Cool Stuff: Free-Way Ultra Switch

I’m in guitar building mode at the moment, having just finished my Telemaster, and currently working on a couple of other Free-Way Ultra Switchprojects! Along the way I’ve been checking out several guitar builder’s sites. One post in particular caught my attention from Paul Kneller at Hard Road Guitars. He’d collaborated with Brett Kingman on a custom “E-Type” Jaguar-based guitar that used the Free-Way Ultra switch. Aside from the amazing luthier skills of Kneller, it was this switch that really interested me.

The normal Jaguar pickup selector plate has been replaced by the Free-Way Ultra 6 position switch. Position one, two and three are your standard neck/both/bridge pickup selections. Where it gets interesting is on positions four, five and six. These give you both in series in phase, both in series out of phase, and both parallel out of phase! On top of that the bridge volume control acts as a blend/ tone shaping knob between the neck and bridge pickup in positions four, five and six. Impressively, the Free-Way Ultra switch is only about $80 (Australian dollars)!

It sounds really complicated – but it’s not. The best thing is to check out this video from where Kneller presented Kingman with the guitar. It’s incredibly the range of sounds that the guitar (and of course Kingman’s hands!) can create.

So what is this Free-Way Switch? Here’s what the Free-Way website says: “The Free-Way Switch was developed from a simple idea. Guitarists love the tonal flexibility that comes with different pickup configurations… but they hate the distraction of having to operate multiple controls during playing. A conventional selector switch has only one (longitudinal) freedom of travel – but if a selector switch could operate with two freedoms of travel (longitudinal and transverse), then wouldn’t it be possible to get all that tonal flexibility from a single, familiar switch? Yes it would – and that is exactly what the Free-Way Switch does. Created by Product Designer (and guitarist) Alasdair Bryce, the patented Free-Way Switch was developed for manufacture with switchgear specialists NSF Controls Ltd. The Free-Way Switch has now become the choice of thousands of guitarists and the new 2013 models represent the highest standards in flexibility and quality. The Free-Way Switch was first used on stage in December 2007 during Led Zeppelin’s Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert where the new Gibson® Jimmy Page Les Paul® Custom was featured during an unbelievable performance of For Your Life.”

If you are thinking about making a guitar, getting one made, or even just modifying a current one, I reckon it’s well worth checking out. There are a heap of wiring diagrams on the site that cover off most pickup combinations too. I’ll be using one in an upcoming build so will share how it goes soon.

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