Tri-Sonic Pickups: General Information, Brian May Red Special Pickups, Coil Winding and Assembly

I made the embedded video below in June 2022 to accompany the FAQ on Tri-Sonic pickups. It is 22 minutes long and covers Tri-Sonic pickups in depth. I take a look inside an early 1960s vintage pot magnet style Burns Tri-Sonic pickup and compare and contrast vintage and modern variants. I discuss the characteristics of the specific set fitted to Brian May’s Red Special guitar with reference to a replica set made by Ade Turner of Adeson Pickups.

I demonstrate two methods for engraving the chrome plated brass cover then wind a bobbinless Tri-Sonic style coil on my Stepcraft 2/840 CNC machine using a custom made former to my own unique design. Finally, I assemble all the component parts of a Tri-Sonic pickup and measure its DC resistance and inductance using a Peak Atlas LCR45 meter.

Brian May’s Original Home Made Pickups (BHMOHM)

Before he fitted the three Burns Tri-Sonic pickups to his Red Special guitar which feature in all Queen recordings and live concerts, Brian made his own pickups with his father Harold’s guidance. He discussed them in an interview with Simon Bradley for the Red Special book in which they featured in Chapter 6: Revisiting The Past. You can read the transcript on the official Red Special website which is maintained by Simon:

https://www.theredspecial.com/2018/01/brian-may-interview-the-red-specials-original-pickups/

I recently completed a project to make a replica set of these pickups following Brian’s original design sketch but winding them to try to achieve similar DC resistance (7.0-7.4 kOhm) and inductance (2.0-2.3 H) to a typical vintage Tri-Sonic pickup. I made a 17 minute video covering the project in which I discuss the pickups and wind one using my Stepcraft 2/840 CNC machine and small AC industrial milling spindle. The only additional piece of equipment I bought was a magnetic wire tensioner.

There is more information and some images in the article in my FAQ section here:

https://dsgb.net/faqs/bhmohm/

Adeson Pickups – Artisan Guitar Pickups Build and Repair

After an extended period of only supplying official builders (Brian May Guitars and Guyton Guitars) for Red Special variants Adrian (Ade) Turner of Adeson Fenton Weill/Ormston Burns U.K./Aristone U.K. is accepting retail orders for guitar pickups again. This is normally signified by Adrian making his e-mail address visible on his website: https://www.adeson.co.uk/

Ade is based in Burbage, Wiltshire, United Kingdom and has a wealth of knowledge and experience in making all types of new guitar pickups and repairing defective ones, as the quote on his website illustrates:

“We are proud of our heritage and work in an environment of vintage armature winders, fly presses, engravers, polishing wheels and traditional plating. Basically, we know our stuff. Our products require hard work, sweat, dirt and grim determination making them tonally period accurate. They do not fall off the end of a modern automated production line. Manufacturing items using the original methods and components creates products which match, sound and age just like the originals…”

I have been fortunate to obtain several sets of his “original BM/Guyton specification” Burns Tri-Sonic variants in recent years for my build and conversion projects. The technical details and related historical context of the particular pickups fitted to Brian’s famous Red Special guitar can almost form a book by themselves. However, I have written a brief article in the FAQs section of this website covering the topic if you wish to find out more about them in this context:


https://dsgb.net/faqs/trisonics/

Illustrated in the gallery above are some Adeson pickup sets fitted to my project guitars and my Guyton RS Transporter (photo credit Andrew Guyton). Although no Tri-Sonic pickup variants available are an exact replica of Brian’s original set, all Adeson Tri-Sonic pickups sound highly authentic when played through the basic BM signal chain of a treble booster and Vox AC30 at full volume.

I was informed recently that pricing for his “original BM/Guyton spec” pickup sets is currently £225 and for a BMG Super spec set, it is £180. This is astonishing value for money considering the craftsmanship, heritage and time involved in making these pickups. Check out the exquisite custom engraved pickup cases illustrated on his web site. Please support artisan craft businesses such as Adeson. Cottage industries helped make Britain great and if enthusiasts don’t support them, they will inevitably fold and the knowledge goes with them. As the slogan goes… accept no imitations! And don’t pay inflated prices to eBay sellers trying to cash in when demand exceeds supply either. Good things come to those who wait. That’s it, I’ve run out of clichés.

Ade appeared in episode 6 of The Red Special Guitar Podcast on May 28, 2021, hosted by Jon Underhill, in which they discuss his involvement with Tri-Sonic pickups. You can listen to it here:

https://theredspecialpodcast.libsyn.com/ade-turner-adeson-the-red-special-guitar-podcast-episode-6