[Tech] HOW TO: The reversible 18v mod!

Discussion in 'The Sevenstring.org Workbench' started by darren, Sep 6, 2008.

  1. darren

    darren Decibel Guitars Forum MVP

    Messages:
    13,115
    Likes Received:
    1,383
    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2004
    Location:
    Greater Toronto Area, Canada
    It's fairly well known that EMG preamps are designed to work with as much as 27 volts. The 18 volt modification is pretty common among bass players, as it offers more dynamic range and greater headroom, reducing the amount of built-in compression that the EMG preamp performs in 9 volt operation. However, on EMG's own advice, there's not much benefit of 27 volts over 18, so i'll focus on the 18 volt mod here.

    There are a few scattered threads on the forum asking about the 18v mod, so i thought i'd do one comprehensive writeup incorporating everyone's input on how to do the 18v mod. Of course, you can do this by modifying the guitar's original wiring, but when i saw this idea, i thought it was pretty clever, and 100% reversible without changing your guitar's original wiring. (Making it really easy to switch back if you prefer 9 volt operation of your EMGs.)

    The idea is to bump the voltage feeding the EMG preamp to 18 volts in order to increase dynamic headroom. You can run two 9 volt batteries in parallel to double battery life, but that's not the point of this exercise.

    All you need is a soldering iron, some electrical tape and/or heat shrink tubing and three 9 volt battery clips from Radio Shack (or somewhere similar).

    And, since a picture is worth a thousand words, i'll save you from any further reading by providing a handy diagram which explains it all:

    [​IMG]

    It's also been asked a number of times if the 18 volt mod will benefit other active pickups or preamps. The best advice is to consult the preamp's manufacturer. I believe Bartolini preamps do well with 18 volts. However, Seymour Duncan Blackouts have a preamp that's designed to offer optimum headroom at 9 volts, making the 18 volt mod unnecessary.

    DISCLAIMER: All modifications, including this one, are undertaken at your own risk. If you screw something up and you blow up your guitar, your pickups/electronics, your cables, your pedals, your amp or yourself, it's your own damn fault. You will not hold the author of this post or sevenstring.org liable for any personal injury or loss or damage of personal property that may arise from this modification.

    :)
     
  2. yellowv

    yellowv Turd Ferguson Contributor

    Messages:
    6,941
    Likes Received:
    2,494
    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2007
    Location:
    S. Florida
    This has been posted before, but your diagram is better.
     
  3. darren

    darren Decibel Guitars Forum MVP

    Messages:
    13,115
    Likes Received:
    1,383
    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2004
    Location:
    Greater Toronto Area, Canada
    Yes, i know it's been posted before, but the information is really scattered across a few disparate threads that are hard to search for because "EMG" and "18v mod" all fall below the forum's search threshold.

    And my diagram is better. ;)

    I've done a quick A/B test with the EMG 808 in my Agile Intrepid Pro. I played something really simple, clean and distorted to try and get a sense for the differences. I tried to include regular/lighter picking as well as slamming the strings harder in both clean and distorted modes.

    In the left channel are the 9v tracks, and in the right channel are the 18v tracks. The cleans are totally unprocessed. Just the guitar into my Line 6 DI, and through GearBox on the "no amp" setting direct into GarageBand. No post-processing was used. The distorted tracks are the same Recto patch i've used on other recordings.

    Soundclick: EMG 808 9v vs. 18v

    Initial impressions:

    My setup makes it hard to do quick pans between the left and right channels, but there are definitely differences in tone and responsiveness. Essentially, everything that's been said about the 18v mod is true... there are much greater dynamics, which you can hear and also see on the waveforms. There's a lot more "air" in the sound when running 18v. It's more apparent on the cleans than the distorted sound. When playing with a lighter touch, it's quieter, and when really slamming the strings, it's louder. In 9v mode, the amplitude of the signal coming out of the guitar is much more even.

    Tonally, i actually like the 9v sound a bit better. It has a bit more depth to it to my ears. The 18v has a touch more "presence" at the super-high end of the sonic spectrum. That said, i'd gladly swap more dynamic range and responsiveness for a minor tonal difference that i can tweak back in with EQ.

    So there it is... my pseudo-scientific comparison of an EMG 808 in 9v and 18v modes.

    My apologies for some audio glitching on the tracks... i haven't really got my system optimized for running audio apps, so there's a bit of weirdness at times. Sometimes it makes it into the recordings, other times not.
     
  4. Josh Lawson

    Josh Lawson Banned

    Messages:
    1,042
    Likes Received:
    52
    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2008
    Location:
    Davis, Ca
    I added tags to this because I think it is a very important thread for many users. This will hopefully help searches in the future.
     
    darren likes this.
  5. Elysian

    Elysian Banned

    Messages:
    6,780
    Likes Received:
    550
    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2004
    Location:
    Plano, TX
    hmmm so i could run 4 batteries, a pair in series connected in parallel with a pair in series to double the voltage and battery life? :lol: thatd be crazy battery life.
     
  6. darren

    darren Decibel Guitars Forum MVP

    Messages:
    13,115
    Likes Received:
    1,383
    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2004
    Location:
    Greater Toronto Area, Canada
    Good call on the tagging.
     
  7. darren

    darren Decibel Guitars Forum MVP

    Messages:
    13,115
    Likes Received:
    1,383
    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2004
    Location:
    Greater Toronto Area, Canada
    You'd pretty much need to route a whole separate compartment just for the batteries! Maybe just stick a lantern battery in there. :lol:
     
  8. angus

    angus SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    938
    Likes Received:
    109
    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2007
    Location:
    Palo Alto, CA
    I did a similar thing to one of a friend's studio instruments- a custom EMG. I wired a switch in so he could swap on the fly from 9V to 18V. They sound very different, and it allows you to have a lot more freedom to change the tone on the fly in the studio. Not at all practical for live work, but a very very easy mod.

    Nice diagram, but the way. Love the realistic shading on the batteries!

    I don't know about the guitar pickup stuff, but EMG bass preamps can actually be wired up to 45V (I think Seymour Duncan's can, too). Absolutely no reason to, but you can. I can't remember if their active bass pickups go up to 27 or 45V. I've never heard of someone actually going beyond 18 with them, though.
     
  9. neoclassical

    neoclassical FENRISMAW

    Messages:
    948
    Likes Received:
    79
    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2007
    Location:
    Petty obsessions. If this is heaven, how bad is he
    Hmmm. Never thought it would be that easy. I'll have to try it this week. I've been interested in the difference.

    Thanks,
    Adam
     
  10. eleven59

    eleven59 None shall pass. Contributor

    Messages:
    9,267
    Likes Received:
    888
    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2005
    Location:
    London, Ontario, Canada
    Couldn't you do this with just one extra battery harness?

    Just hook up the positive of one battery and the negative of the other battery to the stock harness, then use the second harness to join the other two poles, and solder and tape the wires on the second harness together?
     
  11. darren

    darren Decibel Guitars Forum MVP

    Messages:
    13,115
    Likes Received:
    1,383
    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2004
    Location:
    Greater Toronto Area, Canada
    Yes, you could do that, too! Smart guy! I forgot about that one. :idea:

    This way is a little more idiot-proof, though, and allows one to more easily attach the wiring harness to the two batteries (in my case, they're taped together, as there's only one battery clip in the Intrepid's control cavity) then insert the batteries and hook them up to the stock battery clip. And if you don't have room to put the batteries exactly side-by-side, you can position the second battery wherever you need it, and can adjust the wire lengths to suit.
     
  12. eleven59

    eleven59 None shall pass. Contributor

    Messages:
    9,267
    Likes Received:
    888
    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2005
    Location:
    London, Ontario, Canada
    Like this:

    [​IMG]
     

    Attached Files:

    • 18v.gif
      18v.gif
      File size:
      15 KB
      Views:
      2,728
    darren likes this.
  13. eleven59

    eleven59 None shall pass. Contributor

    Messages:
    9,267
    Likes Received:
    888
    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2005
    Location:
    London, Ontario, Canada
    Ah yeah, valid point. I think if I end up trying this with my Hellraiser, I'll be doing it the way I suggested, with the two batteries taped together and taped into the back of the guitar, as it only has room for one battery in its battery compartment :noway:
     
  14. darren

    darren Decibel Guitars Forum MVP

    Messages:
    13,115
    Likes Received:
    1,383
    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2004
    Location:
    Greater Toronto Area, Canada
    Yeah, that kinda sucks. But it's worth trying out, for sure. It's a tough call on 9v vs. 18v for me. The 808 in 9v mode had more girth to the tone, but the dynamics were very even overall. Going to 18v opened it up quite a lot, made the dynamics a lot better, and to the best of my ability to describe it, essentially shifted the "resonant peak" upwards.

    You can especially hear it on the long clean sustained tail in my demo recording. If you listen to the overtones on the 9v tail, it has a slight "oooooh" tonality to it. On the 18v side, it sounds more like an "aaaaah". It's very subtle, but it's there. It's not so much a shift in the fundamental tone of the pickups or the guitar, but a slight difference in the way the pickup/preamp hears the overtones.

    Having never been an EMG user before, i'm really impressed with the quietness of them and their sustain. Also their ability to really "hear" the string. Picking softly on a clean channel gives you that Metallica "Enter Sandman" tone instantly. With gain, they're quite articulate and brutal. No surprise, really. :)
     
  15. st2012

    st2012 Texas CEO / RHLC

    Messages:
    2,143
    Likes Received:
    214
    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2007
    Location:
    Texas
    Great diagram! Helpful as always Darren :)
     
  16. decoy205

    decoy205 SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    436
    Likes Received:
    13
    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2007
    Location:
    NJ
    This is great. i never knew about this mod before this forum thanks for the information. :hbang:
     
  17. 7deadlysins666

    7deadlysins666 kvlt

    Messages:
    2,453
    Likes Received:
    457
    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2007
    Location:
    Virginia
    I just did this to my Schecter C7 which has Duncan Designed active pickups.....you CAN do it with Duncan Designed active humbuckers. Just to let everyone know. Sounds amazing.

    I have this problem too. I THINK what im going to do after I tape off the joints I just soldered (can't find my damn electrical tape!!) Im going to rout the wires for the original battery connector back into the control cavity, and just have both batteries in there. That way you don't have to worry about the batteries falling off the back of the guitar etc. I can't seem to find my camera's charger so I can't do a tutorial on it but if you'd like I'll tell you how it works.
     
  18. Groff

    Groff Medicine Chief/RHLC© Contributor

    Messages:
    14,386
    Likes Received:
    1,479
    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2007
    Location:
    South Jersey
    I have a question.

    I'm trying to get a Schecter Loomis hardtail for christmas, and I'm curious to see what the 18v mod can do. I plan on making the reversible harness as you posted as that is VERY easy to do. But I had a thought. Is there ANY way to hook up an on-on toggle switch to the harness so that you can SWITCH between 18v and 9v?
     
  19. angus

    angus SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    938
    Likes Received:
    109
    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2007
    Location:
    Palo Alto, CA
    Of course. 18V power into one input, 9V power into the other input, center output is power out. I actually usually do it with the ground circuit (18V's ground is input 1, 9V ground is input 2, output is chosen ground) as it's technically safer and easier on the circuit, but it really doesn't matter for these currents. Most people do power, hence why I mentioned it first.
     
  20. Metal Ken

    Metal Ken Hates the Air Contributor

    Messages:
    21,002
    Likes Received:
    740
    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2004
    Location:
    Florida
    I was just looking at this thread as i just did the mod to the OFR loomis. If you get solid plastic battery clips, you'll have to mount both batteries in the control cavity (It takes up just a hair too much room to use the main battery compartment using this mod-- Unless you splice off the connector from the stock batteries and soldier the new jack on)

    That said, i'm sure the switch is possible, but on the loomis i barely noticed any difference between the two. I sat there and A/B'ed them for about twenty minutes. Its true what darren said about some more dynamics, but the basic tone of the pickup, to my ears, is unchanged. i was just using a practice amp, as my cabinet for my Single Rec is at the band practice space, but in the end, i cant justify spending another 3 dollars to buy another 9 volt so i dont have to use my hellraiser's battery. it really doesnt make too much a difference to me.
     

Share This Page