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Thread: Cutlass SSS vs HSS

  1. #1

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    Cutlass SSS vs HSS

    I've always had a tough time with the bridge pickup in my SSS. Way too bright and harsh so I've been trying the HSS. After AB'ing them for a few hours I can tell a big difference even in the single coils. The middle and neck position in the HSS sound very dull.

    Has anyone else had a chance to try both versions side by side? Have you noticed anything similar?

    I really like the HB that's in there but I miss the clarity of the SSS. There's a parallel resistor to ground to help the SC's see 250K. I'm wondering if removing that would help brighten them back up.

  2. #2

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    I have noticed a difference between my HSS and SSS, and it might be that resistor you’re talking about. Before messing with the electronics, I would try adjusting the pickup height to see if that can get you any closer, though. Also check the tone pot values in each, as that may be contributing to the difference. The website states both pots are 500k in the HSS, but uses a parallel resistor. I’m not sure if there is a resistor in parallel with the tone pot, though.
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  3. #3

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    I have had the same experience comparing my Silhouette Special HSS with previous Strats. You may have to consider what you use more; the bridge pickup or the 4 other positions.

    Or search for that single coil sized pickup that gives you more fullness. Oodles of options available there.
    2000 & 2003 SOLOuette Special

  4. #4

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    That's kind of what I was afraid of. Curious if anyone has any suggestion to make it work. I never liked that piercingly bright bridge tone but I don't want to lose the clarity in the other positions either.

    Might try something non-invasive like clip a simple cap>resistor off the switch to ground to roll off some of the brightness.

  5. #5

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    Removing the resistor would definitely brighten things back up again. The resistor is on the switch, not the circuit board, so it's an easy thing to do.

    On my HSS Cutlass I quite like the single coils as they are; it's like there is a little tube-screamer-ish mid boost dialed into them. The number two position though (bridge HB + middle sc) I would like a little brighter so I was thinking of taking the resistor off that.

    Because of the built-in buffer circuit, the tone of the Cutlass does not change if I use a long short cable, which can be a great thing, and there is no treble loss at low volume settings. I really notice the darker tone when I use a short, low capacitance cable with my Silhouette Special, which then seems very bright in comparison. Conversely, I can make the guitar more similar to each other if I choose a long cable for the Silo Special. Over time I've learned to appreciate this because I can set the amp for the Cutlass and choose how I want the Silo to sound in comparison.
    Last edited by DrKev; 09-09-2021 at 05:51 AM. Reason: Adding capacitor to SSS was a brain fart, so I deleted.
    Forum Moderator, Guitar Teacher and Guitar Tech, Folder of Underpants, Stubber of Toes.
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    Silhouette Special (2005 Buttercream Limited Edition)
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  6. #6

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    At the risk of sounding like I.T. Support ("have you tried turning it off and on again?"), do you play around with the tone control when in the bridge position or do you prefer to 'set it and forget it'?

    I have an Area 58 and an Area 61 in the bridge positions of my 2 Silhouette Specials...and only have bridge pickups. A friend played one guitar through his Princeton Reverb with OCD and got some convincing P90 lite / decent Tele bridge fatness.

    The pickup is wired to 250k audio taper pots with a 0.015 capacity. On paper it should be quite bright. Ride the tone control and it takes the bite off the top end. Most of the music I play is clean and slightly overdriven, though.
    Last edited by Pink; 09-09-2021 at 07:54 AM.
    2000 & 2003 SOLOuette Special

  7. #7

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    I've tried adjusting pickup height but it didn't make a big difference. The tone knob is a mixed bag, too. I can tame the high's a bit but it gets very "honky" with almost a parked wah kind of sound. I switch pickups a lot, though, so I'm right back to the mid/neck sounding dull again.

    I'll try the easy least invasive stuff this week but may have to go deeper. One thought was to do some light surgery to decouple the tone pot from the board so I can have it only on the bridge. I'll report back with the results for any who are interested.

    I don't hear much about pickup swaps in these. Has anyone tried a single sized HB like a Duncan Little 59? I've heard they do well with 250K pots.

  8. #8

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    I have a Pro Track in my parts bin. With 250k pots, it was more midrange-y than I like and would sound better (IMO) with at least one 500k pot in the circuit. Mind you, I didn't fart around with the pickup height as much as I should have before dismissing it.

    I does sound P.A.F. like, but I didn't wire it with other pickups so I cannot say how it would sound using it with a middle pickup and 250k pots. DiMarzio says it splits well, so possible to split the rail when in bridge/middle position. Hearsay and conjecture.
    Last edited by Pink; 09-09-2021 at 10:04 AM.
    2000 & 2003 SOLOuette Special

  9. #9

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    Lifted the resistor to see how that would work. Kind of surprise it barely made any difference. I'll give it a few more days to see if I can find a sweet spot but I think the original sss pickguard is going back on while I look for other options.

  10. #10

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    I know what you are saying. I have a 2016 SSS (Satin finish neck/rosewood) and a 2018RS HSS. The middle and neck pickups on the SSS sound warmer & fuller to my ears. I attributed it to rosewood/maple, never gave a thought to the other electronics. I usually roll off the tone on the SSS if I use the bridge

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  11. #11

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    I didn't realize my Cutlass even had a tone knob.
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  12. #12

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    Disclaimer: I've been in bed all week with a horrible cold and have too much time on my hands. Sorry!

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeller View Post
    I have a 2016 SSS (Satin finish neck/rosewood) and a 2018RS HSS. The middle and neck pickups on the SSS sound warmer & fuller to my ears. I attributed it to rosewood/maple, never gave a thought to the other electronics.
    That's the opposite of what the loocnmad is saying. Do we have a mystery?

    Music Man confirmed for me that the single coil pickups are all the same in both HSS and SSS guitars. So the only difference, as far as I know, are the pot values and parallel resistor, but my circuit modelling that says to me that the HSS should be a hair brighter than the SSS. That's what Mike says but not loocnmad and not what I would have thought based on my HSS.

    Could I ask a simple task of those of you who own both SSS and HSS Cutlassi?

    Can you do a simple, super clean super dry tone recording of each - same amp settings, no OD or compression or reverb, same cable, same battery, play the same riff and the same chords? Even using voice recorder on your phone is fine if it's not too loud or too far away. If there is a meaningful difference we will hear it. Best way is to do one, pause the recording, the switch guitars, so you hear the two guitars back to back without having to switch to a different recording. Thanks!

    (The single coils in the new Luke III are also the same but it's a very different circuit and voiced to what Lukather likes).
    Last edited by DrKev; 09-17-2021 at 06:42 AM.
    Forum Moderator, Guitar Teacher and Guitar Tech, Folder of Underpants, Stubber of Toes.
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    Silhouette Special (2005 Buttercream Limited Edition)
    Cutlass HSS (2018 Roasted Special, Ivory White)

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  13. #13

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    This will be an interesting exercise. I’d love to participate, but I don’t own the HSS version.
    ---------------
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  14. #14

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    DrKev - yeah, I read that wrong at first.

    I will do that ASAP for sure!!!

    EBMM L3 HH (Olive Gold)
    EBMM L3 HSS Roasted (Bodhi Blue)
    EBMM Silo Special (Blue Dawn)
    EBMM Albert Lee SSS (Sky Blue)
    EBMM Cutlass (Vintage Turquoise)
    EBMM L3 BFR (Blueberry Burst)
    EBMM Cutlass HSS (Firemist Silver)


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  15. #15

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    Might be next week before I can get some recording done but I'll put something together. I have both pickguards so I can just swap them out on the same guitar to eliminate as many variables as possible.

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