Advice on Seymour Duncan SSL-1 height setup / vintage stagger string pull :(

bobbybro

Strat-Talk Member
May 30, 2021
51
Zurich, Switzerland
Guys,

First of all, I don’t mean to be rude, but please don’t comment if you‘ve never experienced the vintage magnet stagger string pull issues I must discuss here. This discussion is specifically to solve some issues I’m having with these pickups pulling the strings and dialing in pickup height to try to stop that **** and to keep the power of the pickups there if possible.

I have owned a few sets of Strat pickups and I’m familiar with setting pickup height. With these Duncan SSL-1’s, I adjust them about every 3rd time I play. Most pickups I’ve owned are super easy to deal with. I can set them at different heights and they sound fine at just about every reasonable setting. And I never have to set them again after dialing them in. But I am having fits with a neck and middle Seymour Duncan SSL-1 setup. They sound really good at about 4/32 to 5/32 (E string) from the strings, pressing the string down on the last fret. But the magnets pull the strings and there are certain chords that sound out of tune because of it. I am meticulous with intonation and have a very good ear for when things are in tune. I am using a boss tuner app on my phone to register the magnet pull, and a boss tu-2 tuner on my pedal board to tune the guitar.

the problem is the pickups sound best where the strings are being pulled, around 4/32 to 5/32, they sound great, very vintage and with some nice output. I have the SSL-1 vintage stagger but a Warmoth Rosewood 12-16 compound radius :( Maybe that’s part of the issue. If I lower the pickups, there’s more sustain but the ideal sound is compromised and the low output of the pickups make it a struggle to play.

so this is driving me mad. I’ve been battling it for a few years now. The pickups sound amazing, just about perfect, but the pull is ridiculous. I would love to keep the Duncan’s if I can correct the problem. I’m thinking about pushing the magnets in a little bit to have less stagger.

Any suggestions? Am I fighting a losing battle? What about 10 gauge strings vs 09? Will that effect string pull?
what do you think about vintage stagger and my 12-16 compound radius neck? And lastly, any recommendations on the absolute best vintage sounding pickups out there?

as always, I appreciate your experienced suggestions. You guys have really helped me understand tone and the finer points of the Strat. Thanks!
 

amstratnut

Peace thru Music.
Dec 1, 2009
21,728
My house.
Sometimes, "sounds better" is just louder. Not objectively better.

I lower them so that there is no magnet pull from neck pickup when fretting 12th fret. None.

Yes its quieter but, wait a day and try compensating with amp volume and tone knobs if desired. I say to wait a day because, when faced with quieter vs louder on the same day, we will always choose louder.

Ymmv. Good luck.
 

T-Model

Strat-Talker
Feb 4, 2022
140
USA
Not sure if the windings touch the poles on those pickups, but if not push the D & G poles down.
Otherwise keep lowering until good then turn up your amp to compensate.
Vintage pickups aren’t really HOT anyway.
If you’re not getting the gain you desire then they may be the wrong pickups.
 

Buzzgrowl

Strat-O-Master
Oct 26, 2018
526
Switzerland
Do the strings go equally out of tune when you play individual notes as when you play chords?

Do those notes sound wierdly out of tune on all pickups?

Are those notes on certain parts on the neck - and if so, in which general area is it the worst?
 

bobbybro

Strat-Talk Member
May 30, 2021
51
Zurich, Switzerland
Do the strings go equally out of tune when you play individual notes as when you play chords?

Do those notes sound wierdly out of tune on all pickups?

Are those notes on certain parts on the neck - and if so, in which general area is it the worst?
It's definitely the magnets. For sure the D and maybe the G. And from the open chords up to about the 7th fret
 

RevDoomBaritone99

Strat-Talk Member
Sep 13, 2019
72
Chicago, IL. USA
From my experience I think using the SSL-2 pickups is going to potentially give you a better experience with less issues regarding magnetic string pull. With a 12-16 radius neck I think this is necessary. I've had this issue before with the SSL-1s and in order to reach a satisfactory balance with this problem I've either done one of two things: replaced them with SSL-2s, or lowered the pickup's height considerably, which did affect the level of output but not so much that it affected the tone negatively for my taste/needs. Of course, using heavier strings also helps (these days I'm generally using 10-52 or even 11's in some cases), but if you're comfortable with using 9's then I wouldn't switch to a heavier gauge as a first option. The SSL-2s sound great to me and I've had no complaints at all about using those instead of the SSL-1s. Good luck.
 

bobbybro

Strat-Talk Member
May 30, 2021
51
Zurich, Switzerland
From my experience I think using the SSL-2 pickups is going to potentially give you a better experience with less issues regarding magnetic string pull. With a 12-16 radius neck I think this is necessary. I've had this issue before with the SSL-1s and in order to reach a satisfactory balance with this problem I've either done one of two things: replaced them with SSL-2s, or lowered the pickup's height considerably, which did affect the level of output but not so much that it affected the tone negatively for my taste/needs. Of course, using heavier strings also helps (these days I'm generally using 10-52 or even 11's in some cases), but if you're comfortable with using 9's then I wouldn't switch to a heavier gauge as a first option. The SSL-2s sound great to me and I've had no complaints at all about using those instead of the SSL-1s. Good luck.
Yeah, that's spot on. I've dealt with this issue for years and I didn't understand this was THE issue until I looked at my post! You are right. 👍🏻
What about the output of the SSL-2s? Are they strong enough?
 

Hal Nico

Senior Stratmaster
Apr 28, 2012
3,756
JAMOADR
It's definitely the magnets. For sure the D and maybe the G. And from the open chords up to about the 7th fret

 

bobbybro

Strat-Talk Member
May 30, 2021
51
Zurich, Switzerland
Yeah, that's fascinating information. I studied music in college back in the late 80's and we discussed this. The compromise of intervals.it used to drive me crazy when I was recording but I've learned to accept it. In my case right now, it's magnet 🧲 pull.
 

SalvorHardin

Senior Stratmaster
Dec 1, 2020
1,064
Windsor Ontario
Seymour recommends flat staggered ssl-2 for fretboards of 9.5 inch or more. Full stop.
I've experienced magnetic pull, especially on the G. I've just dropped mine closer to the pickguard, the bridge a little higher, of course. I like the clean sustained tone I get now. Boost if they're not strong enough. But, it's true: you'd be better off with the flat SSL-2 for your fingerboard's radius.
 

bigreen505

Strat-Talk Member
Jul 5, 2021
94
Colorado
I’ll chime in with everyone else. I don’t think you are going to get what you want with the SSL-1. SSL-2 is where you need to be. Basically the same pickup but with flat pole pieces. If you don’t want to go that way, try lowering the pickups way down, then use a boost to recover the output. Something like a Spark if you just want volume or EP Boost if you feel like you are loosing some oomph from the tone when by lowering the pickups.
 

albala

Dr. Stratster
May 10, 2012
10,630
Hilton Head, South Carolina
PS - I didn't mean to be rude with the opening statement that started this thread. I see so many threads with pages and pages of useless information.
I didn't mean you were being a jerk

I meant, I'm not being a jerk when I say "set 'em and forget 'em"

I have a set of SSL1s with and SSL5 in the bridge.

They are in a guitar with an '07 Highway One neck that is 9.5" and has jumbo frets. My main concern with them is getting the volumes balanced which wasn't too hard.

I have not had the same issue string pull issue you describe. I tend to go with lower pickups and use my electronics to boost levels. 20220423_155722.jpg
 

bobbybro

Strat-Talk Member
May 30, 2021
51
Zurich, Switzerland
I didn't mean you were being a jerk

I meant, I'm not being a jerk when I say "set 'em and forget 'em"

I have a set of SSL1s with and SSL5 in the bridge.

They are in a guitar with an '07 Highway One neck that is 9.5" and has jumbo frets. My main concern with them is getting the volumes balanced which wasn't too hard.

I have not had the same issue string pull issue you describe. I tend to go with lower pickups and use my electronics to boost levels. View attachment 572312
Maybe the neck radius on yours works with the vintage stagger? I can get the magnets to stop pulling, but the pickups seem really weak at the pickup height That they stop pulling. I’m at the point where a little pull is the compromise I’m striking. I think SSL-2’s in my case, with no magnet stagger, is the way to get rid of the problem. At that point, I will just get another set of pickups entirely. I love the sound of the SSL-1’s. Seems perfect as far as a Strat character.
 

T-Model

Strat-Talker
Feb 4, 2022
140
USA
Since it sounds like you’re going to go with the SSL 2 anyway, why not potentially sacrifice one of your SSL 1 and try pushing the D & G poles down? If it works do it to all 3 and you’re done.
 

TConnelly

Strat-Talk Member
Gold Supporting Member
Mar 9, 2016
93
Sandy, Or.
My Strat has SSL1s and a Warmoth 10-16 compound radius neck as well. I just checked and my pickups are about half as high as yours.

I've never had stratitis issues on mine. What I've always struggled with is the ridiculously loud G string. Something that once you've heard you can't unhear! I found two things that helped that for me. The first was dropping the bass side and raising the treble. The other was swapping out the .017 gauge G string for a .015. Tolerable now. Before that I was this close to ordering a set of SSL2s.
Cheers................Todd
 

EC Strat

Senior Stratmaster
Gold Supporting Member
Dec 16, 2018
4,217
Louisville Kentucky
I have an SSL 1/1/5 set and had the same issue especially at the 12th fret D and G strings. I pushed down the pole pieces on all 3 pickups and re-set the heights. Problem solved
 


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