Thursday, May 19, 2011

“Noiseless” Pickups: Kinman AVNs

Guest post by Austin 
Follow Austin @bloggingcobb

About 6 months ago I pulled an old Mexican Strat out of the closet.  It was the first guitar I have ever owned, but the guitar I pulled from the closet was a far cry from the one I purchased all those years ago.  I had upgraded the tuners, pickguard, electronics and pickups.  But, even after all those changes, I just couldn’t get that “Strat” sound.  I couldn’t figure it out. 

I wasn’t ready to give up on this axe just yet though.  I had read quite a bit about the advances of “noiseless” pickups in recent years and I figured I’d give them a try.  After A LOT of researching and listening to demos of different pickups online, I decided that I was going to fit this beast with the Kinman “Blues Set” consisting of 2 Authentic Vintage Noiseless pickups, or AVN pickups and one Scn in the bridge.  Little did I know that this would be one of the best guitar gear purchases I have ever made.

Here are a few quick install steps for those of you dropping a preloaded pickguard into your axe.

1.        Loosen or remove strings from the guitar so that the pickguard has plenty of room to be lifted out of the guitar cavity.
2.       Remove all the screws holding the pickguard in place.
3.       Lift pickguard and gently place it on a soft surface.  Be careful not to pull too hard or too far as you may loosen or disrupt any wiring in the cavity.
4.       Remove guitar jack by loosening nut with pliers and leave in an accessible place.
5.       With a mid-temp soldering iron, desolder the connection at the guitar jack.  Do not heat the connection and simply pull on the wire, heat the connection and use solder wick to wick away the solder.
6.       Most Strat-style wirings have the ground wire connected to the “springs” cavity of the tremolo.  To access this connection, flip the guitar over and remove the backplate.  This will be the only wire in this cavity (unless you have active pickups for some ungodly reason).  Simply desolder and remove the connection.  This should leave the pickguard free of connections to the guitar and completely removable.
7.       Now that you have the old pickguard removed, it’s time to install the new one.  BEFORE making any connections, make sure the pickguard, electronics and all will fit in the cavity by gently placing it within the cavity.  (More than likely it will fit very nicely, but in very rare cases the electronics will be too big to fit.  In this case, either reinstall your old pickguard and pickups, or find a luthier who can route the body for you so the new ones will fit.)
8.       After a secure fit is ensured, remove the pickguard again and find the “hot” wire for connecting to the guitar input.  Nearly all brands of pickups use a different color coding for their wiring, so be sure to consult the diagram that came with your pickups.  Solder this connection to the guitar jack using FRESH solder and re-install the jack.
9.       Now locate the ground wire and run it through the body into the “springs” cavity in the back of the guitar.  It is vitally important, especially for “noiseless” pickups to connect the ground wire. Otherwise your guitar will hum worse than ever.  Solder this connection to any part of the springs base, being sure that the wire will not interfere with any movement of the springs.
10.   Gently place pickguard into the cavity.  Watch your electronics and wiring as you lower it in so nothing is pinched by any part of the guitar body. 
11.   BEFORE screwing the pickguard down, test the guitars connections by plugging it in and LIGHTLY tapping on each pickup.  Some guys will tell you this could damage the pickup, but let me be honest, we’ve all done MUCH worse to our axes and this saves you the time of having to remove the pickguard again to fix your connections later.
12.   After a successful test, replace the screws, restring and your guitar is ready to rock!
Needless to say, my Mexi –Strat is now my main guitar.  The Kinman AVNs sounds amazing!  I finally found that Strat sounds I have been looking for.  The bridge pickup is bright, but not piercing while the neck pickup is pure Texas blues growl.  If you are looking for a great sounding noiseless pickup, check out the different styles offered by Chris Kinman.  Prices ranging from $98 for single pickups to $275 for a complete set plus shipping

Austin is an avid blogger who has been playing guitar for 17 years.  He loves to write about music, guitar gear and traveling.

Follow Austin @bloggingcobb 

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