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Author Topic:  S10 Sierra Audio Problems
Chris Raven

 

From:
British Columbia, Canada
Post  Posted 2 Feb 2020 2:30 pm    
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Hi all: I have an older Sierra Model S10 Steel. 3 pedals, 5 levers. I use a Hilton volume control, Peterson Strobe Tuner and a Fender Pro 185 solid state amplifier.

Problem: Sometimes the audio drops to about 1/2 and the sound is all fuzzy and distorted, then just as fast it becomes clear again and back to the original volume. The other day it did that and stayed that way for 2 days.

Things done: I have disconnected everything and put the output directly into the amplifier, with a new know good tested cable, and still the same result. Distortion and lower volume. Since the pickup is removable I have taken it out and cleaned the contacts on both the plate and the pickup, to no avail. Could the pickup be failing?

I am going to try and attach pictures of the electronics of this steel to this note. There is a pot on the end which I think is the tone control, I have tried that at different positions and it seems to only effect the bass to treble. There is also 2 toggle switches, the top one being a 3 position toggle and the lower being a 2 position toggle. No matter where I place these while it is distorting there is no difference. I looked at the wiring and there seems to be no shielded wiring of any kind on the machine, is this normal? It looks all original so it must have worked fine for a number of years.
I'm at a bit of a loss as to what might be causing this so if there is anyone out there that can give me a hand I would truly appreciate it. My email address is "chrisraven4321@gmail.com", if you have questions that you would like to ask me personally.

Thanks Chris



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Tim Russell


From:
Pennsylvania, USA
Post  Posted 2 Feb 2020 2:47 pm    
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You mentioned cleaning the pickup contacts. It could also be an issue with one or both of the contact pins on the guitar sticking & making/breaking contact.
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Sierra Crown D-10
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Chris Raven

 

From:
British Columbia, Canada
Post  Posted 2 Feb 2020 2:52 pm    
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I used a electronic contact cleaning compound called "DeoxIT Fader F5 which is specifically made for cleaning electronic contacts and components. I have used it on my 1964 original Jazzmater guitar to restore the contacts and it worked great.

Thanks Chris
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Tim Russell


From:
Pennsylvania, USA
Post  Posted 2 Feb 2020 3:04 pm    
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Awesome! For the record, I have owned three Sierra's, and those contact pins can get dirt/dust in them causing them to stick and lose contact. I have sprayed them like you have & then used compressed air to blow all the gunk out.
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Chris Raven

 

From:
British Columbia, Canada
Post  Posted 2 Feb 2020 3:20 pm    
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Since you have a Sierra, any idea what the top 3 position toggle switch does? I think it may turn different parts of the pickup on, humbucker versus non humbucking?
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Chris Raven

 

From:
British Columbia, Canada
Post  Posted 2 Feb 2020 3:23 pm    
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If the pickup is failing any idea where I could get a new one? What are the different pickups out there? Or does this guitar only have the one type and style?
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Jack Goodson

 

From:
new brockton,alabama (deceased)
Post  Posted 2 Feb 2020 3:37 pm     sierra?
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chris, the 2/ way switch turns the tone knob off and on, the 3/ way is for the pickup. i by
passed the tone control and just use the 3/ way switch for the pickup, seems to have better tone. also you might check the input and make sure it is grounded correctly....thanks jack
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George Biner


From:
Los Angeles
Post  Posted 3 Feb 2020 10:00 pm    
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I've repaired a fair amount of music equipment -- some thoughts:

Dumb question: have you tried a different amp? It may not be the guitar. An amp is much more complicated than a guitar and much more likely to create unwanted fuzz and distortion.

I am almost 99.9% certain that a quality pickup won't wear out -- a pickup is a bunch of magnet poles with wire coiled around them that is set in place and not moved around -- unless the insulation on the wires degrades through age or the plastic starts to crack, it's hard to see how it would fail.

Shielding on the wires would've been nice but I see that the wires are twisted -- this rejects noise pickup in the wires and is a form of shielding. The metal case also offers some shielding.

One thing you can do is, when the problem is occurring, probe everything with a wooden stick to see if banging on something changes the sound or fixes it.

DeOxit is indeed good for cleaning jacks and pots. The pot will have a capacitor associated with it but it's very unlikely that cap is bad.

That's all I can think of right now.
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Electrical Engineer / amp tech in West Los Angeles
Mullen Royal Precision SD10 E9 / Spark Amp / Fender Deluxe Reverb / Sarno Freeloader / Goodrich volume pedal
“Now there is a snappy sounding instrument. That f****r really sings.” - Jerry Garcia
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Chris Raven

 

From:
British Columbia, Canada
Post  Posted 4 Feb 2020 12:07 pm    
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Thanks George appreciate the input. I also have a Fender Twin that I did try and the results were the same. I have sprayed all the contacts, and tapped and probed about while it was distorting and could find nothing that would change the problem, either for better or worse. Quite perplexing and not quite sure where to go or try next. The pickup looks really good and I don't think it could be good then bad then good again, doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. If the coil has cracked or broken wires then that short should be there all the time I would think. I will keep at it and see if anything comes up. Today it is playing fine with the correct volume level, but was off last night. It's quite a weird situation. Maybe I could go in and take the output directly from the pickup and feed that into the amp, which would bypass all the internal wiring and switches?? What do you think?
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Charley Bond


From:
Inola, OK, USA
Post  Posted 4 Feb 2020 1:11 pm     Audio problem
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One time my Sierra acted up similar to that & it was the pins on the removable pickup. I slid the pickup out & back in... heard a snap, crackle, pop & Voila/... problem gone.

Good Luck with your guitar...
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David Ball


From:
North Carolina High Country
Post  Posted 4 Feb 2020 1:42 pm    
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I had a similar problem on one of the Sierras I used to have. On mine, the pickup contacts were not quite coming into alignment with the guitar contacts. Sliding the pickup very slightly back from the "all the way in" position took care of the problem.

Dave
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Chris Raven

 

From:
British Columbia, Canada
Post  Posted 4 Feb 2020 3:09 pm    
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Hi there: Thanks for the thoughts on the pickup pins. I looked at those actually with a magnifying glass and saw a little dirt/dust so I cleaned them out good. They were going up and down quite freely before I spray cleaned them. There doesn't seem to be any problem there. I have tried sliding the pickup back and forth and holding with my hand while pushing pulling and prodding it while picking the strings and there seems to be no change from the distortion. I think it is a steel gremlin just trying to drive me crazy. Fortunately I don't have far to go....
That and a million scales to learn Thanks for all the input I appreciate your help with this problem. I have a feeling it is going to take a bit to solve. The nature of intermittent problems. Don't want to buy another unit but it might be a possibility
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Tim Russell


From:
Pennsylvania, USA
Post  Posted 4 Feb 2020 3:21 pm    
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Take as much out of the equation as you can to eliminate possible culprits.

As you mentioned earlier, take the output directly from the pickup and feed that into the amp. Connect from the pickup contacts to the output jack on the guitar, bypassing all the knobs & switches. Divide & conquer, shouldn't take too much to figure it out. It would be nice to have another pickup to test it with. Sierras have the unique slide it type, although you could temp. wire another one in its place, I suppose.
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Chris Raven

 

From:
British Columbia, Canada
Post  Posted 4 Feb 2020 3:50 pm    
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Hi Tim: I was drifting around the web trying to find out if there are any other pickups or another Sierra that I could buy and try. Not so sure it's the pickup but it might be down to that shortly.. Thanks for your thoughts
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George Biner


From:
Los Angeles
Post  Posted 4 Feb 2020 6:59 pm    
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Yeah, you can indeed bypass everything and go direct from the pickup to the amp, that would be a good test of the pickup if you're OK with soldering and unsoldering. Then if that works you can conceivably start adding things back in.

If you're good with an ohmmeter you can ohm out / check continuity of the switches -- they should show similar resistance to bare wire. In fact, now that I hear it's slide in type, I suspect the slide in contacts which might be hard to check due to inaccessibility. Hmmm. Just make sure they are aligned. You can ohm out the entire pickup assembly and compare it to the raw pickup to verify the slide-in connection.

One thing, flaky connections usually cause either dead silence or crackling -- they are very unlikely to cause distortion.
_________________
Electrical Engineer / amp tech in West Los Angeles
Mullen Royal Precision SD10 E9 / Spark Amp / Fender Deluxe Reverb / Sarno Freeloader / Goodrich volume pedal
“Now there is a snappy sounding instrument. That f****r really sings.” - Jerry Garcia
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Chris Raven

 

From:
British Columbia, Canada
Post  Posted 5 Feb 2020 12:36 am    
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I did some investigation today, and I found nothing that would indicate where the problem might be. The pickup tested out all ok, and all the connections seem to be solid. I did not reheat/solder the connections on the controls but they all looked good, no corrosion or cold solder joints that I could see. I also found out that the toggle switch right above the tone pot does exactly the same thing in each position. I was told on here that that toggle switch takes the tone pot in and out of the circuit. So apparently it has some other function. Then the top toggle is a 3 way that changes the sound a little but again nothing very noticeable.
Does anyone know the style of pickup that is in that guitar? I was told by one fellow that the top toggle switches the pickup between a regular pickup and a humbucking pickup?? Any ideas about that?
If I cannot find anything that points to the actual problem then perhaps I should look at another steel, in this I would appreciate your input. All the training information (Jeff Newmans total course), is all geared toward E9 10 string unit. I suspect that is where I would stay for the next few years and see how it works out. With that in mind what are some of the choices out there that I should look at? I don't think $10,000 for a new Sierra is in my future lol, but something in the 2 to 3K would be doable ....
Open to suggestions. Thanks
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Chris Raven

 

From:
British Columbia, Canada
Post  Posted 5 Feb 2020 12:37 am    
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I am taking a road trip to Vegas on April 9th to 12th for a get together with a bunch of friends so I can look at various units there. I could also bring along my Sierra if there is someplace that they could have a look at it within that timeframe. Thanks
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Jack Goodson

 

From:
new brockton,alabama (deceased)
Post  Posted 5 Feb 2020 7:34 am     3/way switch?
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chris, the 3/way switch should be very noticeable, the reading with your ohm meter should be approx 17.5 , 17.5, 25.5.....i just replaced the one in my 14 string and it sound great now but all i have hooked up is the 3/way. all u need to do is clip the wires loose from the 2/way way switch and it will be a direct hookup....jack....if it still has a problem u need to replace the 3/way.
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Richard Sinkler


From:
aka: Rusty Strings -- Missoula, Montana
Post  Posted 5 Feb 2020 9:18 am    
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Chris Raven wrote:
I am taking a road trip to Vegas on April 9th to 12th for a get together with a bunch of friends so I can look at various units there. I could also bring along my Sierra if there is someplace that they could have a look at it within that timeframe. Thanks


I doubt you will find a place in Vegas to look at steels. I have never seen one or even heard of one. There might be a player or two that could look at your guitar.
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Carter D10 8p/9k, Regal RD40 Dobro, "The Loar" (brand) mandolin, Cozart D6 lap steel, NV400, Evans DPR2 preamp, Rockville power amp, Ibanez acoustic/electric guitar.
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Chris Raven

 

From:
British Columbia, Canada
Post  Posted 5 Feb 2020 10:44 am    
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Thanks Jack: I'll get to that and give it a try later tonight. Thanks for the ohm readings, I'll check those also. I think what I will do when I have the guitar upside down is trace all the wires and draw a schematic diagram of what is there. I will ring out each wire and then upload the drawing to the site here. I know that intermittent problems are the worst to troubleshoot. If only it would fail 100 percent lol, but who said life would be easy..... certainly not the person that said it would be a short trip from playing 6 string guitar to playing pedal..... I spend at least 30 to 45 minutes a day just practicing thumb finger crossovers and palm blocking. But it certainly keeps the mind sharp, not to mention the ear.... Very Happy
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Chris Raven

 

From:
British Columbia, Canada
Post  Posted 5 Feb 2020 5:29 pm    
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I have drawn a layout of how the siring is done on the guitar. The wires are twisted together as shown in my original picture. It turns out that the center tip of the output is tied to the tone pot, which I think means all the signal is going through all the parts and pieces. The capacitor connected to the tone pot I think mellows out the sound somewhat, I seem to recall doing that same mod to my original Fender Jazzmaster, worked well with that. Looks like all the 1W toggle does is bring the capacitor in and out of the circuit. With the yellow sleeve side of the output jack connected to the common of the pickup, it looks like the 3w toggle chooses between the orange and the red outputs on the pickup, or both it might seem by having the toggle located in the middle position. The differences I can hear with the 3w toggle: 1: with the toggle switched so the head is tipped to the outside of the guitar, the sound is the brightest, 2: with the toggle tipped all the way towards the player it is not quite as bright and the volume is slightly lower but still brightish, 3: with the toggle in the middle it is the worst, lower volume and maybe a tad of distortion, although I would not say for sure. I have sprayed some cleaner into the toggle switch shaft and will see if any gets into the guts of the switch.
Wven if the 1W toggle is switched in or out it makes no difference what so ever, I can turn the tone control and it goes from bright to a real low bass. I could not figure what they were thinking when that was put there. It would be like playing a bass on the steel. Not a good sound at all. Thanks for all the input.
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Jack Goodson

 

From:
new brockton,alabama (deceased)
Post  Posted 5 Feb 2020 5:39 pm     swotch?
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chris, if u will either cut or disconnect the center wire from the 3/way switch i believe u will hear a difference in the sound, and i would bet it will eliminate the distorted sound?....this way u have a direct connection to the pickup only....thanks jack
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Chris Raven

 

From:
British Columbia, Canada
Post  Posted 5 Feb 2020 5:52 pm    
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Hi Jack: If I cut the center wire from the 3W toggle then I will not have a signal at all since that red wire goes to the 1w switch then the pot and then returns through the black wire to the output. Maybe if I disconnect the red center wire from the 3w and connect the black from the pot then I would have a complete circuit and it would eliminate the other toggle and the tone pot. Am I right? or??
Thanks Jack
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Jack Goodson

 

From:
new brockton,alabama (deceased)
Post  Posted 5 Feb 2020 6:19 pm     wire?
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chris, the center wire is the ground, you need to connect the ground wire in the wiring harness to the center post....thanks
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Jack Goodson

 

From:
new brockton,alabama (deceased)
Post  Posted 5 Feb 2020 6:50 pm     ground wire?
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chris, in your photo the brown wire is hooked to the tone knob switch, you need to connect that wire to the center post on the 3/way toggle switch, my guitar was not hooked up like that....thanks jack
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