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Partial Pickup Coil Splitting through Resistors, Common On PRS Models

by vaughn skow December 01, 2021 2 min read

Howdy guitar pals!  Last week I did a nice, juicy blog on what I found when dissecting a high-end PRS 58/15 pickup ... weird and interesting stuff! Read that blogif ya have not already :-)
This week I'll explain another bit of PRS pickup weirdness that seems to occur mostly on the Indonesian made PRS models with the basic, cheapo pickups:

Partial coil-splitting

Let's take a look at THAT! 

PRS partial coil splitting with resistors

So, normally the way a humbucker switches into a single-coil is by turning off one coil by shunting (connecting via a switch) it's output to ground.  The problem most pickup makers encounter here is that the one coil sounds wimpy and harsh by itself, hey it IS only HALF a pickup, right?  Folks have tried many ways to get around this problem, and Paul seems more adventurous than most, in my last article I explained the complex way the high-end 58/15 does it, and it's rotten, with muddy, dark, ugly single-coil AND humbucker tone!But on the less expensive guitars he takes a more simple approach.

The Indonesian made PRS guitars (and some Korean) come with lifeless, dark, sterile sounding pickups, and they sound REALLY bad when operating on only one coil!  And so ... in a desperate attempt to make them sound somewhat okay in "single-coil" mode ... on most of these guitars, the pickups do NOT have one coil turned off by shunting it's output to ground to achieve a single-coil, they PARTIALLY shunt a pickup by only PARTIALLY shunting it to ground via a resistor soldered to ground (I've seen several values used).  The end result is a pickup that sounds a heckuva lot like the pickup already sounds in humbucker mode, but with a little less output and a tiny bit more brightness; NOTHING like a true single-coil design (think Strats and Teles).

When you upgrade your PRS with pickups designed to sound good in true single-coil mode, like these:

You need to do two important things:

  • Replace these coil-shunt resistors with plain old wire, and
  • Clip off the "Bright cap" (read about this in the next blog)

So that's all for now, but one important note before I leave, SOME PRS guitars do not have the partial split resistors, especially the early Korean made models, if so, you don't need to do anything when upgrading the pickups, you're good to go!

See y'all next week :-)

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