Guitar Shielding and the Capacitor argument against it...

Pickups, wiring schemes, switch techniques and onboard active electronics for guitars

Re: Guitar Shielding and the Capacitor argument against it...

Postby Gerry de la Sel » 03 Dec 2010, 10:48

dai h. wrote: not quite getting my head around the need for a star (individual wires for every ground point).

You don't *need* a star, you just need to avoid creating any ground loops. A single star is simply a fool-proof way of ensuring that. However, you could equally have ground bus, a daisy-chain ground (a sort of unnofficial ground bus), or even a 'tree' branch' arrangement. All would be fine, as long as you don't make any loops.
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Re: Guitar Shielding and the Capacitor argument against it...

Postby dai h. » 03 Dec 2010, 11:59

basically what I thought, but two guys with lots of apparent expertise seem to be saying the star is a superior scheme, which makes me very interested in the rationale (which I'm still not quite understanding--something which I would like to understand). A daisy chain (and hot and ground basically hugging like an AC "zip cord") would seem to make for smaller loops (which from the standpoint of trying to keep loop (areas) small is better). Individual wires could make loops larger, so that would seem to be a disadvantage. Currents are miniscule, so that would seem to give more freedom (no significant voltage drops from different sections on the ground line to contend with--that is make sure to wire so they are connected but not giving unwanted interactions). I'm thinking (guessing) shielding will be significant (i.e. noticable) but not star grounding (might be wrong).
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Re: Guitar Shielding and the Capacitor argument against it...

Postby aot » 07 Dec 2010, 18:04

personally I like using small coaxial cable (such as rg174 or rg316) for wiring up the guitar as it ensures you adhere to correct grounding. Sure it's slightly excessive (regular shielded cable will do) but we have loads of the stuff in my lab... That way all your wires are shielded and all you need to do is connect the grounds at a common point (such as the back of a pot).

Dai I think the best thing for you to get your head around it do is try both schemes it and see what difference it makes. Intentionally create a ground loop and see the effect, if anything it will be a good experience as you will know what one sounds like and know how to diagnose it. Remember, it's nothing to do with the currents that are flowing, it's the fact that the AC frequency in the main supply surrounds you in an oscillating magnetic field. A loop will act as an antennae and couple in current inductively, resulting in ground currents and hum, this is regardless of the source impedance of your signal.
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Re: Guitar Shielding and the Capacitor argument against it...

Postby GuitarlCarl » 25 Dec 2010, 21:04

IMO
Shielding helps hum... Correct grounding, star or chain, but not looped, helps with ac interference...
That being said, if yer playin' high gain rock etc. best thing is a volume knob or pedal or kill switch...
Unless it was a total crap guitar before you mod it, you won't hear much difference WHILE yer playin'...

but its only IMO... :roll:
I want it to sound like bees buzzing around in a 55 gallon drum...
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Re: Guitar Shielding and the Capacitor argument against it...

Postby dai h. » 26 Dec 2010, 04:25

aot wrote:personally I like using small coaxial cable (such as rg174 or rg316) for wiring up the guitar as it ensures you adhere to correct grounding. Sure it's slightly excessive (regular shielded cable will do) but we have loads of the stuff in my lab... That way all your wires are shielded and all you need to do is connect the grounds at a common point (such as the back of a pot).

Dai I think the best thing for you to get your head around it do is try both schemes it and see what difference it makes. Intentionally create a ground loop and see the effect, if anything it will be a good experience as you will know what one sounds like and know how to diagnose it. Remember, it's nothing to do with the currents that are flowing, it's the fact that the AC frequency in the main supply surrounds you in an oscillating magnetic field. A loop will act as an antennae and couple in current inductively, resulting in ground currents and hum, this is regardless of the source impedance of your signal.


hey thanks, missed this post

(I could be wrong here, but) changing to a star ground kinda seems like it'd be a waste of time compared to say, adding copper foil in the control cavity. For one, in my guitar (as one example) it's grounded the "regular (or typical Fender) way" (wire across the pots), and it's not like it's especially hummy (I think the humbucking construction of the pickups is making more of a difference in hum reduction than the grounds). Still not seeing how it'd be superior vs. daisy chaining. Oh, maybe I'm being misunderstood since I'm not saying grounds loops are acceptable (though I understood that if you have a massive amount they make a ground plane which IS okay) but that you can have a working ground scheme without necessarily doing an "indiv. wires to a point" star configuration.
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Re: Guitar Shielding and the Capacitor argument against it...

Postby GuitarlCarl » 26 Dec 2010, 06:02

Most ( not all see tele deluxe) Fenders have two or three pots in a row... basic daisy chain ground, vol to tone to tone to jack etc. order doesn't matter but the ground doesn't return to itself... Now typical dual pickup Gibson Lp SG or 335 what have you, has two vol two tone... very easy to run a ground wire on the back of the pots... V to T to T to V kindof a U or a C shape just don't return to where you started with another wire... hence a loop... that will only intermittently pickup AC interference depending on the source of the AC. sounds like alot of whooey but when you hear it humming thru even with volume down, you'll know what folks are talkin' about...Shielding and star or daisey chain grounding are TWO different solutions to TWO different problems. just play it safe and don't wire in a loop... WHY would you? And Shield it, WHY wouldn't you???? Still in my rig a kill switch works best, NO unwanted sounds to get thru...
I want it to sound like bees buzzing around in a 55 gallon drum...
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Re: Guitar Shielding and the Capacitor argument against it..

Postby dai h. » 26 Dec 2010, 21:14

(I admit I haven't Iooked at the specific schemes, but) it seems to me the difference (of lower noise) would be basically a case of single coil vs. humbucker (or maybe I'm missing something here?).
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Re: Guitar Shielding and the Capacitor argument against it..

Postby johnnyg » 27 Dec 2010, 13:01

A few pics of the rewire (& painted shielding) I did in the control cavity of my LP. I don't like soldering wires to the back of pots - I just find it a messy way to do things (esp if/when you come to desolder wires from the back of a pot). So I decided to keep the steel earthing plate (though I cut it down a bit to make it a bit more flexible, as it's a pain in the derriere setting the pot shafts at a height you want with the plate). I added an extra grounding point to the plate and ran the two solid core wires (earth from bridge and pups) to this. I guess the earthing plate acts like a 'star ground point' then? :hmmm: Caps are Soviet PIO ones. I used a 15nf on the neck pup - subtle difference, but works better than the standard 22nf here I think.

Guitar sounds really great now. Sounded good to begin with - but definite improvement. Left feeling that the PIO caps make a bit of a difference - otherwise the crappy soldering work that was there previously had been affecting the sound of the guitar. Guitar is also noticeably quieter than it was before I went to work on it when you're not touching the strings or metal parts on the guitar.
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Re: Guitar Shielding and the Capacitor argument against it..

Postby DrNomis » 27 Dec 2010, 13:42

I'd imagine that the capacitance of the instrument cables (100pF/Metre),would have more effect on tone than the shielding of the control cavity with copper foil..... :)
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Re: Guitar Shielding and the Capacitor argument against it..

Postby bajaman » 27 Dec 2010, 22:26

I'd imagine that the capacitance of the instrument cables (100pF/Metre),would have more effect on tone than the shielding of the control cavity with copper foil.....

Not if you use good low capacitance cable such as Whirlwind AC+1 :wink: (capacitance corrected)
Seriously though - shielding the control cavity is the correct way to go for low noise operation :thumbsup
That looks like a very neat job too :applause:
Guitar cables do have an influence (capacitance) on the tone of the guitar - the internal capacitance appears in parallel across the pickup coil when the volume pot is set to maximum.
This additional capacitance lowers the frequency of the resonant peak in a high impedance pickup. However it has zero effect on hum or noise level - just alters the tone of the guitar that is all :wink:
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Re: Guitar Shielding and the Capacitor argument against it..

Postby matt239 » 23 Jun 2013, 18:06

roseblood11 wrote:Conclusion: The whole "shielding kills your sound" discussion is revealed to be complete bullshit.


+1000

- but that won't stop people SWEARING that it's true, getting incredibly offended if you try to explain it to them, and then saying: "well, we'll just have to agree to disagree.. I hear what I hear, and I'm entitled to my opinion.." God FORBID you try to explain to them about placebo effect.. :roll:

- and it won't stop this nonsense from being REPEATED ad-infinitum on various forums from now until the end of time. :roll:
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Re: Guitar Shielding and the Capacitor argument against it..

Postby MoonWatcher » 24 Jun 2013, 13:55

bajaman wrote:However it has zero effect on hum or noise level - just alters the tone of the guitar that is all :wink:

I would have to think that this may be more of what *some* of these detractors are talking about.

It is no coincidence that a pickup with a nickel cover will sound different than one with no cover, especially something like a Telecaster neck pickup.

Also, Telecaster bridge pickups tend to be influenced by whether or not they have a baseplate, and what the surrounding bridge plate is actually made of - steel, brass, etc.

I sort of recall Bill Lawrence discussing the effect of aluminum shielding in particular - very good but alters the tone of the pickup in a way that is usually not so appealing. I think he discussed some simple test of wiring up a loose single coil and merely putting an aluminum pot over top of it? It supposedly will be whisper quiet when that is done, but he explains why aluminum should probably be avoided for shielding. But I'm recalling this from memory and could have it wrong.

I also thought that there are somewhat commonplace instances of Fender Precision bass owners who either had a factory or aftermarket anodized aluminum pickguard, and found the guitar to sound different from P-basses with a plastic one. It seemed like a simple swap-out for plastic eliminated the difference or "dulling sound," or whatever they referred to it as being.

But if some of these effects are anything like a Telecaster's bridgeplate's effect on the magnetic field around the pickup - I can understand that perfectly well. I've had both the steel and brass types on the same guitar, and the tone changes. What is interesting is that some pickups seem to benefit from one type or the other - I didn't find that any one metal was preferable in all instances.

I also seem to recall that some pickups like some of the Lawrence models for Telecaster, as well as something like a Joe Barden pickup both have suggestions from the designers to use a non-traditional bridge plate material? So the tone could possibly change with shielding, but it doesn't seem to be an issue of capacitance as much as an alteration to the magnetic field around the pickup.

I think this is also why some guitarists seem to either like or dislike the original Lace Sensor types (unless all of them work on the same principle) - apparently their magnetic fields are smaller or more focused? Or is it something to do with what they were calling radiant field barriers? So at least the original Sensor Golds and such were essentially an actual single coil but effectively with a proper shield around them?

But when I hear about the shielding due to capacitance thing, it just doesn't sound right to me - sounds more like another effect is occurring.
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Re: Guitar Shielding and the Capacitor argument against it..

Postby FiveseveN » 24 Jun 2013, 19:10

MoonWatcher wrote:So the tone could possibly change with shielding, but it doesn't seem to be an issue of capacitance as much as an alteration to the magnetic field around the pickup.

That sounds like a reasonable theory. But you'll have to explain how a static paramagnetic material creates a significant influence on a pickup's magnetic circuit.
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Re: Guitar Shielding and the Capacitor argument against it..

Postby DrNomis » 25 Jun 2013, 10:08

bajaman wrote:
I'd imagine that the capacitance of the instrument cables (100pF/Metre),would have more effect on tone than the shielding of the control cavity with copper foil.....

Not if you use good low capacitance cable such as Whirlwind AC+1 :wink: (capacitance corrected)
Seriously though - shielding the control cavity is the correct way to go for low noise operation :thumbsup
That looks like a very neat job too :applause:
Guitar cables do have an influence (capacitance) on the tone of the guitar - the internal capacitance appears in parallel across the pickup coil when the volume pot is set to maximum.
This additional capacitance lowers the frequency of the resonant peak in a high impedance pickup. However it has zero effect on hum or noise level - just alters the tone of the guitar that is all :wink:
cheers
bajaman




True, and I'll have to agree with you..... :thumbsup
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Re: Guitar Shielding and the Capacitor argument against it..

Postby MoonWatcher » 25 Jun 2013, 18:06

FiveseveN wrote:
MoonWatcher wrote:So the tone could possibly change with shielding, but it doesn't seem to be an issue of capacitance as much as an alteration to the magnetic field around the pickup.

That sounds like a reasonable theory. But you'll have to explain how a static paramagnetic material creates a significant influence on a pickup's magnetic circuit.

From my understanding, alnico-type pickups seem to be more affected because the magnetic field around the pickup is supposed to be larger, and I believe that a term like "more diffuse" was also used by someone (other than myself) trying to explain what's going on. I believe it could have been a company like Lace, who was arguing that it is a shortcoming of a traditional alnico single coil. There is also the issue of string pull, which I think while probably not related, at least shows that alnico requires either being mindful of the design or the setup (Strat-itis when pickups are too close to strings).

I believe that in an article with Fred Stuart that he said another reason why a Strat sounds different from a Telecaster - in a non-favorable way - is because of the inclusion of the third pickup. His argument is that the magnetic field kind of messes things up. I'm paraphrasing as I don't really recall his choice of words. But Stuart also said that this is why some guitarists even prefer the Esquire over a Telecaster - the single pickup seems to be an improvement over the dual, but I'm sure this really comes down to preferences, or could simply be an apples and oranges comparison.

As far as a paramagnetic material's influence, I don't know how to prove, but have tried the same Tele bridge pickup with both no baseplate and a baseplate, and it seems to enhance a range of frequencies (baseplate on). I'm assuming it's not BS or they wouldn't offer a baseplate-variant of the Strat pickup to mimic this. Not only that, but there are non-traditional Tele bridge pickups that have the baseplate omitted because it apparently causes squealing - not because of higher output but more because of over-emphasized frequencies.

The baseplate attached right under the polepieces, however. I don't know if shielding would be in proximity enough to affect in the same way.

As for the Telecaster bridgeplate metal, I can't explain beyond what I've witnessed. The steel type plates always seem to enhance more of the upper frequencies and bring things more into focus. If you consider that the plate surrounds the pickup at close proximity, it seems to indicate why it could alter things. But the brass type plates always seem more mild in the treble frequencies and fattened up in the mids and especially the bass. I don't know if this is a perceived increase in bass simply because the treble clearly seems attenuated, or at least altered.

I want to point out that I've had the same saddles on both types of plate materials, so it was as much of an "all else equal" thing as I could try. The only other obvious difference is the difference in plate thickness - stamped steel doesn't require the thickness of brass with no perpendicular edges to it.

I also know that the bridge plate thing is apparently a big deal to Nashville guitar techs. They will use one type of metal vs. the other depending on what the particular guitarist expects.

And favoring Telecasters, I know that it's a bit of an issue with the old stamped plate causing squealing, but the American Standard brass type plate is usually not a viable substitute for a lot of older players. So companies like Glendale make a very spendy steel plate that is thicker and doesn't have the vertical walls on it. The squealing gets eliminated on the old Teles, and the plate drops right onto the different screw pattern American Standard. From what I've heard, the thicker steel plates sound like the old stamped ones to the point that no difference can be made. But I personally can't say that, as I won't pay a lot of money for a piece of machined plate steel.

So I can't explain, but I can say that I hear a difference. I even have an Esquire with a DiMarzio Fast Track T in it. That guitar has the steel stamped plate. The pickup is worthless and dull if a brass bridge plate is used, and it sat for years. But with the steel plate, it sounds closer to a traditional single coil design than I would have imagined. Dual blades, hum cancelling design, ceramic bar, extremely low string pull. But this could be an apples vs. oranges thing, again.

I'll have to look into what Bill Lawrence has to say. He seems to understand this from an engineer's standpoint better than any other source I know. Telecaster players seem to consider his Keystone pickups to be some of the best ever made. Bill has a lot of information on Telecaster neck pickups too, obviously. I seem to recall an issue of the pole pieces potentially discharging each other because of being so close to one another.

So it's probably just a stretch with shielding, but it's at least plausible that it could affect things, I would think. I'm assuming that aluminum/copper/brass seems to either enhance lower frequencies or attenuate higher ones.
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Re: Guitar Shielding and the Capacitor argument against it..

Postby phatt » 27 Jun 2013, 11:30

Unless you have a degree in metallurgy it's hard to get you head around but from what I've read and If I remember right?
Copper absorbs high frequency well but not so good at low freq EMF,,,Steel is kind of the opposite.

Easy to test lay a shim of steel and then copper over the poles of your pu's and make your own judgement.
A lot of the old pu's had brass covers for the very reason to smooth out the hi freq content but leave the lower freq intact.
Remember the early days they wanted smooth jazz guitar,, but R&Roll came along and everyone ripped the covers off for more hi freq content.

yes if you wrap the coil tight with whatever metal it will likely have some effect on the sonic result but a shielded cavity has far less chance of effecting much.

I use steel (thin tin plate/ old jam tins works fine) as most noise issues come from EMF and steel does a better job at absorbing that.
Go look up Jensen pages for clues :secret: Good quality Audio transformers use several layers of mu metal shielding
for the same reason, to aid in blocking low freq EMF.
Single coils On stage with masses of light rigs and transformers everywhere EMF can be a nightmare so i'd say RF is the least of your problems.

The tele plate observation mentioned by *Moonwatcher* holds some water because the plate is close to the winding and flux lines would certainly make a path part way through the plate so the choice of metal would have some effect, maybe not much but likely measurable.

As for the Strat 3rd/middle pu effecting outer pu's it's a stretch for me to believe as the pu's are not close enough to effect each other.
IF the scratch plate was steel plate then yes likely some magnetic cross link,, but plastic not much chance.

A lot of this stuff is like squared law maths where little difference happens as the gap closes BUT in the last few mm the effect changes from a gentle slope to an almost vertical line. :shock:

One more thing that gets missed a lot;
Equipment today has so much gain that no amount of shielding will be effective at blocking noise issues and IM Observation you can sound a whole lot better and have far less noise issues if you back off some of the dials.
All the gain is at the front end of amplification Now and as soon as you turn up a dial at the front end you also turn up the noise.
so the score is,,, signal gain x10 and Noise gain x100 :block: :slap: :hmmm:
My 2 cents,, Phil.
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Re: Guitar Shielding and the Capacitor argument against it..

Postby GuitarlCarl » 04 Jul 2013, 04:09

phatt wrote:The tele plate observation mentioned by *Moonwatcher* holds some water because the plate is close to the winding and flux lines would certainly make a path part way through the plate so the choice of metal would have some effect, maybe not much but likely measurable.

As for the Strat 3rd/middle pu effecting outer pu's it's a stretch for me to believe as the pu's are not close enough to effect each other.
IF the scratch plate was steel plate then yes likely some magnetic cross link,, but plastic not much chance.

One more thing that gets missed a lot;
Equipment today has so much gain that no amount of shielding will be effective at blocking noise issues and IM Observation you can sound a whole lot better and have far less noise issues if you back off some of the dials.
All the gain is at the front end of amplification Now and as soon as you turn up a dial at the front end you also turn up the noise.
so the score is,,, signal gain x10 and Noise gain x100 :block: :slap: :hmmm:
My 2 cents,, Phil.


HOLDS WATER??? Ya think. Tele pups are a picky beast... loose springs will make em' squeal, and backplate material will effect the sound... rebuild a few and use your ears...

Ah... strat pickups too far apart to effect each other? Explain humbucking positions 2 and 4... odd pickups in a strat set change the sound. Rev wound vs nonrev wound changes the sound. There is more interaction than you think...

No amount of shielding.... we're not talking about the noise in our rigs. But if you have a crap guitar with no shielding, then you are set to AMPLIFY the hum, high gain or not. Don't knock shielding...
I want it to sound like bees buzzing around in a 55 gallon drum...
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Re: Guitar Shielding and the Capacitor argument against it..

Postby FiveseveN » 04 Jul 2013, 11:15

Ah... strat pickups too far apart to effect each other? Explain humbucking positions 2 and 4...

He was talking about pickups interfering with eachother solely through their magnetic fields, regardless of how they are wired electrically. Positions 2 and 4 reduce hum through the same mechanism as any humbucker, and for that to work they need to be connected together, i.e. an even position on the switch selected. This is not what the topic is about.

Rev wound vs nonrev wound changes the sound

I hope you're not claming to hear the phase of a single pickup.
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Re: Guitar Shielding and the Capacitor argument against it..

Postby GuitarlCarl » 04 Jul 2013, 20:07

Haha yeah like I can hear which direction the pickup is wound...No but the sound of them in pos 2 and 4 are different precisely because of the interaction between the pickups magnetically - on or off the magnetic field is there, pull the mid pup out and listen to the positions 1 and 5...different! ...he correctly noted backplate materials sound different, so why wouldn't the distance between magnetic fields? I may not be deep into pedals - although I'm learning, but I've been wiring guitars a LONG time. I realize most of the latter part of this thread deviates from the OP, and Phatt is right on 99.9% of every post I've seen, but I think he missed it here. Change one thing about any pickup in any position, and you'll change the sound of the guitar in any position. Caps matter, pots matter, ground wiring matters, and SHIELDING matters - high gain or not, but I don't think the shielding can act like a capacitor unless something is wrong/incomplete. Do I know the math? Nope. Don't even want to know, I know what I hear and what many people have shared with me after I worked on their guitars. All the rest of the noise comes after the guitar and IS a different issue. I also agree with him on the dialing it back - but I also use a kill switch in my rig after the modulation section before the ambiance/verb/delay... Some knobs need to stay on 10!
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Re: Guitar Shielding and the Capacitor argument against it..

Postby FiveseveN » 04 Jul 2013, 20:58

GuitarlCarl wrote:Do I know the math? Nope. Don't even want to know, I know what I hear

Image
I'm sorry but that's how it comes across to me. That kind of attitude is not conducive to conversation or finding out anything useful about the world.
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