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Thread: Difference between Series/Parallel and Coil Split

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    Junior Member rrockwell777's Avatar
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    Default Difference between Series/Parallel and Coil Split

    For humbuckers, what's the difference between a coil splitting setup and a series/parallel setup?
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    The Drama Dude CTN's Avatar
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    Default Re: Difference between Series/Parallel and Coil Split

    a coil split is usually using only one of the humbucker's two coils. essentially you're playing a single coil pickup. What it sounds like will depend on what kind of coil was wound onto the pickup, magnet type etc etc.

    series and parallel wirings use both coils. Series is a slightly warm, thick sound. Parallel has a touch of single coil-type attack, clarity and shimmery treble, but it still eliminates hum. Parallel wiring also has slightly lower output than series wiring.
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    Mojo's Minions blueman335's Avatar
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    Default Re: Difference between Series/Parallel and Coil Split

    I use coil cut. Yes, it has a lttle single coil noise, not much. but parallel is so weak and thin. Half the muscle of coil cut, which doesn't have a lot.

    Resistence for the Custom family: Series 14,000 ohms, coil cut 7,000 ohms, parallel 3,500. And as we all know, 3,500 ohms for a bridge PU is very puny. Like just about useless.

    Parallel is best suited for the neck slot (the extra string energy helps it out by adding output and warmth) or for a very hot bridge PU. A PAF bridge HB in parallel is ridiculous, 2,000 ohms. Who cares if it's noise-free, at that point what can you do with it?

    For coil cut on a bridge HB, I'd recommend using the slug coil as the active one, as it's twice as far from the bridge as the screw coil, and will give a bit more output and warmth. In the neck slot it doesn't make any difference.

    An interesting option is AtieToo's coil swap mod, that pairs the bridge screw coil with the neck slug (and bridge slug with the neck screw). This gives you a 'virtual' HB when the push-pull is lifted (coils in series but separated), which is a softer sound, with noise reduction, that is better than coil cut or parallel. This should come standard on every HB guitar.

    BTW, if you use both coil cut and phase, the phase option will switch which coil is on during coil cut, so you can have it both ways.

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    Default Re: Difference between Series/Parallel and Coil Split

    I would most definitely second this opinion after having tried the various options with 2 humbuckers as well as 2 humbuckers with a single in the middle using a 5 way switch and push-pull pots: If you're going to be wiring for coil splits & parallel you definitely want to have a very hot pickup in the bridge position, and it definitely does sound better (a more musical & more usable tone to my ears anyway) when you're tapping a bridge coil and a neck coil in parallel as the string energy near the fingerboard (more room to vibrate) is stronger. On one of my "Strat-o-mutts" I've got the following tones with the recommended wiring for EYB's Megaswitch E model:

    1: Bridge STK 1b full humbucker
    2: STK 1b with a stock Fender RWRP staggered pole middle
    3: Bridge STK 1b coil tap with Neck STK 1n coil tap, parallel
    4: Neck STK 1n with Fender RWRP staggered pole middle
    5: Neck STK 1n full humbucker

    I tried push-pull pots for the neck & bridge pickups before going to the switch. The humbuckers in parallel by themselves were too thin for my taste. But either humbucker with both coils in parallel sounded great combined with a single coil. Being a simple guy, ultimately I decided I only wanted one switch controlling the pickups on this guitar. I do find that having a bridge coil & neck coil in parallel is a useful, lower output clean tone for rhythm and back up parts by itself or through a chorus or phaser.

    Be advised that I ruined a couple of switches, pots & capacitors during my wiring experiments but I got to know what I was hearing. A "tone quest" might cost you a few small parts but it is unlikely that you'll really hurt your guitar. Just don't mess with anything you already like the sound of, especially if it's "vintage".

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    Default Re: Difference between Series/Parallel and Coil Split

    This myth of parallel coils output = 1/4 of series coils output is wrong and needs to die. Less output than series? Yes. 1/4 of it? No.

    Quote Originally Posted by blueman335 View Post
    I use coil cut. Yes, it has a little single coil noise, not much. but parallel is so weak and thin. Half the muscle of coil cut, which doesn't have a lot.
    Not to say your opinions on parallel being useless to you are wrong, Blueman. You don't like the sound of parallel, that's cool. But your following statements about parallel are misleading.

    Quote Originally Posted by blueman335 View Post
    Resistence for the Custom family: Series 14,000 ohms, coil cut 7,000 ohms, parallel 3,500.
    All true. No disagreement there. But this only is true when speaking solely of the DC resistance of the pickups coils. DC resistance is not output strength, or even directly related to output strength.
    Quote Originally Posted by blueman335 View Post
    And as we all know, 3,500 ohms for a bridge PU is very puny. Like just about useless.
    Misleading.

    The assumption I see entering here is that under all conditions, there is a direct correlation between a pickup's output strength and the DC resistance of it's coils. But that isn't always true, because conditions can change.

    If the Custom 5 were wound to 8.1kΩ like the '59 Bridge model were, but keeping the 43AWG wire for the Custom 5, this new "Custom 5 SuperLite" would be, in fact, a weaker pickup. To keep the same resistance with a smaller wire, you'd have to have less turns, as a smaller wire by its nature has more resistance per turn than a larger one. Less turns = Less output, under otherwise same conditions. Now put an AlNiCo 8 magnet in the 8.1KΩ 43AWG pickup to make it a "Custom 8 SuperLite" and you'd probably get the output back up on par with the '59b.

    So while it is true that the DC resistance of the pickup does change when wired parallel, it is not true that parallel is weaker than cut. If it were true, than the middle position on a 3-way switch should be weaker than the Neck. A JB clocks in at 16.4kΩ, a JazzN at 7.7kΩ. Parallel, that should be 5.24kΩ, and be enough to notice a weaker output than the neck position. Is it a different sound? Absolutely. Weaker? Absolutely not. What if both pickups were to be coil-cut in the middle position? Half of 16.4 is 8.2. Half of 7.7 is 3.85. That would parallel out to about 2.6k, so low to be absolutely useless according to the DC Resistance = Output theory. But that's not been my observation. Again, different sound, yes, but not an unduly weak one.

    The coil(s) in a pickup act as a voltage source. If you feed the output of one voltage source into a 2nd, the output of the 2nd voltage source would be equal to the sum of the two. Think batteries. If you connect two AA batteries in series, you get 1.5V+1.5V=3V. If you connect two in parallel, you don't get .75V, you get 1.5, but now a 1.5V that can push out more current than the series configuration. The same happens in a guitar pickup.

    Let us say we have a Humbucker Model A, with coils wound such that each can independently put out a signal with a voltage of 1V. Real pickups usually aren't that hot, but that's a nice simple round number that makes demonstrating the math easier. If you connect both coils in series, the output voltage would be 2V. If you take one away (coil cut), you get an output voltage of 1V. If you put them in parallel, you don't get an output voltage of .5V, you get an output voltage of 1V, but at twice the current capability of coil cut, which is important, and does affect the tone. The only way putting those coils in parallel would get you .5V output would be if putting them in parallel magically made half the windings on both coils cease to exist, or otherwise somehow removed half the windings from the circuit.

    Quote Originally Posted by blueman335 View Post
    Parallel is best suited for the neck slot (the extra string energy helps it out by adding output and warmth) or for a very hot bridge PU. A PAF bridge HB in parallel is ridiculous, 2,000 ohms. Who cares if it's noise-free, at that point what can you do with it?
    I agree with the 1st and 2nd statements there, but not the 3rd for reasons above. What's great is when both 1 & 2 are true and you have the guitar wired up so you can switch between parallel and series. Parallel, you have a nice, kinda bright moderate output that does great for clean chords and such. Switch to series and get and output boost that fattens things up and can drive your clean channel/amp dirty, or turn the light crunch you had going into a fatter, heavier one.

    Quote Originally Posted by blueman335 View Post
    For coil cut on a bridge HB, I'd recommend using the slug coil as the active one, as it's twice as far from the bridge as the screw coil, and will give a bit more output and warmth. In the neck slot it doesn't make any difference.

    An interesting option is AtieToo's coil swap mod, that pairs the bridge screw coil with the neck slug (and bridge slug with the neck screw). This gives you a 'virtual' HB when the push-pull is lifted (coils in series but separated), which is a softer sound, with noise reduction, that is better than coil cut or parallel. This should come standard on every HB guitar.

    BTW, if you use both coil cut and phase, the phase option will switch which coil is on during coil cut, so you can have it both ways.
    No disagreement here.
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    Mojo's Minions blueman335's Avatar
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    Default Re: Difference between Series/Parallel and Coil Split

    Quote Originally Posted by Koreth View Post
    This myth of parallel coils output = 1/4 of series coils output is wrong and needs to die. Less output than series? Yes. 1/4 of it? No.

    All true. No disagreement there. But this only is true when speaking solely of the DC resistance of the pickups coils. DC resistance is not output strength, or even directly related to output strength.
    I didn't say resistence equaled output. Strickly resistence. But who wants a 2,000 or 3,000 ohm bridge PU? Like I said, parallel for the bridge can work with a really hot HB; with a PAF, not so much. A neck HB in parallel is a more viable proposition. Regardless of the windings or magnet, it's got significantly more string energy, and therefore output. Maybe I missed it: do your equations take PU location into account, which has a huge impact on EQ and output? If the formulas don't adjust for that, than they're created in a vacuum and of limited use for two PU guitars. The bridge is a bright, sharp, weak location to begin with; taking a bright low output HB (PAF) and putting it in parallel just seems to neuter the tone, at least for the music I play.

    The way I hear guitars, the middle position of a 3-way switch is weaker than the neck, or the bridge if both PU's are at full volume. Because they're linked in parallel. Having the Jimmy Page system in a few guitars, I know what it's like when two HB's are linked in series: much louder and warmer (too much for the average player). Series boosts output & mids and reduces treble; my ears tell me that parallel does the opposite: reduces output & mids and increases treble, whether for two coils or two PU's. Again, PU location and string energy play a part in this. Depending on the variables, an 8,000 ohm neck HB may be louder than a 12,000 ohm bridge due to their respective string energies and position to string nodes. Where's the formula for that?

    Anyways, I prefer coil cut as I can at least get some bite out of it (especially the slug coil). Parallel just doesn't have enough oomph to do that.

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    Junior Member rrockwell777's Avatar
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    Default Re: Difference between Series/Parallel and Coil Split

    Right now I notice the coil split guitar probably gives me half the output as when its a full humbucker. That sounds about right, right?
    "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

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    Mojo's Minions blueman335's Avatar
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    Default Re: Difference between Series/Parallel and Coil Split

    Quote Originally Posted by rrockwell777 View Post
    Right now I notice the coil split guitar probably gives me half the output as when its a full humbucker. That sounds about right, right?
    No, coil cut has more than half the output of series. Maybe it has 75 or 80% of the output, but enough of a drop that you notice it. What you're hearing most is it losing mids and getting thinner. The 'beef' is reduced.

    I read in a book somewhere that parallel was about a 30% drop in output compared to series. I imagine that coil cut would fall somewhere in between those.

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    Ultimate Tone Slacker Franknfilms's Avatar
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    Default Re: Difference between Series/Parallel and Coil Split

    I got some triple shots so that I could access all of these options. Turns out the only thing I use is coil cut. I haven't heard anything in parrallel that sounded good except for maybe a air norton, but even then it was the worst option of the three.
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    Default Re: Difference between Series/Parallel and Coil Split

    Quote Originally Posted by rrockwell777 View Post
    Right now I notice the coil split guitar probably gives me half the output as when its a full humbucker. That sounds about right, right?
    Yep, that's about right and what I hear too. The main difference between split and parallel is that parallel will be brighter. As Blueman correctly points out, take a low output, bright pickup in the bridge position, which is a bright, low output position before the pickups ever even come into play, and the increase in brightness could very well be too much to be useful.

    However, with a high output, darker pickup in the bridge, the increase in brightness coupled with the halving of output could be very useful indeed.
    Last edited by Koreth; 11-22-2011 at 10:12 AM.
    Quote Originally Posted by ratherdashing View Post
    If you don't see the value of a good 1 watt tube amp, it probably means one or more of the following:

    - You live out in the country
    - You hate your neighbours
    - You mistakenly believe that your big amp with the master volume at 0.5 sounds good
    - You love solid state amps
    - You don't actually play guitar
    - You kick puppies

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    Mojo's Minions crguti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Difference between Series/Parallel and Coil Split

    Quote Originally Posted by Franknfilms View Post
    I haven't heard anything in parrallel that sounded good except for maybe a air norton, but even then it was the worst option of the three.
    The Air Norton in parallel is great, the same with the Paf Pro.

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    Default Re: Difference between Series/Parallel and Coil Split

    All my experience of parallel and split is that the parallel is the beefier and also slightly more rounded tone compared with split. Ive done this mostly with PAF style neck pickups (PG, Jazz, 59, PATB1 n) but also a JB in the bridge.

    Tonally I liken parallel to a stack singlecoil. Its not quite the tone of a pure single but has many of the elements, plus is hum cancelling.

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