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:

  1. Bridge humbucker
  2. Bridge humbucker split to single coil + middle pickup
  3. Bridge humbucker + neck humbucker
  4. Neck humbucker split to single coil + middle pickup
  5. 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?

About Richard Irons

Richard has been playing for over 20 years and modding his guitars (sometimes pointlessly) for nearly as long. His particular specialty is wiring. Well, no, his specialty is talking about wiring.
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  • http://www.facebook.com/riopugliese Rio Puģłiêşe

    Mmmh… It looks like an interesting solution for many different configurations…

  • http://www.facebook.com/roedy.tjahjadi Roedy Tjahjadi

    Sir please draw me wiring diagram for my TBPR and SHPR using super switch 4 poles 5 way . Thank you

  • http://www.facebook.com/driretlan.angel David Goeglein

    I already use this on one of my guitars to give a unique Strat-ish sound in pos. 3 – neck single with bridge humbucker split – and four

  • marlon valenzuela

    rather use the original switch,,,,achieving neck and bridge together use push pull switch

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.dixon.7503314 John Dixon

    I hope you add this to your wiring diagrams section. very cool.

  • Rémy

    so, I take it that each waffer got its own output connectors (both ends of the waffer) ? It would make it ideal to wire a double neck guitar with a single 5-way switch, each neck on a waffer, then each output to one end of a 3-way switch to control which neck is active, which goes to master volume/tone. I take it there is no other way to do that with a 5-way switch, is there ?

  • john

    desperate for some super switch wiring help (2 Humbuckers)… what I want is position 1, full bridge humbucker, position 2, inside coils (parallel?), position 3, both humbuckers (full), position 4, neck humbucker (full), position 5, neck outside coil. I should maybe add that I’ve got a push/pull split on the bridge to activate the outside coil

  • Jose M

    Trying to get all the juice out of the HH setup, and with the prospect of adquiring a custom guitar I designed this setup:

    1 Superswitch
    2 Push/Pull Knobs (DPDT on each one) acting as volume for each PU

    1.- Neck
    2.- Neck splitted (North) switchable to Neck splitted+Bridge splitted (South)
    3.- Neck + Bridge parallel switchable to Neck + Bridge series
    4.- Neck splitted+Bridge splitted (South) switchable to Bridge splitted (South)
    5.- Bridge

    The main idea is to have 5 extremely useful positions by themselves, without having to flick any secondary switch to achieve them. It would be even better if on either 2 or 4 you could switch to the inner coils, instead of the outer ones.

    The scheme is still unused though, and I don’t have a nice picture like the one on the article to show, but if someone is interested I would happily share the draft.

    • Brian

      I am on board with this one! I have basic wiring ability only. Super switch arriving tomorrow and I am interested in knowing how your project turned out. Thinking about investing in 2 push pull pots. Or maybe just using a few added switches.

  • Bill Burgess

    I’ve never seen anyone show how to get ALL possible combinations (excluding series connections) for 3 single coil pickups with a super switch and 3 pots – NO other switches.

    • Nick Dylan Adamson

      That’s because it’s impossible. A super switch has five possible positions to select from, and a 3 single coil pickup guitar has 7 possible configurations: N, NM, M, MB, B, NB, and NMB.

  • Guest

    I just wrote a whole passage on this subject, and Discus erased it when I went to post (Grrrrrr!). I can’t be arsed to write it all out again… Suffice to say, that for us guitar techies and players alike, This switch gives us scope to configure multi-voicing, without all those HORRIBLE mini-toggles [and don't get me started on those vile slide switches on Jaguars or Mustangs....] cluttering up and causing confusion.

    I am currently wiring up an Ibanez RG with two humbuckers. This switch offers me the configuration thus: 1. Bridge HB only. 2. Neck and bridge outer coils [N+S] 3. Both neck and bridge HB. 4. Neck and bridge inner coils [S+N] only. 5. Neck HB only. With a push-pull on the tone pot for phase reverse. Not unlike a certain PRS configuration.

    As Richard says, the sky is the limit [...well almost]. But for me, it allows multi-voicing, on instruments with limited space, thus avoiding clutter and confusion, leaving the player to concentrate on doing what he or she does best… Playing the plank.

  • Deebz270

    I just wrote a whole passage on this subject, and Discus erased it when I went to post (Grrrrrr!). I can’t be arsed to write it all out again… Suffice to say, that for us guitar techies and players alike, This switch gives us scope to configure multi-voicing, without all those HORRIBLE mini-toggles [and don't get me started on those vile slide switches on Jaguars or Mustangs....] cluttering up and causing confusion.

    I am currently wiring up an Ibanez RG with two humbuckers. This switch offers me the configuration thus: 1. Bridge HB only. 2. Neck and bridge outer coils [N+S] 3. Both neck and bridge HB. 4. Neck and bridge inner coils [S+N] only. 5. Neck HB only. All whilst maintaining the hum-cancelling properties. With a push-pull on the tone pot for phase reverse. Not unlike a certain PRS configuration.

    As Richard says, the sky is the limit [...well almost]. But for me, it allows multi-voicing, on instruments with limited space, or that are vintage, expensive or cosmetically beautiful, whilst avoiding clutter and confusion, leaving the player to concentrate on doing what he or she does best… Playing the plank.