Triple Shot Rings (Or How The Heck Did That Sound Emerge From My Guitar?)

About a year back, I found myself in the enviable position of being able to build my dream guitar. While looking for the proper pickups I ran across some pretty amazing and seemingly underwhelming parts that would eventually make it into that rig. Before I committed to using the new (unproven to me) technology for the dream rig I’ve named ‘Bertha,’ I figured that installing a trial run of the mystery part on another guitar was a good idea. So I let my fingers do the buying and bought a set of these rascals that would be installed on an Les Paul copy guitar (Tradition) that already had a Seymour Duncan Hot Rodded Set of pickups installed in it (which is the SH-4 JB in the bridge and an SH-2 Jazz model in the neck). Those pickups saved the day when it came to the tired old rattlers that were in the original ‘instrument’ I bought (for its looks). That’s a story for another day…

Imagine yourself surfing the web for ideas, with images of pickups and tremolos dancing in your head, when along came a man with a Les Paul and fedora hat whose name was Joe and he had something for you via a video. It was something he called the Pagey project and Joe (tonefiend) was demoing some changes he had made to his Gibson Les Paul designed to rival the tone choices Jimmy Page had in his guitar at a point in time. Then Joe played the original pickup tones and flipped a switch on something surrounding his pickup, what looked to be the humbucker surround ring. Slack jawed, confused and intrigued you fire up a search and find out the mystery ring is the Triple Shot ring from Seymour Duncan. You just experienced my scenario – needless to say I ordered a pair immediately. (You should as well!)

The tone trooper, Bertha – my Warmoth chambered, triple humbucker locking tremolo partscaster.

When they arrived I had the old rings from the LP copy off before the UPS guy had left my driveway and started down the installation process. It was eerily simple to accomplish, primarily due to great engineering and care built into the part by Seymour Duncan, and fabulous installation instructions. I took the wires I had from the Hot Rod pickups and clipped the 4-wire lead about two inches from the pickup.  After testing to see which two wires were connected to the pots, the 4-wire lead from the pickup was soldered to the little green circuit puck that is attached by a ribbon cable to the ring. Once my wire-color matching test was complete, the remaining lead going to the bay was soldered to the Triple Shot puck (to send the two wire signal from the ring to the pots) and voila! – the new rings were back on.

[There was plenty of wire coiled up behind the pickups in my situation - if you run into issues with short leads and challenging or impossible connections, save yourself time and hassle by running new shielded wire to the electronics bay and removing the existing wire. This will mean more soldering (don't splice and tape your connections, please!) but in the end you will be grateful you took the time to do it right.]

Well I sat down in my favorite chair, fired up a stogie and started tinkering with the sounds. First, the cigar went out almost instantly because I forgot about it – my fascination with the tone options was out of control and I played around for two hours just getting my head around the tonal space that was now available. The Triple Shot allows you to select from the normal way the pickup works traditionally (a serial connection) to a parallel connected set and you can also coil split the humbucker into a north and south single coil pickup that sounds more like a Stratocaster sound than a humbucker pickup. That’s four possible configurations out of ONE humbucker. Jeez! If the vernacular is foreign, don’t worry – you don’t need to know the names ‘but’ the image below can describe the different paths the signal takes when the switches are thrown.  Laymans view of "Series" and "Parallel" wiring

Single Coils are shown for overall understanding – keep in mind that the Triple Shot are for traditional sized humbuckers only.  Another benefit to your tone quest is relocating the traditional location for coil tapping from the push-pull knob or new switches to the pickup ring – this frees up those other options for additional ‘toys’ to be added to the mix.

It gets even better when you add a second pickup and Triple Shot in the mix – 16 different tone qualities from a pair of pickups that already sounded great (a combination of parallel, series, slug coil tap and pole coil tap options in each Triple Shot). The tone knobs add even more flexibility to this new addition to the instrument. I encourage you to watch the video ‘The Pagey Project’ linked above -  Bottom line, if you just want something that goes ‘grunt’ and makes any old distorted sound all the time, don’t sweat it – the rest of you musicians and sofa performers (that’s me) can visit the Seymour Duncan online store.  Even if you’re nervous around a soldering iron, your local repair shop can install a pair for a reasonable fee. (Call your local shop or Guitar Center/Sam Ash – You could potentially come in below the minimum shop fee).  This is one of those enhancements that far exceeds expectations!

These come in single or two pack sets, in black and cream options. If you use a flat top instrument and shorter tone rings will work on it (like for Strat-mounted humbuckers) then you want to get the flat ring configuration. Because many of these will find their way onto Les Paul’s and other carved top axes, there is a carved top set as well that you can purchase (the neck side is skinny and the bridge side is a deeper ring, just like the standard “dumb” rings). Once they are installed, they blend seamlessly into the look of your guitar and few, if any, will notice them, and that’s a good thing! You want to have your audience confused, thinking you’re the genius creating that killer sound – and you are (with a generous dollop of help from Seymour Duncan).

Gryphon

About Gryphon

Gryphon is a woodcarver/sculptor and luthier, building custom carved electric guitars with designs & artwork integrated with the instrument - this also extends to customizing tone/electronics options to create unique guitars that look & sounds equally stellar.
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  • carlo guerrero

    Its cool but will you really use all the tones?

    • Gryphon Guitars

      I certainly do – it all depends on your personal style. Some are content to play the SRV solo on “Couldn’t stand the weather” and approximate the sound. Someone with dual humbuckers can’t reproduce the tone however (unless you have the Triple Shots) – if you want the actual scream of the bridge pickup from a Stratocaster, you shift both switches down on the bridge and off you go – instant Strat sound. Even as a primary lounge around player, I find them invaluable in adapting the sound of one guitar versus grabbing another guitar off the wall.

      The Gryphon (Cris)

  • Matt

    I wondered about the usability of all these tones until I got a pair…every switching option is in fact useful. One thing to note is that your greatest output will come from the series (standard) humbucker, but that’s not to say that you can’t use the coil splitting and parallel settings. Parallel gives a slightly darker, punchy tone that works well with open chordings and arpeggios because it works well with rhythm in general. Also, the coil splitting works well for fills or single note phrasing (defininitely a stratty sound with just a little less umph than a traditional single coil). The cool thing is you can split to either side of the bucker, and yes each sounds a little different. If you’re like me and you like to have as many tonal options as possible without constantly tweaking your amp (in fact the coil splitting sounds a lot like the bright switch on my amp with maybe a little less low-mids/lows that the series humbucker would allow for), then you’ll love the triple shots. Another cool thing is, 99% of guitarists don’t even know they exist and they definitely look just like standard mounting rings. To be fair in my analysis I’d say a drawback would be that the switches are very hard to see when I’m standing and playing. Sometimes I have to raise the guitar to eye level to switch which really gives away the whole stealth thing. Anyway check them out, I’m sure you’ll love ‘em!