Electric guitar pickups come in many sizes, materials, and shapes.
They are one of the main aspects of these instruments due to they receive the electromagnetic signals to be later converted into sound plus as they present different features, they provide various outcomes regarding sound and tone.
Single coils and humbuckers are the most popular, the latter are known for their capacity of getting rid of hum noise and the possibility of splitting them.
But what about the single-coil-sized humbuckers? Do they share the same characteristics as regular humbuckers? Are they also splittable?
Single coil sized humbuckers can be coil-split. Most of them come with four-conductor wires that make the mod easier. Their split sound is not far from their natural one, plus the hum, but they are usually split to achieve humbucking combinations with other pickups.
Although this may sound like an overwhelming issue, I will try to cover every relevant aspect of splitting single coil sized humbuckers.
Let’s dive deeper into this topic! In the end, you will be an expert in this subject.
How do single coil sized humbuckers work?
Coil-sized humbuckers are sets of two single-coil pickups stacked on top of each other compacted to fit the regular single coil’s size.
They look like and keep the tone of common single coils plus they provide the hum-canceling feature presented in humbuckers, that’s why they are also known as “noiseless single coils”.
Are all single coil sized humbuckers coil splittable?
As this type of pickup consists of two single coils stacked together you may think that each of them will be splittable, as any humbucker does, but let me tell you that is not always the case.
Single coil sized humbuckers are not always splittable because, for many models, it doesn’t even make sense.
Although some of them will be able to do it, is not usual to split stacked single coils.
This is because most of them are designed to have a single coil sound by just connecting one coil to a dummy coil that’s there only to cancel the hum and not to add to the signal.
Splitting single-coil-sized humbuckers is usually done to get a humbucking combination when using them alongside other single coils.
You see, if you mix a humbucker with a single-coil you will be having 3 coils working at the same time, and usually, 2 of them will be winded in the same direction.
This will make it impossible to cancel out the hum, unless you add a fourth coil wound opposite as the 2 mentioned above, or just subtract one from the pair of matching wounds.
Would a coil-split single coil sized humbucker sound like the real thing?
In fact, coil-split pickups try to imitate a single-coil tone but they are unlikely to sound exactly like a real single coil.
However, plenty of designs are made to retain the single-coil sound and they do that quite accurately but not when split.
Remember that this sort of humbucker is intended to cancel the hum found in single coils, by splitting them you will be no longer controlling the ability to avoid hum.
Therefore, some stacked pickups may have the splitting option but there is no point in doing that.
Can anybody set up a coil-split switch for single coil sized humbuckers?
These will depend on the conductors presented in the pickups, if they possess just two conductors like the old-school humbuckers it won’t be possible.
However, if they come with four conductors wiring it would be possible.
The interesting thing about this is that you will be able to get different sounds, as you are turning off one of the coils, you could send the single-coil output.
What is more, you can connect the pickups in parallel, getting a similar outcome as if there were two single coils very close together.
There are plenty of diagrams on the internet that can help you do the job, in some cases, you will need some extra components.
Furthermore, if you are used to dealing with electronic issues you could do it but remember, humbuckers must have four conductors.
Should you take your instrument to a guitar tech to perform this job?
Although we previously mentioned that anybody can install a pickup wiring system, it is always recommended to take your instrument to a guitar technician.
As they are experts, they will be truly sure about what they are doing and will know better how to perform the job.
Therefore, if you feel capable you can do it on your own.
However, if you are not sure, I encourage you to get a professional.
Would you be able to keep the same electronics when doing this mod?
When thinking of replacing components from your instrument you may wonder if you will be able to keep the same electronics.
In most cases, the components will remain the same and you won’t have to do any changes.
Nevertheless, sometimes you will have to add something else to the circuit to connect and make the modifications work.
For the coil splitting switch, the most common component is a push-pull pot, a piece you add to one of the volume or tone knobs that switches the mod.
Another usual tool would be a mini-toggle switch, a very little toggle that does the split.
The problem with this component is that most instruments will require adjustments to add it because they don’t usually present a space for the toggle.
Is this modification really worth it?
Like with everything in life, the answer to this question will always depend.
If you are thinking of making this modification you may be looking for new sounds and if that is the case, it will really be worth it.
This change will give you more tonal options to play with, you could get a single coil sound like and a warmer, stronger output plus the ability to cancel hum and buzz.
If you are someone who is always in the search of new sounds within your instrument it would be great.
Is this mod reversible?
After all discussed it lasts one more final question, what if I regret doing the mod and I want my old setup back?
If that happens you can come back to the previous mod. In most cases, this mod is reversible, is just a matter of undoing the wiring made.
If the pickup was two conductors before the mod it could be reverted but it will take a lot of work.
As you have to make extra modifications to the humbuckers themselves, it will be extremely hard to get the previous feature back, in some cases, you could ruin the pickups.
Needless to say, when considering this option, always think of sending your guitar to a tech.
Remember, they do know how to deal with these issues and they are qualified to do the job.
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.