Documenting history as well as my experiences with repairing and restoring vintage guitars.

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1966 DeArmond Rhythm Chief Model 1100 Gold About The DeArmond Rhythm Chief is known as one of the best sounding pickups for archtop g...

DeArmond Rhythm Chief Wiring Diagrams

1966 DeArmond Rhythm Chief Model 1100 Gold

About

The DeArmond Rhythm Chief is known as one of the best sounding pickups for archtop guitars and the vintage ones can commend a hefty premium. The Rhythm Chief first appeared in the 1950s was built, at least, until the late 1970s, according to MusicPickups.com's catalog scans. One of the pickups I repaired had pots dating to 1982 (which I neglected to document the wiring..) which implies that production might've continued after they ceased appearing in catalogs. DeArmond produced pickups until 1985 when they shut down.

Guild produces a reissue which drops the control unit box and mounts via a bar that is screwed into the side of the fingerboard instead of the monkey-on-a-stick. Their pickups are also wound to 6k which is standard for a single coil but is mostly inaccurate for a Rhythm Chief replica.

Despite the popularity of these pickups, wiring information is surprisingly sparse. I've found a few forum threads with DeArmond enthusiasts discussing these pickups but could not find a wiring diagram that exactly matched what I was looking at. I've been lucky enough to have the opportunity to repair a couple monkey-on-a-stick Rhythm Chief pickups and so I've taken the time to document their wiring and values for future reference.

Common Problems

If your DeArmond pickup is reading 'open' and/or produces no sound, there are a couple suspects.

  • The lead wire has shorted out. 

The lead wire from the pickup to the control unit is multilayered with a center 'hot' wire and a stranded 'ground' wire wrapped around it with only a layer or rubber insulation keeping them apart. The rubber dry rots and crumbles which can expose the hot wire to the stranded ground wire which causes the pickup to short out.

The only solution is to replace the lead wire (Mojotone sells a great replica wire specifically for this) which requires a careful disassembly of the pickup and of the control unit. Use a hair dryer to warm the pickup before attempting to remove the cover or you may end up damaging the pickup which would require a rewind

  • The paper in oil capacitors have leaked

DeArmond pickups typically use paper in oil capacitors which have a tendency to drift out of spec or leak and bulge which leads to failure. Failed tone capacitors can cause the tone control to act like a volume as it shunts the signal to ground or, if wired a certain way, can silence the pickup. Whenever I service one of these pickups, I opt to replace all the oil capacitors at once since you can rely on them to fail pretty soon after each other. Treat it like a 'cap job' on a vintage amplifier, its routine servicing.

  • The coil is damaged

A damaged coil is one of the most disappointing realizations as a rewound pickup looses a significant amount of value and some would argue that it loses its original tone. This can occur if corrosion gets into the pickup and damages the insulation on the windings but it can also occur if the pickup is disassembled without properly warming the casing to soften the wax or adhesive. You can attempt to remove winds until you get to the break and use that as your end wire or you can rewind the pickup all together.


Wiring Diagrams

I noted that the wiring schemes for Rhythm Chiefs were constantly changing design, capacitor values, and potentiometer values. This makes it difficult to state that there is a definitive Rhythm Chief wiring schematic. I've documented each of the pickups that I have worked on and included their wiring diagrams below so that you can find a schematic that most closely matches what you are looking for. 

Also as a resource for DeArmond pickups, I'd highly recommend https://www.musicpickups.com/

1960


Model: 1000
Coil Reading: 15.8k

1962


Model: 1000
Coil Reading: ~dead~

1967


Model: 1100
Coil Reading: 14.42k

19??



Model: 1000
Coil Reading: 7.3k

This model features unusual potentiometers with the pot code embossed on the phenolic board. I know for certain they were original to the pickup but I am unable to decipher the pot code. Following previous code standards, 360 should be the manufacturer code and 10070 should be a batch number. It has a similar style to the 1982 that I worked on so I assume its a later model, possibly '70s.

This schematic was not functioning properly so I rewired it according to the 1962 specs.