Guitar Wiring Explored – Introducing the Super Switch, Part 2
In the last article we got our first look at a five-throw switch with two poles. This allowed us to create some different wiring schemes for a Stratocaster, rather than just the standard one. This time we’re going to go a step further and look at a true “superswitch.”
It looks like this:
Hopefully you can see from this that it’s very similar to our two-throw switch from last time – but the switch has a whole new wafer attached, with another two poles on it. This gives us four separate five-way switches, all operated by a single lever. It opens up many, many wiring possibilities.
Let’s say, for example, that we’re wiring up a guitar with two humbuckers and a single coil and we’d like to see the following combinations active as we sweep through the switch positions:
- Bridge humbucker
- Bridge humbucker split to single coil + middle pickup
- Bridge humbucker + neck humbucker
- Neck humbucker split to single coil + middle pickup
- Neck humbucker
This can be achieved with our superswitch. By now you’ll know that to split a humbucker to a single coil, the usual way is to connect that humbucker’s red and white wires to ground. So all we need to do (in addition to wiring the output of the various pickups up to the relevant places) is wire the switch so that it can ground out those wires in the correct positions.
For this guitar, we’ll just wire in a master volume and master tone.
Here’s what our final wiring scheme looks like:
Hopefully by now you shouldn’t be too intimidated when you look at a diagram like this! It’s important to note that in this diagram I’ve used red and white dotted lines to indicate that both the red and white wires from a humbucker go somewhere, and green and grey to indicate the green and bare wires.
So let’s look through the diagram. We’ll tackle the middle pickup first. The black wire is grounded, and the white wire is connected to the output (the yellow wire to the volume control) in positions 2 and 4. This is the same as what we did in the last article.
Now for the humbuckers. Taking the bridge humbucker first, we can see that, as always, green and bare are grounded. Black is the hot output, and it’s connected to the output to the volume control in positions 1, 2 and 3. So far, so good. Looking at the neck pickup we have a similar situation: its green and bare wires are grounded and its output is connected to our hot signal in positions 3, 4 and 5. So far, there’s nothing different really from what we did in the last article.
However, we’ve used another pole on the switch – the bottom left one in the diagram. This pole doesn’t affect which pickups are active at all – it’s the first time we’ve used a blade switch to control something else entirely. Instead of the common contact of the pole being connected to the output, it’s connected to ground. This means that whatever is connected to the switchable contacts will be grounded in the relevant position. Taking the bridge pickup as an example, we’ve connected its red and white wires to the contact for position 2 on the switch. That means that when the switch is in position 2, the red and white wires will be grounded, thus splitting the humbucker to a single coil. The same goes for the neck pickup and position 4.
With this wiring scheme we’ve just scraped the surface of some of the advanced wiring schemes we can achieve using the 4-pole superswitch. With this switch, the sky’s the limit. What wiring schemes can you dream up?