Making sense of BB Pro's being "four conductor" yet actually connecting to the controls using five wires.

jm55

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I have to admit my understanding of pickup wiring is spotty. I've even made my own single coils in the past, but four wire humbuckers are a bit of a mystery to me, and more so now since I peeked in the cavity of my new 2016 Les Paul Standard and discovered the BB Pro's connect to the PCB with a five pin connector with five wires coming from the pickup. Can someone attempt to school me on why this is, or direct me to an online reference that might help?

In case anyone thinks I'm wrong about the anomaly of a pickup being called a four conductor by everyone including the manufacturer yet actually being a five conductor, consider that a conventional humbucker is described as a two conductor, and there are indeed two conductors, one of which is ground.
 

Derald

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You have five because there are four leads for two coils (north start and end, south start and end) plus a ground.
In other words you have two leads per coil plus a common ground.
This allows you to split coils or parallel / series them. Also allows for phase reverse without making the whole pickup a big antenna.
 

cooljuk

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You're not wrong. The terminology is wrong. This has always been the case with guitars. Leo called tremolos "vibratos", called vibratos "tremolos", called output jacks "input jacks" all the way back at the beginning.

With pickups, folks call DCR "output", which isn't remotely true, call coil splitting "coil tapping", which is actually another completely different process also done in some guitar pickups, and "four conductor plus ground" has been shortened to just "four conductor" wiring.

So, that's the deal. "4 conductor" wiring also has a fifth conductor - a ground.

Your five conductors are:
coil A start
coil A finish
coil B start
coil B finish
chassis / baseplate / cover ground
 

cooljuk

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Thank you for the validation.

No problem. I'll keep my eye out for another thread asking why the four colors that Gibson uses on both pickups correspond to different internal connections in the bridge and neck pickup. That's usually the next question. :thumb:
 

cooljuk

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Yes. That's why they do it.

....but I think it would have been much smarter to use the same color code and just make the change in wiring after the plugs on the PCB. ...or at least use non-swappable plugs for "bridge" and "neck" pickups. The whole PCB system they do is really a bad idea for everyone but the bean counters at Gibson.
 

efstop

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I noticed when I swapped the pups in my '14 Melody Maker that the wire colors were in a different order on the connectors, and they're single coils, but with RWRP. I still found the right wires to connect when I put the bridge pup in the Squier Bullet.
 

jm55

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No problem. I'll keep my eye out for another thread asking why the four colors that Gibson uses on both pickups correspond to different internal connections in the bridge and neck pickup. That's usually the next question. :thumb:
Well, you were half right, I just decided to recycle this thread ;- )

So while I've been pondering my options, I was thinking about what you said here, and this in another thread of mine:

You're better off not painting yourself into a corner and limiting yourself to not only the few pickups you can get stock with those plugs (and making sure you only put "bridge" pickups in the bridge and "neck" pickups in the neck, because the plugs are wired differently on each) but also not limiting yourself to the factory wiring scheme, pots and caps.


The first thing you said implies that the bridge and neck pickup have the same color coding, i.e., the wires would go into the connectors the same way on both bridge and neck, but I took a picture of my BB Pro's and they appear to have different wiring. What am I missing here?




 

cooljuk

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I'm saying the same thing in both posts. Sorry if I wasn't more clear about it. As you have found out, "bridge" and "neck" factory pickups in Gibson USA guitars with push/pull pots are not easily and completely interchangeable with each other. There is a thread or two on here somewhere that gives the breakdown of all the colors on various types of Molex connectors that Gibson has used over the last ten or so years.

So, what's your end goal, here? Maybe I can recommend a course of action. Are you trying to change the pickups? Change the harness? Both? Achieve a certain type of sound?
 

CB91710

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You're not wrong. The terminology is wrong. This has always been the case with guitars. Leo called tremolos "vibratos", called vibratos "tremolos", called output jacks "input jacks" all the way back at the beginning.

With pickups, folks call DCR "output", which isn't remotely true, call coil splitting "coil tapping", which is actually another completely different process also done in some guitar pickups, and "four conductor plus ground" has been shortened to just "four conductor" wiring.

So, that's the deal. "4 conductor" wiring also has a fifth conductor - a ground.
House wiring is the same.
12-2 Romex is white, black, and bare copper.
12-3 Romex is white, black, red, and bare copper.
(and the Oxford comma once again clarifies ;) )
The bare is simply the earth ground, it is not a "shield" as it is in audio/RF cables.
 

jm55

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I'm saying the same thing in both posts. Sorry if I wasn't more clear about it. As you have found out, "bridge" and "neck" factory pickups in Gibson USA guitars with push/pull pots are not easily and completely interchangeable with each other. There is a thread or two on here somewhere that gives the breakdown of all the colors on various types of Molex connectors that Gibson has used over the last ten or so years.

So, what's your end goal, here? Maybe I can recommend a course of action. Are you trying to change the pickups? Change the harness? Both? Achieve a certain type of sound?
To be candid, I'd like to order a custom wound set of pickups, '59ish DC resistance, A4 magnets, unpotted, and I've settled on a particular maker for what is perhaps a peculiar reason. He lives in a very remote place not far from where my dad was born and grew up (one of the last places one would expect to find a pickup winder) so I feel a certain kinship and want to support him. I am very grateful for your expertise and appreciate any maker who is willing to share any information in a forum for the assistance of all us non-experts.

I want to be able to order the pickups and know that there are no mistakes in wiring, so I can plug and play. The winder was candid in admitting that Gibson wiring had presented a problem for him in the past, and I want to get him the best information I can so the pickups are wired to the connectors correctly when I receive them. To guarantee this, I need to know what parts of the coil the various colors correspond to.
 

cooljuk

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I'd like to order a custom wound set of pickups, '59ish DC resistance...
You should read this. It also became the basis of an entire chapter of my PAF book: https://www.mylespaul.com/threads/the-misleading-nature-of-dc-resistance-in-regard-to-pickup-coils.369099/

Building pickups to a specific DCR, especially PAF type pickups, doesn't account for any particular sound or accuracy in spec. It's a common misunderstanding but worth educating yourself on.


...Anyway, ror the color coding, if you're going through all the trouble of replacing the pickups, putting in pickups with special personal meaning, working with a custom winder, and obviously caring about all the details and sound of the instrument, you should just consider replacing the stock PCB harness with a new harness, using the component brands, models, values, and wiring schematic of your choice. Running your new pickups into a "modern wiring" schematic, as the PCB is hard wired into, is generally counter-productive to most players of quality PAF-style pickups in a vintage-style instrument. Just swap it out to standard individual components and save yourself, your pickup winder, and anyone who has to replace a pot, swap a pickup or repair something down the road a bunch of headaches, as well as giving yourself the types, values, feel, taper, etc. of components you prefer.
 

jm55

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Here's the thing. Philosophically, I don't disagree with you, but whether it's sheer luck or some other factor, I'm actually perfectly content with all aspects of the controls as they exist, which was not a given since different pot values and wiring permutations result in different degrees of performance satisfaction as you indicate.

I happen to like the way these volume, tone, and switches work. If I wasn't happy with the controls, I would indeed consider switching them out, but I'm a pragmatist and minimalist these days. It's worth noting that I've made my own highly unconventional single coils in the past, and decades ago I modded a Flying V and an SG with so many switches they looked like they belonged on the space shuttle. I just don't have that inclination these days, and especially with this particular guitar. I just need good unpotted pups ready to drop in.
 
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jm55

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So I called Gibson yesterday and asked them what color wires correspond to what parts of the pickup, and they sent me the image below. There is something that still puzzles when comparing to my picture.

Red is north coil start and black is south coil start seems clear enough, but I have a green and white wire remaining, and the diagram shows what might be white and perhaps yellow.

Should I assume that in the diagram north finish is white and south finish is green?





 

cooljuk

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That diagram is an old one, by Seymour Duncan, dated before the push/pull Gibson guitars with QuickConnect plugs, and can't be right because the North and South are different on the two pickups of those guitars.

If you put your two pickups together face-to-face and screws-to-screws, I expect they will attract, not repel. This is because they have the magnets oriented in opposite polarity to each other.


FWIW - as a consumer / customer, these are all issues that shouldn't fall into your lap. Your pickup builder should be worrying about this stuff and taking care of it. All you should have to provide the winder with is the model and year of your guitar. The photo you posted of your pickup lead plugs says it all, though.
 

jm55

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He did say he'd take care of it, but again he was candid in admitting that the coil split/phase wiring had presented an issue in the past, so I am merely adding a level of redundancy to the operation by wanting to understand the wiring and passing that information along. Besides, if I decide to make my own pickups in the future, it would be good information to have.

If you're saying the diagram is wrong, then I'm back to square one and don't know what part of what coil each color wire corresponds to. My photo is useless if the colors can't be correlated to specific parts of the coils using the SD diagram.
 
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cooljuk

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They might be...

black = screw start
green = screw finish
red = slug start
white = slug finish

With the electrical polarity reversal taking place at the actual plug. Then, the magnetic polarity would be opposite on them (I don't remember which is the typical PAF slugs = North orientation and which pickup is backwards).

I'd sure like to confirm that with your actual set of pickups, before building a set and putting Molex connectors on them and shipping them to you, though. ...if it were me, I mean. Mostly, because I don't trust Gibson to have been consistent in what they do.

Again, my ultimate advise is to pull that PCB because, even if you get this figured out and working on the first shot, you've painted yourself into a corner of not being able to easily use other pickups or easily swap anything else down the road, and stuck with "modern wiring" instead of "50's wiring" with factory value components. You might be ok with that now but find you regret it when you put in a more vintage sounding set of pickups.

Hope that helps!
 

jm55

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Thanks. I'll tell you what. I'm willing to entertain replacing the PCB if you can cite a good diagram that will guide me through what would otherwise be a nightmare project sure to have me asking why I thought I could wire four push/pull pots with coil split, phase reversal, and bypass in 50's style. But my intuition tells me I'd be sorry for bothering to gut the electronics.
 

cooljuk

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There's plenty schematics for what you are describing out there, publicly. https://www.premierguitar.com/articles/28704-mod-garage-jimmy-page-les-paul-wiring https://guitarelectronics.com/guitar-wiring-resources/ https://www.seymourduncan.com/wiring-diagrams? Pick the one that has the options you want in the locations you want, if you're going to DIY it.

If it's your first wiring harness, I'd not tackle it yourself because troubleshooting one that complicated on a forum will be extremely difficult. It's pretty advanced, as far as guitar wiring goes, though far less complicated than many other electronics projects. If you're not experienced, follow your intuition and don't mess with it yourself. You might just consider buying a pre-made drop-in harness from someone, with or without forgoing any/all the switching you don't use.

Or don't. You can use the stock electronics. I just wanted to let you know the limitations, one of which you are already experiencing in your pickup winder of choice finding it difficult to interface his products with Gibson's factory PCB system. If you have him also build you a harness, you can know (at least I'd hope) that it's all tested as a system with the pickups you are getting and known to work properly.

If you want to use the factory PCB, and your pickup guy can't figure out how to get his pickups to interface with it properly, there's not much we can do as a forum to help that other than share the likely color codes I already did above.
 


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