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 Post subject: Re: Peavey Raptor Plus - Modding Project
PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 1:20 am 
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Posts: 66
eMs wrote:
Wow, great job! I want a brass tone block for my Wolfie!!! (the original is really thin (looks like brass), but stills sounds great so I wonder if I use a bigger one will sound even better!!!)

Sometimes a bigger tone block is not necessarily better - but sometimes it can be. It all depends if are already happy or are looking for something else. I have listened to your guitar and I cannot fault it, it already has an incredible sound. It has a lovely balance of full-bodied mid-range, treble presence, dynamic tonality and sustain. These are things that may not even be physically attainable in my Raptor project, but I do hope to bring it closer... or at least have fun trying. :)

What makes a guitar great is when all it's parts are working together towards the sound you want - so that the total is hopefully greater than the sum of it's parts. Sometimes no matter what you do this does not happen, but when a guitar already sounds great, changing even one part can disrupt the cohesion of it's medley and you may end up with less mojo.

In my limited experience (it's ok if others disagree) the parts (in a tremolo equipped guitar) that affect the tone/sustain by strength of influence are:
1) The wood (body and neck)
2) The trem block then strings then bridge saddles then trem springs
3) The pick-ups (it can only augment or diminish whatever resonance the guitar is already producing)
4) The wiring (resistance and capacitance in a passive circuit) this colors the pick-up output
5) The amp and it's settings and special effects
Although some are more influential than others, they must all work together for the musician... and not all musicians are after the same thing.

I have modified a guitar with a plywood body that SINGS! Not because it's body was great, or the pick-ups were expensive, etc... but I somehow fluked a balance of inexpensive parts that worked together harmoniously. I rewound the stock pickups, and screwed it directly onto the body with solid wood spacers rather than springs. I tried this on another guitar and it didn't work at all.

This is why I love this hobby of mine... it's like panning for gold in a stream of rubble. Sometimes I end up with a fist full of dirt, sometimes a gem! :D

If you cannot contain your curiosity, then by all means try a thicker brass block but make sure your modifications can be reversed back to the original without altering or damaging the guitar (if there's no improvement).


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 Post subject: Re: Peavey Raptor Plus - Modding Project
PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 1:41 am 
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Posts: 66
tomringg wrote:
Rollo wrote:
I know what you're saying about not over investing beyond the value of the guitar. I'm aware of that, but this is a past time hobby for me. The guitar is almost secondary to the tinkering so it's value (or lack of it) doesn't matter for me.


My mantra as well. :lol: I like buying pawn shop & clearance gems to tinker with. Now I need to find aspiring young players to bestow them upon. Momma is getting upset with the accumulation, but I tell her it is an innocent vice.

I like what you are doing, especially the trem block. Please keep us posted.

Cheers tomringg! Nice to meet a fellow "tinkerer!" :)

.


Last edited by Rollo on Fri Apr 01, 2011 5:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Peavey Raptor Plus - Modding Project
PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 1:49 am 
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Joined: Wed Feb 23, 2011 5:02 pm
Posts: 66
tabdog wrote:
I am going with brass,,, but what do I know???

Heya Tabdog... you must be psychic then! :)

Still doing trials, I'll post the results in a day or two...


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 Post subject: Re: Peavey Raptor Plus - Modding Project
PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 5:37 am 
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Joined: Sun Jan 23, 2011 9:53 am
Posts: 56
Rollo wrote:
eMs wrote:
Wow, great job! I want a brass tone block for my Wolfie!!! (the original is really thin (looks like brass), but stills sounds great so I wonder if I use a bigger one will sound even better!!!)


Sometimes a bigger tone block is not necessarily better - but sometimes it can be. It all depends if are already happy or are looking for something else. I have listened to your guitar and I cannot fault it, it already has an incredible sound. It has a lovely balance of full-bodied mid-range, treble presence, dynamic tonality and sustain. These are things that may not even be physically attainable in my Raptor project, but I do hope to bring it closer... or at least have fun trying. :)

What makes a guitar great is when all it's parts are working together towards the sound you want - so that the total is hopefully greater than the sum of it's parts. Sometimes no matter what you do this does not happen, but when a guitar already sounds great, changing even one part can disrupt the cohesion of it's medley and you may end up with less mojo.

In my limited experience (it's ok if others disagree) the parts (in a tremolo equipped guitar) that affect the tone/sustain by strength of influence are:
1) The wood (body and neck)
2) The trem block then strings then bridge saddles then trem springs
3) The pick-ups (it can only augment or diminish whatever resonance the guitar is already producing)
4) The wiring (resistance and capacitance in a passive circuit) this colors the pick-up output
5) The amp and it's settings and special effects
Although some are more influential than others, they must all work together for the musician... and not all musicians are after the same thing.

I have modified a guitar with a plywood body that SINGS! Not because it's body was great, or the pick-ups were expensive, etc... but I somehow fluked a balance of inexpensive parts that worked together harmoniously. I rewound the stock pickups, and screwed it directly onto the body with solid wood spacers rather than springs. I tried this on another guitar and it didn't work at all.

This is why I love this hobby of mine... it's like panning for gold in a stream of rubble. Sometimes I end up with a fist full of dirt, sometimes a gem! :D

If you cannot contain your curiosity, then by all means try a thicker brass block but make sure your modifications can be reversed back to the original without altering or damaging the guitar (if there's no improvement).


It´s a great hobby, thanks for your detailed answer! For now I will not touch anything, I really like the way it sounds.


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 Post subject: Re: Peavey Raptor Plus - Modding Project
PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2011 3:37 pm 
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Joined: Wed Feb 23, 2011 5:02 pm
Posts: 66
eMs wrote:
It´s a great hobby, thanks for your detailed answer! For now I will not touch anything, I really like the way it sounds.

I think that's a wise decision. :)

Peavey produced that guitar with a wealth of information unavailable to us - which is based on EVH's technical selectivity, musical experience and his "ear" for his special tone. There will be small variances in mass produced guitars of course, but if your one sounds as good as it does, I doubt if any mods would make it much better. There is a law called 'the law of diminishing returns' which simply means - making improvements on anything already excellent will be very costly and will only yield minimal returns, if any at all.


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 Post subject: Re: Peavey Raptor Plus - Modding Project
PostPosted: Mon Apr 04, 2011 1:42 am 
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Posts: 66
tabdog wrote:
I am going with brass,,, but what do I know???

You know lots! :D I've decided to go with the brass trem block!

The steel block in this instance was too harsh, almost borderline 'ice picky' on the highs and the mids had an impersonal coldness to it. There is a definite gain in both volume and sustain, but not much else to praise about. I am aware that other modders also had similar results with steel trem blocks... that in some cases the tone resonance can be abrupt and undesirable.

The original zinc block wasn't bad actually. It produces a nice twang and quack with gritty highs, but the mids were a little bit on the dry side. Still, it produces good tone and is definitely more musical than the steel block I made.

The brass block was a beaut... the guitar booms with volume gain and sustain to boot - but... I didn't like the tone. Although it still had a slight twang, the quack was gone. It was so full and warm that the sound reminded me of a Les Paul with a 24-3/4" neck scale. In fact it sounded so 'fat' that my tone circuit almost made no discernible difference. It was quite nice, but not the sound I was after.

I went back to the zinc block for a comparison, and it was like night and day. I actually thought I had accidentally nudged the volume knob on my amp because of a drop in volume (but all settings were the same). The iridescent highs were back but I wanted the resonance and sustain of the brass block to go along with it.

So I went back to the brass block and 'shaved' it down to 168 grams at first, then down to 151 grams - from it's original weight of 242 grams. The twang and quack returned when the brass block was thinned-out... but the warm mids, volume and sustain boost remained. Very happy with it!

Image


I have also installed a 'tremsetter' which really works by the way. I used to be a sceptic until I tried a friends Strat with one fitted and was impressed by it's ability to return a floating trem to zero position everytime. The stock trem on the RaptorPlus was pretty stable, but with the tremsetter the guitar's tuning stays absolutely perfect. Pic below shows the tremsetter with the zinc block just before the 'shaved' brass block went in.

Image



Next up is to optimize the pick-ups.


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 Post subject: Re: Peavey Raptor Plus - Modding Project
PostPosted: Mon Apr 04, 2011 1:50 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 15, 2011 2:52 am
Posts: 66
Thanks for that report.

That is really interesting.

You sir, have me on the edge of my chair,

Tabdog


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 Post subject: Re: Peavey Raptor Plus - Modding Project
PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2011 5:42 am 
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Joined: Sun Jan 23, 2011 9:53 am
Posts: 56
Great job! looks great! 8)


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 Post subject: Re: Peavey Raptor Plus - Modding Project
PostPosted: Tue Apr 12, 2011 5:37 pm 
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Posts: 66
I'm really having fun with this particular project. I've come across some unexpected tonal responses from the modifications initially, but nothing that proved to be too illusive to resolve thus far. Mods to date have produced results that exceeded my expectations so it's been quite satisfying.

One of the things I like to do with projects such as this is to make use of as many 'stock standard' items as possible, especially the pickups. After all, there's really nothing notable about turning up at band practice with an inexpensive entry level guitar fitted with high end aftermarket pickups costing much more than the guitar itself! 

So far, the mechanical components of the RaptorPlus have proved to be outstanding, making my task a lot easier - solid basswood body, good neck with a fine fret job to begin with, and a surprisingly stable tremolo set-up that actually works even with a plastic nut! Before I started this project, I had already sourced a locking metal nut and had already studied installation procedures on how to rout the neck. I'm so delighted that I don't need to do that, so I can keep its appearance as original as possible. I still can't get over the fact that the plastic nut and stock tuners hold the strings in tune - even with some pretty vigorous trem dives and pull-ups. The body resonance also responded well to the brass trem block, that means there's a bit of teamwork going on in there somewhere - so that's a good sign. The only thing irregular are the slanted single coils. I might make another pickguard and revert the single coils back to their original positions but there may be good reasons for me not to do this.

I had already made basic modifications to the signal chain to simplify and 'mellow' the signal output in anticipation, but I never start messing with the pickups until I'm happy with the natural resonance coming out of the guitar. I'm not aiming for some holy grail vintage sound here, although I do want this to be my 'twang' axe. This guitar is a Peavey and I'm proud of its badge. The body is not alder, it's basswood and also by utilizing the original pickups, this guitar is never going to sound like a Fender so I won't even try to go there. What I'd like to do is to find its natural inherent tone and enhance it as best I can.

The Slanted Position:
I have never made this kind of mod before so I didn't know what to expect. The idea was born out of the fact that the single coil magnet poles are further apart than the string spacings - so not all strings are directly over the top of its corresponding magnet pole. Besides this simple geometrical solution, I had always been curious as to why Leo Fender slanted the bridge pickup on the Stratocaster... so here's my chance to find out. Logically, I expected the single coil tone to brighten up a bit - seeing as the poles under the thinner strings would be further towards the bridge. I did get brightness but not without some problems that went along with it.

The Wild Child:
During preliminary tests (low volume in a small spare bedroom) the pickup configuration showed great promise. I was focusing mainly on drawing sustain and iridescent highs from the signal chain. Bass notes are full and solid, and the mids and highs have this beautiful trebly-gritty gnarl to it. However when cranked-up to stage volume levels in a medium sized hall, some serious shortfalls emerged.
• The mid to upper range sounded strangely hollow. The booming trebles dominate its voice but the mids just doesn't cut through the mix. I've never come across tinny mids alongside booming highs before! It's usually the other way around.
• I was also getting uneven volume which varied up and down the fret board from the first three strings (but not from the wound strings). All guitars have unevenness to some extent which is important in producing a musical quality, but the volume variation I was getting was just too much. Some notes were way too loud and others were dead. What puzzled me was that some of these 'flat spots' changed depending on pickup selection (pos 1, 2, 3 and 4) with the exception of the bridge humbucker (pos 5). This is a useful clue that assures me that the resonance misbehavior isn't coming from the woods or the trem/bridge. This also means it's not the strings in themselves, because the volume fluctuation comes from specific notes being played... and that these offending notes change depending on the pickup selection!
• The third (G) string became louder overall and also started creating wolf notes (pulse reverberation) on certain frets - but never when using just the bridge humbucker (pos 5).
• The single coils also appear to have become ultra sensitive to height adjustment. Even a very small change in height would change their tonal and attack quality by much more than I'd usually expect. The 'sweet spot' is so narrow and precise. A tad too high and the pickup romps - a little too low the spark goes away and it withdraws into the ordinary.

I'm really intrigued but excited at the same time. Yes it's puzzling, but I also heard some beautiful bell tones in its wayward voice. 


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 Post subject: Re: Peavey Raptor Plus - Modding Project
PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2011 7:05 am 
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Posts: 66
Keeping it Simple:
Passive pickup technology is straightforward and hasn't changed much since the electric guitar was invented. I love it because it's basic and simple, and so I have no intention of getting hung-up on modern complex sciences. What I do know is that everything unusual all points back to the single coils which have been placed in a slanted position. It's reasonable to speculate that the slanted magnetic fields of these particular single coils have formed spikes and blind spots - OR maybe diagonal eddy current patterns that both cancel and boost certain frequencies. Whatever it may be is not important, as long as I can find a solution to resolve it by trial and error.


Image

Pic shows a Fender (alnico) and a Peavey (ceramic) single coil. It's plain to see the design contrast. Not only are the poles bigger on the Peavey, but its ceramic magnet has more 'pull' than the softer/mild alnico. Because the Peavey has one ceramic bar magnet slapped underneath a row of steel poles, I'm guessing that the magnetic field projected is like a couple of flux cylinders running parallel on either side of each pickup. Slanting the neck and middle pickups have skewed these magnetic fields against each other and may have deformed them into a disharmonious contour.

The Fender single coil on the other hand has six vertical pole magnets. I'm going to assume that the magnetic field shape around each alnico pole would look like a donut. It's probable that this type of single coil would not have any adverse tendencies when slanted. This was the path I was going to take to resolve the matter, but I hesitated to use alnicos because I really liked the sound of the Peavey ceramic in the neck position, it's bright but lush at the same time. The middle (RWRP) Peavey single coil on the other hand became somewhat 'thin' after the slant mod... which made me think of a spare mini blade-bucker I had in my drawer.


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 Post subject: Re: Peavey Raptor Plus - Modding Project
PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2011 4:15 am 
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Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2010 2:06 am
Posts: 904
Location: Orem, UT
Rollo,

Thanks for taking the time to document your build so accurately and detailed!!! :D Sure

makes following it fun!!!

_________________
The MTkid
"Slowest Guitar in the West"

I've been drinking a lot of Rockstar Energy Drinks, it's not working.

95' Foundation Bass
99' Predator
??' Raptor Plus
Triumph 120
XXX 4x12 cab


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 Post subject: Re: Peavey Raptor Plus - Modding Project
PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2011 1:15 pm 
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Joined: Fri Apr 02, 2010 10:05 am
Posts: 69
Interesting read, Rollo....

What's caught my eye in particular is the brass tremblock you've machined. I have a '92 USA Predator, and would LOVE to lose the zinc tremblock in favor of a brass replacement.

Unfortunately, Hartley sourced a tremolo that won't accept ANYTHING available on the market, be it USA-spec or import(found out the hard way...just because a "Brand F" USA tremolo arm will fir doesn't mean the block will).......I wonder if the Raptor utilized the same Power-Bend Tremolo as my Predator? Could I trouble you for the tech specs.....this and the trem-setter you're employing are amongst the mod/upgrades I have in mind for my old "faithful companion".

The creamic bar-magnet single-coils are similar to the ones found stock in the Predators, although I think the pole slugs are of a bigger diameter for the Raptor. Definitely hot, bright and clear...but I found over time that they lacked the dynamics and warmth that I prefer, so they've been set aside for a set of the SCN's.

Keep up the good work....I'll be watching along.

Slap


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 Post subject: Re: Peavey Raptor Plus - Modding Project
PostPosted: Mon Apr 18, 2011 6:53 am 
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Joined: Wed Feb 23, 2011 5:02 pm
Posts: 66
Cheers MTkid, glad you're enjoying it too.

- -

Here's a basic spec on the Raptor trem block, Slap. I'm not entirely sure if it's the same type used on your Predator though. I've kept the specs to the bare minimum to keep the drawing uncluttered as much as possible.

Easiest and most economic way to make one is to start with a 1/2" x 1-3/8" flat bar (12.7mm x 34.9mm) of cold rolled Brass and cut a piece off at 74mm length. The actual width and thickness of the original block are slightly greater (14mm x 35.7mm) but the flat bar is close enough if you want to DIY and avoid extensive machining.

Image

All I did was measure the original block and as you can see, it's a metric and imperial hybrid. The depth of the threaded holes (and the depth of the 3/16" string end counterbores) are up to you, or you can measure them from your original block. The whammy bar M6 thread doesn't have to go all the way through the entire depth of the block either. You'll also have to chamfer or radius off the vertical corner edges as they will hit wooden areas inside the trem rout cavity and prevent the tremolo bridgeplate from flushing against the guitar body surface.

The spring hole details are also not shown in the drawing. These are 1/16" in diameter and the original block has 5 of them spaced evenly in between the string bores (I only made 3 in mine). BTW, these are drilled slanted (just match the original angle roughly) and are drilled through and into corresponding relief bores on the side of the block which isn't really necessary but a good idea as 1/16" drill bits can break easily if drilled too deep.

I suggest you try the block in its full thickness first and 'shave' it to taste if you're not happy with whatever tone you get.


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 Post subject: Re: Peavey Raptor Plus - Modding Project
PostPosted: Wed Apr 20, 2011 7:25 pm 
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Rail Mini-Bucker:
Quite a while ago I got curious about hum-free single coil pickups. This was in the early days where even the big brands haven't perfected their offerings yet. Anyway, I came across a Korean licensed copy of a 'rail' pickup. Basically it's a humbucker pretending to be a single coil... with steel blades in the middle of mini-spools with a single ceramic bar magnet underneath. It came in a 9K version and a 13K version... I got the 9K with the intention of using it for the neck position. Long story short, for my application it was still too fat sounding for a single coil and pretty much unimpressive as a humbucker... it ended up in my drawer.

Taming the Bronco:
Now most times complex problems require extensive trials before a resolution can be found. Seeing as the middle pickup sounded too thin because of the slant mod, I installed the fat-ish sounding 'Rail' pickup to observe if this would produce a response that might give me a clue as to how to tackle the problem plaguing my slanted single coils. I certainly was not expecting it to be the solution! To my surprise everything normalized, with the exception of the pickup heights still being ultra sensitive. I have to be careful with height adjustments or I could loose the quack tones in switch positions 2 and 4.

I'm not entirely sure why a simple pickup swap would resolve what appeared to be a serious problem. Perhaps the rail-bucker projects a broader magnetic field which covered the diagonal magnetic flat spots? Another possible explanation is that middle single coil pickups are usually reverse wound/reverse polarity magnets, but in this case the 'rail' pickup is indeed just a basic humbucker so it's magnet polarity and windings are not out-of-phase with the other pickups on either side? Who cares, problem solved - PLUS bonuses!


Before:
Image

After:
Image


Bonuses:
• This is possibly the only 3 pickup guitar with 5 switch positions that I find all useful. I normally hardly ever find a use for position 3 (middle pick-up on its own). This is a personal thing of course.
• Pos 3,4,5 are all noise free as these are all humbuckers!
• Pos 1 has the usual hum but I really like it's pure and true single coil character, and pos 2 is semi-hum free and has a beaut tone.
• Slanting the neck and middle pickups created a thinning effect over the entire demeanor of the signal chain not just the slanted pickups themselves. I don't know why this is, but the consequences have become beneficial. The rail-bucker in the middle position actually sounds more like a single coil now. It has brightened up quite a bit without too much body in the mids (a natural trait with most humbuckers). This also sharpened up the tone of the bridge humbucker, like a hot single coil on steroids.
• Part of my plan was to rewire the Peavey pickups... don't have to now.

On the downside, I don't like the mismatched appearance of 3 different types of pickups in one guitar. It's growing on me though... rather slowly! :)


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 Post subject: Re: Peavey Raptor Plus - Modding Project
PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 5:44 am 
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Joined: Wed Feb 23, 2011 5:02 pm
Posts: 66
Sound Check:
I created a GarageBand soundfile made up of a background segment loop... modded Peavey Raptor plugged straight on to the back of my Macintosh...

http://k002.kiwi6.com/hotlink/4ezi2y0v3 ... ptives.mp3

- -

Edit: Revised sound sample.


Last edited by Rollo on Wed Sep 14, 2011 11:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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