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  1. #1

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    I know this topic has been discussed in many other threads, but I want to understand some of the principles behind this problem.
    Ok, so the usual story: archtop noise, ES 175, resonant metallic buzz that comes right after the attack.
    It's most prominent when I play Bb on the D string. I hear the fundamental cleanly, right after (when overtones kick in), I hear this metallic bee buzz come in.
    I am pretty sure it's the metal pickup cover or other parts in the pickup assembly that's causing it.
    I put a pick between the pickup cover and the pickup ring. This cures other buzzing that sometimes occur especially when playing chords. But it made this Bb buzzy resonation more prominent (may be because other buzzes are silenced, not sure).
    When I move the pickup around (when loose, ie without the pick trick), I hear that metallic buzz change in intensity and sometimes in pitch.
    My mental model of what's going on is that there are two sources of buzz:
    a- Lose components vibrating against moving parts.
    b- Secure components themselves vibrating due to their inhering resonant frequencies.

    With regards to how the point 'b' relates to the pickups we have:
    - Some of the vibration is inevitably transferred to the pickups.
    - The amount of transfer depends on the resonant frequency of the pickups as well as the way the pickups are attached to the body.
    -The energy of the strings is lost to the extend the pickups vibrate. So not only you get buzz but you get quieting of the desirable acoustic note.
    Is that correct?
    If so, securing the pickup cover to the guitar top with a hard object like a pick or a credit card although should cure "a" but would make "b" worse.
    What is the principle solution to this. Securing pickups with a soft object like foam? Am I completely off-base? Are there other ways to improve this like modifying the spring mechanism that attaches the humbuckers to the top?

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  3. #2

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    It's probably the springs. If you raise the pickup way up, the buzz might stop, or at least change. StewMac sells rubber tubing for replacing the springs, and that can stop the buzzing if it's the springs. If it's something else, it may not help. But it's a cheap and rather easy way to check. I've solved buzzing caused by the pickup vibrating inside the mounting ring by using foam earplug pieces, cut to approximate size and either held by friction or tiny pieces of double-sided tape. There are so many things that can buzz on an archtop, and they can interact, that it can be difficult to find all of them. Here, my first attempt would be rubber tubing, and if that didn't help, some very thin foam between the pickup and the mounting ring. Then on to other possibilities if necessary.

  4. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
    It's probably the springs. If you raise the pickup way up, the buzz might stop, or at least change. StewMac sells rubber tubing for replacing the springs, and that can stop the buzzing if it's the springs. If it's something else, it may not help. But it's a cheap and rather easy way to check. I've solved buzzing caused by the pickup vibrating inside the mounting ring by using foam earplug pieces, cut to approximate size and either held by friction or tiny pieces of double-sided tape. There are so many things that can buzz on an archtop, and they can interact, that it can be difficult to find all of them. Here, my first attempt would be rubber tubing, and if that didn't help, some very thin foam between the pickup and the mounting ring. Then on to other possibilities if necessary.
    Thanks. I just looked up rubber tubing for this purpose. It looks very promising. It can address second source of buzz I mentioned in my post as well (b). As it can absorb vibrations from the top and prevent the vibrations from traveling to the pickups. I'll try.

  5. #4

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    Then there's the Big Buzz List:

    FRETS.COM

  6. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
    It's probably the springs. If you raise the pickup way up, the buzz might stop, or at least change. StewMac sells rubber tubing for replacing the springs, and that can stop the buzzing if it's the springs. If it's something else, it may not help. But it's a cheap and rather easy way to check. I've solved buzzing caused by the pickup vibrating inside the mounting ring by using foam earplug pieces, cut to approximate size and either held by friction or tiny pieces of double-sided tape. There are so many things that can buzz on an archtop, and they can interact, that it can be difficult to find all of them. Here, my first attempt would be rubber tubing, and if that didn't help, some very thin foam between the pickup and the mounting ring. Then on to other possibilities if necessary.
    Wow, that did wonders. I got 1/4'' to 1/8'' diameter rubber clear tubing from the local hardware store. Replaced the springs. No buzz, no wolf notes any more. Acoustic playing is so much more fun now.
    This also made it obvious that pickups should be acoustically isolated as much as possible. Now that all the buzzing is gone I can hear the effects of securing the pick up covers to the pickup rings with a pick or other hard object like credit card more clearly (something people sometimes recommend to reduce the rattling). It's a tone killer. It's an improvement if you have rattling noise coming from the springs but once that 's cured it's easy to hear that it just becomes an efficient way to transfer acoustic vibrations to the metallic pickups. That makes some notes wolf notes as they correspond to the resonant frequency of the pickup components. Moreover you get those metallic overtones shortly after you strike some notes (that probably made worse with the original metal stings).
    Higly recommended easy mod if you have an archtop with set pickups especially.

    Edit: I'd say if you do have to secure the pickup cover, you're better of using a foamy, rubbery material rather than a hard plastic.

  7. #6

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    Just mentioning that rubber tubing used to replace pup springs is stretchy rubber surgical tubing by default, not clear plastic line. The plastic stuff causes too much resistance/stress.

  8. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
    Just mentioning that rubber tubing used to replace pup springs is stretchy rubber surgical tubing by default, not clear plastic line. The plastic stuff causes too much resistance/stress.
    Definitely.
    But I'm having second thoughts about not securing the pickups against the ring. It might be necessary after all. I think even when there is no noise (thanks to the rubber tubes) loose pickups still take away some of the vibrations quietly.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 02-24-2018 at 10:24 PM.

  9. #8

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    I've used silicone tubing before, because it was easily at hand, and while it can work, you have to be careful to cut it to the right length. It doesn't compress as readily as latex, and doesn't allow as much adjustment. You do want something that compresses, but still provides adequate resistance. It can take some experimentation with the length of the tubing.

  10. #9
    What I found was pretty flexible, thick walled tube. Not slingshot flexible but compresses really well. I cut slightly longer so once I screwed to length it sat firm. It compresses quite a bit without loosing its form.
    Similar to this but thinner, perfect diameter for where the screws attach:
    http://www.idealvac.com/files/images...be_8262010.gif

    I paid 38 cents for lifetime of supplies.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 02-25-2018 at 12:29 PM.

  11. #10
    Update:
    So the rubber tubing didn't work well for me after all. There was a very clear muffling of the acoustic sound. At first I enjoyed the mellowness but it later it started to bug me. It really is an inferior sound. It could probably be improved if I cut the tubes shorter so they don't compress as much when I adjust the pickups and won't have enough pressure to absorb the sound (trebles).
    I am writing this update because I found a solution that works like a charm for me and I haven't seen this solution anywhere else. What I did was, I removed the rubber tubes and did not put the springs back. Yes, just the screws and a 1.5mm thick pick between the pickup and the pickup ring to hold the pickup in place. It's common for people to use a pick or another object to secure the pickups, what I haven't seen suggested was to use bare screws. Well without the springs but with the screws pickups can only go in one direction, upwards, but the resistance due to the inserted pick is more than enough to secure them.
    Now my ES-175 is very resonant. Most resonant it's been. I can feel every note vibrate against my chest. Very happy with it. No metallic overtones, no rattling but very open and resonant sound (for an ES 175).
    Once I knew this was a permanent solution, I put ebony pieces instead of the pick. I had an ebony pick that I never used, I filed it to the desired thickness and cut it in half, one for each pickup. Using ebony vs hard plastic doesn't make a noticeable difference in sound to my ears (though I was secretly hoping that it did). Ebony just looks better to the extend that it can be seen. At some point I tried using a rubber piece, that did have a slight muffling effect as well.
    The only concern is if the pickups will go out of adjustment frequently, I've been using this solution for about two weeks, so far they've been very stable.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 03-14-2018 at 01:20 PM.

  12. #11

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    This thread makes me wonder if a hard fixed spacer would work. They are commonly available in various lengths in nylon, steel, brass, for electronic assemblies.

  13. #12

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    It would work, I think, but it wouldn't be adjustable. It would take some effort to get the length exactly right for the pickup, and then you would be stuck with that height. A very short piece of tubing or spring at the bottom would allow for some adjustment, if you could live with that. Apparently some can't. I just live with springs or tubing, or a combination of both. YMMV.

  14. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by DanielleOM View Post
    This thread makes me wonder if a hard fixed spacer would work. They are commonly available in various lengths in nylon, steel, brass, for electronic assemblies.
    Sorry, I am not sure what a hard fixed spacer is. Though what I find that affects the acoustic tone considerably is the thickness of the piece inserted between the pickup cover and the ring. There is a sweet spot. Somehow the pressure of the piece push against the pickups increases the base end and overtones. You get fuller, deeper and louder sound. But if its too thick and sound gets muffled.
    So in my case, stabilizing pickups is not just a cure for rattles and metallic tones but also improvement of the overall acoustic response. I am not sure if this makes a difference in the amplified sound (I didn't notice any), but I go through periods of practicing without an amp so I have to like the acoustic sound.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 08-24-2018 at 01:06 PM.

  15. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
    It would work, I think, but it wouldn't be adjustable. It would take some effort to get the length exactly right for the pickup, and then you would be stuck with that height. A very short piece of tubing or spring at the bottom would allow for some adjustment, if you could live with that. Apparently some can't. I just live with springs or tubing, or a combination of both. YMMV.

    With the solution I am using adjustability is not an issue at all. I can just remove the ebony piece, adjust the screws and put the piece back. Though I don't tend to adjust pickups frequently once I find a height that works for me if at all.

  16. #15

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    My idea of the solid spacers is tubes (hard plastic, or whatever material) through which the adjustment screws go, replacing the springs or flexible tubing. This gives you a solid mount for the pickup, arguably better than putting something between the pickup and the mounting ring or the top.

  17. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
    My idea of the solid spacers is tubes (hard plastic, or whatever material) through which the adjustment screws go, replacing the springs or flexible tubing. This gives you a solid mount for the pickup, arguably better than putting something between the pickup and the mounting ring or the top.
    I agree that using solid spacer would be less hacky than putting something between pickup and pickup ring and more elegant if it worked. The disadvantage would be that it be more difficult to adjust the pickups but that even could be a blessing in disguise as it would prevent pickups from going out of the intended adjustment subtly over time.
    However I don't think solid spacer could prevent all movement of the pickups. It may stop the rattling noise but wouldn't prevent the pickups from vibrating independently and absorbing some of the energy from the top.
    Inserting a hard object completely locks the pickups in place. It makes the top behave remarkably differently. The sound is much fuller and livelier. I am not sure what exactly the physics of it is but it's easy to try. Just insert a 1.5mm pick between the BRIDGE pickup and pickup ring, make sure the back of the the guitar is also free (not pressed against your body) and A-B it with and without the pick.

  18. #17

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    I've used a pick, as well as a clarinet reed and other kludges. I don'l like them that much. If I were as concerned as you about preventing the pickup from moving, I'd investigate using hard spacers, because once you screw the adjusters hard against it, the pickup isn't going to move up or down, and it can't move laterally either. It's firmly attached to the pickup ring, which is screwed into the top. But all this is more trouble than I'm willing to go to. Keep on with the picks or whatever works for you.

  19. #18

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    You could also use 2 nuts. One to lock the screw against the pickup ring and the other against the pickup.

  20. #19

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    Yesterday I got this used AR 371, with terrible resonances. Part of them are the wires, the other is the usual source, the pickup.
    Today morning I've ended with this:

    The yellow thing is common kitchen sponge. In the shorter sides it wraps around the untouched springs plus fixes the gap between the pickup and the plastic frame, on the longer sides it fixes the gap between the pickup and the plastic frame. The sponge pieces were cut relatively large, for example for the 0.5 mm gap I used 3-4 mm wide piece. A little screwdriver helps to move them in place, some patience was necessary.

    (wire fixing is not perfect yet, trying with tapeing them to the top inside, only with partial success.)


    Archtop sympathetic resonance-img_0387-jpg

  21. #20

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    For holding the wires, a good solution is a plastic cable holder attached with double-sided tape. You can get them in all sizes and shapes from hardware and audio stores. That is what came in my Epi ES175, and I've used them in other guitars. You can attach them to the top or back, or wherever works best. You can also just wrap the bundle in foam, but the cable clips work better IME.