Any RS Guitarworks before/after clips?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by Leonc, Dec 11, 2005.

  1. Leonc

    Leonc Wild Gear Hearder Gold Supporting Member

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    I've heard a number of people rave about RS Guitarworks upgrades to their Strats and Les Pauls wiring. But I believe that the "emperor's new clothes" effect is often involved in many kinds of pricey upgrades (40 bux for 3 pots, a cap and a little wire???)...I just don't know if it's involved in these particular upgrades. I don't doubt that some changes can make some instruments sound notably better--I know it's possible--I'm just looking for a little emperical evidence.

    So I'm hoping to find some objective comparisons. Anyone know of any before/after kinds of recordings they can point me to?

    Anyone do the upgrade an NOT feel like it was worth it?
     
  2. Jim Collins

    Jim Collins Member

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    I have not used an RS Guitarworks upgrade, so feel free to ignore or disagree with whatever I write, here.

    Pot values can vary rather significantly, even within the same, quality manufacturer. Let's say the manufacturer claims a tolerance of + or - 10%. In that case, a pot with a nominal value of 500K could be anywhere from 450K to 550K. Let's say that RS Guitarworks only selects pots from a more narrow range. (I don't know what CTS's tolerance is, nor do I know what RS Guitarworks will accept. This is just for the purpose of discussion.) If the guitar maker is willing to accept any pot it gets, you stand a chance of getting a guitar with a pot at the low end of the range. If RS Guitarworks only sells pots in the middle of the range, you will notice a difference, just by installing the volume pot.

    I'll give a real world example that just happened to me within the last week. I have a couple of Teles, and the volume pots were going a little dodgy on me. I decided to replace both pots in each Tele -- four, in all. I was fully aware that pots with a nominal value of 250K could have actual values that are quite a bit different, so I ordered six CTS pots from Allparts. When they arrived, I measured each. Five measured 250K, and one measured 220K. I selected four that measured 250K.

    The difference in sound was quite astounding. Each guitar exploded (figuratively, of course). The difference was so significant that I went back and measured each of the old volume pots. Each measured 220K.

    So, if the actual value of your volume pot is 10% or more less than the nominal value of the pot, and you replace it with a pot whose actual value is equal to the nominal value, or even slightly above, you will notice a difference. I suspect that most people who notice a difference have experienced this.

    The subject of the tone capacitor is must less objective. Some folks believe that a high quality (and fairly expensive) tone cap makes a big difference, and some believe it does not. Personally, I think it is the value of the cap that makes a difference, in this particular application.

    I have some, real experience here, but it doesn't match the "upgrade" situation as closely as the pot value experience. Three of my guitars now sport Mallory 150 caps, .022uF. (The Strat has two of them, as I've wired my Strat tone controls to be independent.) Prior to this, I had ceramic disks in two of the guitars, and a mylar in the third. (I only used the Mallory caps because I had them left over from some amp mods I made.) These Mallory caps are built to a tolerance of + or - 10%. Of course, you can't tell simply by looks, but these Mallory caps look identical to the caps RS Guitarworks sells.

    I did change values. (This is the part of the story that doesn't match the "upgrade" situation, exactly.) Each Tele formerly had a .01uF tone cap, and the Strat had a single .1uF cap (vintage wiring). The before/after difference with the Strat was significant, but I attribute that to the rewiring of the tone controls (each has its own cap) and the new values. I have rewired Strats this way, in the past, using ceramic disk caps, and the results were the same.

    The Teles don't sound that much different with the new caps. The tone controls roll off a little more, because the new caps have a larger value, but the quality of the tone does not appear to have changed.

    The conclusion I draw -- and feel free to disagree with it -- is that a volume pot closer to spec, or perhaps a shade above, can make a noticeable difference, but the tone cap won't.

    Does the RS Guitarworks upgrade kit include a treble bypass cap? If it does, and your guitar didn't have one, before, that will make a significant difference. (Personally, I don't like bypass caps, but each person has his own preferences.)
     
  3. CharlieNC

    CharlieNC Member

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    if you watch ebay prices, and I do mean actual auctions on production items such as complete wiring harnesses then $40 is not all that far above what they go for. especially if you consider how close the tolerances are on the particular parts they use. you might save some money buying individually, but if doing a one time project the difference would be negligable. convenience isn't free.
     
  4. Leonc

    Leonc Wild Gear Hearder Gold Supporting Member

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    Interesting Jim; so in your experience, if understood you correctly, what really made a bit diff was getting the correct value volume pots, yes? (Thanks for your detailed reply, too, BTW.)

    So...so far nobody can step up with any clips...?
     
  5. Scott Peterson

    Scott Peterson Staff Member

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    I have no clips, but what they offer IMHO is superior quality control. If you want a 500K pot, you get a 500K pot. Not one that says 500K but is really 600K for instance.

    I have used their parts and kits, but don't have straight up A/B clips. Would I put them in my guitars? I already have. :D
     
  6. Jim Collins

    Jim Collins Member

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    That's what I think. I made several changes to the Teles of which I spoke, but the changes were not all made at once. The first change involved going from brass, non-compensated saddles to steel, compensated saddles. That brought about a small change in tone -- certainly noticeable, but not enough to make the 11:00 news.

    After listening to the new saddles for a few days, I replaced the pots and the tone caps. That change was very significant. I did replace both the pots and the cap on each guitar, at the same time, so you could argue that I changed two variables, and my conclusion might be somewhat less valid. However, I believe I have enough experience experimenting with different tone caps -- values and types -- to have a very good idea how much of the change was attributable to the proper value pots, and how much was attributable to different caps. The difference the pots made dwarfed the difference made by the caps.

    Then, I made one more change to each Tele -- changing the bridgeplate. That also brought about a significant change in tone, but that may be the subject of another post.
     
  7. Bruce O'D

    Bruce O'D Member

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    I gotta agree with Jim - the biggest bang for the buck is just getting the pots and caps matched to the circuit the pups were designed for. In that regard the RS deal isn't bad, because there have been times I've gone through 10 CTS pots to get 4 that matched. Even at $4 a pot in bulk it adds up. Wouldn't be so bad if they'd let me return the ones I rejected :D
     
  8. alderbody

    alderbody Member

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    The RS kits i have in my guitars have made a great difference not only in tone, but in the pot's overall behaviour.
    The pots i used to have had an almost "on-off" response where RS's have a much more "useful" taper.
    Since the guys at RS are not just CTS vendors, what you get is tested.
    If you could have access to a large batch of CTS pots and be able to grab the good ones, it would be ideal, but i don't think anyone can do that.

    RS stuff deliever.
    at least they did for me. :AOK
     
  9. tfunster

    tfunster Gold Supporting Member

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    The 500k pots in my ESP Made in Korea guitar are starting to go bad. I'm not sure as to what the quality of those pots are, but I'm going to get 4 new CTS pots and wire it up. I can let you know if I notice a difference.

    While I'm at it, could someone let me know how to measure a pot?? I have a multimeter, I'm just not sure how to properly use it!!! This way I can see what the values of my korean pots really were. thanx
     
  10. Jim Collins

    Jim Collins Member

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    Before you connect the pot to anything, measure the DC resistance across the two outer lugs, using whatever scale on your multimeter is appropriate.
     

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