Modding A Fender Classic Vibe Tele!

I own a bunch of Fender Classic Vibe guitars and they are great out of the box. I decided to mod this one for kicks and you can see the before, during and after right here. Total cost of the mods is $314.09. When I get time (and get another home recording setup) I'll post some sound samples.

Good news! The new neck pickup comes with 3 wires so you don't have to separate one side of the pickup windings from the shield to use the 4-way selector switch and run another wire to the switch cavity. The wiring diagram on the Fender 4 way switch has the pickups wired out of phase and they sounded like crap when I first plugged the modded guitar in. Reversing the leads on the neck pickup fixed that! The passageway between the neck pickup cavity and the control cavity was not large enough to accommodate all three neck pickup wires so I stripped the shield wire bare where it entered the passageway (the insulation was very thick) and it fit nicely with the other 2 wires. I then stuck the insulation back on the other side to keep it from shorting out with other control wires.

The 4 way switch positions are:

  1. Bridge pickup only
  2. Neck and bridge pickups in parallel
  3. Neck pickup only
  4. Neck and bridge pickups in series (highest output)

Link To Guitar At Musician's Friend

Here's a list of all the parts:

Here's some pre-mod neck and pickup measurements:

  • Pre-Mod Neck Pickup Height At Bottom String 0.180"
  • Pre-Mod Neck Pickup Height From Guitar Body 0.290" All Way Across
  • Pre-Mod Neck Pickup Height At Top String 0.140"
  • Pre-Mod Bridge Pickup Height At Bottom String 0.130"
  • Pre-Mod Bridge Pickup Height At Top String 0.115"
  • Pre-Mod Bottom String Height At 12th Fret 0.063"
  • Pre-Mod Top String Height At 12th Fret 0.046"
  • Truss Rod - Fret String At 1st And 14th Frets - Measure Height At 8th Fret - Bottom String 0.002"
  • Truss Rod - Fret String At 1st And 14th Frets - Measure Height At 8th Fret - Top String 0.001"
  • Stock pickups resistances: Bridge: 6.00K Ohms Neck: 6.68K Ohms
  • Texas Special pickups resistances: Bridge: 10.5K ohms 3.95 Henries Neck: 9.5K Ohms 3.30 Henries

Well.. the guitar is all back together and I temporarily put on a set of E strings to check the pickup and string heights. A major problem emerges. The highest settings on the new bridge do not go high enough to get my strings within spec. No extra spacer plate or parts came with the bridge so I'll have to have my tool room make a spacer shim plate or ask Babicz for a fix. Bummer! Stay tuned!

Second bummer... the bridge cover doesn't fit the new bridge so I put it on my red tele (see pic below).

Jeff from Babicz sent me new bridge cam pieces and they now allowed me to adjust the height within range. After adjusting the intonation however I found that 3 of the adjusting screws were too short to allow the bridge saddles to move close enough to the neck. This should be a simple fix with longer screws!

Results?????? I'm not into extensive subjective reviews with words like "this mod really improved the string separation". Only a scientific or at least an audible recording of the before and after is really valid. So you'll just have to listen to the after recordings listed below, look at the pretty pics and read my comments here. The guitar had excellent sustain before (the stock Classic Vibes fare well in this department) and it still does. Other than looks, the biggest change is in the sound of the pickups. I adjusted the truss rod, intonation, string height and pickup height to the pre-mod settings. This took a lot of hours of effort! The Babicz bridge allows you set the intonation for each string individually and I was pleased that all 6 strings are dead on when fretted with normal pressure at the 12th fret. I now have a 4th pickup selector switch position that puts the pickups in series. This has a seriously fat tone very similar to a Gibson SG. The pickups are much louder and warmer than any of my stock Classic Vibes and they are a bit hotter that the pickups on my Fender Nashville tele which has a really awesome sound. The Nashville tele (see red guitar pics below with the bridge cover on it) was my go to guitar for recording but I now have to give the edge to this Classic Vibe. Why not just buy a better guitar in the first place??????? Add up the cost of the mod and the Classic Vibe and your looking at $650. But then I'd miss out on all this fun and I really think the Classic Vibe is a worthwhile mod guitar. I hope soon to have this guitar "plecked" to get the action a bit lower. It now sounds that good!

Audio Samples

Treble Pickup Only

Treble Pickup Only

Neck Pickup Only

Treble And Neck Pickups In Series

Treble And Neck Pickups In Parallel

4 Way Selector Switch Wiring Instructions

Bridge Install And Mounting Instructions Page 1

Bridge Install And Mounting Instructions Page 2

Pictures! Click on them to see full sized pics.

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