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Hi Guys I was about to buy a strat but I'm not sure about choosing the SSS, or the HSS model, let me explain a little bit more the situation: I had 2 strats, both of them SSS, one was a Squier bullet, the other a Fender standard mexico, I really liked both of them but they just got stolen a few months ago, so the idea is to buy again the exact same model fender mexico strat, or at least something really similar, and probably replace the Squier strat with a tele but that's a story for another day.

On the Squier which I used mostly as a beginner I really liked the "clean piano-like" tone from the 4th position (middle + bridge), and also the hum canceling property from using 2 pickups at the same time allow me to play dirty with a nice tone and without getting a headache due to the hum on that cheap guitar, in conclusion the 4th position was my favourite one, which I used most of the time for both clean and dirty sounds while I only had the squier. Then, once I got the mexico one I started using a lot more the neck pickup, but I still have some love for the middle + bridge combination making it pretty important for me.

The bad thing for me about this 2 guitars was the sound from using only the bridge pickup, I never liked it, it sounded too much nasal for me (don't know if you get me for cultural reasons, I just mean it sounded kinda when you hear someone talking with a stuffy nose but imagine that kind of sound on a guitar), can't tell for sure if the reason was because of the cheap guitar and gear (even on the fender I din't liked it either) or if it was because it was a single coil and not a humbucker, the point is, I never used that position at all.

Soooo as I didn't liked the 5 position sound, I was thinking instead of buying a fender mex SSS, to buy a HSS one, which will probably give me some reason to use the 5th position (I am definetively not a metal fan, but I like some agrresive rock sounds), the thing is as I said before, I really liked the 4th position sound, and I don't want to change it, so if choicing a HSS model affect it, maybe I'll just have to pick an SSS model again with a position I won't be using at all, so this bring me 3 questions:

1) In the case of choicing a position who uses 2 pickups on a fender 5-way switch (the 2nd or the 4th one) in which one of the pickups involved is a humbucker instead of single coil, does both coils of the humbucker pickup get activated, making it 3 coils activated at the same time, or just one of the humbucker coils gets activated in addition with the other pickup? (in standard fender and squier models)

2) Even if I buy a HSS, assuming that in the recently explained scenario (a humbucker + another pickup selected) the 3 coils get activated, can I rewire the guitar to make only one of the humbucker coils get activated, and at least in theory have the same sound of a SSS strat on a 4th position?

3) does a SSS strat on the 4th position sounds like a HSS on the same position? (maybe is not that complicated and after all both setups sound almost the same)

Thanks for reading :)

  • not an answer- & I don't have the electronics chops to tell you exactly how it was done [ post-it note, long gone] - but I have an 85 JP Squier with a Hot Rails in the back slot & an extra splitter switch drilled into the scratch plate [yeah, I didn't know in 1985 that these things would be worth money ;) so I can have single, parallel or reverse phase on the rear pickup - giving me the option of your idealised 'Mark Knopfler' mid+bridge setting, and with 2 extra options. On its own the humbucker bridge PU is a lot better than a standard 'whiny' single, but not as fat as a Les Paul of course. – Tetsujin Dec 14 '17 at 19:47
  • I played an HSS that was one of the teaching guitars at a school I taught at for a couple years. Anything involving the humbucker sounded very different from a SSS Strat. – Todd Wilcox Dec 14 '17 at 21:25
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I have a number of guitars that I have made or modified with about every possible combination of electronics, and of those, my favourite modification is around humbucker splitting or phase reversals.

For some I have used standard pickups, for others I have esoteric or in one case custom wound pickups, and a summary of the situation across all the combinations I have used over the last 20 years is as follows for each of your questions:

1) This may depend on your pickups. The standard for Fender is not to split the humbucker when using Bridge and Middle (Ibanez, however, usually does) - Now you may think this should give you a louder output, but it usually gives you a slightly reduced output, as there are different frequencies between bridge and mid, and these interfere whether or not you use full humbucker or a split.

2) If your humbucker gives you 4 wires (2 may be common, leading to 3 wires instead) then you can split, yes. This is very simple and takes a couple of minutes. We have questions on this specific topic on Music.SE.

3) SSS sounds rather different from HSS. There is very little you can do to make them the same, as even tweaking with EQ or tone won't bring back some frequencies. Pickups in different areas may not even see some frequencies, as there may be a node over the pickup. This topic is also covered elsewhere on this site.)

  • Please see fender specs. Standards are split in bridge+middle. Elites allow to choose (push-pull). Shawbuckers are not (they are low output) – teodozjan Dec 15 '17 at 13:19
  • Some may be. Especially the most recent ones. But the majority never had a split. For reference, see the harmony central page you linked to in your post. – Doktor Mayhem Dec 15 '17 at 22:29
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Bridge + Middle doesn't sound the same the same as splitted humbucker doesn't sound same as single coil. I've seen Ibanez experiments to provide true single tone from splitted humbucker but solution didn't win the market (and personally I did not try that).

Some people prefer that sound of splited pickup + single coil for in-between postions.

It depends on model but for currently produced standard it gets splitted for Bridge + Middle for MIM strats. For example this strat uses front coil of humbucker

Of course you can rewire your guitar if pickup supports splitting/tapping.

Please take a look at my answer to see more about stratocaster wiring options.

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I have a Fender HSS MIM Strat and a G&L Legacy Standard. 4+5 on the GL is quieter than 5 (humbucker) on the HSS, and the timbre is somewhat different as well. The sound of the 'bucker is really the only reason I keep the Fender, as the G&L feels better all around otherwise.

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In the fourth switch position,- - - o - the combinations will usually be: bridge and middle for the SSS model. If you wire the HSS to be middle + split coil bridge, it will still sound different, because:

  • Humbuckers have two coils, yes. But they are not made by sticking two single coils together. They have a different coil size, magnetic field etc. So coil splitting one will be an emulation, nothing more. Note: they still sound good.

  • On standard strats, the bridge pickup is slanted, meaning that some strings are not directly above the magnets. This is not possible with a regular humbucker.

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I have a "Lonestar" Mexican HSS Strat, and I added a toggle switch to it to split the coils. I had the switch and soldering iron already and it took me less than 10 mins to make the mod.

Splitting the coil reduces the volume slightly, a factory coil split might be more complicated and mitigate volume loss, I do not know.

I play Hendrix, Zeppelin, Shoegaze, etc. and pretend to play things like Mahavishnu Orchstra. The humbucker is not an impediment.

Unfortunately, I do not use it in the blend position between bridge and middle so I cannot comment on that.

One minor note. I had a cheaper SSS Mexican Strat I bought 4 or 5 years prior to the Lonestar and it had completely different sound and I also had to turn up the amp to get the same volume from this one as the Lonestar, so don't forget to try all the various Strats on the rack: I didn't like the look of the one I have now, but it sounds and plays great and thats what matters.

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