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Monday, September 8, 2014

Zexcoil® Convertible Hum Canceling Guitar Pickup Set with Controls Kit #5, (Review)...

Reviewed By: Jac Harrison
Purchased from: Manufacturer 
Street Price: $315.00 USD + tax & shipping.

Lawing Musical Products, LLC is the Manufacturer of Zexcoil® hum canceling guitar pickups. Dr. A. Scott Lawing is the inventor of Zexcoil® pickup technology and the technical driving force behind LMP. Scott has been a guitar player for over 30 years. He is also an engineer with a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with numerous technical papers, patents and presentations to his credit. Recently, Scott has started applying his technical and creative energies to the business of musical instrument.

This review was conducted using a 2012 Knaggs Chesapeake Choptank Tier 2 #94, wired using the Zexcoil controls kit #5 (2 push/push 500kΩ pots and a Bourns 250kΩ no load blend pot. 

I took my time as I always do and from start to finish it was 1 hour/3 beers. Please note that you should have a luthier from your local music store put pickups in for you unless you really know what you are doing. It is normally a 2 - 3 hour charge + bench fee to have 3 pickups installed with coil split switches. The total investment will be well worth it.

Manufacturer Description:

The Convertible™ delivers vintage Strat® tones in split mode and a clear and articulate, but powerful, humbucker tone in series mode. The Convertibles are designed to split. In split mode the frequency response, and hence the tone is virtually identical to an Alnico 5 single coil. In series mode it’s a high powered but articulate humbucker. Thus, the Convertibles are only available with the Silent Split™ option.

The Convertible utilizes a novel and exotic pole piece material to achieve this elusive combination of high power and crystal clear response. The Convertible™ for Bridge is wound hot to maximize output and the Convertible™ for the neck is under-wound compared to, and uses a less powerful magnet than the bridge to balance output and minimize mud.

Amps used:
Indigo McD 1x12 20
Indigo McD Screamer 1x12
Indigo McD El Mariachi (Nicky Moroch Signature Model)
VVT Lindy Fralin Model I
VVT 18 Watt (new tweed) 
East Amplification Club 18 
Ugly Amps 18 Watts 
1972 Fender Bassman 

Cable Used: 

Strings Used: 

Dark Horse 10-46

Pick Used: 

Gravity Sunrise mini 1.3 wave

Pickups Used:

Neck: Zexcoil® Convertible™ Neck with "Silent Split"
Middle: Zexcoil® SV5W™ 
Bridge: Convertible™ for Bridge  with "Silent Split"

Just Neck Parallel/"Silent Split" 
What you would expect from an Alnico 5 single coil with a bite, warm and firm with a traditional dark Start tone.  

Just Neck Neck Series:

A warm mix between a fat P-90 and a minibucker. A very usable well balanced neck that cleans up well with the volume knob. 

Neck Parallel/"Silent Split"™ and Middle:

A bright Tex-Mex traditional Strat neck and middle tone that delivers Texas blues and country tones with a little more bite.  

Neck Series and Middle:
A warm fat single coil almost P-90 ish without without the mud or the volume loss you normally get with a traditional HSH in the (2/4) pole spot.   

Just Middle
Lots of spank, a very SRV Strat like middle.

Middle and Bridge 
Parallel/"Silent Split"

The tone we all look for in a traditional start -- quaky but smooth and very usable. 

Middle and Bridge Series:
A slight quack with a round bottom and shimmering top end without the volume loss you normally get with a traditional HSH in the (2/4) pole spot.   

Just Bridge Parallel/"Silent Split"

 bright but smooth country twang tone with a ton of power that cuts through the mix.

Just Bridge Series:
The tonal charismatics of an alnico 3 humbucker with the thickness of an alnico 5 P-90. Think Billy's she's got legs tone meets Leslie West's Mississippi Queen lead tone. 

Other Tone Notes: 

The controls kit #5 comes with a Bourns 250kΩ no load blend pot allowing you to blend the neck and bridge pickups together. This feature allows you to fatten the bridge by rolling in some of the neck and/or brighten up the neck by bring in some of the bridge as needed. I found this very helpful when dialing in the same tone on many different amps, making this a great feature for the gigging musician to insure tonal consistency when using a back-line amp and/or cabinet.

Reliability & Durability: 
They are well constructed and should last the life of the guitar.

I have been a fan of Zexcoil pickups for about two years now and prefer to use them in my personal single coil guitars. To me, the switch was a no-brainier. With advancements in technology in every other aspects of our lives, it was just a matter of time until a smart guitar player (I think that is a real thing) said "wait... this hum noise I'm getting with my single coil pickups really makes me sad, and dummy or stacked coils make my tone week" and then did something about it. In my Guitared frontal lobe that's how it went down, and I'm sticking to the story -- but either way the mad scientist Scott Lawing (the problem solver at Zexcoil Pickups) has developed a way of delivering that same delicious tone as traditional single coil pickups, just without the fuc*ing hum. 

One of my favorite guitars is my 2012 Knaggs Chesapeake Choptank Tier 2 #94. There is just something about her that make me happy, but with all traditional single coil guitars, no matter how amazing the tone is -- there is still hum. Most luthiers I have spoken with in regards all say that they will not sacrifice tone for noiseless single coils. I get that, until I found Zexcoil Pickups I felt the same way and just dealt with it,  but now that I am schooled in Zexcoil there was no way I was going to have hum in a $5,000 USD guitar. To me, that is like putting ketchup on caviar, so when Scott said that he had a new set of pickups, I knew what I was putting in my Knaggs. So... to the review.

Once I received the set I wasted no time and installed them the same day. After about and hour, Anevay (my Knaggs, yes I name my guitars) was all strung up and ready for some diddling. Just like all of the other Zexcoil pickups I have played, this set delivered traditional tones with increased note clarity and some added features including a series humbucker mode and a pickup blend knob. After a few hours of playing her I needed to pack her up to go to the Guitar and Bass Expo in Reading PA the next day -- she had a big day ahead of her at the Zexcoil Pickups and Indigo Amplification booths. Being a fan of Zexcoil Pickups I wanted an unbiased opinion of the new set, so I thought what could be better then seeing what the show goers, guitar and amp builders think. For the first half of the show I walked the show floor with the Zexcoil Knaggs inviting guitar luthiers and amp builders to give her a go . As I anticipated, 100% of the people that played the guitar were in love. She has that unmistakable Knaggs quality of build with never ending sustain that shines through and now her voice was unmasked by the clarity of the Zexcoil pickups -- people really said "wow" and "holy sh*t".

So, to sum up this review -- If you are a single coil player that wants a traditional tone without the hum and/or the versatility of having a humbucker that fits in your stock guitar without any body or pick-guard modification -- pick up the damn phone and call Scott at Zexcoil Pickup. Tell him what your tonal dreams are, and he will sell you the pickups to achieve it.

My advice: 
I know some traditionalist are just set in their ways, so I say to them think of Zexcoil Pickups as a tonal delivery system. It is the same tone you want just without the hum because it is achieved differently. When Leo and Less were starting the industry, I believe that they used only the best and most innovative components of the day, and if this technology was available for them to use, I also believe that they would have used it as the standard -- so my advice is buy a set. 

Lawing Musical Products, LLC
P.O. Box 9924
Newark, DE 19714
(P) 302-533-7548
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Posted 9/2014
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