How To Choose The Right Humbucker Lead

There’s a lot you can do with a humbucker pickup, wiring wise. Choosing the right Humbucker Lead will help you get the job done right.
 
Humbuckers are a powerful tool in the guitar pickup toolbox. They have their own sound, and their own function: they don’t hum! (duh) They are also very versatile. You can wire them a plethora of ways, depending on what you’re trying to achieve. That said, how do you know which lead to choose so you get the options you want?
 
From the easiest installation to the most options, we are going to break down humbucker leads, so you can make informed decisions. Here we go:

Gibson® Braided Shielded Lead:

The Gibson Braided Shielded Lead is an extremely popular type of humbucker lead. It features a metal braid around a cloth insulator. Inside the cloth insulator, is a stranded lead, which is the “hot” signal of the pickup. The braided shield offers two features: durability, and easy installation. The Braided Shield is actually the method of grounding the pickup. It’s usually soldered on the back of the volume pot that controls the pickup.
 

To Install:

  1. Solder the inside lead to the Volume Pot input.
  2. Solder the Braided Shield to the casing of the Volume Pot, and make sure it’s connected to ground.
With ease of installation comes certain drawbacks: you can’t reverse the phase. If you were to buy a pickup with this lead and realize that it’s out of phase with your other pickup, you’re out of luck. You also can’t Split the humbucker – it’s all or nothing. That’s where multiple leads come in:

Pros:

  • Easy installation
  • Durable

Cons:

  • Not splittable
  • Not reversible
  • Only for Gibson Style instruments, not for Fender-Style guitars

2-Conductor, With Shield

This is a beautiful lead, and we recommend it all the time. This lead has a White, Black, and Shield, all surrounded by a thick rubber insulator. This lead allows you to reverse the phase: the coil is completely separated from the chassis ground.
Fralin Pickups 2-Conductor Lead

To Install:

  1. Solder the Shield to Ground
  2. White connects to Switch Input, or Volume Pot Input
  3. Black solders to Ground, with Shield
If you ever experienced phasing issues, you could simply swap Black and White, and you’ll be set.

Pros:

  • Easy installation
  • Phase reversible, perfect buying a single pickup
  • Separate shield from coil allows you to do certain mods, like a 4-Way Tele Switching Mod

Cons:

  • Needs more stripping
  • Not as durable as Gibson Braided Shielded

3-Conductor, With Shield

When 2-Conductor isn’t available for a Humbucker, this will do the trick. It’s like the 2-Conductor Lead, except it has a Red lead, which allows you to Split the humbucker.
Fralin Pickups 3 Conductor Lead

To Install:

  1. Solder the Shield to Ground
  2. White solders to Switch Input, or Volume Pot Input
  3. Black connects to Ground, with Shield
With Red, you have options:
  1. If you don’t want to Split the Humbucker, take some masking tape and tape off the Red Lead.
  2. If you want to Split the humbucker, you’ll need a Push / Pull pot to connect Red to Ground. See our Article Here.

Pros:

  • Phase reversible, perfect buying a single pickup
  • Splittable: can split the humbucker with this lead
  • Separate shield from coil allows you to do certain mods, like a 4-Way Tele Switching Mod

Cons:

  • Needs more stripping, and might need tape on the Red lead
  • Not as durable as Gibson Braided Shielded

4-Conductor, With Shield

This is the most versitile of all leads, and offers the most options. Each Humbucker Coil has a Start and Finish of each coil. This lead lets you re-wire the Humbucker, with 4 Conductors. With this lead, you can:
  1. Reverse the Phase
  2. Coil Split The Humbucker
  3. Re-Wire it from Series to Parallel

Fralin Pickups 4 Conductor Lead

In addition to the Red lead, you now get a Green lead. For normal humbucker operation, Red and Green need to be soldered together in order for the humbucker to work.

Pros:

  • Most versatile lead
  • Splittable: can split the humbucker with this lead
  • Phase Reversible: can reverse the phase
  • Can perform Series / Parallel mod with this lead
  • Separate shield from coil allows you to do certain mods, like a 4-Way Tele Switching Mod

Cons:

  • Needs a lot more stripping
  • Can be a little bulky for working in tight spaces
  • Not as durable as Gibson Braided Shielded

We hope that this article helps you choose the correct lead for your needs. There are many options out there, but in our experience, it helps to research what your guitar needs, and what options you need out of the lead before you buy. 

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