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Product spotlight - Strat wiring kits!

Stratocasters have played a major part in my guitar playing life and I think as a result I naturally put a lot of care and attention into the Pre-Wired harness range for them. Over the years I have further developed the specs available so I can offer a great selection for players hoping to refine their tone and find controls that suit the way they play. But with such a broad range of options for a single guitar model, I thought it would be useful to shine a spotlight on the range and discuss how each would suit certain Strat sounds and variants to hopefully guide you in finding the right kit. 

I'll break these options down into sections, looking at Vintage inspired specs, to modern takes and alternative pickup combinations to help you in navigating this article and find the kits suitable for your requirements. 

Vintage inspired kits
I use the phrase 'inspired' here, as I wouldn't consider my kits replicas so to speak of how the guitars were originally wired. But rather inspired by and improved upon. Although the schematics here are certainly based upon the originals, there are production methods I use that in my humble opinion improve the quality and reliability for the player. Rather than just make things a particular way or use lesser quality components just because that's how they were originally wired. For example, I use really nice quality and well built Mustard tone caps which although may not be vintage accurate on Strats, provide me with very high construction/build quality with sturdy lead-outs and accurate tolerances. I also opt for a more modern, Pure Tone multi contact jack socket which provide very sturdy jack connections for reliability. I do however use the always trusty CRL spring blade switches, much like the originals had, vintage taper quality CTS 450 series pots which offer great functionality and Gavitt USA 22awg cloth covered wire. So I feel these kits are a great way of honouring vintage schematics and switching/control options but with some high quality modern building techniques and improved component choices. So let's look at the kits and how they differ from one another - 

Pre-Wired wiring kit for Stratocaster guitars

'54 - 78' Vintage
This is perhaps the most vintage of the bunch! This kit is my tip of the hat to early production Strats, right through to when they became more like what we know from Strat controls today. As you may already know, vintage strats up until 1977 were wired from the factory with a 3 way pickup selector switch. Although this isn't very commonly used today, I wanted to offer a kit that replicated this in case it was useful to players looking for more vintage correct specs, or simply don't find they use those in-between positions! So this kit is available with the vintage correct CRL 3 way switch, but if you like the idea of vintage pot and capacitor specs, vintage schematic etc then I also can make it for you with a 5 way switch too. Which is where the '78 part of the name comes from, as in late 77 into 78 5 way switches became standard in production Strats. 
The schematic for this kit is as per vintage production models, so you have a master volume, then the tone closest to the volume is for your neck pickup only, and the tone furthest away is for your middle pickup only. Originally Strats did not have a tone control for the bridge pickup, this was a classic Leo Fender thing, with emphasis on the bridge pickup being the 'lead' tone for solos to cut right through the band mix with a brighter tone. So this is exactly how this kit is wired.
The tone capacitor specs for this model are vintage inspired too. Earlier production strats, from '54 to around '68 were fitted with a 0.1uF value tone capacitor. These produce a slightly warmer tone when compared to more modern specs, then in around '68/'69 we saw a transition to Strats being fitted with a 0.047uF / 0.05uF value tone capacitor. So I offer both options here depending on what era you're hoping to replicate, or your personal preference. 

For more detailed information on this kit, you can view the product HERE or by clicking the photo of it above

Vintage modified Stevie Ray Vaughan inspired Strat wiring kit

Vintage Modified 'SRV' inspired
Many of my early guitar playing years were spent admiring players liker Stevie Ray Vaughan, and those years spent geeking out of his Strat inspired this particular kit. Thankfully there is some fantastic, and accurate information out there due to interviews and articles with his long time guitar tech, Rene Martinez as well as the information by the Fender Custom Shop when they closely analysed Stevie's guitars for reproduction builds. So armed with the years spent listening to his tones, watching clips of him play and how he used his controls, as well as this great info from Rene, I decided to offer a Strat wiring kit inspired by those specs and called it the 'Vintage Modified' kit. This kit at it's core is a traditional Strat schematic, with a master volume, neck pickup tone control and a middle pickup tone control with the bridge pickup left without a tone control. This is of course how vintage strats were wired out the factory, but I do think it explains so much when you watch SRV play, and see him flick the switch down to the bridge pickup as you can really hear that extra bite and top end. Like many, many Strat players, Stevie of course had a 5 way pickup selector switch on his guitar. So this is the start of why I call this the Vintage 'Modified' kit, as the schematic is vintage, but it is already modified with the use of a 5 way switch over the vintage 3 way. The next modification is the use of a .022uF tone cap. As mentioned previously, vintage strats had a 0.1uF or later on the 0.047uF, but one thing I always noticed with SRV albums and performance footage was although he had such a huge tone with a big bass response, you'll always here the top end cutting through even on the neck pickup. I think this is helped right at the source via the guitars controls and specs, and Rene has detailed that his guitars had 0.022uF tone caps wired in. A small detail but I do think it is a helping hand in the sound he was achieving, the 'brighter' so to speak tone cap value helping the top end frequencies breathe a little more than what the warmer/darker vintage period 0.1uF tone cap would have. Open up the pickguard on many modern day production Strats and you're liking to see a 0.022uF cap value already installed, so I do consider this a more 'modern' spec but I think that's what makes this vintage modified wiring spec so cool. I can't guarantee it'll turn you into a SRV tone machine, but it is my tip of the wide brim hat to him through my own research into his iconic strat over the years. 

For more detailed information on this kit, you can view the product HERE or by clicking the photo of it above

Eric Johnson inspired, no middle tone control Strat wiring

No Middle Tone 'EJ' inspired kit
Eric Johnson is of course a icon of tone obsessive behavior, and famed for his use of vintage Strats throughout his career. This kit actually came about after working on a beautiful Custom Shop Strat, the customer had asked me to swap out the tone cap for another value and upon inspection I noticed how the switch was wired. Instead of the usual vintage style where the bridge pickup isn't hooked up to a tone pot, the middle pickup was actually left out of the tone pot party! So this was master volume, tone for the neck pickup, and tone for the bridge pickup, no middle tone. Upon wiring it back up and being able to hear it, I quickly understood why it was wired this way, it really alters the attack of the middle pickup but also how those 2nd and 4th in-between positions sound. I have always been a fan of the Strat middle pickup, it's seldom used on it's own by many players which I think is a shame as I like it's unique tonality. Having it wired only through the volume pot I felt only furthers this, it's more aggressive in response and makes for a fun playing experience. But if you enjoy your Strat 2nd and 4th positions, then this definitely is worth your attention as it really emphasises the classic 'quack' tone. With the wide open middle pickup, the in between positions are clearer and more pronounced than conventional strat wiring I think. After a bit of research into this wiring style, I found out that it is how Eric Johnson prefers his strats, as well as another Vaughan with SRV's brother Jimmy preferring it too. With it tonally being different enough to other specs I offer, I decided to introduce it to the range.
I opted to offer this kit with a choice of three different capacitor specs, depending on your preference. If the Eric Johnson thing is important in your project, then I offer his spec 0.1uF, but I didn't want to limit this kit so I also have the late 70s 0.047uF spec through to more modern 0.022uF available for it too. 

For more detailed information on this kit, you can view the product HERE or by clicking the photo of it above

Vintage/Modern Strat wiring

Modern/Vintage Push/Pull kit
Now this is a bit of a quirky one I'll admit, and is for the player that perhaps can't quite decide whether they want their strat wired in a vintage or modern style. Or perhaps just loves to further refine their tone day to day! This is the Modern/Vintage kit featuring push/pull CTS pots allowing you to swap between tone cap values for all pickups!
It bridges the gap between my vintage kits and modern kits. With the push/pull pots in their down, standard positions the kit actually functions like my 'Modern' Strat wiring kit. All three pickups have a tone control, with the neck and middle working via tone pot 1 closest to the volume, and the bridge pickup working through the furthest away tone pot. And that is all going through a 0.022uF tone capacitor value.
But if you pull up the 1st tone pot you will change the cap value and you'll be using a 0.1uF spec resulting in a more 'vintage' tone response. And to further this, the 2nd tone pot push/pull disconnects the bridge pickup from the tone control. So you can transform a modern spec strat into a vintage spec strat via these two push/pull pots. These switching options might not be for the more casual player, but for those that love to refine their tone, and would love to have the choice of caps and wiring styles from just one instrument, I think it offers great flexibility in that regard.  

For more detailed information on this kit, you can view the product HERE or by clicking the photo of it above

Modern inspired kits

That's the vintage spec kits covered, so now onto the modern kits! The modern spec kits have formed the backbone of my Strat wiring kit range since 2015, they are the most popular specs, perhaps due to what players are looking for these days with modern versatility yet still capturing classic tones.Component choices are pretty much the same as above, I still love using the CRL spring switches as in my opinion they're the very best for a strat or tele, CTS 450 series premium pots, mustard caps and gavitt wire. Vintage or modern, these parts do the job so well I use them across styles in my Signature Series range. So let's take a look through the more 'modern' strat kits.

Modern Strat wiring kit

Modern Strat wiring

This is by far my most popular Strat wiring kit, It has been in my range the longest too! This kit uses the always popular 5 way switching, with the usual positions throughout. Tone controls for each pickup, with master volume, tone 1 for neck and middle pickups and tone 2 for the bridge pickup allowing for nice adjust-ability across all positions. Finally as standard it has the 0.022uF tone cap value allowing for great top end response. I also offer this kit with a pre-soldered treble bleed mod on the volume pot. I consider this kit the ultimate all-rounder Strat wiring spec, it has been by far the most popular kit over years having made hundreds of them now which is amazing!

For more detailed information on this kit, you can view the product HERE or by clicking the photo of it above

Blend style Strat wiring

'Blend' wiring

Always a close contender for the top spot in popularity, is the 'blend' style Strat wiring kit. This kit features a way of achieving the popular neck and bridge together tone, but in a cool way via the no load 'blend' pot. Although I do still like other methods of achieving the neck & bridge position, like via push/pull or mini toggle switch, there is something about the blend option I just personally really liked. You do lose a tone pot for this spec, leaving you with just 1 master tone for all three pickups. So instead of the 2nd tone pot, you have a no load pot which acts as a blend function for either the neck or bridge pickup signal depending on what position you're in on the switch. With the pot turned all the way 'off' so to speak, your strat will function as normal really, albeit with the single master tone. All 5 usual strat positions etc. But if for example you're in the neck pickup position, turn the no load pot and you'll gradually introduce the signal from the bridge pickup giving you further tones to play with. It's nice not just being an on/off, allowing you to blend in the signal of the additional pickup. And you can do this when in the bridge pickup position too, blending in the neck pickup signal. Great sounds all round for this versatile Strat wiring kit, and there's good reason it is always fighting for the top spot in sales popularity within the Strat wiring range. Much like with the Modern kit, you can order this one with, or without a treble bleed mod on the volume pot too. 

For more detailed information on this kit, you can view the product HERE or by clicking the photo of it above

Super Strat kits
Alternative pickup combinations have long since been popular with strats, such as popping a humbucker in the bridge, HSH or even single humbucker style builds too. Super Strats if you will! Here are my wiring kits suitable for these variants

HSS Strat wiring kit
HSS Strat Modern wiring

One thing that mixed pickup set instruments create is the need to compromise. Single coils and Humbuckers aren't the best at sharing! Use 250k pots and the humbucker sounds terribly muddy, use 500k pots so the Humbucker sounds it's best and risk single coils sounding too bright. Mixing pot values can help with this, but I have found the popular 470kOhm resistor mod to be a useful tool in helping reduce the compromise. At first glance, this kit is essentially like my Modern Strat wiring kit, same controls and functionality, but the pot specs suited for a mixed pickup set Strat. It uses a 500k master volume pot, a 250k tone pot for the two single coils and a 500k tone pot for the bridge humbucker. But wired between the neck and middle single coil 'hot' wire connections at the switch and to ground are 470kOhm resistors, helping those pickups 'see' closer to their preferred 250k pot value. Is it absolutely 100% perfect, perhaps not for all players, but going off the feedback over the years and seeing how popular this kind of mod is generally, it certainly is one of the very best ways to reduce the compromise and getting the best you can out of each position. I have written articles about the 470kOhm resistor mod elsewhere, so perhaps worth having a read if you want to know more, but this is a quick summary for you anyways and hopefully gives you some hope that a mixed HSS pickup set and good tone is possible! 
One thing I decided not to do on this kit, is any coil splitting/auto splitting. I found through testing that I actually really really liked the 2nd position tone where you had the bridge humbucker and the middle single coil in parallel. At the end of the day, you're likely wielding a HSS strat because you embrace 'different' and want a bigger tone from your Strat. Having an auto-split in position 2, where the humbucker splits to a so called 'single coil' just sounded lackluster to me. Coil splitting in general always seems lacking to me, the tone can be thin, the volume drop annoying etc. And found this to be the case with auto-split in position 2 on a Strat as well, it simply did not sound as good as a regular single coil strat in pos 2, so I figured why settle for something not as good when you can have something unique sounding instead. Hearing the humbucker in parallel with the single coil is really fun, it's huge, still twang-y due to the middle single coil but packs a punch. To me it was so much more fun without the coil split, that leaving this kit as it was with the bridge humbucker in 'full fat' mode is where it's at. 

For more detailed information on this kit, you can view the product HERE or by clicking the photo of it above



HSH Strat modern wiring
I won't go into crazy detail with this one, as I'd mostly be repeating myself from the description for the HSS kit. This kit uses the same 470kOhm resistor mod and general control functions but to suit a HSH (Humbucker, single, Humbucker) combination Strat. 

For more detailed information on this kit, you can view the product HERE or by clicking the photo of it above




HH Coil split wiring
This is a slightly unique kit in that it is designed for 2x humbucker equipped Strats. Fender have produced a few of these variants over recent years, I remember the Roadhouse models when I was younger, but these days there are classic player, American Pro and Squier models all featuring the two humbucker pairing. Interestingly although they only had 2 pickups the usual blade switch, master volume and two tone controls remained like a 3 pickup Strat, so I have created this kit to suit those. It has a 3 way switch, and a coil split CTS push/pull for each pickup individually, just as a bit of extra versatility. As mentioned above, coil splitting isn't always the perfect way of achieving single coil tone, but it certainly adds some extra tonal options and I thought something that makes sense on this control layout and simplified pickup pairing. 

For more detailed information on this kit, you can view the product HERE or by clicking the photo of it above

Tom Delonge Strat wiring

'Delonge'!
This kit could ultimately be applied to any single pickup, single volume guitars, but it is ultimately for the Tom DeLonge Signature Stratocaster model from the early 00's. I was able to work on an all original 2001 example which gave me chance to have a look at what spec treble bleed it came equipped with and offer a replacement/retrofit kit for this iconic single pickup punk rock Strat. Although just a single volume, no tone setup, these do have a relatively unique treble bleed mod spec that I haven't seen on other production guitars. Whether that was down to recommendation from Seymour Duncan for their Invader pickup, or it was to Delonges preferred spec, I'm not entirely sure, but I liked it upon testing and certainly works well with a high output pickup like the Invader. I use a quality 450 series CTS 500k pot for this along with the Pure Tone multi contact jack socket, all for a quality upgrade/replacement kit. These have proved popular mainly for those converting their strat into Delonge spec, or taking on a fresh partscaster build too. Enjoy making this back to basics kit! And certainly enjoyed the research process, one of my favourite production strats as it's very nostalgic for me!

For more detailed information on this kit, you can view the product HERE or by clicking the photo of it above

So there we have it! That is a overview of my entire (at the time of writing this article!) range of Signature Series Stratocaster wiring kits. I do offer Solderless versions of some of these kits, but I'll save that article for another day, this one was focusing on the Signature Series specifically. I hope it helps guide you to the right spec to suit what you're after, or even if you're planning a DIY strat re-wire but need a run down of specs and wiring styles. 
Thanks for your time and kind interest,
James

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