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/

Burns Tri-Sonic Pickups: General Information

I have written a short (<1,500 word) article intended as a primer on Burns Tri-Sonic pickups for general interest within a Brian May Red Special context:

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

The article is illustrated with a number of original photographs, CAD renders and a few ‘library pictures’ like those depicted below:

Christmas Presents 2020

What did you all get for Christmas? I got a number of genuine Fender parts, Adeson vintage single coil pickups and a Jamie Humphries instructional DVD from the excellent Lick Library series. I intend to return my red Strat to original Fender specification as I prepare to put Brian May guitars and gear on the shelf and move in a new direction in 2021. I got into Pink Floyd in my first year at Durham University in 1992 when my then room-mate Phil Malone at Grey College played The Wall constantly. I listened to Brit Floyd and The Australian Pink Floyd Show (TAPFS) a lot recently while developing this web site.

It goes without saying that David Gilmour is revered amongst guitar players for his unique sounds which, unlike Brian May tones, are surprisingly challenging to nail down at home. I have ordered an EMG DG20 loaded pickguard from Andertons which is due back in stock at the end of January 2021 but this standard Fender Stratocaster outfit will do the job along with RAT 2 and Big Muff Pi distortion pedals and a TC Electronic G-Major 2 effects unit. Nigel Knight has built himself a custom KAT-DG HiWatt 50 Special amplifier with Fane Crescendo speakers and is willing to explore a lower-powered custom HiWatt project for chasing Gilmour tones at home… unless I splash out on a HiWatt Little Rig DR20/0.5 first! Check out the details on his website:

http://www.deacyamp.com/index.php?route=information/information&information_id=35

One of the leading internet resources for Gilmour information is the excellent Gilmourish site founded 2003, designed, written and hosted by Bjorn Riis:

https://www.gilmourish.com/

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

Guyton RS Transporter #0817154 (No. 9 of 25)

In January 2019, I was very pleased to be able to acquire Guyton RS Transporter #0817154 (No. 9 of 25). I am the instrument’s third owner after it was originally commissioned by Craig Farley of Queen Tribute band Forever Queen. I’ve been unable to see them play live because most of the venues they play at are in the south of England. Check their pages out:

https://www.facebook.com/foreverqueenhampshireuk/
http://www.foreverqueen.co.uk/

The Guyton RS Transporter was designed by Red Special community stalwart Martin Pitcher and is expertly realised by Suffolk luthier Andy Guyton. It has achieved the distinction of replacing the scalloped fretboard Guyton Red Special as Brian May’s pre-concert warm-up guitar.

https://www.facebook.com/Guyton-Guitars-201657545404/
https://www.guytonrstransporter.com/

In the unlikely event that you’re not already familiar with this guitar, please check out Craig’s unboxing video on YouTube where he makes a significantly better job of demonstrating it than I ever could
. The guitar is designed to be a travel variant of Brian May’s original Red Special with woods, neck dimensions, Adeson Tri-Sonic pickups, pickup spacing and controls closely reflecting those of the original instrument. It is obviously headless and makes good use of the JCustom XS tremolo bridge.

Demonstration of Guyton RS Transporter 0817154 (No. 9 of 25) by Craig Farley, lead guitarist with Queen Tribute Band Forever Queen.

The pictures in the gallery below are copyright Andrew Guyton of Guyton Guitars.

The Guyton RS Transporter from Guyton Guitars.
Danny Porter, guitarist from “Burn The Headlines” checking out his Guyton RS Transporter.