Tagged with "pickup"
History of FlatCat™ Pickups Tags: flatcat history pickups

THE HISTORY OF FLATCAT™ GUITAR PICKUPS

From the owner of Wishbringer Music

    Around the end of 2014 I became aware of flat pickups when I noticed a brand called Thinkbuckers.   Looking further I found another brand called FlatPup, another by the Lace company, another brand by National.  I was already building guitars by hand and was fascinated by the concept of flat pickups, but could find very little information on how they were built. Even the cigar box guitar communities seemed very secretive (at the time) as to the process.

    Research revealed that flat pickups were nothing new; they'd been around for decades.  Lace and National produce off-the-shelf models, but they are very pricey. 

    Gaining little or no cooperation from the community in understanding flat pickup design, I went to the Net and did some research.  Very little was found there. So I started experimenting by the seat of my pants, beginning with only a slight inkling of how these were made, based on non-specific photos.  Existing pickups were wax potted and wrapped in cellophane packing tape-- a process that didn't appeal to me. I wanted something sturdier and more resistant to environmental changes.

    Factory-made flat pickups were pricey, starting at $145 each.  I wanted to build a pickup that was especially sturdy and had a wide-range of sound ability, but at a price affordable to the everyday guitar player.

    I started developing an unusual design, significantly different than prior designs I had seen.  Not a quick process.  Hundreds of hours were involved in basic R&D. Dozens of trial pickups. Detailed records were kept on all attempts-- gleaning the best features from each and discarding failures.  Eventually, the FlatCat pickup was born.

 

    By mid-2015 the R&D sessions had accomplished several things:

    * Considerable improvement over existing design concepts both in construction and resulting sound.  Testers stated it sounded better and was more versatile than other pickups.

    * FlatCats are fully potted and encased in solid PolyResin, which makes them very sturdy and more immune to elements and the environment.

    * Because of their design I was able to create and offer the first low-cost 6-string flat pickup on the market, intended for use on standard electric guitars.  Where factory-produced pickups started at $145 and up, FlatCats are priced at $50 to $55.   FlatCats extended beyond the realm of cigar box guitars. 

    *  Flatcats were significantly more powerful than existing CBG-type flat pickups.  Despite that gain in power, FlatCats remained wonderfully rich in tone, without distortion.  They work well with pedals, including distortion and overdrive models.

    *  FlatCat was released in  Cigar Box Guitar and Humbucker footprints.  Both models are aboout 1/4" thick and designed to be mounted to the surface of a guitar.

    FlatCats were released to the market and over the next several months earned solid 5-star reviews.   They were purchased by professional luthiers, cigar box guitar builders and customers  modding their own off-the-shelf guitars.  Repeat purchases by existing customers proved their effectiveness.  

    FlatCats are often specified as the "pickup of choice" by people who order custom guitars from Wishbringer, with those guitars receiving top reviews as well.  

    Today the FlatCat is available in a variety of colors.   Their sturdy composition assures their continued function over decades-- the wonderfully unique sound available to you for your special guitar projects.

--o--

 

PICKUPS: Matching Your Guitar's Phase and Polarity Tags: pickups phase polarity

Note:  If ordering a FlatCat™ pickup, please see the end of this article for information.  

 

DEFINITIONS

POLARITY:  The facing of the magnet, either "north up" (toward the strings) or "south up".

PHASE: The direction of the current... which wire is + or --, "hot" or "ground".

 

INSTALLING A NEW PICKUP

    If you're just using one pickup on an instrument, you usually do not have to worry about polarity or phase.   But if you're using 2 or 3 pickups in close proximity to one another, how those pickups are built can be very important to how they will work together. 

   Some pickups are compatible; some are not.  If you've ever experienced hum you just can't seem to get rid of, or weak, tinny sound... it is possible your pickups are out of polarity/phase with one another.     

 

Out of phase means the pickup wires are hooked up backwards in the guitar.  Intentionally done and balanced, this can provide a pleasantly different tone on your guitar.  Done unintentionally, it can result in severe loss of volume and tone.

    Here is a diagram illustrating how phase works:

 

 

WIRE COLORS

    While different guitar companies will have charts regarding pickups, there is no universal color coding for pickup wires; it sometimes is necessary to check it yourself.  The rule of thumb is this:  If you hook a pickup to your volume control and it sounds weak or tinny, reverse the wires.  A functional pickup should sound vibrant and not at all weak.

    If you're using a humbucker (2 coils) you may have either 2 or 4 wires coming from the pickup, depending on the model.  In the case of 4 wires, there will be two pairs.   In such case you will need to check the wires for continuity to see which of the four wires is paired together.   Time saver:  on many 4-wire pickups the ground wires are already soldered together.

 

COMPATIBILITY.  Generally speaking, if you have two single pickups, you want one to be North, phase positive and the other one to be South, phase negative (ie, wound the opposite direction of the first pickup).  This is what you call a matched pair, which is important for not only hum and noise cancellation but also for volume and tone.  

    If you have a mismatched pair, you can wind up with either hum or a weak, tinny-sounding signal.  This being the case, it is possible for two pickups to be mismatched... incompatible.  This means they are either both north, both south, or are wound the same direction.

 

TESTING POLARITY

   You will need a compass or a bar magnet.  Set the compass sideways on top of the pickup and see whether the north or south pointer of the compass points away from the pickup. 

Opposites attract; a north polarity pickup will attract the south pole of a compass, repelling the north pole and causing it to point away from the pickup.  So if the north points away from the pickup, it's a north polarity pickup.  If the south points away it is a south polarity pickup.

     The polarity of the pickup is indicated by the side of the compass needle pointing away from the pickup.

   You can use a bar magnet as well.  See whether the north end or south end of the bar magnet is attracted by the pickup.  If one end is attracted by your pickup, the other end is the polarity direction.

 

TESTING CONTINUITY

   Testing for continuity (unbroken circuit) checks two things:

    1) Continuity indicates the pickup is functional (continuous coil wire without a break)

    2) If there are 4 or more wires it will reveal which wire pairs match one another. 

    Using a multimeter, touch the meter leads to two wires and see if you get current flow.  If you do, those are paired.  In the case where two wires are already soldered together, those are ground and the other wires are "hot".

 

TESTING PICKUP PHASE (which wire is + or -- )

   You will need a digital multi-meter that is capable of testing very low DC or AC voltage (either will work).  Most multi-meters can do this, even inexpensive ones.

   To determine the phase, connect your two meter leads to a wire pair.  Now take a screwdriver or large nail and slowly move it toward the surface of the pickup.  You will see a jump in the voltage reading; that jump will either be positive or negative.  If it is positive, you have the red (hot) and ground (black) leads on the correct wires.  If it is negative, you have them reversed.  Switch them and try again for verification.

   When you remove the screwdriver from the pickup you will see another voltage spike, just the opposite of the first one.   So if you got a positive reading when laying on, you will get a negative reading when pulling away, and vice versa.

   That is how you test for phase.  When you get a positive-then-negative reaction, whichever wire the red lead is connected to will be the hot / positive wire and the black wire is ground / negative. 

 

INSTALLING COMPATIBLE PICKUPS

    To get ideal sound you want your pickups hooked up backward  to one another.   If both pickups are wound the same direction or the magnets facing the same direction, you can get hum.    For pickups to be matched, you want the magnets to face opposite directions and the coils to be wound opposite (or in short, you want opposite polarity and phase between the pickups). 

Note:  if the magnets are 2 inches or more away from one another you likely will not need to worry about polarity; they are outside one another's magnetic field.  You will still need to consider phase.

    If you buy a set of pickups and one says "neck" and the other says "bridge"... that has already been taken into consideration.   If you take two neck pickups and put them together or two bridge pickups together, you are likely going to have out-of-phase (incompatible) pickups-- unless of course that's the sound you're going for. 

   What makes things more confusing is that different brands of pickups and even different years within the same brand can be incompatible.  For example, early Fender neck pickups had north polarity, but then they later changed to south polarity.  So to replace pickups on a Strat you need to either test for polarity and phase on the existing pickups-- or switch out all three with an already-matched set.

 

HOW CAN I TELL IF MY PHASE IS RIGHT?

   It's easy to check polarity, as shown above.   If you hook up a pickup and it sounds weak or tinny, it may be a phase issue.  Try reversing the wires:  note where they connect to the controls, and switch them.  This will require knowledge of soldering technique.

    Some guitars have phase switches which can automatically change the phase for you.  They are also often used to intentionally change the sound of a guitar.

   For cigar box guitars you will probably usually use only one pickup, next to the neck.  If you use two or three make sure you use a matched set. 
 

INSTALLING A FLATCAT

    FlatCat™ pickups come north-polarity toward the neck, positve phase unless otherwise requested.  If you need south-polarity, as with most humbuckers simply turn the FlatCat 180 degrees (with the numbers on the back away from the neck).  If the FlatCat will be 2 inches or more away from existing pickups they will likely work fine, without further testing.   But if combined with other pickups in close proximity, testing your guitar for polarity and phase compatibility is a good idea. Because of the FlatCat's unique internal design, coil direction is not an issue.

 

WITH ALL PICKUPS-  EARS ARE A GREAT TOOL

To test for phase--  hook the indicated ground wire to the ground of your volume control and the hot wire to the hot pin.  If it doesn't sound right (weak or tinny sound) your instrument may require inverted phase.  Just reverse the wire placement on the pot.  If you still experince weak sound, look to other areas of the guitar for problem issues (weak pot, poor grounding, bad solder joint, phase/polarity issues in other pickups, bad jack or guitar cord, etc).  Some instruments require professional maintenance.

 

--o--

 

REFERENCE PHOTOS

These photos are just for general reference.  As indicated above, your guitar may be different.  It is easy to check polarity with a compass or magnet.

 

 

 

 

 

STANDARD PICKUP WIRE COLORS

--o--

 

FlatCat™ Surface-Mounted Guitar Pickups Tags: FlatCat pickup

 

You can find FlatCats here:  ETSY

 

 

 

 

 

FREE SHIPPING WITHIN MAINLAND U.S.

CUSTOMER REVIEWS:
"Man You are a genius. Just arrived and just installed. They are great! No noise no hum, great tone and volume. I don't know how you did it but they are better than most traditional pickups." - Andrea

"Love it. Great tone. Not one bit of crackle, hum, or feedback, even when turned up on high." - RP

A professional luthier stated: "This has such a balanced sound. It brings out a full bass end without losing the trebles, and has almost an acoustic sub-tone to it. It's a great pickup."

 

The FlatCat brings out all of the strings evenly, applying proper bass to the wound strings and volume to the trebles without sounding tinny in the process. The result is a harmonious balance between all strings.


NOTHING SPEAKS BETTER THAN VIDEOS!  See the end of this page for video listings.

 

WHAT ARE FLATCATS?
FlatCat's are surface-mounted, anti-noise guitar pickups. They are only 1/4" thick but have significantly more power than competitive pickups. They are coil-based "mag" pickups (just like other electric guitar pickups) but are designed in a very special way, developed over years of testing to maximize voice, tone and string balance. Easy-installation instructions and mounting is included. Each FlatCat is built totally by hand in the U.S.A., with free support for your questions.


WHY ARE FLATCATS SPECIAL?
Most pickups are largely buried inside the guitar body, with the primary sensory field a distance away from the strings and carried up through the body via small pins (requiring precise alignment).

The entire FlatCat pickup sits right under the strings; there are no pins.  The active field of the FlatCat covers the face of the pickup, accessing far more string area and producing a more accurate sound that can't be obtained from standard pickups. Place a FlatCat at the neck position and the resulting sound is rich and vibrant. Put it near the bridge for more of a "surf / lead guitar" sound. Install two or three FlatCats with a switch as with any standard pickup combo.

 

FLATCAT™ FEATURES:

* Surface-mount: installs quickly and easily without routing the body
* Only 1/4" thick, beautiful molten black finish
* Provides up to 3 times the power of other flat pickups
* The full pickup surface is receptive-- no need to worry about "pin alignment"
* Not microphonic; a true noiseless coil mag pickup
* Entire pickup sits directly under the strings, reproducing every nuance of sound
* Sound is clear and accurate, producing a unique rich, full "Delta Swamp" tone
* Potted in sturdy, solid polymer (instead of wax and tape)-- immune to weather changes
* Anti-hum and anti-noise
* Works well with all amps-- very versatile range
* Comes in attractive molten black color (other colors available)
* Completely and expertly hand-made in Missouri, U.S.A.
* Solid 5-star ratings from our customers

 

FlatCat works with standard electric guitars, cigar box guitars (CBGs), and other electric-string instruments (steel, nickel or chrome strings). The unique design produces especially fine tone and sound range beyond conventional pickups (see the diagram in the additional photos). FlatCats are available in CBG, 6/7-string, and two bass guitar models (standard 4 string electric and CBG bass).

 

SIZE SPECIFICATIONS
* 6 / 7 string and bass guitar: 3 3/4" x 1 7/8"... the size of an industry-standard humbucker with mounting ring
(The size is to cover mounting screw holes if they already exist in the guitar.)
* CBG (cigar box guitar) or CBG bass: 2" x 2"

(Note: Two CBG bass pickups can be used as a split pair for a 5-string bass guitar)

 

EFFECTIVE FIELD WIDTHS (distance between outer strings)
The effective pickup field on standard and bass versions is 3" wide-- plenty of room for most guitars. The effective field on the CBG version is 1.5"-- more than wide enough to handle CBGs with 3 to 4 strings.  The standard version can be installed on a CBG as well.

 

 

MORE CUSTOMER COMMENTS

 

"I LOVE THESE PICKUPS! They sound amazing!! I just tried the new full size pickups and they really crank it out!! THANKS SO MUCH."
-- Rocket Instruments

 

"I finally finished the guitar for which I bought your pickups and have had several players over to try it. Everyone agrees your pickups sound great. They lived up to every claim you make and then some."
-- R. Duke

"It has a very unique sound, to me it sounds somewhere between a P-90 and a Strat pickup, but more laid back than either. Very easy to install, and well built. Excellent customer service." - G.W.

"I got a set for a hollow body guitar I made, and I absolutely love these pickups! They have a full, rich sound that stays clear. The bridge pickup does twangy and jangly really well, and the neck has a great big warm sound to it. They're great to play clean, and will do fuzz and distortion equally well. These pickups look cool, are easy to install, and they sound GREAT! I'll be getting more of these in the future."
-- K. Jewett

Read our reviews on Etsy for additional 5-star comments from enthusiastic customers.

 

CUSTOMERS please send me your photos and YouTube video links of your FlatCat instruments in action. I love to see finished customer work-- and often post them on this website!

Best wishes from Wishbringer!


VIDEO DEMOS of the FLATCAT PICKUP:
Performer Brooks Williams performing in a duo at the huge Shrewsbury Folk Festival, the FlatCat prominent on his prized resonator guitar (start the video about 13 minutes):
https://youtu.be/fQzSzoR6ryw?t=826

FlatCat-based electric guitar made from an Altoids Mints tin!
https://youtu.be/4WJ_1bouiNU

Customer Callanta playing a Wishbringer-made CBG featuring a FlatCat pickup and an overdrive pedal.
https://youtu.be/RQf9-Px-Xsw

Brooks Williams again with his FlatCat-based cigar box guitar:
https://youtu.be/iSoIOyOOJBw

Dual FlatCat on a 15-voice hand-made cigar box guitar:
https://youtu.be/tWHjrdoqkcM

Quinton plays the Hazardous Voltage FlatCat CBG
https://youtu.be/7jXLitP3j0A

 

FlatCat is a Trademark of Wishbringer Traditional Music. All rights reserved.

 

 


SHIPPING NOTES:
Once a product leaves U.S. borders, it is out of the jurisdiction of U.S. shipping law. Under the Covid situation, Foreign quarantine laws and delay times differ for each country.  You will have a USPS tracking number, but that system often provides contradictory information even within U.S. borders. Your shipment will be insured, so if the item has not arrived within 60 days (14 days within the US) we can initiate replacement. Thank you for your consideration of these unusual times.

 

RETURN POLICY
For detailed return policies please see the CONTACT section on the Home page.  Each FlatCat is hand-tested prior to shipping to guarantee proper function and quality sound.  I'm confident you will be very satisfied with your purchase. 

 

--o--

 

 

 

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January 2022 (2)

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