Stealth pickups: upgrading Soviet pickup without compromising the original pickup components and mounting system.

Here's another bit of Soviet guitar/bass repair trivia that might interest the cheesy masses. It started when I scored three Bas 1 pickup corpses off eBay. They had no coils or magnets inside the covers, and I wanted to figure out a way to use them in an Aelita clone I'm building. My biggest concern (as usual) was avoiding any irreversible modification of those hard-to-find original Soviet components. This is what I came up with.

The beginning: a Soviet pickup corpse. These were the pickups used on several Soviet guitars and basses (Tonika, Aelita, Solo II, Bas I, etc.). The problem with the originals is that they are horribly noisy/microphonic, squeal like a pig caught in a trap, and have very low output. Anyone who has a Soviet guitar or bass with these pickups in it knows exactly what I mean. The component parts shown on the right are the cover, plastic faceplate/insert, and the baseplate. Obviously I already removed the central bar from the baseplate below.

The cheesy solution: $16.00 (on eBay) Firebird-style mini-humbuckers. BTW, these pickups are vacuum wax-potted and have 8.3k ohms of output ... twice the output of the originals. On the left is one of these pickups in its original state. After carefully removing the cover and cutting the mounting tabs off the ends of the baseplate, this pickup was ready to go undercover, masquerading as an ordinary Soviet citizen.

As you can see, the dimensions of these mini-humbuckers fit perfectly onto the original Soviet baseplates, and are held in place by their bar magnets and the snap-on covers.

When the cover is snapped back into place, the pickup looks totally original from all sides:

The best part of all? These "undercover" mini-humbuckers do not compromise the original pickup components or mounting system in any way. What this means is that it's possible to hotrod/repair an original Aelita, Solo II, Bas 1 or whatever with dead/wimpy pickups in this way without drilling any extra holes anywhere, without hacking up the original pickguard (or making a new one), and without doing much of anything aside from the work shown above, which only takes about 15 minutes per pickup, and it all fits under the original pickup covers. It's not necessary to spend a fortune to do it either. Not a bad solution, eh?

Aside from the fact that the guitar/bass will sound infinitely better than it did before, it would be impossible for anyone to tell that any work had been done on it unless they took the guitar apart. Stealth pickups? Why not?

Here are some more pictures of other "stealth" pickups.

Here's the "stealth" trick using a original pickup cover & baseplate from a Soviet Formanta. You can see that the $18.00 mini-HB fits perfectly into the baseplate.

Just add a piece of decorative plastic (black abalone drum wrap in this case) on top of the pickup before snapping on the cover, y voila!

Here's the back, where you can see that the original mounting holes and notch for the pickup lead haven't been altered in any way. Drop this pickup into a run-of-the-mill Formanta -- or any other Soviet guitar that uses these same pickups -- and watch your amp start hopping around on the floor when you crank this thing up.

Below is the same trick, but using a cover from a wrecked 60's Jolana pickup: original cover, mini-HB and (in this case) a piece of black plastic drum wrap for an insert.

Once put together it's almost impossible to tell that it ISN'T an original 60's Jolana pickup.

Inside, it's a "stealth" pickup, with about twice the output of the originals.

That's about it for this subject. I hope this sort of thing is amusing or useful to someone in the Cheesy Guitar community.

This wonderfull article is written by Jamie Chivers -

Guitartech Jamie Chivers,
Over 30 years of quality repair experience
Kettle Falls, WA
Monday - Friday
10am - 6pm
Set Up * Wiring * Refrets * Customizing

Aelita clone with the stealth pickups
Another pickups' technique - featuring Cow Magnets

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