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So while I had my 500 apart to fix some solder points, I modded it to have regular pickups as well. I routed out space for an HSS configuration, customized a strat pickguard and installed a balance/blend pot to go between the two. Took me a while but it works great.

post-732021-0-44677300-1414507154_thumb.jpg

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I actually like not having pickups on my variax but I will agree it does look nicer with them!

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Well, it had failed me a few times playing out and I wanted to have a "backup". I really think the pickguard really changes the look of the guitar.

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Looks nice.  Good job.  I also have a Variax 500 but I kind of like it when it freaks people out by not having any pickups.

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Very great. I suggest installing graphtech ghost pickups if you're tired of the pickups failing, especially if you're going to go through the trouble of installing magnetic pickups.

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It looks great! I have boon thinking about doing the same to my 700. Does it steel need the ac adapter or the batteries when you're just using the magnetic pickups?

 

Cheers,

 

Pedro

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No, normal passive pickups don't require batteries or the floor pedal. But if you are going to also use the Variax electronics, you will still need batteries/power to operate those. I have mine set up with a balance/blend pot so I can use either, but if I don't plug it into the power supply it kinda just acts as a volume control.

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How'd you do it? Was it a tough thing to put pickups in it? I guess I could do with a set of Strat pickups in my 500...

 

Looks really good--love the pick guard. 

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Putting the pickups in wasn't all that tough, but the part that was the toughest was getting them to use the same output jack/volume/5-way switch. TTYTT, I would have to research it all again to remember what wires I cut/spliced into. If you are ok with using tools like drills, routers, chisels, etc. it's not that hard to do that part. You can get a loaded pickguard (or an unloaded one if you want to use specific brand pickups) from guitarfetish.com for cheap, but you have to cut it to fit the variax. The p'ups I got with mine sounded really good so I didn't bother going with one of the high-end brands. I moved my volume pot to where the volume usually goes on the strat pickguard, moved the tone pot into where the volume was and put a blend/balance pot where the tone was. This is what lets me go between the variax electronics and the magnetic pickups. There is some limitations because of the 5 way switch is wired to both. If I want to use a variax setting that is in the "neck" position, I can only blend with the neck pickup, etc. but I usually just use one or the other, don't really blend them.

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Very great. I suggest installing graphtech ghost pickups if you're tired of the pickups failing, especially if you're going to go through the trouble of installing magnetic pickups.

Hey Clay, are the Ghost saddles direct replacements to the Line6 ones? Just replace the whole bridge piece and solder the piezo the the existing pcb?

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The ghost saddles just replace the saddles on the same bridge piece.  That part is easy.  The harder part is dealing with the connections to the flex circuit under the bridge.  If you are not good with small wires and soldering, it's best left to a pro.  I did mine and it turned out fine but it was a bit of a challenge even with my years of soldering experience.  (And I have a microscope and the right equipment to do it)  That being said, it is really a major improvement over the standard piezos.  Each has it's own ground wire so there is no flaky ground through the bridge or strings to worry about.

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Thanks Charlie, going to have to try this on one of mine. I have replaced saddles in the past and have no problem soldering.

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Charlie, can you tell me the proper ghost saddles to purchase? String spacing?

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I got them from Stewart Macdonald  Search for item 5443 Ghost Prewired Saddle Pickup Set.  They are made for a Strat.  String spacing doesn't change because each saddle is individual just like the ones on the 500.

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So, each saddle has it's own ground.. Where did you connect all the grounds? Did you take any pictures?

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It's not an easy conversion unless you are very good at soldering and working with very small wires.  I removed the whole fixed bridge assembly along with it's flex circuit.  Then I unsoldered all of the old piezos and removed them.  Then I installed the new ones one by one.  I cut the connector off and threaded the two wires through the hole in the flex.  I soldered the signal wire to the point where the old piezo went and soldered the ground wire to the flex ground.  I scraped off the insulation in an area that was large enough to connect six grounds.  This is the tricky part.  It has to fit under the saddle where the guitar is routed out slightly.  The wires have to be very short and they are not that easy to strip and solder.  It took me most of an evening to do the job but it was well worth it!  Having each piezo grounded makes a huge difference in the signal quality.  I was having intermittent problems with grounding with the old ones.

     Only thing I did afterwards was to go into Workbench and turn down the string volumes to about 50%.  These new Ghost piezos are higher output than the originals and I was worried about clipping the signals.  I tried to judge how loud it was before and after.

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bridge1.jpg

 

So I am very adept at soldering, this is no issue. I have a spare bridge and I ordered a set of Ghost saddles directly from Ghost.

 

ghost.jpg

 

It doesn't really say, but I am taking it from the way that you worded your response that these saddles have a mini connector attached to them? Like a little molex connector? 

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So here is what I am proposing Charlie. Tell me if you think this will work.

 

ghost2.jpg

 

Actually the jumper wire is not even required. You could drill a small hole through the adhesive strip and through the flex circuit and attach the ground with a tiny wire soldered on top and bottom.

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Yes that will work fine.  You just have to be really careful.  I think I scraped the flex circuit where the ground run is in the top of your picture and soldered the grounds there but it might be easier to do what you propose.  I had to slightly enlarge the holes where the wires go through the pads so that the two wires would fit.  I used a tapered punch that I had and just pushed it in to make the holes slightly larger.  Sounds like you know what you are doing.  I have a stereo scope and a very good soldering station that made the job doable for me.  Worst case, you may damage one of the piezos and need to buy a replacement.  I was able to get mine done with no fallout.

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Charlie, are both wires (+ & - ) insulated and then running inside of some clear (translucent blue) plastic tubing?

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It is narrow twin lead wire.  The Minus has a blue stripe I believe.  It's been over 18 months since I did mine so my memory is fading a bit.  Both conductors are insulated.  You have to separate them with an exacto knife.  The pickups come with 2 pin connector plugs on the ends and very long wires.

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