Cort M-520 Mod - Help on First Jerryfied build

Cort M-520 Mod - Help on First Jerryfied build

Postby MikeInMarin » Sun May 29, 2016 8:50 pm

Hi All-

I have been lurking on here for a few years and have gotten some amazing information on Jerry's tone over the years, among other great Dead-related info. I live in Deadland after moving from NY four years ago and have been playing for about 35 years. Playing the Dead and Garcia is only a sub-set of what I play, but a really important one. I see a lot of great bands at Sweetwater and at Phil's place Terrapin Crossroads as both are only 10 minutes away from where I live. I think Stu Allen is the greatest Jerry player around and have seen him a ton of times....but I digress.

After mainly playing an '85 Strat with Rio Grande Tall Boys and a Wald TCP-1 Preamp-Buffer, I have been looking to attempt my first build/modification that specifically is trying to achieve the Jerry sound. For the most part, I am focusing on the Tiger tone. I have built from various parts and modified a few guitars over the years...mainly Fender Teles and am no craftsman, but I can handle the basic electronics, painting and finishing reasonably well enough.

To this end, I got a pretty ideal inexpensive guitar recently, which was inspired by the guy who runs Shakedown Amps. I saw some youtubes of his Cort guitar with a Dimarzio Super Distortion II added to the middle spot on the same guitar. And setting aside the great tone of the amps he was using (I/we can revisit the Amp/speaker/cabs, etc very important questions later), it seemed to me to be a great choice. The guitar was only $200 and is linked here https://reverb.com/item/1053767-cort-m-520-double-cut-brn-sunburst

To start, I just made some slight headstock mods (sanded off the cheap "Cort" label...plan to put something Jerry/Dead/Personal related instead), but more importantly, I ordered a SD II (DP104) for the Bridge and an SDS 1 (DP 111) for the neck. I put these PuPs in today. Though I am still waiting on the mailman for the new push/pull pot for the coil splitting for the humbucker in the bridge, as it is currently wired (very basic), I am very disappointed with how it sounds so far. Not to get too crazy, as I just put the thing together, have not added any buffer or preamp (will gladly do as I get closer, I can move the Wald TCP-1 from my strat anytime to start), do not plan to want/need OBEL, but I would love to get some opinions on:

1. The pups are (not surprisingly perhaps) very unbalanced volume-wise. The SD II is really loud and the middle (both) position and the SDS1 alone (neck) are much lower volume). I am wondering how much of that can be addressed or if this is typical of this kind of config (I don't have that problem in my Tele that has a HB in the neck...they are well balanced, but were designed to be together by the guy at Dawg Town pickups who made them to get the Keith Richards Macawber sound on my main Tele).

2. I know enough to know that a really common clean, Tiger/Jerry sound I want first and foremost, involves coil-splitting and I have not even tried that yet (as I said above, waiting for push/pull pot to arrive). So my issue/question #2 is, how much will that make a difference on chasing the tone I want ? Obviously it can vary based on whether the split SD II is blended with the SDS 1 on the middle-position or on it's own.

3. And perhaps the biggest question I have at this point is: Am I re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic without routing and adding a second SD II in the middle position ? I was hoping to avoid doing that, but it's not a huge expense either way. I just didn't want to go completely crazy if I didn't have to.

Just to try and do a better job articulating my goal(s), I am really looking for the classic Jerry Tiger sound and not trying to reach the holy grail, but get very close. I know we can all argue/discuss what is needed to get the last 10% or whatever, but I don't want to necessarily get into technique/hands/strings/picks, etc. I have gotten close enough to know that on my Strat, using my Fender HR Deville 4x10 (or sometimes the Twin Modeling on my Super Champ X2 Head w/Mesa Black Shadow Cab), along with the pedals I currently have, that I am getting pretty close and can live with it not reaching the level that many here are trying to achieve. I will likely look to upgrade my amp part of the equation down the road, but I just bought a sick Vox AC15 for my main amp and it might be a while before I can do anything about the amp.

Thanks to anyone making the effort to read and especially if you can respond with some guidance. You folks are fantastic !

Mike
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Re: Cort M-520 Mod - Help on First Jerryfied build

Postby MikeInMarin » Sun May 29, 2016 10:40 pm

Update on the above original post: Total amateur error not reading the fine print on the Super II. Reversed the red and green (for north/south), and what a difference ! Can't get a great feel completely because the kids are asleep and I can only play so loudly this late, but I am definitely getting a lot closer.

So my above questions on the coil-splitting impact of the Super II in the bridge, the value of routing and adding another one in the middle still stand.

After that, what is the next bang for the buck mod that you all would recommend ? Pre-amp/buffer (e.g. Wald TCP-1), or something else or in addition ?

And here is a pic of the guitar in its' latest state (assuming I am attaching it properly and don't need to link, which I can try and do next if this doesn't work).

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/yZiuueWM2RMT4s6cEz6xBBtbFMmzZCx16bNmSmZjv3Jszxz_s_3XZwF-Y6ieI3eGn0s7d0IyyzEDpApczFW8j_V-ztR3aHIXzM7boZhjnY2B-mGdeij5hdFdSzAJKpGht4CLqh-5mBPA8TdB-3AnnS3SHeunwDTkOGq1JDk5rleJrZH9RPP3mLtOGgTRoTPQk42_BAnK4piZ5x6CFY5T6jjTWbTnRt0JamkuGRs5xSyu8vpFn837PcJzoqICxEfmxQjG4z2NpwcFYitP-TfYg8XIHJX3qxTow1LYMhhW-dmqNuND23mptRYPRlkUOyx8nCUiNsFK2p20PB9s-5M7gmdEHdvqHNwCaENSm5GgKo_cWzHP-XQc90cr9fwnYfU2QBfHhcUr0EwLVimoZRttknuc9i85kSNZvBIh-MI_giK-uCmlw1zF2VFSCdKofXYPYlvkb7zNjqHbjr_cq-cPt8UIU4zr9OZsfrHg6x5t6s7Wpu1QzbMZbLk030mTZW4k0Hs2BSudnH-AF8faNRqeFKHmXEq5Y63JkUE6oi2zuhhu4jDyp1_kHBX0RdgzmGm2nw-Xkt2erooJR069CflSqktSskR5aBf2=w360-h639-no
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Re: Cort M-520 Mod - Help on First Jerryfied build

Postby hippieguy1954 » Mon May 30, 2016 4:33 am

I as well as some others have gone that route with a 21 fret 24 3/4" scale mahogany body/neck adding the middle pickup, buffer and OBEL. It gets you in the ball park, but that's all. The wood and scale length are a huge contribution to Jerry tone.

IMHO, a blocked Strat with a 22 fret maple neck/fret board and custom shop '69' pickups, buffer and OBEL will get you closer than modding the Cort. You can also get a pick guard for three super 2's or any combination.

This is my first Jerryfied guitar. A Schecter Diamond series C1+. 24 3/4" scale length. Mahogany body and neck. 24 frets. Rosebud wiring. Wald Electronics buffer. OBEL. Rotary 5 way switch.
Gets pretty close, but that's all. I'm thinking about selling it to someone who is not concerned with those details. Maybe you are interested. I'll be listing it in the garage sale later today.
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Re: Cort M-520 Mod - Help on First Jerryfied build

Postby MikeInMarin » Mon May 30, 2016 4:22 pm

Jim - Thanks for the input. I'm going to focus on this one for a while first, but good luck with your sale. Love the finish on that schecter.
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Re: Cort M-520 Mod - Help on First Jerryfied build

Postby MikeInMarin » Mon May 30, 2016 10:24 pm

Update #2:

Upon more research, which included temporarily coil-splitting one, then the other coils of the SD II in the bridge, a middle position SD II with coil-splitting is very necessary. Just can't get there without the middle. Still, the current setup (coil split SD II in Bridge) is about as good as my strat with the middle pup only, which is decent, but not great.

Judging from this video from the dude at Shakedown Amps (and some others of his....same guitar I am working with), the SDII split in the middle, and an amazing amp, are about 97% of the hardware battle for the clean mid-80s Tiger sound I am really after. Not to take away from the versatility of the OBEL, pre-amp buffer and the other hardware factors.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p45arMxLXUs
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Re: Cort M-520 Mod - Help on First Jerryfied build

Postby MikeInMarin » Thu Jun 02, 2016 11:04 pm

Update - Well, I routed out the cavity for the middle pickup today and only had enough time to slap it in quickly and do a quick temporary wiring (all my DPDT switches and 5-way switch are coming tomorrow from Stew Mac), just to test it out. On both my HR DeVille and Super Champ Head (using the Twin setting), it sounds amazing. The tone is similar to the middle pup on my Strat, but clearer and sharper, and mostly I was blown away with the clarity and punch that that are so unique to the Jerry sound. Hard to explain but it's the first time in my 30 years of playing that I have heard something that close to Jerry's sound come out of the guitar I was playing. I cannot even imagine what a real re-creation and rig must feel like.....but this should at least keep me happy for a while, until I get an amp that can really do it justice.

here's a pic Image
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Re: Cort M-520 Mod - Help on First Jerryfied build

Postby MattMan » Fri Jun 03, 2016 3:37 pm

Yup, middle PUP gets you on on your way to the Jerry tone. Took me a while too to make the mods in addition to the middle pup that get the tone. The Jerry tone is also very much linked to the speaker in addition to the middle PUP and the Fender amp. Go for a JBL K120 or E120 (which seem to be a little cheaper). And, yes, put the TPC1 in because its important for the tone regardless of the OBEL.
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Re: Cort M-520 Mod - Help on First Jerryfied build

Postby MikeInMarin » Sat Jun 04, 2016 9:06 pm

MattMan wrote:Yup, middle PUP gets you on on your way to the Jerry tone. Took me a while too to make the mods in addition to the middle pup that get the tone. The Jerry tone is also very much linked to the speaker in addition to the middle PUP and the Fender amp. Go for a JBL K120 or E120 (which seem to be a little cheaper). And, yes, put the TPC1 in because its important for the tone regardless of the OBEL.


Thanks Mattman. I am definitely going to move the TCP1 in once I get everything else working well. Spend hours soldering and trying different things last night and today. The middle Pup works well, but there are a couple of other weird things with the multiple Pup selections and the treble balance on other settings. Lots of fun trying to wire so many switches and controls.

And I am definitely going to look at other amp/head/cabinet/speaker options in the near future. Probably makes sense to get the cabinet and speakers done first, since I can use them as an upgrade with any amps I have now, or down the road.
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Re: Cort M-520 Mod - Help on First Jerryfied build

Postby MikeInMarin » Sat Jun 04, 2016 9:09 pm

Here's a shot of the guitar now, with all the controls added. Need a plate/control cover for the 5 way switch. A small one that probably will need to be a custom order or made myself. Going to do some cosmetic work on the finish of the headstock too. Waiting for some Dead-oriented artwork to come in the mail to see what looks best.

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Re: Cort M-520 Mod - Help on First Jerryfied build

Postby MikeInMarin » Sun Jun 05, 2016 11:00 am

Here's a video of how the guitar sounds at this stage. No buffer or pre-amp yet....just middle pup....through Fender Super Champ x2 Head (on Twin voicing) through Mesa Boogie Black Shadow 1x12 cab (celestion). Reverb through TC Hall of Fame. Sorry, it's a bit sloppy. Was just noodling to let some friends hear how it sounds.

CORRECTION: That clip was of the Hot Rod DeVille 4x10 with the HoF Reverb.

https://goo.gl/photos/Vit4nhru8zpQ8nSJ7
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