1974 Rickenbacker bass pickup rewind

This beautiful old Ric bass showed up at my workshop with no output from the neck pickup so, as usual, once I got time, I took a bunch of measurements to make sure I wasn't disturbing a working vintage pickup with issues elsewhere.

The original High Gain was definitely not healthy so I dived in to see if it could be repaired.

I pulled the pickup apart and started to unwind the coil to see if I could find a break near the end of the coil that I could reattach to the lead wire and salvage "most" of the original pickup. After unwinding to a point I didn't feel comfortable taking more wire, I decided to cut the coli off and rewind it back to a healthy output.

Ric pickups are some of the most archaic and basic pickups out there partly because they pretty much invented the magnetic pickup as we know it and partly because why mess with something that works so well and sounds so good. 

The owner said he thought the bridge pickup had been rewound at some point in its life and both pickups had a resistance written in felt pen on the bottom. The bridge pickup had 7.1K written on the bottom but measured a little over 8K and the neck (broken) pickup had a messily 4.2K written on it. Of course, I couldn't measure this one to confirm but this is VERY low for a vintage early 70's High Gain which generally sit between 7.5 and 10.5K. 


The owner said they balanced out well when the neck pickup was working so I initially took that value as correct (albeit very low) and after stripping and cleaning the coil, I rewound it to 4.3K.

These older "button top" High Gains are essentially 2 pieces of crudely cut and painted G-10 board with rivets for pole pieces. The steel rivets are wrapped in tape and then wrapped in wire. There is a rubber magnet attached to the bottom of the bobbin. The magnet is basically like a fridge magnet, and some have holes and/or pieces cut out of them for running wires and mounting. Like I say, archaic and basic but they sound great.

I installed the pickup back in the bass and ... It sounded weak and insipid. These neck pickups when done right give you a really nice, round tone but this one was just thin. So, I cut the coil off and rewound it again to match the bridge pickup.

Rickenbacker use AWG44 for all their pickups which as you may know is a VERY thin wire compared to what Fender and Gibson mainly use. This means you can wind a lot on to a given area/size and get more output from that smaller size. It is also the most common wire I use for most of my pickups and my favourite Mosrite pickups are wound with it. My personal preference of 14-15K single coils is really only achievable with 44.

So with the output up around the bridge pickup I reinstalled the neck pickup and BAM. There it was. That great solid Ric bass neck pickup tone and it played really well with the bridge pickup. 


As I mentioned recently, I'm not taking on a lot of pickup rewinds as I don't really have time and don't really have much interest in rewinding "common" pickups that are available in aftermarket form easily. I do however like doing rare and uncommon pickups especially if it is going to keep a vintage instrument original.

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