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, and wiring.