Anyone who has ever looked at a Strat and wondered what
other sounds might be lurking in there should check out the
Tone Shaper. This is a passive, solderless control assembly that
allows you to choose between a ton of different pickup configurations,
volume and tone knob options, series/parallel operation,
and more. It’s all ingeniously controlled by a matrix of
DIP switches and it adds up to a tweaker’s paradise.
Our test unit came loaded in a ’60s-reissue Strat, with a set
of Seymour Duncan Custom Shop single-coils, although you
can order it without pickups or with a variety of Duncan, Fender,
Fralin, Van Zandt, or Suhr pickups. The DIP switches definitely
took a little getting used to, and are tough for my aging eyeballs
to see, but I actually found this system pretty easy to navigate.
The first thing I did was switch in the “Volume Kit,”
which mitigates treble loss when you turn down the volume.
Easy and effective. Then I reconfigured the tone knobs for
neck/bridge+middle operation. Nice! Then I went for Blender
wiring, which, after clicking a few switches, allowed me to
select the neck pickup and blend in the bridge—a little or a
lot—or choose the bridge and middle and then blend in as
much of the neck pickup as I wanted. It was easy to set it up
for series/parallel operation, which gives you access to the
Brian May-approved bridge and middle in series, a total secret
weapon tone. This is a brilliant way to learn about tone, pickups,
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