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View Full Version : How much do Pots really effect your TONE?


Vibrolucky
10-29-2008, 07:27 PM
Assuming you leave the volume and tone controls on 10 and don't mess with them that much - I was just curious how replacing a cheap pot on a factory guitar would benefit the tone of your guitar when upgrading to a higher quality pot.

I know that quality means reliable smooth turns and such, I was just curious how it effects the tone ~

frankencat
10-29-2008, 07:56 PM
A lot. Believe it.

CrunchTone78
10-29-2008, 08:19 PM
I have Epiphone LP...

thoughts..?

Wallace
10-29-2008, 11:54 PM
A lot. Believe it.

Yup. Night and day in some cases. I just installed WCR kits in two guitars and I cant believe what I was missing!

David Collins
10-30-2008, 01:04 AM
If you change the value of the pots, it can certainly make a difference (keeping in mind that rated values are often quite different from measured values). If the replacements measure the same value as the originals, then no there won't be a notable difference. If you use them much it can of course be a different story.

Vibrolucky
10-30-2008, 01:40 AM
As I suspected, I am getting different opinions on this issue. I am curious if the pots make a tonal difference in the circuit based on their quality. Assuming you always left them on "10" would it make a tone difference?

Steve Gambrell
10-30-2008, 01:47 AM
If you leave them on "10" all the time, the quality won't make much of a difference. But if you're leavin' 'em on "10" all night, you're missing out on a lot of what your guitar can do.

Dana Olsen
10-30-2008, 01:45 PM
As I suspected, I am getting different opinions on this issue. I am curious if the pots make a tonal difference in the circuit based on their quality. Assuming you always left them on "10" would it make a tone difference?One thing that makes a significant difference is the actual value of the pot(s) in the circuit.

I brought my '66 Tele that had always been dark sounding to Don Mare. We measured the 2 pots, which were labeled "250K', at like 220K and 195K - NO WONDER it sounded so dark. We replaced them with pots that measured 260K, and what a huge difference it made. To be perfectly glib, it sounded like somebody took a blanket off of the guitar (GRIN - TGP speak!) The new Don Mare pickups we installed helped even more, but the pot values were WAY OFF.

The actual value of the pots in the circuit determines the 'resonance peak' of the circuit, even if they're always on '10'. If you're experimenting with values, use some decent quality pots, not cheapos. Some say that cheap pots vary more widely in actual measured value than those of better quality. I always replace cheap pots with better quality ones, and I think I hear and feel the difference. Same with the switch - I feel better with a switch of good quality.

There are also wiring diagrams that completely bypass the pots and send the pickup output signal direct to the output jack - that actually sounds AMAZING, though more useful in say a Tele or Esquire than in a Strat, in my experience, or in a dark-ish humbucker.

Hope this helps, Dana O.

Kingbeegtrs
10-30-2008, 02:33 PM
If you leave them on "10" all the time, the quality won't make much of a difference. But if you're leavin' 'em on "10" all night, you're missing out on a lot of what your guitar can do.

amen

buddastrat
10-30-2008, 02:34 PM
I've been experimenting on/off with some strats. When I hook up the tone control to the bridge pickup it makes the pickup weak. Sure it's nice to warm it up and give it a smooth tone for the Eric Johnson thing, but even when the tone control is on 10 the pickup has a lot less output, and there is no crunch to it anymore. And while I love Eric, he has no aggressive crunch tones from his strats, it neuters the strat IMO. I hate it and you can definitely hear what the load is doing to the sound. I think Fender did it right originally by not putting a tone on the bridge pickup.

I'm curious what the neck pickup will sound like without a tone.
I think I should try a no-load pots. Anyone know where to get those? Sorry don't mean to hijack.

Kingbeegtrs
10-30-2008, 02:43 PM
I've been experimenting on/off with some strats. When I hook up the tone control to the bridge pickup it makes the pickup weak. Sure it's nice to warm it up and give it a smooth tone for the Eric Johnson thing, but even when the tone control is on 10 the pickup has a lot less output, and there is no crunch to it anymore. And while I love Eric, he has no aggressive crunch tones from his strats, it neuters the strat IMO. I hate it and you can definitely hear what the load is doing to the sound. I think Fender did it right originally by not putting a tone on the bridge pickup.

I'm curious what the neck pickup will sound like without a tone.
I think I should try a no-load pots. Anyone know where to get those? Sorry don't mean to hijack.

www.guitarelectronics.com (http://www.guitarelectronics.com)
www.allparts.com (http://www.allparts.com) - you have to go to the "fender parts'' page.

dave251
10-31-2008, 07:33 AM
The thing to understand about pots:

It's not the resistance they put into the line that reduces volume...it's the resistance sourced to ground that reduces volume. In otherwords, a 250K pot has a potential resistance of 250K between the hot lead from the pup and ground when it is "wide open".....when the volume is "turned down"...that resistance falls to ZERO, shunting the hot lead directly to ground, and turning off the signal.

By increasing the pot value to 500K, there is twice the resistance to ground...so not only is your signal HOTTER, the sound is BRIGHTER too....you lose your high end first when rolling off the pot.....

Quality of the pots do make some difference, but mostly in longevity of the component...sometimes in the tapering off effect, depending on whether or not the pot is linear or log.

EADGBE
10-31-2008, 03:37 PM
I had a humbucking guitar with two 500K pots. One was a volume, the other a tone. I switched the tone to a 250K just to see what that would do. I used the same cap. Well I lost some of the high end. And a lot of harmonics were gone. The instrument sounded more woody though. But I missed the rawness and extra crispness that the 500k pot had so I went back to that.

uOpt
10-31-2008, 05:48 PM
Quality wise? No.

Unlike high-quality capacitors, which behave differently at different frequencies of A/C current, resistors do not.

Of course, the cheaper pots have high tolerance and might not have the value you want, not to mention they will become unreliable and start having random resistance in certain positions.

But just plain a cheap 500K versus a good one, both at 10 and not (yet) broken? It's just a 500 Kohm resistor across the pickup.

Still, for the above factor buying good pots pays off even though you will only notice a sound change if you old pot had the wrong value or if it was detoriated.

The same isn't true for capacitors, there are audible differences between capacitors. However, more expensive or bigger casing doesn't mean better. The small ceramic disks, in general, have a more "driven" sound that can even be desirable when you want e.g. a heavy metal sound. I sure would have left the one in my Explorer. A Musicap for example is software and has more bass. Then there are capacitors such as some in-oil capacitors that sound more in that "driven" direction than the ceramic disks.

Eagle1
11-01-2008, 06:06 AM
I've been experimenting on/off with some strats. When I hook up the tone control to the bridge pickup it makes the pickup weak. Sure it's nice to warm it up and give it a smooth tone for the Eric Johnson thing, but even when the tone control is on 10 the pickup has a lot less output, and there is no crunch to it anymore. And while I love Eric, he has no aggressive crunch tones from his strats, it neuters the strat IMO. I hate it and you can definitely hear what the load is doing to the sound. I think Fender did it right originally by not putting a tone on the bridge pickup.

I'm curious what the neck pickup will sound like without a tone.
I think I should try a no-load pots. Anyone know where to get those? Sorry don't mean to hijack.
Yes this is my experience also . I wired a guitar up once with a hard bypass bridge pickup hot to jack on a blower switch and it sounded remarkably different to the bridge pickup on the switch setting with the vol and tone up full.

uOpt
11-01-2008, 09:28 AM
You can also use a 1 Mohm pot as tone pot for the bridge. Then it does almost nothing at "10", but you still have a tone pot to sweeten it up.

Or a "no-load" pot which switch itself off at "10".

jmscanio
11-05-2008, 11:24 AM
I am looking to replace all of the electronics in a telecaster and am interested in determining what qualifies as a good cap and a high quality pot. I have been looking at most of the places that get mentioned on here but I am looking for recommendations.

Structo
11-05-2008, 11:38 AM
Pots have a high tolerance level, meaning the rated total resistance of a pot can vary a lot.

I'm a Fender guy so I use a lot of 250K CTS pots.

I measure them when I get a new batch and I have found some that were as low as 200K and some as high as 300K.

So then you just have to decide what you want where.

There are a few places that sort them and only sell pots within the 250K range.

Another thing to do especially on a Telecaster is to use a "No-Load" pot.

This is a pot that has no effect on the circuit when it is on 10.

All pots have a little resistance even when they are on 10 so having a no load pot say for a tone pot in a Tele, it will be like the the pickup is straight to the amp when the no load pot is on 10.

Structo
11-05-2008, 11:49 AM
I am looking to replace all of the electronics in a telecaster and am interested in determining what qualifies as a good cap and a high quality pot. I have been looking at most of the places that get mentioned on here but I am looking for recommendations.

Some will say that you need to buy an expensive tone cap for a gutiar.

I have falled for this and have bought Hovlands, Jupiters, etc.

What I find is that your money is better spent on top quality pots.

There are better pots than CTS but that is kind of the accepted brand, at least for Fenders.

I think for you if you were to get a 250K CTS volume pot, a 250K no load pot for the tone control and a CRL 3 or 4 way switch.

You can do some cool things with the 4 way set up.

For the tone cap, Fender used ceramic disc caps for years and we all like the vintage tone on a lot of those.

For my ears, I prefer a Orange Drop 715P (film) cap and a orange drop will work fine in a guitar and sound great as it is rolled down.

Standard Tele value is .047mf.

The no load pot works great in a tele because when on 10 the tone cap is completely out of the circuit.

http://www.guitar-mod.com/wiring/tele_stock.gif


Here is a 4 way Tele.

http://www.guitar-mod.com/wiring/tele4way.gif

Kingbeegtrs
11-05-2008, 11:51 AM
once you understand what a cap. does you will realize that a cap from radio shack is going to do the same thing that a $50 bumble bee will do...ON A GUITAR. The bumblebees are made for vintage Les Paul replacement....that's it.

jmscanio
11-05-2008, 12:31 PM
In the diagram what is the yellow vol kit?

uOpt
11-05-2008, 12:35 PM
once you understand what a cap. does you will realize that a cap from radio shack is going to do the same thing that a $50 bumble bee will do...ON A GUITAR. The bumblebees are made for vintage Les Paul replacement....that's it.

No, it's not. The exact capacitance varies with frequency of the input, and that has an audible impact. That's a very basic property of the circuit in a passive guitar.

I have tested and recorded different caps and although the difference is small it is audible. You can come over and I can tell my Musicap from ceramic disks and the paper-in-oil that somebody sells here for $10 in a blind test. (not that I stricty think the musicap is better for all uses)

Pots on the other hand are just resistors, as long as they aren't broken. A cheap 250 Kohm pot that actually reads 250 Kohm sounds the same as an expensice one actually reading 250 Kohm. The resistance is not frequency-dependent and hence doesn't have a sound impact. Of course different value pots sound different and once a cheap pot detoriates and has random spikes over the slider it's going to sound bad.

All this is very easy to test with a headphone amp and a $7 soundcard for your PC.

mtlin
11-05-2008, 12:51 PM
If you change the value of the pots, it can certainly make a difference (keeping in mind that rated values are often quite different from measured values). If the replacements measure the same value as the originals, then no there won't be a notable difference. If you use them much it can of course be a different story.

Hey David, what do you mean by "if you use them much it can of course be a different story."? Same valued pots can sound different if you use them a lot? Thanks!

Blue Strat
11-07-2008, 08:21 AM
Assuming you leave the volume and tone controls on 10 and don't mess with them that much - I was just curious how replacing a cheap pot on a factory guitar would benefit the tone of your guitar when upgrading to a higher quality pot.

I know that quality means reliable smooth turns and such, I was just curious how it effects the tone ~


It depends on 2 things:
1) What you prefer, sonically and
2) How far off your stock pots are from Spec. "Off the shelf" pots can vary by at least +/10% from the spec value. If you're at either extreme, a pot that's dead on will likely sound different. Whether or not you like it better is a question of 1) above