The CHROMACASTER Users Manual & Guide

What it is:

The Chromacaster is a six position ROTARY switch that expands the potential pickup combinations available in your Stratocaster or other "S-type" guitar. It installs where one of your old tone controls was. The Chromacaster does NOT replace your 5-way pickup selector switch - your 5-way still works just like it always did. The Chromacaster works in conjunction WITH the 5-way to give you new combinations. You lose a tone control, but gain a lot of tones!

The traditional Strat 5-way selector gives you only 5 of the seven parallel combinations possible, and no series or out-of-phase connections. With the Chromacaster , you can get all seven parallel combinations, PLUS two series settings with variations, PLUS two out-of-phase settings with variations, for a total of SIXTEEN different pickup combinations.

That's a lot of tones!

BEST OF ALL, NO NEW HOLES!

Just put your old tone knob back on the Chromacaster switch, and your Strat looks completely stock!


INSTALLATION:

Take off your pickguard.
To wire your lower tone as a "master" tone (like a Telecaster):

AT THE 5-WAY:
1. Move the lower tone control's lead from the mid pup’s lug on the tone side of the five-way over to the COMMON lug on the pups' side of the five-way.
2. Remove the lead from the center tone control at the neck pup’s lug on the tone side of the five-way.

AT THE CENTER POT:
3. Remove the ground leads from the back of the center tone pot.
4. Clip any jumpers between the center and lower tone pots.
5. Remove the center pot and mount the Chromacaster in its place.

AT THE LOWER POT:
6. Run an insulated wire (this is the new ground lead) from the back of the volume pot to the lower tone pot,
leaving enough slack to rout it around the Chromacaster .
7. Wire a tone capacitor with one leg on the center lug of the tone pot and one leg on the back of the tone pot (ground).

You will need to be sure that the routing in your body will clear the bottom of the switch - it does on MIM and American Strats, but if you have a brand X import, some careful work with a dremil tool - or even a drill - might be in order (you might have to enlarge the hole in the pickguard, too, if your guitar was assembled with "mini-pots").

WIRING THE CHROMACASTER SWITCH:

Unsolder the bridge pup leads from where they are currently in your guitar and solder them to the center lugs on the Chromacaster Switch. Be sure you get the "positive" (hot) side - usually white - on lug “1,” the lug with the string tied through it, and the "negative" (ground) on lug "2" (see drawing).

NOTE: Sometimes there is not enough wire on the leads to make it to the Chromacaster , so just add on a little "tail" to the lead to get there. Be sure you insulate the solder joint on this "tail" to prevent contact with the pots or any other grounded surface in the control cavity – black electrical tape will do…

Three wire pups? MOST COMMONLY, two of the three leads are twisted together and soldered to ground. You will have to determine which wire of the two that goes to ground is actually the coil’s “-” lead, and which is the ground/shield drain. The easiest way to do this is to unsolder them from ground and separate them. With a multimeter set in the 20k ohm range, touch one probe to the pickup’s “+” lead, and then try the other probe on each of the other leads. The pickup’s “-” lead should show you the impedance reading for the pickup – typically between 6k and 8k for a Strat. The ground lead will show “open” – no resistance, no continuity. Solder the ground lead back to ground, and solder the pup’s “-” lead to the switch as instructed above.

Now your bridge pup goes through the Chromacaster Switch.

THE CHROMACASTER'S PREWIRED LEADS:

The white lead from the Chromacaster Switch goes to the bridge pup’s spot on the 5-way - where you just removed its "positive" (hot) lead.

The red lead is soldered to the 5-way switch. It goes on the FIRST lug of the second pole of the selector switch (second row of lugs, the side used to connect the tone pots). This is the lug where the neck's tone pot was connected. Run a jumper from this lug to the bridge lug (the third lug) on this side of the 5-way (see drawing).

The black lead is added to the neck pup's lug on the 5-way. It's the wire that will route the "negative" lead of the bridge pup back through the neck pup for "series" combos.

The green lead is added to the middle pup's lug on the 5-way. It's the wire that will route the "negative" lead of the bridge pup back through the middle pup for "series" combos.

The bare wire is soldered to (any) ground.

Put your pickguard back on, and you're ready to rip!


How it works:

To reference the rest of these instructions,
we'll say that the pickup selections on the 5-way are numbered like this:
(1) = neck; (2) = neck and middle; (3) = middle; (4) = middle and bridge; (5) = bridge.

Basically, the Chromacaster re-routes the hot and ground leads of the BRIDGE pickup to various places in the guitar's circuitry. Each of the six "clicks" connects the pickup's leads to a specific point in the guitar's wiring to get the desired combination of pickups, phasing and series/parallel wiring. These "clicks" - I call them "NOTCHES" - are named for how they route the bridge pickup into the circuit.

The NOTCHES:

NOTCH ONE (tone control on "10") is "NORMAL STRAT"
With the Chromacaster turned completely clockwise, it routes the Bridge pup's hot to the 5-way switch (where it would be, stock), and its ground to the guitar's ground. Plain ol' Strat tones.

NOTCH TWO (tone control on "9") is "ON with NECK"
It is the first "click" as you turn the knob COUNTER-CLOCKWISE. This re-routes the bridge pup's hot lead straight to the volume control, instead of the to the 5-way - so it is "ON" all the time. As you work the your Strat's 5-way pup selector switch, from neck to bridge, you will hear: (1) Neck and Bridge pups;(2) Neck, Middle and Bridge pups;(3) Middle;(4) Middle and Bridge; (5) Bridge alone.

Those first two tones are the tones EVERY Strat player sez they wish they had!

NOTCH THREE (tone control on "8") is "SERIES with NECK PICKUP"
At the next click counter-clockwise, when you select the (5) Bridge pickup (or (4) Bridge and Middle) on the 5-way, instead of just the Bridge pup you will get the Bridge and Neck pup in series. As you throw the 5-way back from the Bridge postion, you will get: (5) Bridge and Neck in SERIES;(4) The Bridge and Neck in series, PLUS the Middle parallel; (3) Middle alone; (2) Middle and Neck; (1) Neck alone.

Pickups wired in series make the current flow through first one coil and then the other, effectively doubling the resistance/impeadence of the circuit. In a very real way, the Neck and Bridge coils become rather like a single big humbucker! This is usually characterised as a "fatter" sound than that produced by a single-coil pickup - though on your Strat, still plenty bright. It's a good way to add some "ooomph" that Bridge pickup's "lead" tone.

NOTCH FOUR (tone control at "7") is "SERIES with MIDDLE PICKUP, ON with NECK"
At the next click counter-clockwise, when you select the (5) Bridge pickup on the 5-way, instead of just the Bridge pup you will get the Bridge and Middle pup in series. Again, the Middle and Bridge coils become rather like a single big humbucker, but this setting still has plenty of "Strat Quack" rather than being so Gibson-y. As you throw the 5-way back from the Bridge postion, you will get: (5) Bridge and Middle in SERIES; (4) Middle ONLY; (3) Middle ONLY (again); (2) Middle and Neck; (1) Bridge and Middle series PLUS Neck parallel.

NOTCH FIVE (tone control at "6") is "SERIES with NECK PICKUP, OUT-OF-PHASE"
Here, the bridge pup is again wired in series with the Neck pup, but out-of-phase. When the 5-way is at (5) Bridge pup only, you will hear the Bridge and Neck in series, but out of phase. This tone is actually a very Gibson-y out of phase, not as thin as you'd expect... think of the '70's! (4) is that, PLUS the Middle pup parallel, which fattens it back up a bit. (1), (2), and (3) are unaffected "stock" tones.

NOTCH SIX (tone control at "5") is "OUT-OF-PHASE, ON with NECK"
Here, the bridge pup is wired out-of-phase with the other pickups and straight out, so it is always on. When the 5-way is at (5) Bridge pup only, and at (3) middle pup only, the sound is unaffected. BUT! At the other throws on the 5-way, you get the Bridge pup out of phase (parallel) with the other pickup(s).

When one pickup is out of phase with another, a lot of frequencies are "cancelled out" - the positive voltage one pickup creates is negated by the negative voltage the other creates. Usually, lots of the "fundamental" is cancelled out, and the only tones that "escape" to be heard are the tones that are harmonically different between the two pickups - so you usually get very thin and "nasally" tones.

That is true here as well, but I think you will find at (1) neck and bridge out of phase and (2) bridge out of phase with neck and middle there are some interesting and usable tones. I'll admit that the tone at (4) on the 5-way, which gives you the bridge and middle out of phase, is one that only a mother could love... but my thrash-playing nephew sez they're ALL great for punk and Ska...

Here's a link to a TONE CHART - where the heck ARE all these tones?