Yamaha Revstar RS620 with SD '59 and Distortion pups

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Rasha
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Yamaha Revstar RS620 with SD '59 and Distortion pups

Unread post by Rasha » Wed Mar 28, 2018 5:25 pm

I fell in love with my RS620 from the day one, for its playability, ergonomics and overall feel. But, I was never happy with the tone. I thought that my THR 100 HD amp was partially to blame untill a friend brought over his Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul. Then I realised that my amp was actually top class. It was the guitar afterall.

What I didn't like about the RS620 tone was that it was too dull and muddy. Pretty much lifeless. Cleans were muddy in the low end and with not enough mids. It sounded like a cheap imitation of a sound that I was looking for. High gain/distorted tone was a bit more convincing but it lacked warmth. It was a bit "plastic" to say so.
Overall, RS620 with the factory pups sounded kind of two dimensional, flat (not in intonation). It had just a hint of a character of a serious guitar. Playing dynamics and touch sensitivity were masked with lots of mud. It did not react to different playing styles as much as I wanted. It could be compensated somewhat by dialing in brighter tone on the amp or adding some gain, but then it was very hard not to make it harsh in the high-mids and highs. I was particularly disappointed with the quailty of tone when playing riffs with two notes (3rds, 4ths, 5ths etc.). Those sounded quite dead, with not much overlapping in mids to deliver extra punch.

Finally I decided to pull out the pickups from another (project) guitar and give them a try with Yamaha. So, I've installed Seymour Duncan '59 (SH-1n) in the neck position and Duncan Distortion (SH-6b) in the bridge postion. I've also replaced the factory tone pot capacitor with Mojotone Vitamin T, just because I had one, taken from that project guitar. I've tried these pickups in two other guitars before and never liked the end results. Then I read the specs of Yamaha SG 1820 Ltd. which had SD 59' in both neck and bridge positions. Also, a friend kept telling me it was going to work great. So, I said ok, if Yamaha puts these pickups in their flagship model worth over 2.5K EUR then I should give it a try.

Voila! I wish I did this much much earlier!
First, that mud is gone. Clean SD '59 sounds like a dream. Full and warm with clear lows, warm mids and clear yet warm highs. It reacts very nicely on different playing styles. Hard driven, it does have a bit loose low end but still quite usefull for the vintage rock type of tones. Plenty of nice, warm harmonics. Finally I can hear that woody character on this guitar.
Duncan Distortion in the bridge does what the name says. It's all about high gain. Firm lows, full mids and nice crunchy highs that do not pierce the eardrums.
Overall impression is like the heavy wool blanket fell off the speaker. This is now the Guitar! Clean, crunch or overdriven it simply sings. I believe this is the "modern vintage" tone Yamaha marketing was thinking of when they launched that phrase. It does have that vintage tone character but in a cleaner way. Like more produced, not completly raw and wild.
Changing the tone capacitor did improve the tone pot behaviour. Now it does roll off the highs in a way that the tone stays clear and usable untill completely closed. Originally, I found it usefull only till rolled off 20-30%. It sounded completely muddy if rolled off further. Now, it's quite the opposite. A lot of usefull tones untill the pot is completely rolled off. Another win.
Dry switch works as before, now with a better tone to work with.

There is a strange thing with a middle postion of the pickups switch. It sounds complentely out of phase, in a funny way. I soldered the wires to the same pins and following the diagrams from SD. I am almost sure that the original Yamaha pickpus were also slighty out of phase in the middle position, but not this much. Clean is almost grotesque, specialy on low E string. But, the more drive you add it becomes better and better. With a fair amount of distortion it gives very nice sccoped-mids high-gain sound. I decided not to experiment anymore and keep it as it is, simply because each swithch position now has great sound. Neck for cleans and crunch, bridge and middle for crunch and distortion.

I have no words to explain how happy I am with the sound of my favorite guitar now. Can't stop playing it. :)
Another interesting thing is that the sound of the unplugged guitar changed noticeably. I can hear more response from the wood itself. It became more resonant. SD pickups are uncovered and lighter than the original Yamaha pickups. I guess that having less mass in the pickups cavities and having extra space around pickups does make a difference. Who knows?
Also, worth mentioning, original pickups are short legged but there's plenty of room for long legged pickups, like the ones I've installed.

Before ending this long post, I got to express my admiration for the build quality. All the cavities are neatly painted with thick anti-static paint. Wiring is immaculate (well not anymore cos I did all the work :) ). Just to illustrate, to remove back plate it is not enough to unscrew 3 screws. That plate sits so precisely in it's place that you can turn the guitar upside down and shake it like crazy, it won't move. Had to use duct tape to pull it out. Seriouly, never seen such precise work on back plates. These guitars are of extraordinary quality.

I will post pictures a bit later.

Sorry for a long post, I hope someone will find it usefull.

Cheers!
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Re: Yamaha Revstar RS620 with SD '59 and Distortion pups

Unread post by Buzzard » Wed Mar 28, 2018 6:01 pm

Brilliant ((i)) this sounds like a fine solution to the problem. :D

The only thing I wonder about, is if your original pickups were set too high giving too high output,
and killing sustain with the magnets too close to the strings.

Regards
Peter
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Re: Yamaha Revstar RS620 with SD '59 and Distortion pups

Unread post by Rasha » Wed Mar 28, 2018 6:10 pm

And a few pics:

The final look. My reluctancy over pups change was partially due to the aesthetics. I liked those chrome covers and wasn't sure about black uncovered pups. Well, not bad. Looks a bit meaner now.
IMG_20180321_011918.jpg
The factory tone capacitor vs. Mojotone.
IMG_20180328_160451.jpg
Messed up final wiring (I am not very talented for this kind of work).
IMG_20180328_160552.jpg
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Re: Yamaha Revstar RS620 with SD '59 and Distortion pups

Unread post by Rasha » Wed Mar 28, 2018 6:32 pm

Buzzard wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 6:01 pm
Brilliant ((i)) this sounds like a fine solution to the problem. :D

The only thing I wonder about, is if your original pickups were set too high giving too high output,
and killing sustain with the magnets too close to the strings.

Regards
Peter
Well, I tried both raising them and lowering, but did not hear much difference in tonal quality. Having bridge pickup very high did help with clarity a bit, but the neck pickup was helplessly muddy at any height. It was not about sustain as much as about the quality of the tone. I was patient with this guitar as I liked it so much. But after two years I just wanted it to sound great without too much fiddling with the amps.
BTW Stock pickups are produced by G&B factory in Korea. The same factory produces pickups for PRS, Schecter, Cort and other Korean made guitars. They are not bad, but still not comparable to US made SD. Revstars are made of thick, heavy mahogany, hence their dark tone. It logical to me that brighter, airy pickups like SD '59, fit nicely.
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Re: Yamaha Revstar RS620 with SD '59 and Distortion pups

Unread post by dadude2040 » Sat Aug 31, 2019 10:50 am

I think I would enjoy a Duncan Distortion pup on any guitar, it being a ceramic JB of sorts and having heard players using it. The only reason I never got it is because I didn't believe it would shine at low gain and clean playing,and I almost never play metal in the strict sense. So in my estimate it should have made your Revstar pretty much a metal axe in terms of sound. Glad to hear you are happy with it nonetheless!
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Re: Yamaha Revstar RS620 with SD '59 and Distortion pups

Unread post by Rasha » Sat Aug 31, 2019 3:12 pm

Well, both SD '59 and Distortion are gone now. In the meantime, I've came across a pair of used hand wound PAF clones (by a local luthier Goran Custom Guitars). Gave them a try and sold both SD pups afterwards.

SD '59 is a realy nice pickup, but a bit lifeless. It came out as I got me a real tube amp. It is clear, warm, well balanced but missed that subtle playing dynamics. I guess some call it touch sensitivity. Also wasn't dirty enough, to my taste.
As for the Duncan Distortion, I agree. Excellent for high gain. But then again, not my style of playing.

With these PAF clones, I am more than happy. My Revstar sounds in between Les Paul and SG. Brighter than typical LP and with more low end than SG. With rich harmonics and very responsive to different articulation and playing dynamics.
I guess that's it now. It's probably the best it could get. I am still thinking of rewiring the tone pot, to do the coil split instead of "dry switch". That will have to wait as I got me a brand new Yamaha SA 2200. :) That's another story that I will share here some day.
Revstar will stay, regardless of a new baby.
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Re: Yamaha Revstar RS620 with SD '59 and Distortion pups

Unread post by Ewraysure » Sat Aug 31, 2019 4:21 pm

An interesting mod.
I've watched several YouTube videos that feature the 620 and the 820 Revies (which have the same pups, of course) and haven't read or heard any adverse comments about the sound quality of these guitars - quite the opposite in fact.
Before even thinking about upgrading the pups on mine, may I ask whether it's possible your original pups were defective?
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Re: Yamaha Revstar RS620 with SD '59 and Distortion pups

Unread post by Rasha » Sat Aug 31, 2019 5:43 pm

No, nothing wrong with factory pups, just a matter of taste and expectations. Also, playing skills. :) I am lucky to know personally some top level pros and I've witnessed when some of them made some cheap guitars, that I deemed useless, sing like magic. It is true that it's more in your fingers than anything else.
Back to the topic. I've later found, on some forums and youtube, guys who did smillar mods to their revstars. One if them being Chris Buck. Check out his youtube channel for revstar related videos.
Again, it was just my preference for the vintage sound. Clean amp, at the edge of break up and low output pickups with plenty of dynamics. Stock pups were close but not quite there. A bit too muddy at low end. I wish I could try them on the tube amps that I've got in the meantime, but I am too lazy to do swaps and AB tests. Especially that I am happy with the guitar sound as it is now.
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Re: Yamaha Revstar RS620 with SD '59 and Distortion pups

Unread post by Ewraysure » Sat Aug 31, 2019 6:38 pm

Yeah, I take your point.
I follow Chris Buck and he and Radio Shack are just over the mountain from me here in Wales. Chris has a relationship with Yamaha and I know he swopped the pups in his 720B for Radio Shack pups.
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Re: Yamaha Revstar RS620 with SD '59 and Distortion pups

Unread post by Rasha » Sat Aug 31, 2019 7:04 pm

Yep, those are expensive pups.
I got lucky to find these handwound, unpoted PAF clones, used for 150 eur. Then I've sold my old SD's for 120.
Never had any of those exotic, expensive pups so I can't compare nor comment. And knowing that changing pickups is always a gamble, I don't think I would gamble that much.
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Re: Yamaha Revstar RS620 with SD '59 and Distortion pups

Unread post by NYGeorge » Sun Sep 01, 2019 5:26 pm

Great thread Rasha. as with any mod it's all down to personal preference and playing style ( which I completely lack). I was somewhayt taken aback by the reference to radio Shack and guitar pickups. Around here RS is pretty kuch dead and was never known for high end anything. Glad you like your final choice.
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Re: Yamaha Revstar RS620 with SD '59 and Distortion pups

Unread post by Spuds » Tue Sep 03, 2019 11:35 pm

Those Chris Buck signature pickups are made by a UK-based pickup maker called Radioshop. I don't think there's any relation to the US-based electrical retailer.
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Re: Yamaha Revstar RS620 with SD '59 and Distortion pups

Unread post by Yaky » Mon Sep 09, 2019 2:28 pm

I like the way Chris Buck keeps his old guitars and brings them out to talk about them from time to time.
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Re: Yamaha Revstar RS620 with SD '59 and Distortion pups

Unread post by parametric » Mon Sep 09, 2019 3:21 pm

Spuds wrote:
Tue Sep 03, 2019 11:35 pm
I don't think there's any relation to the US-based electrical retailer.
Yeah, - RadioShack® used to have a UK presence as "Tandy®" which was a very useful resource for components and audio-related

accessories and computer parts . . .

Sadly, they redirected their business towards radio-controlled "Toys", and went to the wall some years ago.

I still have one of their "Realistic®" small stereo amps, which my computer monitor stands on . . . . Still works well.

Sadly also Maplins went the same way . . . . So there is now NO high-street stores to buy electronic components and other useful stuff . . .

Here in the UK, there is only CPC/Farnell and RS-Online (formerly RadioSpares IIRC?).

RS however DO have trade counters around the country . . . .

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