The new Duncan Hyper Switch is a huge game changer that can alter your tone via Bluetooth. Is it genius, or a gimmick? Today we check it out in detail, and explain how this works!
Seymour Duncan Hyper Switch: What’s The Big Deal?
The Duncan Hyper Switch claims to be an evolution in guitar technology that has been a long time coming. The hype for this product has been very real, and during NAMM this year we finally got a peek at what this new device can do.
Controlling your guitar with a phone app sounds like a great big gimmick, I know. We took a look at the MOOER Guitar that had onboard effects and it was… underwhelming. But what if that idea was scaled down, and totally refined? Take the gimmick out of the equation, and make it a viable piece of gear that changes the game, brought to you by a trusted company. How would that be possible?
The 5-Way Switch is a relatively new idea, even though guitarists see it as a basic feature these days. The most famous guitar to sport a 5-way switch is probably the Fender Stratocaster, and most of the Strat models that we see today still have one.
The whole purpose of the 5-way is to get different tones from the pickup positions. This can work in a lot of different pickup configurations, with the Stratocaster it does different blends the 3 single coil pickups. But the Strat didn’t always work this way, in fact, it was a bit of experimentation and mostly a happy accident!
The original versions of the Fender Stratocaster only had a 3-way switch, which let you choose one of the three pickups at a time. But players started noticing that if you jammed a coin into the switch cavity, or a guitar pick, you could get “in between” positions.
These positions are now very famous tones when it comes to the sound of a Stratocaster. The first “in between” position blends the neck and middle pickup, and gives you that classic “quack” from a Strat. In fact, John Mayer uses this position a lot in his music.
The same can be said for the other “in between” position that blends the middle and bridge pickup. These sounds are also in series, like a humbucker, so they are more quiet on top of having a very unique tone. Fender took note of the players that used this trick, and started using 5-way switches in all Stratocaster models.
Now this 5-way switch idea has been used by a myriad of other companies over the years, with all kinds of guitar pickup configurations. In fact, I have a dual humbucker guitar with a 5-way switch. It works like an Ibanez, allowing you to get split coil tones from the in between positions.
The idea of split coil, or coil taps was made popular by David Schecter in the 80’s. He used this mod on a lot of guitars with humbuckers, and the idea has been popular with many brands over the years. Schecter usually used a push-pull knob to achieve this effect, but recently started using a 5-way switch instead.
But beyond that, there really hasn’t been a whole lot of innovation when it comes to guitar wiring layouts. We have seen active pickups catch on, and those have a built-in preamp in the guitar wiring. Again though, this idea was pioneered quite some time ago.
The 5-way switch offers several different mods to your pickups these days, and it is a big selling point. For instance, being able to split the coils to run in series or parallel is very popular. But at the end of the day, you are left with just 5 choices. Unless you add mini-toggle switches, or other contraptions as well.
To be honest, it was time for a change when it comes to guitar wiring. We have gear like the Helix and Neural Amp Modeler that allows digital technology to achieve different tones in a highly-customizable way. We have Bluetooth apps for these modelers and pedalboards, so why haven’t we seen anything new with the actual guitar wiring that isn’t a gimmick?
What if you could “program” your guitar pickups, like a Helix? Sure, you can add switches to your guitar to do this, but you would need at least 20 to match the Hyper Switch. The best part is that you can use your existing passive pickups, and mod them to emulate any position and wiring setup imaginable.
Have you ever had a dual humbucker guitar that only did coil taps, but you wish they did series? How about flipping the humbucker polarity to do the Gary Moore mod? What about turning the humbuckers into 5 single coil tones?
Well, the Seymour Duncan Hyper Switch allows you to take your existing pickups and guitar, and do all of these mods with just an app and a switch. I was hesitant to do this review, until a friend of mine (his video is below) installed a Duncan Hyper Switch into his guitar. I am sold!
So let’s look at what the Duncan Hyper Switch has to offer, and go over the features. The possibilities for your guitars that already have a 5-way switch can be almost endless! The best part, is that you do not have to change anything about the guitar, except the switch!
How Much Does It Cost?
The Duncan Hyper Switch is more affordable than you would think, especially if you know how to solder and do your own wiring. The benefit is like having a new pedal that changes your entire guitar layout! So I would say that $150 is more than fair.
When you see just how much this thing can do, I think you will agree! This is the same price as a pedal, or cheap multi-effects unit, yet it has much more impact on your tone since it starts at the source; your guitar itself!
So how does the Hyper Switch actually work? We are going to break it all down for you today, although the end result will depend on your pickup layout on your guitar. Even with a single humbucker, you have tons of options for this “virtual mod”.
Seymour Duncan Hyper Switch: Features
Finally, we have hardware that is totally new to add to your guitar, and it is an fairly easy mod. You don’t have to do much to install the Duncan Hyper Switch. But afterwards, you will have more control over your pickups, no matter what the configuration, than ever before.
Editor’s Note: The Duncan Hyper Switch ONLY works with passive pickups. Maybe later, we will see this technology with actives. But currently, it only works with passive pups.
The Seymour Duncan Hyper Switch is a powerful active 5-way blade that is compatible with most passive pickups and configured via your smartphone. Design, store, and recall your custom pickup configurations with the easy-to-use mobile app and save them to your Duncan Hyper Switch. Paired with the intuitive interface, a player with 3 humbuckers will be able to configure their pickups in hundreds of possible ways!
But even with just two humbuckers, you have a huge amount of options that would require much more than a simple 5-way switch. These options are not new, but the method is a brand new concept.
Gone are the days of reading wiring diagrams, and the trial-and-error experimentation with the soldering iron. Instead, rewire your guitar with the touch of your phone. The Seymour Duncan Hyper Switch system is the merging of traditional and technological platforms that empowers guitarists of all skill levels to effortlessly and immediately change the wiring configuration of their passive pickups.
A result of considerable research and development, the patent pending Duncan Hyper Switch is a powerful and uber-functional active 5-way blade that is compatible with most passive pickups. Design, store, and recall your custom pickup configurations with the easy-to-use mobile app. Hyper Switch pairs with your smart phone via Bluetooth and runs on a 9v battery.
Using the mobile app, a player with 3 humbuckers, for example, will be able to configure their pickups in hundreds of possible ways! The mobile app can be found in Apple’s App Store for iOS devices and the Google Play Store for Android devices.
So, for the sake of comparison, let us just look at the app today, with two humbuckers. That might seem very limiting considering all of the pickup configurations out there. But just to show how versatile the Duncan Hyper Switch can be, let’s use dual humbuckers.
Using The App: How Does It Work?
Again, the above diagram is JUST using dual humbuckers that each have a 4 conductor wire. As you can see in the graph above, this gives you a wide palate of tones to play with. Using the app, you can dial in any of the tones on the graph.
Step one, is to install the switch using the included diagram. Second, you need to download the app to your phone or device. The Duncan Hyper Switch then connects just like any other Bluetooth device. To activate the switch, you just have to flick it a few times, and your phone/device will “see” it to connect.
The app will give you the possibilities based on the type of pickups you are using, and “read” the output signal coming from your guitar. Choose your pickup layout, and get started with the available options!
This means that you can do simple split coil setups, if you want. But you can also reverse the pickup, put it out of phase, and just about anything that would usually be a permanent mod. But with the Duncan Hyper Switch app, you can change out options however you want.
But I Don’t Want To have To Use An App All The Time!
Hey, neither do I, and I would hate it if I had to use the app constantly! But you don’t HAVE to use the app all the time. You can activate the Bluetooth by flicking the switch a few times, and then dial in the tones that you want. You can then save that pickup profile, and move on to the next one. Likewise, you can also just set it up once with a preset and leave it!
You do not have to have the app on all the time, only when you are switching between the different profiles/presets that you have programmed.
If you dial in 5 tones that you like, and never use the app again, then that is totally okay! But the whole point is to have several different profiles that you can switch between whenever you want. This can be a massive tool in the studio, for example.
Just using a dual humbucker setup, you can have several profiles/presets set up to change the entire layout of your pickups and how they respond. You could have a setting for “All Single Coil” if you want, and then another that is strictly using humbuckers. It is up to the user, but there are a lot of crazy options.
If you have any type of pickup configuration, even down to a single humbucker, the Duncan Hyper Switch can open up all kinds of possibilities. You can even turn the pickup off completely. Just to show this, I downloaded a few of the other pickup graphs, just to show you how diverse this can be, as well as how the app works, below.
Some Things To Consider…
First and foremost, you can only use the Duncan Hyper Switch with a passive equipped guitar. If you have active pickups, or a hybrid setup, this will not work. So that is a little bit of a bummer, but active pickups already have a preamp built in, and the signal could possibly degrade with another preamp added.
Second, you need to find a place for the 9V battery. This is not a big issue, since most guitar control cavities have enough room to add a battery. I know that I have installed active pickups in guitars before, and I hid the battery under the pickguard, or in the control cavity.
Third, you need some pickups that are already capable of coil taps/coil splits, preferably. I would go as far as to say that you should probably only use “premium” pickups. Yes, the stock pickups in my cheap guitars sound great, but I wouldn’t use them for the Hyper Switch.
Finally, you DO need the app to control the switch. Some people will probably find one or two layouts that they like and switch between the two. Then again, some people like to tweak their settings constantly, and you can store as many patches as you like in the app. So you need the app to switch presets if you dial in more than one layout.
Below is a video of my buddy Andre Fludd using the app and dialing in his favorite personal guitar. Andre already had quite a few tones to work with when it comes to his versatile HSH Parker Fly, but this more than triples his tonal possibilities. There is so much that you can do with the app, no matter what your pickup combo may be!
The Seymour Duncan Hyper Switch is a huge leap in technology. We have always been able to change the way our guitar tone sounds by using gear like amps, pedals, modelers, and multi-effects. But we have never had such control from the guitar itself, especially not from a mainstream company like Duncan.
I will be installing the Hyper Switch into my favorite studio guitar, my Schecter Sun Valley Exotic, ASAP. I cannot imagine how many different presets I will have programmed for my main studio guitar, but I know it will be very expansive. Because when you are in the studio, time is money.
Every moment in the studio that I spend switching guitars, and having to retune and dial in the sound is MONEY. With the Hyper Switch I can have presets saved for just about any type of tone I need. I can do sessions with just one or two guitars. Hopefully, I will only need the ONE guitar to get the tones needed for any genre I record!
The Seymour Duncan Hyper Switch is an absolute game-changer. Yes, you could technically do this with switches and push-pull knobs. But those are “forever” mods on your guitar, and drilling out for mini switches is no longer something you have to do! The Hyper Switch does it all for you, opening a whole new world of tone for your favorite guitar!
Is The Seymour Duncan Hyper Switch A Gimmick?
Absolutely not. In fact, this is technology that was a long time coming, and has been in the works for years. It really does allow you to program your pickups.
How Many presets Can I Store In The Duncan Hyper Switch App?
How many pickups do you have? The possibilities can be nearly limitless, even with a single humbucker guitar.
Does the Duncan Hyper Switch Only Work With Passive Pickups?
Currently, yes. It works best with premium passive pickups that have the needed conductor leads to wire it up. If you have questions, check the Duncan FAQ.