Gibson L6S guitar wiring - diyAudio
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Old 20th May 2013, 08:32 PM   #1
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Default Gibson L6S guitar wiring

Anyone know much about these solid-body guitars? They have a reputation for being versatile and able to cover a lot of basic sounds.

This series was designed by Bill Lawrence. I've seen schematics and wiring diagrams, and descriptions, on the 'net. They don't really quite agree. The schematics look like the pickups are always run as humbuckers, and the 6-position switch has (not in correct sequence) 1 'bucker, the other bucker, both parallel in-phase, both parallel out of phase, both series in-phase, both series out of phase. And from you-tube clips the out of phase settings do make the harmonics pop like two pickups out of phase. But current Gibson marketing lit says the 4-wire pickups have single-coil settings. Not according to he schematics which show one pickup as 2-wire and the other as 3. Unless they screwed up Bill Lawrence's original design in making the reissue.

There's also some capacitor across one pickup (the bass neck pickup I think) when both are on (series or parallel or both I can't remember). I can only imagine that the intent is to eliminate the way the inductance of the neck pickup can ruin the treble of the bridge pickup.

Also, there's a standard treble-cut that affects the total sound, then there's another tone control that affects the total sound and has a cap and an inductor. Gibson calls it a bass lowpass control, but everyone else calls it a mid-peak bandpass control.

I just bought a near-new reissue L6S on impulse in clear maple; just kind of reactionary to always wanting to try a maple-neck gibson. I wisk it was prettier maple, as this doesn't look like much more than pine, no burl or flame etc. I'm hoping it's been delivered by the time I get home, as I haven't seen it yet. If you really know this guitar's wiring, please share what you know as I'm going nuts with anticipation.
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Old 22nd May 2013, 09:54 PM   #2
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I'm really disappointed, or at least confused. The L6S was the only Gibson I knew of that had ALL the possible wiring combinations of two pickups on that 6-position switch. Now they won't supply a schematic of the wiring for whatever I bought in this 'reissue' L6S. It looks like they got rid of all the out of phase settings in favor of 2 single-coil settings.

There was something theoretically ideal about having ALL the possible single, series, parallel, and relative polarity (phase) settings available. If I wanted additional single-coil settings I would add micro-micro toggles to the pickup mounting rings.

Gibson won't supply a schematic or a wiring diagram for current models. Not even instructions for customers. I'm going to have to take it apart and draw out what the heck they're doing now. I sure wish they'd just stuck to what Bill Lawrence had, what Santana called 'his rainbow' of various sounds. It was probably the first guitar to have standard out of phase settings with both pickups on, and the first to have the choice of pickups in parallel or series. It's a big part of how Santana got so expressive. Now some buffon at Gibson decides that the out of phase sounds are thin... He just doesn't understand the unique special things that they do!

I sure hope this guitar still uses a standard 3-gang rotary switch and I'll just rewire it to the original way Bill Lawrence and God (same) intended. Then I can add switches to each pickup for making the individual coils series or parallel or single-coil.

Truth is that I don't like rotary selectors at all anyway. So I might just get rid of it. Bill Lawrence seems to have resorted to one because mfgrs hate switches that sometimes do nothing. For instance, I think the Jaguar had pre-set knobs and they were not popular. A phase switch only does something when both pickups are on. Same with a series/parallel switch.

Perhaps this is an opportunity for me to work up an alternate pickguard with switches instead. I never did like the rotary, and it's really hard to tell what is selected while in-use.

I do like the 3 pots: volume, standard treble-cut, and a unique "mid" control that had a cap and inductor in series. I sure hope Gibson didn't screw up that in the re-issue also.

Last edited by cyclecamper; 22nd May 2013 at 09:59 PM.
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Old 22nd May 2013, 11:04 PM   #3
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Why ever did you buy this guitar? To me it looks like a no brainer.
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Old 22nd May 2013, 11:19 PM   #4
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What about this schematic? Link:

It's dated 11-7-73
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Old 23rd May 2013, 03:31 PM   #5
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Yes, that's the original. It allows all 6 possible ways of wiring 2 pickups. Once upon a time software companies supplied source code, and electronic equipment mfgrs supplied schematics. Gibson doesn't release schematics for new guitars, according to the main customer support hotline.

There are still good things about it. I much prefer a maple neck over mahogany, and I even like a maple fingerboard. I like a single-cutaway. The body is not too thick and not too thin, and lays agianst your body well. I like the pickups. I like the Grover machine heads. the tuneomatic is acceptable. I really like the one volume and the 2 tone controls including the low-mid control. I just don't understand why they made a re-issue and screwed with the wiring. What were they thinking?
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Old 23rd May 2013, 03:55 PM   #6
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A really stable all-maple Gibson is still very cool w/ me. I don't need an arched top or fancy binding or fancy inlays.
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Old 24th May 2013, 03:33 PM   #7
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I'll say one thing. This came from the factory already setup very nearly perfectly. I believe it was done on a Plek machine. The intonation was perfect, all frets perfect, nut perfect, bridge perfect. It usually takes a few days of screwing around with adjustments to get a new guitar optimized, but this made in the USA Gibson arrived as perfect as my Travis Beans. The Travis is perfect because there's no fingerboard radius and the neck is aluminum so the frets are surfaced perfect and the neck stays perfect until frets wear, and there's a zero fret at the nut so the nut just positions the strings and doesn't deterine their height. The L6-S is different; somebody just took the time to set it up, and I guess the Plek machine does it faster. I was skeptical, but now I'm convinced; it's another instance where automation equals consistency.

If you haven't checked out the Plek machine, you should.

Last edited by cyclecamper; 24th May 2013 at 03:38 PM.
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Old 24th May 2013, 03:51 PM   #8
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I bought one of these back in the 70's and sold it about 10 years later. I liked the fact that it was an all-maple Gibson, had jumbo frets on a maple fretboard, and had very flexible switching with a wide variety of tones.

The big reason for buying it though was the short string length - shorter even than the normal Gibson scale. It let me play things I couldn't play on the longer scale instruments.

In the end I just couldn't deal with the ceramic magnet based pickups. They had too much harsh screechiness in their tone (now that there's a seriously technical comment - lol).

But quite honestly, I do wish now that I had kept it. It is a unique and useful instrument - and that's hard to say about a lot of other and more popular guitars.

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Old 25th May 2013, 09:34 PM   #9
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i'm surprised you didn't like the pickups, designed (like the guitar) buy bill Lawrence, and considered the first high-output yet low-inductgance pickups with reasonable highs from Gibson.

I finally got a schematic for the new one from Gibson. I definitely would prefer the original Bill Lawrence 'mid' tone control with an inductor and ALL the pickup wirings. I need the out of phase settings. The new controls are more "pleasant" but have a lot less variety.

I plan to re-wire it completely. I'll probably eliminate the rotary selector entirely, but keep all its functions.
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Old 25th February 2015, 08:27 PM   #10
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Well, in the years since I posted this its definitely grown on me. It comes with 490T/498R humbuckers now, with seperate wires for each coil. The new single-coil sounds are very useful; the two humbucking coils which constitute one pickup are normally wired in series, so normally in single-coil mode you would just short one coil; but instead Gibson now puts a cap across one to turn it "off"! That means that for the treble and mids it behaves like a single-coil, but for the lower frequencies (and 60 hz) it's still a humbucker. It's a really nice trick I'd heard of before but never from a major mfgr. A lot of people didn't ever like the wide "harmonica" bridge (from Schaller) on the original, so the re-issue has Gibson's ABR1 tune-o-matic on their Nashiville studs. So I got a drop-in aftermarket upgrade Callaham ABR1 bridge for it, which is basically a tune-o-matic that's precision machined from billet hard stainless steel then tempered, instead of die-cast zinc, and their stainless & plated stop bar too. New Cobalt strings really brought out the bas and treble too, must more output. So...the new sounds from the 6-position selector are all good and sounding more distinct from each other now.

But...the 6-position switch has several drawbacks in actual use. You can't see it down at the bottom of the guitar, and it's nearly impossible to tell where it's pointing from any tactile feedback trying to feel up the chicken-head knob and then trying to feel the milled-out number it points at...pretty unworkable on-stage mid-song. Plus, it has to go thru the other positions to get where you want, which might be awful while playing. It's a lot more difficult to whack than a big toggle.

This multi-layer wafer rotary switch has more layers than the original, so it's getting pretty big; but I was considering trying to find a replacement with more layers, and wiring some very small SMD LEDs peeking out thru pinholes in the pickup rings. One light for each coil (four total) would indicate which coils were active, which would at least tell you which configuration you were on and let you know when you achieved the configuration you were looking for. Unfortunately, that really requires 4 more layers to the switch (which doubles how thick it is) and I hate needing a battery in your guitar (though of course the guitar still functions if the LED indicator battery dies). The use of LEDs in guitars also seems to date the guitar IMHO; at least these would be visible only to the player. I think that indicating which pickup coils are active is more directly useful data than just lighting up the number of LEDs that correspond to the switch position.

Another alternative would be to relocate the rotary switch to a position where the toggle is on many single-cutaway guitars (with the switch where the upper cutaway would have been). It's far enough out of the way, yet possibly easier to see, just easy to reach. Then some kind of tactile bump could indicate at least some reference position, like some keyboards have bumps or dents on the "home" keys.

Then it still needs a phase switch for more of those weird sounds the original had. Normally that's just a common 2 pole 2 throw. But...this has the tapped coils. So I'd have to think about what kind of switch could accomplish that.

Then it still doesn't have one of the old switch positions, which is when both pickups are in series with each other instead of in parallel with each other.

Last edited by cyclecamper; 25th February 2015 at 08:37 PM.
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