Soviet pickups and wiring

There were several independent manufacturers of guitar hardware in USSR. This page will show some of the information we've gathered on pickups' production.

Most of the guitar factories in USSR produced their own hardware, but sometimes the pickups were made at different locations, usually at radio electronics' plants. Untill the end of the 70's standalone guitar pickups were not available for sale, but the as the DIY guitar fever affected more and more Soviet teenagers, music shops included "replacement" pickups and fully-loaded pickguards in their inventory.

This list is partly based on "Electromusical picking instruments" book (D.S.Medvedovsky, O.N.Guzevich, Leningrad, "Energy", 1979).

All of Soviet pickups were single-coils. No humbuckers were ever produced in USSR, so we're not going to mention this parameter below.

Related articles:
Soviet guitar production
Russian Vintage guitars

Lordbizarre -

Leningrad pickups were made for both electric and acoustic guitars. It was mounted on a pickguard (not requiring a hole) and was non-adjustable. The construction featured stamped steel base with a ferrite magnet attached to it and a coil around the magnet. The cover was made of black plastic with a rectangular opening and a pearloid plastic insert. These are not the pickups used on Leningrad guitars, but more primitive standalone replacements sold individually.

Output: >= 60mV
DC resistance: 6-13kOhm
Wire: PEV-1, diameter 0.06mm
Turns: 5800-6000
Size: 105X35X11mm

Pickguard assembly
A fully loaded pickguard was called in Russian "tone-block" was also made in Leningrad. It was intended to be mounted on either electric or acoustic (converted) guitars. The block featured a plastic pickguard with two pickups of the above mentioned type, three potentiometers for tone and volume controls and the output jack.

Tone block specifications:
Output impedance: 3-4kOhm
Output: >150mV
Resistance: 6-10kOhm
Size: 310X245X34mm

Kirovograd pickups

Kirovograd plant of radio goods produced two models of pickups: ZS-6 and ZS-4, for electric guitar and bass. The chassis was made of steel and the enclosure - of brass. The rectangular opening had a pearloid insert. The most interesting feature of Kirovograd pickup was two coils, each with 2500 turns - but it was not a humbucker, the coils were connected in series. The magnets were made of something called UNDK-24 (no idea what it is).

Output: >= 60mV
DC resistance: 4.8kOhm
Wire: PEV-2, diameter 0.06mm
Turns: two coils, 2500 each, total 5000.
Size: 85X25X12mm

Luberzy pickups

Luberzy is a small town near Moscow. They produced pickups for electric guitars and basses, and these were the pickups mostly available in Moscow. They were also surface-mountable and non-adjustable but featured screws raising from the magnet that could be unscrewed to have the magnetic field closer to a certain string.
The pickup had a 1.2mm steel chassis with a non-magnetic vertical center plate with the holes for the screws, the coil was wound around the center plate and insulated, and there were two separate ferrite magnets from both sides of the coil, with the coil placed between the magnets and the central plate. Only the central plate was welded to the chassis, the coil and the magnets could be easily removed.

The enclosure was made of chromed brass and had a rectangular opening with a plastic insert and had the screws going through it into the central plate.

Specifications for the guitar pickup:
Output: >= 40-50mV
DC resistance: 7kOhm
Wire: PEV-1, diameter 0.06mm
Size: 92X25X14mm


Pickguard assembly

A fully loaded pickguard made in the town of Vinniza. We don't know what else the Vinniza factory produced, but in general it was all sorts of electronic devices (not guitars). Unfortunately, the unit is not complete, originally it featured two pickups and a row of rocker switches. A complete unit may be seen on this picture. The label (pictured below) reads:
Plant at ZKBIT
Electric guitar control device
Artikul - Y70233000TY
Sort -
Production date - IX 76
Quantity -
Price for single unit - 28 Roubles

Apparently, this block was also sold separately. The mysterious guitar had it installed at the factory as a standard feature - Vinniza supplied the electronics while the factory made the guitar itself. The guitar model is still unidentified, see an article about this instrument here - Pinetree guitar.

The label on the pickguard.

Guitar courtesy of Ivan alias Lordbizarre,

Soviet guitar wiring

Soviet guitars sometimes featured very complicated onboard preamplification, effects and numerous controls. One of the impotant components was DIN-5 plug which was the industry standard - instead of the simple mono jack used on "western" guitars. Unfortunately, this system was considered useless by the majority of guitarists and on most of the Soviet guitars DIN-5 was replaced with an ordinary guitar plug.

DIN-5, which looked a lot like a MIDI connection, allowed several functions impossible with a regular guitar jack. First, there was a phantom power pin for onboard electronics - effects and the preamp. The phantom power (+9V) was supplied by an amplifier. It was also possible to have a stereo output with DIN-5. Despite all the options, most of the guitars had the DIN-5 wired in a very simple manner, and the cool functions were reserved for the future guitars. The "simple" DIN-5 (=DIN-3) output was called (in Russian) "SG-3" and had three pins - ground, signal and phantom power, with the last two sometimes jumpered. The "full" DIN-5 was named "SG-5".

Below we have a couple of schematics for particular models:

Elgava Unika-2 (Moscow)
Ritm and Bass (Lvov, Ukraine)
Formanta (Borisov) - with onboard fuzz FX
drawn by Lordbizarre
Solo II (Borisov) - with onboard fuzz and phaser FX's
drawn by Lordbizarre

Several examples of guitar wiring suggestions for Soviet DIY guitars. Starting with a simple two-pickup version and ending with something cosmic. All the jacks are DIN-3, in the last option you may see the phantom power connection (the upper pin).

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