One of the things that many guitar players like to do with guitars is change their pickups. Many are not comfortable with using a soldering iron, so they quite often will pay a tech to do what is essentially a fairly simple task. Seymour Duncan have recognised this, and developed a new solderless solution known as the Liberator.
The Liberator is an integrated volume pot and screw clamp connector which allows you to remove and replace 4 conductor wired humbuckers, using a small screw driver to disconnect the pickup wires from the Liberator.
Thanks to Seymour Duncan and Dominant Music, the Australian distributor for Seymour Duncan, I have a 500K Liberator for review.
As you would expect from Seymour Duncan, the Liberator is built from high quality parts, the PCB, and clamps feel nice and solid, and the potentiometer is a top notch Bourns unit.
Now the Liberator allows you to remove and replace pickups without needing to solder, but the installation will still require you to solder connections between your pickup selector, tone pot, switches, etc and the Liberator. At least this will only mean you will pay a tech to do this sort of work one more time if you cannot solder, and then from then on you can do pickup changes yourself.
One thing I really love with the Liberator is that it provides easy to solder points on the PCB for making standard ground connections. As anyone who has done guitar electronics will know, heating up the back of a potentiometer to make or remove ground connections can be an absolute pain. Having solder pads make the job so much easier, and I wonder why no one has thought of this previously.
A challenge I faced with installing the Liberator was getting it to fit in my guitar’s electronics cavity. I installed it in the custom guitar that my Father and I built, and the cavity was routed out to specifically fit the EMG 81-89 setup I originally had in the guitar. I had to get a Dremel out and open the cavity a little more to make room for the PCB, and reapply some shielding tape. The Liberator should fit most guitars though.
Installing pickups is a nice easy affair, and only as fiddly as trying to keep your pickup wires in place to lock down the screw clamps. If you are using Seymour Duncan pickups you just match the wires colours on the pickup to the Liberator, but if you are using another company’s pickups you just need to be aware of what their colour combos are, and match them accordingly. If you are not sure the information can easily be found on the Internet. Using the small flat head screw driver that is provided is a little awkward, but does the job. I preferred to use one of my nice jewelers screw drivers for the job, but the one provided will be fine for those who do not have better alternatives at their disposal.
Along with the pickup screw clamps there is also four other screw clamp connectors, two grounds, and an in and out. This further simplifies the installation of the Liberator, and if you are using just the Liberator for volume, and no other controls it makes for an extremely neat setup.
With everything hooked up to the Liberator I plugged in my guitar, and everything sounded exactly as it should. There was no crackling or dropouts, just clear signal from my pickups through to my amplifier. Clearly Seymour Duncan are on to a good thing with the screw clamp connectors, as the tone is just as good as a good solder joint, without the hassle of getting a good solder joint. This plus the benefit of not needing to get the soldering iron out every time I want to change pickups makes the Liberator a very handy investment.
Overall the Seymour Duncan Liberator is a fantastic product. Once installed it makes changing pickups for anyone a simple assignment which can be done just with a few screwdrivers and a bit of spare time. No longer do guitar players who are worried about using soldering irons have to cough up money for a tech to install their new pickups once the Liberator is installed in their guitar. It also saves all of us from making bad solder joints that have to be repaired, or if you are like me, usually pretty tired once you can work on such things in the evening and you risk burning yourself! These reasons, combined with its’ reasonable purchase price make it an invaluable addition to your guitar.
Thanks to Michael at Dominant Music for providing the Seymour Duncan Liberator for review.