Awesome Guitars – 35 Tone Control Pickguard - Review
For Stratocaster Guitars. – 27th March 2014

A few issues ago we did a quick review on the Awesome Guitars Telecaster control plate and although the Gear-Review team found it interesting device, it was felt to be a bit fiddly to use.

With this in mind the fine people at Awesome sent over another control plate this time a pre-installed pickguard for a Stratocaster and helpful instructions on its installation and use.

To test this it was to be installed on our testbed Squier Stratocaster, which although not one of the recommended instruments for installation due to its non-standard routing can be made to fit with some modifications. For a list of direct fit instruments please check this link.

Installation Process.

The first thing you need to do is remove the strings from your guitar. Use a string winder for this it makes the job easier and faster.

Once the strings are off the next step is to remove the pickguard screws and the socket plate. Make sure you store these and any other items removed from the guitar in a safe place.

Once this is done and before proceeding any further, make sure you take photographs of your existing wiring and also make a wiring diagram. This will be invaluable should you wish to return everything to its original condition.

Next cut the wires to the jack socket and carefully pull these out of the control cavity to release the entire original pickguard.

Moving Things Over.

The next stage requires a decision. That is if you will be moving over your original pickups form your pickguard or using new ones. In my case I decided to use a spare set to evaluate the product thus leaving my original pickguard intact.

Making it Fit

As mentioned before my guitar is a Korean 90s Squier and not one on the direct fit list so in order so make the guard fit I had to loosen the nuts on the toggle switches and then tighten once in position, to allow for some extra movement within the control cavity shape. The top of the pickguard also has contact with the bridge and the screw holes do not line up with the original holes but for the purpose of testing the product it will be fine.

I would suggest you check the Awesome Guitars listing to ensure your guitar will be a direct fit.

Strat to Earth

When I took the guitar apart (first time as was acquired recently) I noticed that the earth wire used was a flimsy telephone type wire so I proceeded to remove this and add a new cable. Also the Awesome Control Connections doesn’t provide and earth wire so I soldered one on to the Volume Potentiometer to make this easier and hum free.

Wiring & Assembly.

Wiring is pretty straight forward with this system. The three pickups are inserted into a connection block observing the polarity of the wires. The output wires are soldered to the jack and in my case I also soldered the earth wire to my new lead which was installed earlier.

Finishing

To finish up I installed the pickguard screws wherever these lined up and installed a fresh set of strings to pitch.

Sounds

Aside from the usual Strat sounds the upgrade gives multiple combinations of all the pickups in series/parallel and in and out of phase which make for very interesting sounds quite a few of which could be useful both live and for recording. Please see the sample mp3 files below for some sound bites.

 

 

 

How it Works.

The guys at Awesome guitars sent me this explanation as to how the system works which once you read carefully and get used to is quite simple to follow.

Here is how the switches are laid out from rear to front:

(rear)  SW4  SW5  SW6  SW1  SW2  SW3  (front)



There are really two "groups" of switches: (SW4, SW5, SW6) -and- (SW1, SW2, SW3)

The first group of switches (SW1, SW2 and SW3) are ON-OFF-ON switches used to turn an individual pickup Off and On.  The middle position of each switch is Off. The down position turns the pickup On (in normal-phase) and the Up position turns the pickup on (in reverse-phase). Pretty simple, don't you agree?

 

·         Switch SW1 controls the Bridge pickup,

·         Switch SW2 controls the Middle pickup and

·         Switch SW3 controls the Neck pickup.

When you use these three switches (with switches SW4, SW5, SW6 all in the Down position), you will get 13 different pickup tones from the various combinations of three pickup coils being Off or On (either in normal-phase or in reverse-phase). These pickup tones are also due to the combination of pickup coils being in a Parallel circuit.

The second group of switches (SW4, SW5 and SW6) are ON-ON switches are used to put select pickups into a Series circuit.  When you are using this second group of switches:

When you put two or three pickups in a Series circuit, you create a "compound" (i.e., Humbucker) pickup that gives you about 8 to 15 percent More output signal (that gives you an incredible Heavy Metal/Jazz tone).

All pickups that are in a Series circuit MUST be On (either in normal-phase or reverse-phase). Any non-Series circuit pickup can be either Off or On (either in normal-phase or reverse-phase).

Using the Second Group of Switches

Starting with switches SW4, SW5 and SW6 in the Down position;

If you only put switch SW4 Up, this puts both the Bridge pickup and Middle pickup into a Series circuit. This means you MUST turn On both the Bridge pickup and the Middle pickup using switches SW1 and SW2 (either in normal-phase or reverse-phase) to hear any sound. In this example, the Neck pickup (controlled by SW3) can be either Off or On (in normal-phase or reverse-phase).

If you only put switch SW5 Up, this puts both the Bridge pickup and Neck pickup into a Series circuit. This means you MUST turn On both the Bridge pickup and the Neck pickup using switches SW1 and SW3 (either in normal-phase or reverse-phase) to hear any sound. In this example, the Middle pickup (controlled by SW2) can be either Off or On (in normal-phase or reverse-phase).

If you only put switch SW6 Up, this puts both the Middle pickup and Neck pickup into a Series circuit. This means you MUST turn On both the Middle pickup and the Neck pickup using switches SW2 and SW3 (either in normal-phase or reverse-phase) to hear any sound. In this example, the Bridge pickup (controlled by SW1) can be either Off or On (in normal-phase or reverse-phase).

If you put both switches SW4 and SW6 Up, this puts all three pickups into a Series circuit. This means you MUST turn On ALL of the pickups using switches SW1, SW2 and SW3 (either in normal-phase or reverse-phase) to hear any sound. This gives you an incredible overdriven heavy metal / jazz sound in spades.

In summary, the various combinations and positions of these six switches will give you 35 pickup tones.

You can freely download the instructions for using our T3-Switch and the companion worksheet to "map" all the pickup tones here: 

http://www.awesome-guitars.com/docs/Stratocaster-T3-Switch-Use.pdf

Summary

An interesting product no doubt, certainly worthwhile exploring its possibilities.

For further information please visit the Awesome Guitars website

http://www.awesome-guitars.com/

By Ernest H Slade
www.gear-review.co.uk