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Why No Replacement Piezo Elements For Jtv69?

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Couldn't I just bypass that small PCB at the bridge, cut and strip the wires that connect the bridge PCB to the motherboard, cut and strip the GraphTech piezo leads, join solder and shrink wrap?

 

Sure, why not?  Personally I'd prefer to leave the originals intact, but if you don't care about that then your approach should work fine.  One thing to be careful of:  GraphTech claims their wiring is Teflon insulated, and that can be nasty to strip cleanly without nicking a lot of strands or outright breaking off the piece you're trying to strip.  The gold standard for stripping Teflon involves thermal tweezers, but you can do it mechanically with some difficulty.  Just leave yourself some extra to allow for breakage and general "...oh, crap..." moments :-)

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I used a single edge blade and very carefully cut the insulation enough to be able to remove it with my finger nails.  I did not have any tool that would strip that stuff cleanly.  Nice thing about tefflon insulation is that it won't melt when you solder the wires.  I should have taken a pic of my completed bridge before I reinstalled it.  The 500 used a flex circuit between the bridge and the PC board.  I soldered all of the wires to the flex circuit right under the bridge.

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Sure, why not?  Personally I'd prefer to leave the originals intact, but if you don't care about that then your approach should work fine.  One thing to be careful of:  GraphTech claims their wiring is Teflon insulated, and that can be nasty to strip cleanly without nicking a lot of strands or outright breaking off the piece you're trying to strip.  The gold standard for stripping Teflon involves thermal tweezers, but you can do it mechanically with some difficulty.  Just leave yourself some extra to allow for breakage and general "...oh, crap..." moments :-)

 

I have done the GraphTech cut /strip/solder thing on two Variax transplants, it was quick and easy both times - the easiest part of the project, really. Maybe because I didn't know about the Teflon, I just jumped in and did it. As I recall the wire was too small for the strippers I had on hand and I had to use a razor blade to scrape off the insulation. It is quite possible I nicked some or all of the wiring with the blade, don't know, but it works perfectly so that doesn't seem to have had any effect. The GraphTech leads are much easier to work with than the original Variax piezo wires were, and they are super long so if you do screw up you get lots of chances to try, try again.

 

Had I read your post here prior to installing my GraphTechs I might have been too intimidated to try to do it myself  :D

 

I agree it would be nice if the GraphTechs plugged in the same way the Tyler piezos do, I would prefer that to cutting and soldering - but if cutting and soldering is the only option I have no problem with doing it once my warranty runs out. Those Tyler piezos gotta go!

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I did not mean to intimidate anyone but I am afraid that many folks do not have the necessary skills to pull this off successfully.  Those that do should have no problems if they take their time.

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It's definitely possible to strip teflon insulation by hand.  I did it for years before finding the hot-tweezers in a surplus store.  The secret is do not try to use a pair of strippers!  Unless the size match is absolutely perfect, you will either break the wire or nick so many strands that the connection will be mechanically weak.

 

The razor blade or x-acto knife approach is far safer.  Use a light swiping motion, holding the blade at 90-degrees to the wire.  Even with thin wire you can feel when the blade gets through the insulation.  After you make a couple of nicks, it should pull off using a thumbnail.  Take a close look through a magnifier to check for broken strands.  A few is fine, but if it's more than about 25% shredded cut it off and try again.

 

If you are going to do a lot of termination on teflon, the hot-tweezers are majorly cool.  Once you get the temperature dialed in (5-900 degrees, depending on insulation characteristics), it's just a matter of a light pinch, twist and pull.  Fast, and no broken strands at all.  I do a fair amount of work on classic computer systems and often need to use 30g Kynar wirewrap wire for repairs or modifications.  Wirewrap wire is solid core and breaks even easier than the stranded cable.  The tweezer system was the best $25 I even spent.

 

If I go the Graph-Tech route, I'm probably going to take a deep breath and try tacking on new pins under a magnifying glass.  Butt splicing and heat shrink is fine, though.  I'm just fussy...

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Hi, I'm new to the forum and wanted to ask a few questions about this topic. I have a JTV-69 and am getting little or muted signal from a few of my piezos. They sound "banjoish". I thought about replacing them individually (thanks for the link above), but am now leaning towards replacing the entire set with left-offset Graph Tech Ghost saddles (thanks for that link as well!).

 

I am thinking it should be a relatively simple operation, other than the aforementioned teflon stripping. I am planning to solder the new leads directly to the PCB contacts where the existing gray LR Baggs wires are soldered (after peeling off the protective RTV). I'm not sure if the Ghost Tech saddles have a ground as part of the lead or if they ground through the body of the saddle. If they do, there are large pads on the bridge PCB for GND as well.

 

Any thoughts on why my approach is misguided? :) 

 

I think I wil invest in some hot-tweezers, as well. Zircon-encrusted?

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Uncle Frank could have used Zircon-encrusted tweezers while making Maple syrup for the pancakes of our land... 

 

Seriously, though, what PCB are you talking about soldering to?  The main electronics board? 

 

I haven't seen the GraphTech saddles other than in photos, but I doubt they rely on contact with the bridge plate for grounding. 

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  The 500 used a flex circuit between the bridge and the PC board.  I soldered all of the wires to the flex circuit right under the bridge.

 

The 69 has a small circuit board fitted to the fron t of the sustain block right under the bridge. Each piezo lead is soldered to it. Is this what you were referring to? If so, seems like this is the easiest route...

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Yes, that is the circuit board I was referring to. Pic link: https://app.box.com/s/uwegswh7110bippmzkgf

 

I talked to Gray at Graph Tech and he thought this approach would work well. He noted that the Ghost saddles tend to be a bit hotter than the LR Baggs. So... I went ahead and ordered a set! Will post to this forum when I get them installed and tested.

 

The reason I asked about the grounding scheme is that there isn't an apparent separate ground lead with the existing JTV saddles, although I haven't removed the RTV to look more closely.

 

Out of curiosity - what kind of heated tweezers do you purchase, Iknowathingortwo? Looking at Amazon right now...

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I used a single edge blade and very carefully cut the insulation enough to be able to remove it with my finger nails.  I did not have any tool that would strip that stuff cleanly.  Nice thing about tefflon insulation is that it won't melt when you solder the wires.  I should have taken a pic of my completed bridge before I reinstalled it.  The 500 used a flex circuit between the bridge and the PC board.  I soldered all of the wires to the flex circuit right under the bridge.

 

 

Yes, that is the circuit board I was referring to. Pic link: https://app.box.com/s/uwegswh7110bippmzkgf

 

I talked to Gray at Graph Tech and he thought this approach would work well. He noted that the Ghost saddles tend to be a bit hotter than the LR Baggs. So... I went ahead and ordered a set! Will post to this forum when I get them installed and tested.

 

The reason I asked about the grounding scheme is that there isn't an apparent separate ground lead with the existing JTV saddles, although I haven't removed the RTV to look more closely.

 

Out of curiosity - what kind of heated tweezers do you purchase, Iknowathingortwo? Looking at Amazon right now...

 

 

 

 

Dunno about the tweezers...that was somebody else, lol.

If the graphtech's are hotter than the jtv piezos, i'm wondering if that would exascerbate some of the issues that people have had with piezo "quack"...we all keep lowering string volumes to compensate, wouldn't this make it worse?

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Sorry - wrong tweeze :-)

 

BTW, I had read somewhere that the Ghost piezos were less "quacky" than others, despite the hotter output. But, I will comment with real data once I get them installed.

My (biggest) issue wasn't the quack, but the fact that several of my saddles sounded very dead and/or had reduced volume. I had cleaned the pockets out and reseated them, put on new strings, etc, but nothing seemed to help. I had thought about getting the individual replacement saddles, but I think the Graph Tech saddle looks to just be a better design. I don't want to be replacing saddles on a regular basis... Hopefully the Graph Tech Ghosts work well...

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Sorry - wrong tweeze :-)

 

BTW, I had read somewhere that the Ghost piezos were less "quacky" than others, despite the hotter output. But, I will comment with real data once I get them installed.

My (biggest) issue wasn't the quack, but the fact that several of my saddles sounded very dead and/or had reduced volume. I had cleaned the pockets out and reseated them, put on new strings, etc, but nothing seemed to help. I had thought about getting the individual replacement saddles, but I think the Graph Tech saddle looks to just be a better design. I don't want to be replacing saddles on a regular basis... Hopefully the Graph Tech Ghosts work well...

 

Good luck with it...seems like soldering straight to that board underneath the bridge would be much easier. Not sure what would be gained by stripping and splicing wires together...then again, I'm no expert.

 

Anybody know why this wouldn't work?

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Each of the Graphtech piezo's has two wires.  Signal and Ground. This is a good thing!  Much better than the LR Baggs where they rely on grounding through the bridge.  I recommend connecting all of the ground wires together on the PCB.  That is what I did on my Variax 500 and it has been solid.  You will probably have to turn down the string volumes in Workbench after you make the swap.  The Graphtech piezo pickups are pretty hot and you may get clipping if you don't back down the volumes.

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Out of curiosity - what kind of heated tweezers do you purchase, Iknowathingortwo? Looking at Amazon right now...

 

You are modifying only a single guitar?  In my opinion you're better off stripping them by hand. 

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Yes, that is the circuit board I was referring to. Pic link: https://app.box.com/s/uwegswh7110bippmzkgf

 

Thanks for reminding me of that!  It's probably a year since I've been inside the spring cavity - just plain forgot that was there.  That is indeed the obvious place to connect in the new pickups.  I also didn't realize they relied on the metal bridge parts for ground return.  That doesn't thrill me at all.  Doesn't take much build-up of corrosion or crud around the bridge pieces to start affecting a hi-Z source like the piezo pickups.

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Indeed - I'm pretty surprised Line6 / LR Baggs would design it that way, especially since the piezo pieces "float" in the saddles, held in place by string down pressure. I think I'll be much happier with a hard-wired ground.

 

I notice that you have a Korean JTV69 with a Strat neck. I recently did the same to mine as I didn't much like the profile of the stock JTV neck. I like it much better with the Strat neck, although I'm down to 21 frets. Currently looking into a Mighty Mite 2902CR or V to get that fret back.  Anyway, that probably belongs in another thread :-)

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I'm afraid my playing style is basic enough to make the missing fret the least of my worries :-).  But, yes, the Mighty-Mite neck was a big improvement.

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Thanks for reminding me of that!  It's probably a year since I've been inside the spring cavity - just plain forgot that was there.  That is indeed the obvious place to connect in the new pickups.  I also didn't realize they relied on the metal bridge parts for ground return.  That doesn't thrill me at all.  Doesn't take much build-up of corrosion or crud around the bridge pieces to start affecting a hi-Z source like the piezo pickups.

 

lol...Bridge Crud would be a great Low-Fi/ Emo band name. :lol:

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I just read through this entire post. I own a JTV-69s, and I have had problems with the piezo pickups on two of these guitars. (this is my second one. First one was replaced by Sweetwater).

Wouldn't you think Line 6 would have done enough research before releasing them to the public so that this type of discussion would be unnecessary?? My JTV is at Line 6 headquarters right now being worked on for a piezo/ghost note problem. It cost me $60 to send it back to them, so they can fix a problem that really should never have occurred in the first place. Do I sound a bit frustrated? Do you think they will offer to replace the existing bridge with a GraphTech? No, I don't think so. IF it comes back to me and again does not work, I'm going to invoke some kind of "Lemon Law". I'm hoping for the best!

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Well, my Graph Tech Ghost saddles were waiting for me in my mailbox when I got home today. Woo hoo! Unfortunately... it looks like that Graph Tech may have the wrong picture on their website for the PN-8002-LO (link). What they shipped me in a hermetically sealed package labeled "PN-8002-LO" has the positioning screw on the other side. Pic here: https://app.box.com/s/xwz6jead34m5e744nz9i

 

Kinda bummed. Will contact them and see what went wrong, and return them tomorrow - hopefully they will cover the shipping.

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That's a great idea! But sadly... just one thread, and on the wrong side. I will suggest that to them (with attribution)  when I talk to them tomorrow.

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I think they definitely have the pictures bass-ackwards.  From their FAQ:

 

Can I replace the saddles on my Line6 Variax with ghost saddles?

You can replace the LR Baggs saddles on your Strat-style Variax bridge with Graph Tech ghost saddles (PN-8000-00). These are made of String Saver composite material, and house pickups similar to the ones that came with your Variax. Unfortunately, at the present time we do not offer saddles that are compatible with the wraparound design.

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Well, my Graph Tech Ghost saddles were waiting for me in my mailbox when I got home today. Woo hoo! Unfortunately... it looks like that Graph Tech may have the wrong picture on their website for the PN-8002-LO (link). What they shipped me in a hermetically sealed package labeled "PN-8002-LO" has the positioning screw on the other side. Pic here: https://app.box.com/s/xwz6jead34m5e744nz9i

 

Kinda bummed. Will contact them and see what went wrong, and return them tomorrow - hopefully they will cover the shipping.

 

Quality control sucks everywhere these days. Uniform mediocrity almost seems like it's a goal now...hope they make it right.

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I talked to Gray @ Graph Tech this morning and sent him the links to pics and their website, and he realized right away that their website pic was indeed bass-awkward. He said he'd contact his web guys and have 'em fix it. I just looked now (link), and they've already fixed it. Pretty fast!

 

He's gonna send me the right... err... correct saddles immediately and send me an RMA for the wrong ones. Good customer service, despite stumbling out of the chute.

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I talked to Gray @ Graph Tech this morning and sent him the links to pics and their website, and he realized right away that their website pic was indeed bass-awkward. He said he'd contact his web guys and have 'em fix it. I just looked now (link), and they've already fixed it. Pretty fast!

 

He's gonna send me the right... err... correct saddles immediately and send me an RMA for the wrong ones. Good customer service, despite stumbling out of the chute.

 

That's good to hear...at least they took care of you.

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That speaks well for GraphTech.  Keep us in the loop on your progress?  I may be right behind you making the change.

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I'm still optimistic that Graph Tech will make things right - Gray said he would ship me the "other version", and they seem to be very customer-focused. But I did notice a few things this morning:

 

  • PN-8002-LO had the adjustment screw on the wrong side. So one would expect that PN-8002-RO is the correct one. Well... there is no PN-8002-RO listed on their site. PN8002-00 consists of 3 left-offset and 3 right-offset. That one won't work. I don't think I want to buy (2) 8002-00 to get (6) right-offset saddles :-). They _did_ have that incorrect (RO) picture, though, so maybe they are just updating their webstore currently.
  • I haven't seen any email communication from Gray, 24 hours later, indicating a tracking number or anything to indicate they were working on this. I wonder if he didn't realize that they didn't actually offer the product I needed and is trying to put something together. Hopefully that's it.

I'll keep you posted!

 

p.s. It seems to be cheaper to buy Graph Tech parts from others - e.g., Musician's friend has the PN-8002-RO for $15 less. http://www.musiciansfriend.com/accessories/graph-tech-ghost-pickup-for-strat-tele-offset

Haven't found any 3rd party offering PN-8002-RO yet, though :-)

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The good news is that the only change they need to make is to thread the other side.  One problem with this side thing is that the string tension is going to try to pull the saddle sideways.  There is nothing to keep it from being pulled sideways slightly.  That may be fine but it's not an ideal mechanical solution.  They did it because of the way the strings are held on that kind of trem bridge.  The fixed bridge on my old 500 has the adjustment screw in the middle of the back of the saddle.  The strings go all the way through the body.  Being a fixed bridge makes all of that a much easier mechanical design.

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Indeed.

 

It looks like they did actually produce a PN-8002-RO at one point (link). That catalog clearly shows an RO on page 4, but it is pretty old (from around 2002-2004, I think). Targeted at G&L bridges.

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Methinks the photos on their site are still screwed up.  They did change things around since yesterday, but the -00 system (as you pointed out) is now 1/2 and 1/2 left and right.  Yesterday it was all "right" sided.

 

If they can ship a 1/2 and 1/2 kit, then there should be no problem supplying the correct parts for the Variax.

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Quick update. Talked to Gray again this AM. He said that they do not currently sell the PN-8002-RO, but that he found 6 individual pieces, matched them (output level, I assume) and has shipped them to me. I'll let you know how things go when they arrive.

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Quick update. Talked to Gray again this AM. He said that they do not currently sell the PN-8002-RO, but that he found 6 individual pieces, matched them (output level, I assume) and has shipped them to me. I'll let you know how things go when they arrive.

 

 

 

Nice...but something tells me you're only getting them because it was their fault that the picture and description were screwed up on the site. Anybody else is gonna be out of luck...congrats, tho!

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Yes - I agree that is the likely outcome... bummer. But, I will lobby with Gray that there is some pent up demand for this kit and they should consider re-offering PN-8002-RO. I have his email now  :-)

 

Alternately, one could buy two PN-8002-00 (each of which has 3 LO and 3 RO) from a cheaper supplier. I think I've seen it for ~$85 x2 --> $170. Then either use or sell off the 6 remaining Left Offset pieces on craigslist or the like. Not that palatable, obviously.

 

I'll definitely ping Gray on the possibility of reinstating PN-8002-RO.

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Good news. I did get a response from Gray. It was pretty coy - something like "who knows what the future will bring  ;-) ".  So, it sounds like they may be considering reinstating the PN-8002-RO. If I hear something directly I'll let you know.

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Good news. I did get a response from Gray. It was pretty coy - something like "who knows what the future will bring  ;-) ".  So, it sounds like they may be considering reinstating the PN-8002-RO. If I hear something directly I'll let you know.

 

I suspect they didn't know the "RO" kit was required for a JTV-69!  Now that they've figured this out I'm betting it will become a product offering again.

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Good news. I did get a response from Gray. It was pretty coy - something like "who knows what the future will bring  ;-) ".  So, it sounds like they may be considering reinstating the PN-8002-RO. If I hear something directly I'll let you know.

 

It's good that they took care of you...as it was their mistake. And I've been acused of being a "glass is half empty" guy before, but this sounds like Retail Speak for "That's not my department, you'll have to talk to Bob over in Product Development". But it sounds better, gives you hope, and gets you out of his email in box. Hope I'm wrong, but I've been on this roller coaster before with other companies...usually ends the same way: dizzy, nauseous, and a few dollars poorer. :wacko:

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Hey - these companies want to do the right thing.  What makes you think they don't?

 

Experience. It's not entirely universal, of course. Some companies, and some people still have a work ethic, but many more do not. If I had a nickle for every customer service rep I've dealt with who simple didn't give a $#!@, I'd never have to work again. Such is not the case here, as the company stepped up and made good on their mistake, and I've said exactly that more than once in this thread. This is a good thing, and they should be commended for it. I would not hesitate to order products from them based on this guy's experience. All in all, a good omen, and I wasn't criticizing Graphtech's response.

 

What I was addressing, is the "who knows what the future will bring" comment, when asked a specific question about the prospect of a particular product being offered. It's not an answer. We all know there is no crystal ball to consult. Is it a problem for someone to say..."Gee, I'm sorry, but I just don't know"? Because in all likelihood, that's the truth. It's honest, and it won't keep people guessing, or worse, standing around waiting for a train that ain't coming. Plus, I just don't see one customer's issue, despite being resolved to everyone's satisfaction, translating into a change in a 3rd party company's product line for what is someone else's niche product...but perhaps I'm wrong. The 89 has a Graphtech bridge, doesn't it? Maybe they will start selling saddles for the 69s...who knows.

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You know what would have secured you guys from NEVER having to buy a replacement piezo piece? HAVING A GROUND WIRE.

 

I don't understand why they couldn't have done that. It's that simple. You have an OPEN piezo that grounds via contact, crap will get in the openings and a layer will form around the piezo and eventually disconnect the grounding. If you have a ground wire, it'll always be secure as long as you don't blatantly rip out the piezo from the socket and break the wire, which is something you shouldn't be doing.

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