Conversions for two-conductor pickups

If you have a lower-end guitar (e.g., most Epiphones), odds are pretty good the humbuckers in it only have two wires (i.e., "conductors") coming out of it.  These are known as two-conductor pickups as opposed to the three- or (more commonly) four-conductor models found in pricier models or sold by more respectable after-market manufacturers (e.g., Seymour Duncan, DiMarzio, etc.)

Why you'd want additional wires is what much of the rest of this site is about.  Many hacks such as coil tapping, series/parallel connections within a pickup and phase switching within a humbucker (or any combination of all of those) assume you have selective access to each coil within each pickup.  If you only have two wires, then sorry, you don't.

As you know from the Basics sections that you probably shouldn't have skipped past, humbuckers are composed of two coils, each of which has a start and finish to its windings.  Where two-conductors differ is that there's a continuous connection between one coil and the next, so you're only going to have the start of one (or both, technically) and the end of everything.  We're going to fix that..

The hack
There are two ways to go about this which will result in either a two- or a three-conductor pickup in the end.

Three-conductor mod

This approach will give you a three-conductor pickup.  This has its limitations, but you will at least be able to pursue coil taps and certain phase switching or series/parallel wiring schemes (No, I won't be more specific here than that; there are too many combinations to bother going into a discussion on this point).

Basically you are going to attach another wire at the point where the winding crosses from one coil to the next.  In four-conductor pickups, the standard wiring scheme is to simply connect these wires together in series while the other two are connected to the ground and the switch or volume pot (depending on whether the guitar has a master volume control or not).

The reason why you can get away with a three-conductor is that coil taps just run the new connection to ground.  That shorts the second coil, leaving only one active.

Four-conductor mod
If you are going to go for all four conductors, you're going to have more freedom to explore all the options that are theoretically possible with two coils.  However, you're going to have to be very careful in performing this mod because it involves cutting the connection between the two coils and adding separate wires to each.  Considering how fine the coil windings are in most pickups (and even more so in cheap ones), you've got to be very careful.

The specifics
I can't go into the particulars of this job because there are several ways to construct a pickup and, conversely, different ways you'd be forced to access the windings.  On most open-face humbuckers, you can peel the cloth covering away from the bobbin to see this connection, but that may not be true in every pickup.  One reader told me he removes the base plate.  Just depends on the pickup.  There's enough variety out there that you'll be exploring territory that few others have charted, myself included in any case.

On a personal note...
Like I alluded to above, I have never performed this conversion.  I include it here for the sake of completeness, but in addition to being a somewhat tedious and delicate procedure, it is also something of an unnecessary mod.  If you have a two-conductor humbucker, odds it is a cheaply made one.  Manufacturers looking to cut costs are the ones most inclined to include these on their instruments, and those aren't usually the best-sounding devices.  I describe this mod as redundant because if you're going to take the pickup out, why put the same cheap thing back in your guitar?  Why not upgrade to something more voiced to the style(s) you play?  Why not go with one with a better (i.e., stronger) output than the under-wound Made In Taiwan pickup you started with?

That being said, I know a lot of folks get attached to a characteristic sound of their stock pickups and only want more options, not a different tone entirely.  If so, feel free to hack away here.

Copyright Alexplorer.