G&L tech resources: Pickups


Although the design of the Z-coil pickup is covered under US Pat. Des. 319,456, which got filed on May 13, 1988, technologically it is still a Magnetic Field Design (MFD) pickup covered by US Pat. 4,220,069. Persistent rumor has it John Jorgenson, of The Hellecasters fame, is responsible for its design. This is incorrect although he was certainly involved in testing. Instead, its development involved many other people: Dale Hyatt, Buddy Kendrick, Jeff Ross, testers and artists alike, all providing Leo Fender with the feedback needed to reach the pinnacle of pickup design. Since Buddy passed away in 1984, it demonstrates how long and storied the actual history of the Z-coil pickup is. Z-coil pickups were first introduced on a Comanche V prototype. From the routing, it can be seen that dealing with the shape is not trivial although that was under control soon enough as can be seen on this Comanche VI Signature. John is however responsible for the Z-coils finding their way to an ASAT body and the ASAT Z-3 prototype built for him is shown below. Note the bathtub rout used, as it is on most modern day G&L guitars with 3 pickups. Tim Page, of Buffalo Brothers fame, designed a special run of 10 ASAT Z-2 guitars with just 2 Z-coils. Taking out the middle pickup gives pickers some more space. While G&L still offered gold hardware, the pole pieces of the Z-coil pickups were treated in kind as can be seen on this 2000 ASAT Z-3 Semi-Hollow, shown at the 2001 Winter NAMM and featured in the 2001 G&L Catalog. Through his close collaboration with John in The Hellecasters, Will Ray was also very much aware of the performance of the Z-coil and designed his own Will Ray Signature model. With some tweaks of course! When introduced in 2004, both middle and bridge pickup were overwound for the earliest guitars. The later ones only had an overwound bridge pickup with an extra 1,400 or so windings. To make the necessary room, the bobbin aperture had been widened by extending the pole pieces and lowering the magnets a tad, an approach borrowed from the neck Jumbo MFD pickup for the 2002-2013 ASAT Classic Custom. If you want to see what a Z-coil looks like under the covers, look at the pictures below or in this post on the Guitars by Leo website. An interesting footnote to all of this is that Helmut Schaller filed for US Pat. 4,535,668 on January 25, 1984 concerning a (non-MFD) guitar pickup looking very much like a Z-coil.


Guitar: Z-coil