By Mark S. Wong
A few years back, Fender produced a system called “S1 Switching”. This system gives you some of the same tones that the Fat-O-Caster switch gives you.
The question is: “Where do I stand on the “Fat-O-Caster vs. S1 Switching” debate?
For me, I’m still on the Fat-O-Caster side. The reasons are that I prefer the simplicity of the Fat-O-Caster switch. The S1 system requires not only a special volume potentiometer, but it also requires a special switch. S1 switching is also a lot more complex to wire up. The switch itself requires 10 connections, in addition to the normal three on a standard potentiometer. Also the switch requires 18 connections over the standard switches 8 connections. (I may not be 100% correct on the exact number of connections, but there are sure a lot of them!)
The Fat-O-Caster is much easier to install, and you can place it in any knob position you want. The S1 can only be placed in the Volume knob position. I’ve even installed the Fat-O-Caster in the volume knob position and moved the volume control to the middle position because the owner got tired of turning down the volume by accident when he was playing rhythm.
I still find the Fat-O-Caster the best for versatility and ease of installation.
No matter who you are, any Stratocaster player quickly learns that not all the pickup positions are addressed on the standard Fender Stratocaster. You also realize the limitations with the absence of any type of tone control for the bridge pickup. Like most of us, you either learn to live with it or, you find a way to access those “missing” pickup combinations.
When it came to my Strats, I was a “Purest Plus”. My prime directive was to be able to access the missing combinations, but also have them stock enough so any Strat player could pick it up and knew exactly what each control did.
With this in mind, recently, all of my “Purest” ideals were completely blown out of the window. My Strat still looks stock, but the controls no longer work the same. Why the change in philosophical ideals? Simply because I’ve found some new tones that I can now get out of my Strat that I just can’t live without, namely, the Fat-O-Caster tones.
So what are the Fat-O-Caster tones? That’s a good question. The heart of the Fat-O-Caster system is a custom configured switch put out by Deaf-Eddie products called the Fat-O-Caster switch. The switch replaces your existing top tone control and utilizes your existing knob for a completely stock look. But after that, only the appearance remains stock, and your Stratocaster is transformed into a Fat, tone monster with perceivably hotter output, and sustain that seems to go on forever.
How does it work?
So how does a Fat-O-Caster work then? The Fat-O-Caster is a three position rotary switch that replaces your top tone control. It works in conjunction with your existing five-way switch, and your bottom tone control then becomes a master tone for all three pickups. The master tone control works surprisingly well, and I was never really sure why there were two to begin with. This also adds the ability to tone down your bridge pickup. A welcome feature, you could not do in a stock configuration.
In position “10” (or where your tone control would be if it were turned up all the way), everything works exactly as if it were stock. Your guitar and five-way switch works as it always did, except it now has the master tone control.
In position “9” it gives you those undisputed missing Strat tones that everyone knows about, namely the bridge/neck combination, and all three pickups together.
Position “8” is where the fun begins. Stock Stratocaster pickup configurations are based on a parallel wiring scheme. With the addition of the Fat-O-Caster switch, all of that changes. Position “8” gives you the middle and the neck in series, the bridge and the neck in series, and the bridge and the neck in series combined with the middle and the neck in series, but also parallel wired together.
The result? Hotter output, fatter, thicker tone, and much longer lasting sustain. Some of the high end is rolled off but the resulting signal is “Humbuckery” by nature and gives you an unbelievably fat, mean sounding tone, perfect for heavy, overdriven rhythms.
The Fat-O-Caster comes in three different configurations. The original, the V2, and the V3. You can the select the right product for the type of sounds you want out of your guitar. All switches include the original Strat tones, plus the missing “neck/bridge”, and “all three” combinations. The original Fat-O-Caster also gives you three additional “Fat” series tones, where as the V2 gives you five additional “Fat”/out of phase/parallel combinations.
The V3 is more a “players” modification. It gives you four total “Fat”/out of phase/parallel combinations, but moves all the switching to the lower two switch positions. This goes for the “neck/bridge” and “all three” combinations, as well as the “Fat” tones. Basically, everything “new” is on the two bottom switch positions.
As you can see, there is a Fat-O-Caster product to fill all of your needs, not matter who you are.
You can even go one step further. Deaf-Eddie has another product called the Chromacaster that gives you a total of 16 different combinations. This is the ultimate switch for your home project studio Strat. It can give you almost any tone you may need without having a room full of guitars (though that is a lot of fun).
I’ve thoroughly tested the original Fat-O-Caster, and simply love it. I’ve found it invaluable for recording, and for just playing in general.
I’ve also extensively tested the Chromacaster and for a studio guitar, this is the ticket. But for my style of playing, it seems that the Fat-O-Caster V2 is the best compromise. It has all of the fat tones of the original, plus all three pickups in series. It also comes with the out of phase tones I consider the most useful.
At present, my #1 is equipped with the Fat-O-Caster V2, and my #2 has the original Fat-O-Caster in it.
The only problems I found with the Fat-O-Caster or Chromacaster products was getting used to not having a top tone control. I also found that for live playing, the Chromacaster just has too many positions. According to Deaf-Eddie, the Chromacaster has been the most popular with the studio musician set, and the original Fat-O-Caster, with the gigging musicians. I also found this to be true for my own playing needs.
What You Need To Know
You will need to know basic solder techniques, and a very basic understanding of Stratocaster wiring. You also need a decent soldering iron, solder, and a de-solding tool, like a “Solder-Pulit”, and possibly a soldering vice.
So now you know about the new tones I can’t do without. Once you install one, I’m sure you will feel the same as I do. I don’t believe I can ever own another Strat without a Fat-O-Caster switch installed in it now. It would put too much of a limitation on the guitar.
So give one a try. For only twenty bucks you can get the original Fat-O-Caster and start rocking, or playing the blues, or jazz for that matter. I don’t think you will regret it.
To purchase one of these amazing switches visit deaf-eddie or drop him a line!