you held it. I know gibson has only been making SGs for about 60 years and still need to work out some bugs!

    I replaced the PCB with some CTS pots and some orange drops with the caps wired in the 50s style circuit. I also replaced the superhot mini buckers (yuck) with totally awesome p90s.

    All my guitars go 50s style. I like to use the volume to control dynamics and I never use the tone, so it suits me perfect.

    If you think about it - Just do it. Working on guitar electronics is as safe as it gets and fun!
     

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