Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A New Engine for the Hollowbody

A while back I found a really cool Ibanez Artcore hollowbody guitar on clearance at my local guitar warehouse of super proportions. It only cost two hundred bucks so I bought it on the spot and have regretted the descision exactly never. It is a fine looking, great playing and decent sounding guitar. The only problem was the stock pickups were about as flat as your back. Of course, I will not let such things stand in my house so I set about changing them. Ultimately, I chose to use some GFS Retrotrons I had laying about. I originally had them in the SGeezus but found them a bit to chimey for the inherantly dark sound of that guitar but they seemed a perfect fit for the hollowbody. At the very least, I figured, they wouldn't be so dull sounding. I also wanted to try out a super fancy RS Guitarworks wiring harness so I figured I'd give that a go too. Let me tell you, replacing the pickups in a hollowbody is as harrowing an adventure as you could imagine.

First, I took the thing apart:
And already my first surprise! The bridge isn't attached to the body in anyway aside from the pressure from the strings. OK. I guess I will just have to put it back on. These are the original electronics:

As you can see, the pickup selecter switch is weird and cheap looking and the pots are teeny tiny. They weren't problematical but I felt there was a very high chance of failure. I will give Ibanez this: they were at least the correct values. A lot of times in cheap guitars they'll just use whatever's cheap. No 100K volume pots here.

The next step was wiring up the harness. I had a bit of frustration w/ this and didn't end up taking any pictures. Sorry. It turns out my trouble was the tip of my soldering iron was just old so I replaced it. No big deal. It also helped to use a little extra flux. I got some that was safe for electronics work in a little tin from a giant electronics chain.

Next was the hard part: getting the harness in there. Lord. This experience was so harrowing I don't even want to think about it. You gotta work through the pickup slots and the F-holes the whole time. I have big lardo mega fingers so this was not easy. You pull the pots and other components through w/ string (I used thread, doubled up) and it is even more difficult than you'd expect. The whole thing was a mess:

Eventually, I got 'em in though and it was honestly thrilling to finally be done w/ it. It took me over a week whereas it takes me maybe two hours to wire up a regular electric guitar. I must say the new pickups are really sharp:

As mentioned, they are GFS Retrotrons. Specifically, the bridge is a Hot Liverpool and the neck is a regular Liverpool. They are modeled after the old FilterTron pickups like you might see in a Gretsch. It's at least a distinctive look where people can tell it's customized right away. The sound of them is exactly as hoped--very clear, bright but still smooth. It's brought new life to the guitar. The RS Guitarworks harness works well too. The volume knobs especially are much more usefull. The guitar doesn't get all kinds of dull sounding when you turn them down.

And here she is in her entirety, not bad for $200 and some pickups I had lying around:


Spook Strickland said...

Hey Frank,

You do some awesome work!!! I love you blog I'll have to check back now and again to see what new stuff you post up.

talk to you later


Smitty said...

I bet that guitar sounds great. Nice pimping job on that Ibanez. Post some sound clips.

Anonymous said...

There are alot of levels of Artcore guitars in the Ibanez line and like Any guitar they vary in sound..I have an AGS83BZ flamed top that sounds excellent through a Fender Blues Jr.
Its quite Brite & very clean, and while they are Not quite what their 70's humbuckers were, they certainly are not a Bad pickup.

The Guitars we Bash today will be the ones searched for 30 years from now. Look at all the Jap LP copies bringing bukoo bucks now and you didnt dare bring one up on stage in the Seventies because it wasnt a gibbie or a fender..Perhaps the Artcore will become the next country gentleman o .335 ...but..... perhaps Not LOL

Frank said...

Mine is a AG86, I think. It is actually one of the higher end ones but was about 50% off on clearance. It's not made anymore. I think the replacement is the AG95. Very nice guitars, I think. My only real complaint is the ugly lightning bolt logo on the headstock. What the hell is that?