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Thread: Game Changer HSH noise-canceling pickup combinations

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2016

    Game Changer HSH noise-canceling pickup combinations

    I just took delivery of a Game Changer HSHP, and I'm a little surprised at the pickup combinations which are hum-canceling. They seem to be:

    * humbuckers 1-2 and 4-5 (obviously)
    * 1-4
    * 2-5
    * 2-3
    * 3-4

    This means that outside coils 1-5 do not hum-cancel, either with each other or with middle coil 3.

    Because of this, several of the default Bank A and Bank B presets combine two coils in normal HH or SSS ways, but are not hum-canceling (e.g. 1-5 and 2-4 in Bank A, and 3-5 in Bank B).

    Is this normal? Can someone else with a Game Changer HSH confirm?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    I have a HSH with piezo. I don't have any problem with hum at all, whether the phase is reversed or not when 2 pickups are paralleled or seriesed, although I never tried 1s5.

    Humbucking is not the same as hum-cancelling.

    According to the schematics you find when you google "humbucking", in order to emulate the electrical humbucking configuration you need to series both coils but put one of the coils out-of-phase with the other. When I tried this by inverting the phase of coil 2 in the default bank A-1 switch selection, I did not get a sound similar to my Gibson ES355 at all. Not even close.

    I get the sound of the Gibson when I use the default A-1 configuration with the tone turned down about 1/2 way (and a little Piezo mixed in, but it's still pretty close without the piezo). If you invert the phase in coil 2, you simply get a different sound. I don't know what kind of guitar makes this sound, but that's what the Game Changer is all about, it lets you hook up almost every pickup configuration you can think of and Lo! you get a different sound.

    If you're getting hum from your Game Changer, you may need to have somebody look at your guitar, especially while it's new and in warranty.

    Most "hum" is considered to be 60 or 120Hz. With computers nearby, hum takes on a different perspective. But the humbucker configuration was designed to cancel out the common-mode 60 or 120 Hz noise that unshielded single coil pickups could receive from lighting and poorly designed transformers. 60 and 120 Hz wavelength is many feet in length, so if you hook up a humbucking configuration, that is, one coil reversed phase in series with any other coil, it should (theoretically) work electrically the same. The few inches apart will make no difference to a wavelength of many feet.

    Work the same is not the same as "sound the same". Because the deflection of the guitar string will be different from pickup 1s2 configuration to 1s5 configuration, you will get a very different sound. But the humbucking should work exactly the same.

    You can think of hum-cancelling kind of like those Bose headphones that cancel out the hum background of an airplane.

    Again, if you're getting hum, you should get that Game Changer looked at. Mine is as quiet as a stone. Hum is not normal with my Game Changer, whether I have a humbucking configuration or not.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Paris, France
    Sorry I missed this post first time around. Not all coil combinations will be hum-cancelling, only those where one coil is 'normal' and the other is rwrp with respect to the first coil. Clearly, some combinations, those where coils have the same wind and polarity, will be noisier than a single coil on their own. That's just the nature/physics of pickup coils.
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    I appreciate your responses. I may have been unclear, so I'll try again.

    To establish a baseline, I've designed and built my own custom, complex HSS strat setup; I have a fairly good understanding of how humbucking works. (Jimbo, magnetic polarity is the other important part of the equation - and it's the one the Game Changer can't alter.) I also have worked in pro audio for over 25 years.

    The issue is this:

    * As far as I've seen, HH guitars have relatively standard magnetic and winding configurations, and thus have relatively standard hum-canceling pickup combinations. In guitars with fixed wiring, typically *only* hum-canceling combinations are provided. For instance, with the standard HH Reflex (non-Game Changer), the outside coils 1-5 cancel with one another, and the inside coils 2-4 also cancel.

    * The factory presets for the HSH Game Changer use those combinations, including 1-5 and 2-4 - as if the pickups were configured in the usual way for HH, but with an S in the middle. (As far as I can tell, there aren't necessarily standard configurations for HSH.)

    * However, the pickups are *not* configured that way. Instead, the two humbuckers are configured so that the outside coil of one hum-cancels with the inside coil of the other: 1-4 and 2-5.

    It seems like a disconnect between the presets and the pickup configuration.

    Initially, I wondered whether one of the humbuckers - probably the neck - had been accidentally installed upside-down in my particular guitar. However, back when I had this question last year, I spoke with the very kind and helpful folks at Ernie Ball, and they confirmed that my pickup configuration matched what they had in the office.

    At any rate, as we all know the benefit of the Game Changer is that you aren't stuck with the presets. So, I replaced the non-hum-cancelling 1-5, 2-4, and 5-3 with 2-5, 1-4, and 4-3. I still feel like the wider 5-3 might be more useful, so at some point I may flip that neck pickup - but there's plenty of other stuff to do at the moment!
    Last edited by Dan Phillips; 05-01-2017 at 04:18 PM. Reason: clarification

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    It seems like "humbucking" may work differently in the Game Changer than what we might expect.

    I did the following test: I got an old 20V bell transformer, built on E-I core laminates (generates lots of 120V magnetic noise) and suspended it about 2" above the H-S-H center pickup. Then I configured the GC as follows and measured the 120Hz noise output:

    config 120 Hz noise measured
    1s2 baseline
    1s5 baseline
    1s_2 2-3X baseline
    1s_5 2-3X baseline

    (Sorry, I don't know how to make my browser underline so _2 means 2 with inverted phase, or blue color on the app).

    So it seems that inverting the phase of the "bucking" coil does not reduce any of the hum, but in fact increases it. This is opposite to what I expected, based on my understanding of Faraday's law.

    So (I reported it in another thread) I set up my ES355 and tried to make the GC sound the same. I used sound isolating headphones because I didn't want the acoustics of the body of the ES355 to get in the way of my evaluations, and played through the headphones (they're really good ones). I discovered that 1S2 on the GC produces almost exactly the same tone as my ES355, (but I have to turn the GC's tone control to about 1/2 way on the GC because it seems those pickups are "brighter"). When I connected the GC in a 1s_2, I got a completely different tone out of the GC, and it was not even close to my ES355.

    My conclusion is that when the app says 1s2, that is actually coil 1 in series with an out-of-phase coil 2. That is the only way I could understand how I get both the same tone as a "real" humbucker, and higher hum rejection. That would also explain why I get 1s2 and 1s5 the same noise, because both 2 and 5 are actually out-of-phase compared to 1.

    To test this conclusion, we should expect 2s4 to be low noise, and 2s5 to be high noise. I just ran this test with the transformer and guess what? The conclusion holds up. 2s4 and 1s5 are almost the same (lower, baseline) noise. 2s5 is higher noise output.

    And I don't believe changing the direction of the pole pieces will change the humbucking characteristics. The B field generated by the hum will be the same, regardless of direction, and these mag pole pieces are much too far apart to interact. And Farday's law says the EMF generated by the coil should be the same (at =<120 Hz) because it's a function of the magnitude of the B field, not the polarity.

    But it would make an interesting test.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Thanks for doing these tests, Jimbo!

    From this:

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo Bigbelly View Post
    config 120 Hz noise measured
    1s2 baseline
    1s5 baseline
    and this:

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo Bigbelly View Post
    To test this conclusion, we should expect 2s4 to be low noise, and 2s5 to be high noise. I just ran this test with the transformer and guess what? The conclusion holds up. 2s4 and 1s5 are almost the same (lower, baseline) noise. 2s5 is higher noise output. seems like one of your humbuckers is installed in the reverse of what I have in my guitar. The next question is: which one?

    To answer this, if you have the time for another experiment, I would be very interested to find out about your Game Changer's hum-canceling relationships between the individual coils of the neck pickup and the middle pickup: 5s3 vs 4s3. My hunch is that 5s3 will be the hum-canceling combination, but it could be 4s3 instead.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo Bigbelly View Post
    My conclusion is that when the app says 1s2, that is actually coil 1 in series with an out-of-phase coil 2.
    Yes - "phase" in the Game Changer software seems to be relative to the normal phase of the pickup, rather than an absolute reference.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo Bigbelly View Post
    And I don't believe changing the direction of the pole pieces will change the humbucking characteristics.
    We may be talking about different things. Rotating one of the humbuckers by 180 degrees won't change the operation of that humbucker by itself, but it will change the relationships between its individual coils and the coils on the other two pickups. For instance, on my specific Game Changer, 1 & 4 and 2 & 5 are hum-canceling combinations, but 1 & 5 and 2 & 4 are not. If I were to rotate the neck humbucker by 180 degrees and swap the wiring between the two coils, my guitar would act like yours; all of those combinations would be hum-canceling, and suddenly those factory presets would make more sense.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Hi, Dan

    Glad to do the tests.

    What I meant (I think) is that if you unscrew the pole pieces all the way and turn them around and put them back in, not moving the pickup at all (I really don't want to take my GC apart) that I don't believe the humbucking characteristics will change. A very very long time ago, around '65, I took one of my ES345 pole pieces out (by mistake, I was trying to get the pickups effectively closer to the strings) I connected the output jack to an RLC bridge (impedance meter) and measured the RLC, and put the pole piece back. I got exactly the same reading both ways. So I believe the pole pieces, whether they be all North, or South, or there, or not, I believe the effective L won't change, and the humbucking characteristics won't change.

    And I believe Gibson knows this, because their cover over the humbucker forces the pole pieces to be down below the surface of the pickup.

    Anyway, test results: (the spaces didn't come out on my earlier post. I guess the browser uses proportional spacing and compresses spaces.....sorry

    1s2 baseline
    1s5 baseline

    (same results as yesterday, so calibration is confirmed)

    5s3 hum is baseline
    4s3 hum is 2-3x baseline, maybe more

    The reason the 4s3 may be more than 2x baseline is because the transformer is not a point source of field, it has a dual cardoid shape of flux. So the proximity of the coil may cause the 4 pickup to be more in the maximum concentration of flux. But it's clear that the 5s3 is the humbucking configuration.

    Now thanks to you, I have to pull out my ES355 again and see if the 3s5 tone is more like my neck humbucker. The 4s5 was pretty close, but now I want to try the 3s5 to see if I get a slightly more "calm" (for lack of a better term) tone.

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