Embracing the “Why Not” Mod? Mojotone Makes It Easy to Mod for the Sake of Modding

Sweetwater

Earlier this year, I picked up a 2019 Gibson SG Special. I had been waiting for Gibson to build this killer model, with its wraparound tailpiece and duo of P-90 pickups, at non-Custom Shop prices for some time. My patience was rewarded; it is a fantastic guitar that I bonded with quickly. It plays great, looks great, feels great, and sounds great.

So, of course I had to go and mess with it.

If there was one thing about it that put me off just a little tiny bit, it was the PCB-based electronics. Let me repeat: it sounded great. It delivered all the fat, clangy P-90 goodness I could wish for (indeed, Gibson’s stock P-90s have a really good reputation). But there were also some very minor quirks about how the numbers on the knobs lined up with each other that the PCB mounting made impossible to fix. Add to that all the times I’d glance at a picture of Pete Townshend, perhaps my biggest guitar hero, mauling one of his SG Specials I knew he didn’t have a PCB board in his axe. I know, I know…first world guitar problems. Who would notice any of this stuff except me?

Again, it sounded great! Why make a change? Because we’re gearheads, that’s why. Still, I decided that if I was going to mess around with the electronics I didn’t want to make modding it an all-day affair. I knew that I definitely wasn’t going to try and buy individual pots and capacitors and wire after having to figure out values and ohms and farads and the like. I wanted it to be easy.

Hearing my plight, our kindly friend The Tone King hooked me up with our allies at Mojotone. After quickly perusing the extensive Mojotone website I found exactly what I needed, and Mojotone sent over a “‘50s-style” pre-wired SG wiring harness.

Originally, I had no intention of changing out the stock pickups; it appeared that there were ways to modified the solderless connections so they could be used on a traditional harness. But after reading some reviews of Mojotone’s pickups and feeling unenthusiastic about fooling with the stock pickups, I decided to commit fully to the Mojotone cause. Mojotone kindly included a set of “Classic” P-90 soapbars.

Again, the Special sounded great as it was. Still, I was excited to see what a new batch of electronics could do.

After extracting the stock PCB electronics and pickups, I dropped the Mojotone harness and pickups into my naked Special. My particular harness was kitted out with CTS 500k pots, a Switchcraft toggle selector and jack, and Mojotone’s own Vitamin T oil-filled capacitors. In other words, perfectly tailored for what I was trying to accomplish.

The construction and layout of the Mojotone harness is immaculate. Everything slotted in easily and perfectly, giving the cavity a clean, professional look. The Special was almost fully reassembled (save for the back control plate, of course) by the time my soldering iron was ready to go. It would have taken me that long just to lay everything out if I had been starting from scratch.

Line 6

After a quick check and re-check of the soldered connections I had to make (five in total), I went to the task of hooking everything up. Even taking my time, I did manage to brush a fingertip on the hot iron. But otherwise? Easy stuff. Less than 45 minutes later, I was ready to plug in and test my installation. Given my terrible electronics skills, I’m certain most folks could beat that time comfortably.

 

Unlike other electronics projects I’ve dipped my toe in, this one functioned perfectly from the get-go. The pot sweep is smooth with just the right amount of play, an improvement over the PCB-mounted pots that came stock for sure. The Switchcraft 3-way pickup selector feels fluid-but-solid; this too felt better than the PCB-mounted part. The stock knobs and toggle switch tips fit perfectly, keeping the stock look of the guitar intact.

Mojotone describes their “Classic” P-90 model as “…vintage voiced with a cleaner and more powerful tone of an older P-90.” This description is spot-on to my ears. The Special definitely woke up, and I reveled in the airy, brassy tones that poured forth from the Princeton-inspired boutique amp the guitar was driving. All pickup positions had a subtle articulation and sparkle that I couldn’t recall hearing from the stock pickups, and I noticed a lot more “color” available depending on picking force, position, and control settings. I added some drive from my favorite dirt pedal and the Special roared in response, with the notes maintaining their rounded chime and separation even with the tone controls rolled down to woolier levels. I was digging what I was hearing. Everything I loved about P-90s was there, in sweeter quantities.

The ultimate test came when I turned both pickups on and began tweaking the volume and tone controls. Having spent the vast majority of my playing time using single-coil Fenders, the world of two independently controlled humbuckers running together was a brand new world. Even with the stock electronics, I was surprised at how even small manipulations of the tone and volume controls yielded all sorts of tonal shades, from spanky twang to nearly acoustic-sounding warmth and pluck. True to form, the Mojotone electronics opened this position up even further and the response to my playing and dynamics seemed to go up several notches. The warms were warmer, the highs sparkly-er, and everything was just more responsive. I could see myself playing an entire gig without touching the pickup selector and governing the sounds simply with picking force and control tweaks.

Overall, I’m very impressed with the result of these mods.  I’m also impressed with Mojotone’s ability to enable a guy like me to not muck up extensive, intricate, and critical work. My Special would probably still be in pieces and I’d probably have pulled half of my hair out. The good news for the more skilled among us is that, if you like building your own harnesses or just want to perform some targeted upgrades, (perhaps switching that no-name cap to a Vitamin T), Mojotone can supply the parts needed.

Mojotone also provides a nice range of humbucker, single coil, and P-90 pickup options. If you want to really get down and dirty, they also have some great amp kits which are getting rave reviews, too. Maybe one of those will be my next project…or maybe I will be one of the ones already assembled. I think you already know which I’m leaning.

There’s something to be said for leaving well enough alone, but the convenience of Mojotone’s wiring harness kit and the resulting sound more than made it worth a go. Now, if Mojotone only made something that could mod my ears, hands, and brain to be more like Pete Townshend’s.

 

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