Tech Tips: Choosing the right hook-up wire
15th April 2020
Choosing the right hook-up wire
When ordering pickups, you'll see that there are a few different options for hook-up wire (conductor). For humbuckers, you can choose between 4 conductor or braided 2 conductor, for P90s we have braided 2 conductor, or 2 conductor + screen. Even for Telecasters, where there is no specific hook-up option, we have the choice of a "4-way mod" which is essentially also a different style of hook-up.
So... which is right for you? Firstly, you need to look at what kinds of options you want to have in your setup. Are you using a complex switching system? Do you want your new humbucker set to connect to coil-split switching? Do you want to be able to use the pickups on lots of different guitars over time?
If the answer to any of that is YES, then you will need to use a multi-core hookup, so, that's 4 conductor for humbuckers and 2 conductor + screen for P90s. These types of hookup give you wiring access to both ends of each pickup coil, plus a separate grounding wire for the metal chassis of the pickup. This allows you to connect the coils in multiple different ways, with the coils connected to each other and to other pickups in different configurations, without ever interfering with that fixed chassis ground.
On the other hand, if the answer to all of those questions is NO, then you can use a multicore type hook-up, OR, if you want a more vintage vibe in your guitar, you can go for braided 2 conductor. This type of wire has a braided outer sheath (which is your ground connection) and a single inner wire which carries the output signal of the pickup. The key difference here is that one end of the coil is permanently internally connected to that outer sheath, so the pickup can only be connected into the guitar in one "default" configuration as one end of the coil is always grounded. This works for standard "classic" configurations, where you have , for example, 2 humbuckers and a 3 way toggle switch, with both humbuckers always running on both coils.
Ultimately, Multi-core hook-up is the most versatile, as it can be used with virtually any setup, so, if in any doubt, go with that option.
The Telecaster "4-way mod" is a related topic, as it requires us to modify the hook-up wiring of a Telecaster neck pickup. In normal trim, the coil of a Telecaster neck is permanently connected to the metal cover of the pickup and, in turn, both of those are connected to ground. The very common "4-way mod" uses a 4 way pickup selector to add an extra position where the bridge and neck pickups are on together, in series. The way that this connects requires the coil of the neck pickup to be free from any permanent ground connections. So, for this configuration, we break the link between the neck coil and the cover and add an extra wire to provide the cover with a permanent ground connection. This essentially gives the neck pickup the same hook-up connections as if it had 2 conductor +screen wiring, but utilises the more classic Tele cloth hook-up wire to get there.
I hope that gives you a few tips to help you to choose the right hook-up wiring for your setup, but, as always, if you have any questions while considering ordering or configuring a set, drop us an email!