The Free-Way switch is an interesting device that gives Gibson style guitars, with that distinctive toggle switch, the versatility of the Fender Stratocaster’s 5-way switch and possibly more. The Free-Way switch gives you 6 combinations —twice more than the standard 3-way toggle switch: “A whole new dimension in natural tone”. In this guide, we will show you how to incorporate the Free-Way switch into the XR-Flex system.
There are a multitude of ways to use the Free-Way switch (see the Free-Way switch guide). For our purpose, we will implement the first diagram in the guide (HH Coil Split 2V2T). This configuration gives us this switching scheme:
The XR Flex pickup is a low impedance (Lo-Z) passive transducer. The illustration below shows the basic schematic for a basic XR Dual Flex Coil. The XR Quad Flex is basically two independent XR Dual Flex pickups. See the Cycfi XR Series Datasheet for further details.
|C-||Inner Coil (also called IC)|
|C+||Outer Coil (also called OC)|
The low-impedance coils require a preamplifier to boost the low-level signal to sufficiently drive guitar amplifiers. For the Flex system, we use an Active Volume control: a volume pot with an integrated preamplifier.
Series XR Quad Flex
For our desired setup, we will use two XR Quad Flex pickups wired in series with a coil tap at the middle. The illustration below shows the schematic and simplified wiring diagram for each XR Quad Flex:
Although it is not shown in the simplified wiring diagram above, for flexibility, we do not solder the wires directly to the terminals. Instead, we use solder-free female header connectors to make it easy to install the pickups. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to crimp the connectors: Assembling and Crimping – Female Header. You can use a special crimper tool, but it is not strictly necessary. A standard pair of needle nose pliers will do just fine.
Always use shielded cables to minimize electrostatic interference!
The diagram below shows how the cables from the pickups are wired to the Free-Way switch. The Neck and Bridge taps (magenta) are shorted to ground on positions 4, 5 and 6. Doing so will give you single coil timbres. Keep in mind though that the XR is always noise cancelling (humbucking) even in split mode, so it’s noiseless in all switch positions.
After some crimping and soldering, here now is our final Free-Way wiring harness:
STEP 1: Insert the neck pickup header connectors (NOTE: use small molded triangle highlighted in the picture below as reference for proper orientation)
STEP 2: Insert the bridge pickup header connectors (Again, remember to use the molded triangle as a reference for the proper orientation).
STEP 3: Insert the output cable (2 pin, short length) of the 6 way switch to the active volume control (Take note of the proper orientation with the small molded triangle facing up).
STEP 4: Insert the 9V battery connector. Take note that, this time, the connector is facing upside down relative to the other headers (the small molded triangle facing down would not be visible). We want to connect it this way (to the VCC and SW pins) so that power will be engaged only when an instrument cable is inserted into the output jack.
STEP 5: Insert the string ground wire. See Grounding of XR [Flex] Installation Guide for further details on how to properly connect the ground wire to the supplied 2-Wire IDC Butt (scroll down to section III Five-Way Flex Switch Guide).