Chasing the EJ tone

I’m tinkering with my strat, looking for the EJ tone. I ordered a set of his signature pick ups and was curious how the bridge compares to the DiMarzio HS2 wired as a single coil. Should I order one of those or stick with EJ bridge?

Thanks gang!

The “violin tone” is a bridge pickup wired to tone pot, rolled off until the treble matches the neck singlecoil. Then, the signal runs into an Echoplex EP-3 type delay at about 400-420ms into Butler Tube Driver, into a Marshall type amp.

The actual pickup itself doesn’t matter so much. It’s the same basic formula when EJ plays his Strats or a Gibson. Eric’s “Virginia” had the HS2 but some of his other main Strats were stock.

I’d try the basic set first, and if you don’t like the bridge singlecoil maybe think about the HS2. Just make sure it’s wired to a tone pot. I’d also suggest putting the HS2 on a push/pull or push/push pot to switch between singlecoil and humbucker wiring. The humbucking mode with a DOD 250 is classic Yngwie.

Edit: I should add, the “beautiful buzzsaw” tone from Desert Rose and High Landrons is a different thing entirely. Rolled off bridge pickup into a silicon Fuzz Face, sometimes with a Tubescreamer in front (not after), into a 150W Dumble Steel String Singer (NOT an Overdrive Special). Digital delay either after the Fuzz or after micing the Dumble.


Thanks Tom. You’re the resident EJ expert. I’ve got all that gear (‘68 super lead, EP3). How is a Butler vs a vintage Tube screamer? Do I need to buy one?

Additionally, I’ve modded my Strat to have only one tone knob. I put the volume in the tone one position to accommodate my picking style. Any wiring tips for the violin tone with only one tone knob?

The Butler Tube Driver is a totally different animal from a Tubescreamer. It’s a mains powered box with a 12ax7 inside.

There are some boutique pedals put there which aim to imitate it, but I haven’t any experience with them.

If you’re working with a single tone control, consider getting a 5-way superswitch. Then, you could wire the pickups so that positions 2 and 4 aren’t on the tone pot, which would allow you to switch between the rolled off bridge lead tone and clean rhythm tone without using needed to adjust the volume pot.

You could also try using push/pull or push/push pots to switch between 0.047 and 0.022 uF capacitors on the tone pots. The 0.047 is standard for Fenders, but the 0.022 will thicken up the tone a little bit, which helps to get you closer to a humbucker sound. A lot of people are actually thinking of an ES-335 type sound when they think of Eric (Cliffs Of Dover, Zap & Manhattan, for example). Definitely something to consider.

One more possibility would be to use the push/pull or push/push to add the bridge pickup in series to whatever is on the 5-way. With the middle pickup and the tone rolled off, you’ll be getting a good imitation of a bridge humbucker.

The last think to mention is that Eric used to wire position 2 (neck and middle) out of phase. This is a distinctive sound that he often used for his koto technique. You could use one of the push/pull or push/push pots to switch the phase of the middle pickup, which could get you this effect in positions 2 and 4.

Two push/pull or push/push pots, a 5-way superswitch and a couple of capacitors. The possibilities are endless.

You should also try the treble bleed volume control mod.


If you have a Fractal unit, I made a preset of an EJ “lead rig” that I posted on the Fractal forum. A lot of people seemed to like it. It has 8 different tones. It was made on an FM3 and I squeezed as much in there as I could. I used to switch between a bunch of different EJ presets that I found but this one works perfectly for me. It’s on their forum if you want it and below is a clip of me playing through the presets.

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Thanks again. I’m going to order a Butler. Seems like a cool pedal. I love blowing money on gear!

I don’t have one, but will check them out. Thanks!

The Buffalo FX TD-x is a FET based alternative to the Tube Driver, perhaps won’t get you all the way to the perfection of a Tube Driver with a really good tube, but eliminates the worry of having a good enough tube.

This video from Andy Wood going for the EJ tone is really good and the sound is great. I “recreated” it with my Fractal and it was the basis for the preset I made.

Only thing I’ll add to this conversation is, while I can’t speak for how it compares to the HS2, the EJ set’s bridge pickup is one of my favorites Fender offers. It’s got this nice “glassiness” to the high end, where it’s more of a “treble” than a “presence” sound, to borrow from amplifier terms. I wire my Strats up with the bridge pickup on some sort of a tone pot - one of them is neck/middle and bridge, the other is a single master tone for all three positions - which may be a factor here too, but if I were to assemble a frankenset of Fender pickups, it’d probablty be a Custom 69 neck, Texas Special middle, and EJ bridge. It’s a great pickup.

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It’s definitely its own thing. You can get some great tones from it, but it can take some work to find them and it’s not transparent at all. Some people love them (EJ, David Gilmour & Billy Gibbons to name a few) and some people hate them (Scott Henderson, for example).

Don’t neglect the switch, pots and capacitors. They’re inexpensive but they matter.

I’ve played them both, but not on my own guitars. I liked both but I couldn’t make a direct comparison.

Honestly, I’m totally satisfied with the Suhr MLs in my Strat. I haven’t even thought about changing them out.

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Huh, I didn’t know you were playing a set of those too. I’m with you - I like the EJ bridge second of any bridge singlecoil I’ve tried, second only to the ML Standard. As it happens I love the neck and middle as well. What a phenomenal set, they just sound “bigger” than anything else I’ve played, while still sounding like what I want out of a Strat.

The Fenders I was using before all sound kind of filtered by comparison, like there was some sort of phase combing washing out the low end a little, while the Suhrs just sound way more solid.

There was a stint with Dimarzio Virtual Vintage singles, whicgh I liked but are a wholly seperate beast - I still keep a SSH pickguard wired up with two of those and an AT1 in the bridge in the closet in case I ever need a bridge humbucker out of that guitar, or something TRULY noiseless, though - they’re not bad, just not quite the real thing, and in a well shielded guitar unless you’re playing bars with a lot of neon light 60-cycle hum is pretty managable.

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FWIW, the Line 6 Helix and its cousins model the Chandler/Butler Tube Driver under the name “Valve Driver”.

Here’s a decent video of somebody walking through going for a Cliffs of Dover sound on Helix (meat starts at 3m48s):

I think TC makes the Dover drive to somewhat replicate what that pedal did. Guess I remembered wrong. Hermida makes one.

speaking of blues driver it looks like Andy Timmons and Keeley made a pedal that does the blues driver thing as well.

The JHS Paul Gilbert pedal does the fuzz slamming a Marshall thing btw complete with tube amp like sag via the way the jfet circuit works when pushed. The dirty but clean with the violin like sustain that ends exactly on command.

I’ve tried following videos on Eric’s setup and all of the Axe FX3 patches I can find, but there is a certain tone I can’t figure out. This video (attached) from Jonas gets it with plug-ins. You can hear the dry tone around 4:30 into the video. I’ve tried stacking overdrives and playing with EQ, but can’t find that sound. In his video he calls it “throaty” but I am not sure of the right words. I hear it as a very distinctive sound but can’t figure it out. Anyone have ideas for how to get his tone?

Try rolling the tone knob back a bit? That always got me closer when I’d try to get the tone.


thanks for the suggestion. And thank you for the Axe fx patches you posted elsewhere. Indeed, I follow all the online discussion of Eric’s tones and rolling the tone knob back -his amps, pickups, pedals, tone pot wiring, etc. I have a few dozen patches - Andy Wood, John Cordy, etc. all are good, but there’s something missing that Jonas seems to capture in the first 30 seconds of his video. I’m not sure how to describe it - like a buzz/honk to his open strings - maybe a reverse delay/echo? Some might call it the violin tone, but I’m not sure they are the same thing. It’s become somewhat of an obsession and I should probably just get the plug-in to see if I can reproduce his tone. I’ve tried (fractal) fuzz pedals, overdrives, etc, but can’t figure out the right mix to get that particular tone effect. He seems to get the tone fairly easily with his plug in. It’s funny, the above posted video about JHS pedals mentions Paul Gilbert’s tinnitus and associated hearing loss influencing his pedal design. Maybe I’m hearing something that isn’t there for other folks. It also baffles me that a simple sound producing device with ordinary audio (iPad) can play that tone - maybe that is a clue. I should spend time practicing, not chasing tones, but I find that a good tone can inspire hours of joy. It seems to make playing difficult passages easier!

I agree that it’s fun to chase tone. As a hobbyist, I find it very entertaining. I’ve nailed the early EVH tone. The EJ tone has two of the same building blocks, thus I had a head start. A late 60’s super lead Plexi and a 70’s echoplex. I got the Butler, and tried the signal chain Tom gilroy outlined using my Strat with the EJ pickups. It’s close, but needs more dialing in. I use Freyette attenuator, I think that’s shaping the tone too. The chase continues……