Tone Control Caps

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by Bluewail, Aug 26, 2005.


  1. Bluewail

    Bluewail Silver Supporting Member

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    I'm trying to get a better understanding of how changes to the tone control pot and caps will affect the sound of my axe. While the question is general, to give y'all a frame of reference, I'm thinking of doing some tinkering with my Fender Tele-sonic: 2 Dearmond 2K single coils (actually measure out in the 7K range) and 2 vol/2 tone controls. Bridge pickup tends to be a bit too bright/thin, the neck pickup is warm and could use to open up a tiny bit. So here are the questions:
    1. What's is the affect of changing the tone cap values up or down?
    2. Does the tone cap value have any affect when the tone control it all the way up?
    3. What is the affect of changing the tone control pot value and does it have an affect when it's wide open.
    4. Is there a particular type/brand of cap that is best suited for this application?

    Thanks guys for answering what is probably some pretty basic info
     
  2. Bluewail

    Bluewail Silver Supporting Member

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    Bumpin' and hopin' someone can help me out here. Thanks folks.
     
  3. rewog

    rewog Member

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    Sorry to see you haven't had any help here.
    I would love to help, but don't know enough about it - but if I make a comment - someone is sure to correct me, so here goes.
    I know that a lower value cap will increase Treble (or decrease treble bleed off).
    Apparently a higher value pot will do the same, and there is still a small effect even with the pot right up.
    The question of whether different types of cap affect tone is a controversial one. Some say it definitely does, others say it can't.
    I recently changed the stock .0022 tone cap in my PRS SE Soapbar for a more expensive "orange drop" with a .0015 value, and it made me very happy. Noticeably Clearer and Ballsier to my ears - and I was able to compare it back to back, as I jam with a guy who has an identical guitar.
    Whether the difference came from the value of the cap, or the type (or both), I couldn't say, plus I also changed the pots to Gibson ones at the time (same value as stock).

    I hope that helps or generates more comment.
     
  4. rewog

    rewog Member

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    BTW - there's a lot of good info here on tone caps if you're prepared to look through the posts:-

    Guitar Tech
     
  5. alderbody

    alderbody Member

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    1. What's is the affect of changing the tone cap values up or down?

    >>lower cap value, less rolloff and vice-versa

    2. Does the tone cap value have any affect when the tone control it all the way up?

    >>it has, but it's very subtle.

    3. What is the affect of changing the tone control pot value and does it have an affect when it's wide open.

    >>larger values give a brighter tone, with the same cap used.

    4. Is there a particular type/brand of cap that is best suited for this application?

    >>check the RS guitarworks site for their Hovland-RS guitarcap and pots. I also like the Mallory 150 series, which are much cheaper. I don't care much for orange drops. There are definately lots of types/brands to choose from.

    good luck :)
     
  6. Bluewail

    Bluewail Silver Supporting Member

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    Thanks guys. That gets me pointed in the right direction. As always TGP'ers come through!
     
  7. Bloozcat

    Bloozcat Member

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    Bluewail,

    Before you start with any mods, check to see what you've got in the guitar now. You probably have cheap ceramic caps, so you should hear an improvement there if you upgrade to any number of different quality caps (although some will agrue that there is little or no perceptible audio difference between caps).

    Even good pots like CTS, which are somewhat of a standard in pots, have a +/- 10% tolerance. A 250k pot then, can vary from 225k to 275k - and I've seen many that were below that 225k mark (201k was the lowest I've gotten).

    Another thing that can really make a difference in tone is the height of your pickups relative to the strings. Sometimes even slight variations in height can make a big difference.

    This past weekend I rewired a Strat clone I built a few years ago. I put a set of Electrokraft single coils in it that measured 7.0k for the neck and middle, and 8.0k for the bridge. Pretty overwound by single coil standards. I tested my stash of CTS 250k pots and chose two that measured 277k for the volume and neck tone, and one that measured 263k for the bridge tone (this guitar is wired for bridge pu tone, not middle). The pots I removed were all within 5k of 250k. I then chose to use a Sprague Orange Drop 715P 200v cap in .015mf for the tone pots. Now I had installed these pickups in this guitar two years ago and took them out because I thought they were too dark in the neck and middle and a little spikey and bright in the bridge. I found at that time that I couldn't coax much quackiness out of the notch positions either. Yet after this rewiring with some pretty subtle changes, this guitar with these pickups, sounds like a monster. This guitar now has a presence that it never had before, with clear note definition on single notes and in chording as well (you should hear this sucker through my Ampeg V-2 4X12!). By experimenting with the pickup height, I found a balance between the powerful midrangy blues tone I was seeking, and the airy, bell-like traditional single coil tone that I hoped not to sacrifice. In the notch positions, this thing now quacks like a horny duck on viagra. I'm astonished at the change in this guitar.

    There were only three real changes that I made that transformed this guitar:

    1) The pot resistance was increased from 250k (approx.) to 277k x 2, and 263k (an increase of 27k and 13k respectively).

    2) The no-name .022 metalized film cap was replaced with a Sprague Orange Drop 715P 200v cap in .015mf.

    3) I fine tuned the pickups height until I found the perfect sweet spots for each.

    So, do caps and pots make a difference in tone? Along with some experimentation in pickup height, I'd say resoundingly, YES.
     
  8. Bluewail

    Bluewail Silver Supporting Member

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    Thanks Bloozecat.
    My Fender Tele-sonic is kind of an odd hybrid. Great axe but definitely in a different niche tone-wise from your regular tele. The pickups are Dearmond 2K single coils that both measure in at 7.55K (why they called them 2K's is beyond me!). They are very P-90'ish really. The vol/tone pots are all 250K with .022 caps - don't know what type but they don't look disc-like. The Dearmonds give me a very warm - too warm - neck pickup tone and I get nice spanky-but-not-shrill bridge tone . It's the neck pickup tone I'm trying to tweak to add more brightness and articulation. It's terrific jazz tone right now but that's not my bag. Both tone controls are useless and turn the signal into mud. Pickup heights have been tweaked all over the board but being identical in output, the neck slugs need to be quite low (adding to the darkness of the pu) and the bridge quite high to even out the relative response.
    I'm going to start by changing the neck pu 250k tone pot to 500K and seeing where that gets me. I'm also going to try some lower cap values (.015) to see if it makes both tone controls more usable. We'll see what that does to start. If it seems like I'm headed in the right direction, I'll switch over the neck pu vol to 500k also.

    Thanks again for the excellent info
     
  9. Bloozcat

    Bloozcat Member

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    And there's also the 300k pots as an in-between in case you find the 500k's to be too bright.
     
  10. rewog

    rewog Member

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    Very similar to my experience Bloozecat:-

    1)I changed a 500k pot for one that had 530k.

    2)I replaced the stock .0022 cap ceramic cap with an Orange Drop .0015.

    I was amazed st the difference in the guitar after this.
     
  11. Bloozcat

    Bloozcat Member

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    rewog,

    We guitarists often go through all kinds of expensive pickup changes seeking that perfect tone, while at the same time we often overlook some of the lesser expensive and more subtle changes.

    If I hadn't done these mods myself on one of my own guitars, I might not have believed that such simple changes could have impacted the tone so dramatically. Seeing (and hearing) is believing though.
     

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