Tech Tips: Stock or RW/RP?
16th April 2020
Stock or RW/RP
For most of our single-coil pickup sets, we offer the option of RW/RP (Reverse Wound / Reverse Polarity) on one pickup in the set, which enables you to have one, or several combinations of pickups in the set which provide a hum-cancelling effect (for more on this, check out THIS ARTICLE). Depending on the exact type of pickup set, the effect on the overall tone of the set varies, so this article delves into those tonal implications, to help you to decide what's best for you. Overall, the main thing is weighing up the potential benefits of the hum-cancelling positions vs the effect on the tone.
With Strat sets, we offer the RW/RP option on the middle coil. This means that the pickup selections which use the middle and bridge together, or the middle and neck together will benefit from a hum-cancelling effect. "Stock" is the more vintage-correct configuration, with RW/RP being the more modern setup on Fender guitars from the factory. Tonally, the RW/RP tends to hollow the mids out a little in those positions, for a slightly smoother sound, with a bright top end but a little less of that typical Strat "cluck" that you would associate with those pickup combinations. Some players also find that the overall output of an RW/RP set is slightly less. This is because, in a stock set, all of the magnets are orientated in the same direction, so work together to create a large, unified magnetic field. With an RW/RP set, the middle pickup has a reversed magnetic polarity, so it creates a couple of weaker spots between the pickups, where the field is switching from south to north. This effect should be felt more in an alnico 5 set, where the overall magnetic field is stronger so there is more interaction between the fields of each pickup. Conversely, with an alnico 3 set such as the Apache, the interaction between the magnetic fields of each pickup would be minimal, so the tonal effect should be less.
BOOT CAMP NOTES: Our Boot Camp Strat sets come by default with an RW/RP middle coil.
For Telecaster sets, we offer an RW/RP option on the neck pickup, offering hum-cancelling when the bridge and neck are working together. Again, as with Strats, "stock" is the vintage-accurate option. The effect on the sound is broadly the same as with Strats, except that, because the pickups are further apart, the magnetic interaction between the pickups is less. Having said that, for the very same reason, the overall sound in the middle position of a 3 way switch on a Tele is more notched out across the mids and low frequencies, as the distance creates a looser correlation between the signals of the neck and bridge pickups, so some comb filtering occurs. Because of this, we'll often recommend sticking to stock polarity for Teles, to help to maximise the punch of that middle position.
BOOT CAMP NOTES: Boot Camp Tele sets come by default with stock polarity
Our P90 sets come with the option of RW/RP for the neck pickup, providing a hum-cancelling effect when the bridge and neck are used together. The tonal effects are very much the same as a Tele set, but can be much more variable in significance, as our P90 range spans a huge range of outputs and magnet types. P90s also have a generally larger magnetic field, so the effect of magnetic interaction is more similar to a Strat, although the pickups are spaced apart more like a Tele. The magnets of a P90 set also point directly towards each other so the magnetic effect of stock vs RW/RP is fairly noticeable. The middle position of an RW/RP set is quite a bit softer than with a stock set and the overall power of the set is slightly reduced. The real crux with a P90 set is: what style of set is it? Some of our more jazzy sets really suit the softer tone and, likewise, some of the hotter, more aggressive sets arguably benefit from the hum-cancelling feature more than any of our other single coils. With P90s, more than any other pickup type, it's really down to the player's taste and the application.
BOOT CAMP NOTES: Boot Camp P90 sets come by default with stock polarity.
I hope that's helped to give you some info about the tonal differences between stock and RW/RP. For further discussion on the subject, including sound examples, we have a video tutorial on our YouTube channel HERE and, of course, if you have any questions, please drop us a line!