Anyone Replaced Pickups on an SE Hollowbody II ?

Dirty_Boogie

Still got the ol' tagger on it
Joined
Oct 28, 2017
Messages
1,330
Location
MA
Love my SE HB II, but wanting to replace the pups with something more "dynamic" - on full volume and tone, the stock 58/15S pickups sound great, but become lifeless very quickly when rolling down the volume or tone controls (completely unlike the core 58/15 pups in my core McCarty, which are incredible.)

I have one of those little "endoscope" USB cameras, so spent some time looking through the interior of the body, and now I'm second-guessing if I should deal with the changing the pups and the full wiring and pots. I know there's a lot of good videos on rewiring something like a 335, but this one has me worried. From what I see, there's at least two cable "guides" stuck to the underside of the top, that neatly route/hold the wires (I have no idea how they mounted those in production), and while the HB II doesn't have a solid center block running from neck to the end of the body, there is a block of wood about an 3/4 inch thick, glued under the top, running between the neck and the solid block that the bridge mounts to. Looks like the pup wires are fed through holes on those blocks.

Anyone attempted to replace pickups and rewire one of these? What were the biggest hurdles/challenges? Difficulty on a scale of 1-10? Was it worth it? As an electrical engineer, I'd consider myself skilled with electronics and wiring, as a frame of reference.

In case anyone is interested, it's pretty cool to see it from that perspective. The guitar is definitely a lot prettier on the ouside ;)
 
Last edited:
That looks like it’s gonna be fiddly. Sorry, I know that’s not helpful.

If you’re gonna change the pickups, a lot of the work with be through the pickup routs. I know this is obvious.

The wire clips look like they may be the adhesive type. They may un-clip, or you may have to encourage them off, but you most probably will be able to source replacements.

If you’re replacing pickups, you might consider a wiring/pots upgrade at the same time. (Sorry re-read your post, duh!)

I know my luthier friend uses a mirror, similar to a dentist mirror for these types of jobs, but your endoscope camera will be invaluable.

I’m pretty sure that logically, everything is connected off the guitar and then fiddled into place . If a slim Jack cord will fit the the hole for the Jack socket on the guitar, with the retaining nut removed, gently feed the Jack socket out of the guitar through the pickup rout. This will help re-seating the Jack socket during re-assembly.

Likewise, a slim neodymium magnet on a stiff wire, will help with re-assembly when pulling the pot shaft up through the hole in the top.

Removing the switch tip, will also work when using the magnet to pull it up through the body.

Happy fettling.
 
That looks like it’s gonna be fiddly. Sorry, I know that’s not helpful.

If you’re gonna change the pickups, a lot of the work with be through the pickup routs. I know this is obvious.

The wire clips look like they may be the adhesive type. They may un-clip, or you may have to encourage them off, but you most probably will be able to source replacements.

If you’re replacing pickups, you might consider a wiring/pots upgrade at the same time. (Sorry re-read your post, duh!)

I know my luthier friend uses a mirror, similar to a dentist mirror for these types of jobs, but your endoscope camera will be invaluable.

I’m pretty sure that logically, everything is connected off the guitar and then fiddled into place . If a slim Jack cord will fit the the hole for the Jack socket on the guitar, with the retaining nut removed, gently feed the Jack socket out of the guitar through the pickup rout. This will help re-seating the Jack socket during re-assembly.

Likewise, a slim neodymium magnet on a stiff wire, will help with re-assembly when pulling the pot shaft up through the hole in the top.

Removing the switch tip, will also work when using the magnet to pull it up through the body.

Happy fettling.
Thanks Alnus, I appreciate your thoughtful response! One trick for pulling pots and toggle switches through a hollowbody is to use a length of surgical tubing (most hardware stores sell it) - it fits snugly over the pot shaft, and since it's only semi-flexible, it makes it a lot easier to feed it through the body and then pull the pots into position.

I'm guessing the bridge pickup route is the only large opening into the body - it has to be, otherwise there are no openings large enough to get the parts into the body (the neck pickup is routed into a solid block.) Next time I restring the guitar I'll remove the bridge pup to see what I'm dealing with, and then will decide if I have the stomach for this job. ;)

BTW, I highly recommend the USB endoscope camera. 20 bucks on ebay, and has unlimited uses (like finding 20 bucks worth of single socks that got sucked into the nether regions of your washer or dryer!)
 
Last edited:
Pickup surgery on my Hollowbodies (an '04 HB1 and an '08 SCHB) has involved fishing the pickup switch out of the nearest F-hole, desoldering the pickup leads from them, and soldering the new ones on. Then reassemble. It's delicate work, and you want to take care to protect the top from stray gobbets of molten solder and bad words and whatnot. I like to use 2" blue painter's tape for that. It's doable if you have reasonable dexterity, patience, an understanding of decent soldering techniques, and allow yourself the time to not rush. Give yourself 2 or 3 days leeway to get frustrated, walk away from it, and then come back with a clear mind and decent attitude.

All of what I'm saying here depends on the pickup leads being soldered only to the pickup switch, which is the traditional Gibson way of wiring these things. If that's not true, all bets are off.

Looking at the video, I think those adhesive clips aren't on the leads to the switch, and there are decent odds that if you get the switch out, there'll be enough slack to do the swap. I like to use about two feet of yarn tied around the pickup switch to make sure I don't drop it into the body and lose it forever. That surgical tubing trick sounds worthwhile too.

Figure out what kind of protection you want against losing the switch, then try fishing the switch out through the F-hole. If you think you can work with that, go for the swap. If not, look for a Plan B.

I think a pro could do this in an hour or two. I give myself 2-3 days so I can walk away and compose myself when things don't go the way I expect.
 
Pickup surgery on my Hollowbodies (an '04 HB1 and an '08 SCHB) has involved fishing the pickup switch out of the nearest F-hole, desoldering the pickup leads from them, and soldering the new ones on. Then reassemble. It's delicate work, and you want to take care to protect the top from stray gobbets of molten solder and bad words and whatnot. I like to use 2" blue painter's tape for that. It's doable if you have reasonable dexterity, patience, an understanding of decent soldering techniques, and allow yourself the time to not rush. Give yourself 2 or 3 days leeway to get frustrated, walk away from it, and then come back with a clear mind and decent attitude.

All of what I'm saying here depends on the pickup leads being soldered only to the pickup switch, which is the traditional Gibson way of wiring these things. If that's not true, all bets are off.

Looking at the video, I think those adhesive clips aren't on the leads to the switch, and there are decent odds that if you get the switch out, there'll be enough slack to do the swap. I like to use about two feet of yarn tied around the pickup switch to make sure I don't drop it into the body and lose it forever. That surgical tubing trick sounds worthwhile too.

Figure out what kind of protection you want against losing the switch, then try fishing the switch out through the F-hole. If you think you can work with that, go for the swap. If not, look for a Plan B.

I think a pro could do this in an hour or two. I give myself 2-3 days so I can walk away and compose myself when things don't go the way I expect.

Yep “f” words
 
Also on I’m sure you’re aware of this trick.

If you gently trace where the pot holes are in the guitar top, you can make up a card template, poke the pots through it and wire up your loom with adequate wire length.

My luthier friend did that on a build for me a few years ago. Such a simple idea, but saves heartache during assembly.
 
Last edited:
Pickup surgery on my Hollowbodies (an '04 HB1 and an '08 SCHB) has involved fishing the pickup switch out of the nearest F-hole, desoldering the pickup leads from them, and soldering the new ones on. Then reassemble. It's delicate work, and you want to take care to protect the top from stray gobbets of molten solder and bad words and whatnot. I like to use 2" blue painter's tape for that. It's doable if you have reasonable dexterity, patience, an understanding of decent soldering techniques, and allow yourself the time to not rush. Give yourself 2 or 3 days leeway to get frustrated, walk away from it, and then come back with a clear mind and decent attitude.

All of what I'm saying here depends on the pickup leads being soldered only to the pickup switch, which is the traditional Gibson way of wiring these things. If that's not true, all bets are off.

Looking at the video, I think those adhesive clips aren't on the leads to the switch, and there are decent odds that if you get the switch out, there'll be enough slack to do the swap. I like to use about two feet of yarn tied around the pickup switch to make sure I don't drop it into the body and lose it forever. That surgical tubing trick sounds worthwhile too.

Figure out what kind of protection you want against losing the switch, then try fishing the switch out through the F-hole. If you think you can work with that, go for the swap. If not, look for a Plan B.

I think a pro could do this in an hour or two. I give myself 2-3 days so I can walk away and compose myself when things don't go the way I expect.
This is why I love this place - thank you!
 
I replaced the 58/15s pickups on my SE HBII Piezo with a set of Suhr Thornbuckers. Hasn't been too difficult. You just need to go with patience.
If you are having the piezo as well, you'll need to reverse the phases of the Humbuckers to work with the piezo. 4-conductor pickups are easy to handle in this regards.
 
@Dirty_Boogie did you ever end up replacing the pickups? Your original post mentioned the change that happens when you roll the pots. I believe the pots that come in the SE HB are both linear taper, not audio. I also found pretty limited range in what I could do with the volume and tone controls. Fortunately or unfortunately my pots were all changed with the pickups so I can't say what changing just the pots will do. Also changing the capacitor will have an effect.

Although I think changing pots is actually more difficult on this guitar than changing pickups, due to what you have to do through those very nice F holes :)
 
Last edited:
@Dirty_Boogie did you ever end up replacing the pickups? Your original post mentioned the change that happens when you roll the pots. I believe the pots that come in the SE HB are both linear taper, not audio. I also found pretty limited range in what I could do with the volume and tone controls. Fortunately or unfortunately my pots were all changed with the pickups so I can't say what changing just the pots will do. Also changing the capacitor will have an effect.

Although I think changing pots is actually more difficult on this guitar than changing pickups, due to what you have to do through those very nice F holes :)
No, I bailed after removing the neck pup. As I removed it, a small piece of the maple veneer lifted off. At that point I felt it wasn’t worth it to potentially damaging the guitar any further.
 
I've seen videos were there was zero slack in the pickup wires. Solid body PRS though. But not enough to even pull it out and lay it on the top.
 
The F-holes actually help in that sense - the wires are longer so they can be routed around the F-holes and not visible. There are clips inside the guitar to manage the slack.
 
Back
Top