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Upgrading tone and volume pots

Kmaz

Member
Messages
9,009
I've been thinking about upgrading the stock pots in my 2002 Heritage 150. They are not very dynamic-sounding, just sort of wooly and flat. I believe that Heritage was sourcing pots from Mexico at the time of my build.

What might I notice by switching to a quality set? My pickups are Duncan 59s, btw.
 
Messages
1,871
I'm afraid that unless they're noisy or just bad you aren't going to hear much difference form one 500K pot to another, Mexico or China production. Now that said, depending upon how well they're screened, they can be 20% in either direction, 10% for "select" versions or some higher end. There's something to be had by having them at their tagged value; i.e. 500K at or around 500K, but at the end of the day though, there aren't much "dynamics" to be gotten from doing it.
When you say you're looking to change the "dynamics, what exactly are you trying for - maybe there's some better suggestions.
 

Kmaz

Member
Messages
9,009
The tone pots just seem kind of dull in their taper. Wooly and bland if you know what I mean?

Thanks, Frankie5!
 

Mc Tanza

Member
Messages
236
Check the actual values of all the pots in your guitar with a multimeter to see if they are within reasonable limits. Also check the actual values of your caps. Try to figure out if you have linear or audio/log taper pots (that may be the issue). Check if you have modern wiring or 50's wiring and change your circuit to the wiring you don't have to see if you like better the interaction between the volume and tone controls. Just a few suggestions from the top of my head.

My 2004 Heritage came stock with Bourns audio pots for reference (quality pots with a great torque by the way).
 

dazco

Member
Messages
15,702
Do it, but i'm sure you're going to be disappointed unless the taper is not to your liking. Even then they aren't going to sound different, just react different. Taper aside, pot is a pot. But i say do it because you're likely gonna be curious till you know. 2 reasons to change is taper and feel. Some are tight, some loose. But regardless of any of that, they aren't going to change the tone. They will be an upgrade only if you prefer thier taper or feel.
 

SouthpawGuy

Member
Messages
2,858
I've been thinking about upgrading the stock pots in my 2002 Heritage 150. They are not very dynamic-sounding, just sort of wooly and flat. I believe that Heritage was sourcing pots from Mexico at the time of my build.

What might I notice by switching to a quality set? My pickups are Duncan 59s, btw.

I know you are a lefty player like myself so ..... are your pots wired right or left handed ?
 

Kmaz

Member
Messages
9,009
Check the actual values of all the pots in your guitar with a multimeter to see if they are within reasonable limits. Also check the actual values of your caps. Try to figure out if you have linear or audio/log taper pots (that may be the issue). Check if you have modern wiring or 50's wiring and change your circuit to the wiring you don't have to see if you like better the interaction between the volume and tone controls. Just a few suggestions from the top of my head.

My 2004 Heritage came stock with Bourns audio pots for reference (quality pots with a great torque by the way).

I can't detect any markings on these pots that tell me exactly what they are.
 

larimar

Member
Messages
1,938
+1 on establishing what the values in there are first.

RSguitarworks sell singles and full kits of tight tolerance pots. Might be worth a look.
 

bsuite

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,746
If you haven't already, try adjusting pickup heights. If that doesn't do it, unsolder the tone controls from the v-pots & see if that doesn't liven them up.

Also you can turn the pickup screws out farther. that will help.

I would try all of this before spending bucks on new pots.
 

Ron Kirn

Vendor
Messages
7,939
By what I'm hearing when comparing with my Gibson R8.

How did you isolate the sound of the pots from the influence so many other components contribute to the sound... for instance, the bridge, or the wood the body is made of?

rk
 

icr

Member
Messages
2,884
If it looks anything like this, then I'm sure upgrading to the new mini-pots from China will be a big improvement....
IMAG0428.jpg
 
Messages
638
Some pots, including CTS can really influence high end clarity when dialed down even just to 8. They cut off too much signal....and top end. This is where replacement can provide a sonic improvement....not just taper and feel. Some harnesses like this truly can only be used with everything on 10.

It's not life changing stuff but a bad harness can really effect a guitar and your playing experience in a negative way.

I've had import harnesses in a MIJ Les Paul that rolled off better than many Historics so country of origin is not always the best way to determine what sounds good.

As always...use your ears, first.
 

Kmaz

Member
Messages
9,009
How did you isolate the sound of the pots from the influence so many other components contribute to the sound... for instance, the bridge, or the wood the body is made of?

rk


You're right. Can't be done and I probably shouldn't be comparing. Thanks, Ron.
 

Mc Tanza

Member
Messages
236
Thanks, guys.

Here are some inside shots:


Bourns look like these:

Bourns-500K-short-Shaft-Low-Torque-Pots.jpg


I can't tell for sure from your pics but I'd say yours are Bourns too. If so, they are quality pots.

You have modern wiring. You could try rewiring your circuit to 50's wiring and testing if you like more how the interaction between the volume and tone controls is more suited to your taste. Costs you nothing but a few minutes with a soldering iron. I'd say it's worth a try.
 

stormin1155

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,730
Not sure what kind of pots you have. The most common brands are CTS, Bourns (both USA), and Alpha (Chinese), and those don't look like any of them.

If you do decide to change them, I'd consider using no-load pots. From 1-9 you have the regular taper, but at 10 it goes into a full bypass of the resistive material in the pots and you can hear a noticeable jump in volume (with the volume pots), and brightness with tone. CTS sells no-load pots, but you can make your own with a regular CTS pot by taking it apart, noting where the wiper is at 10, and scraping off the resistive material on that spot.

As others have noted, you probably won't hear a difference between pots, unless you go to no-load. Taper and feel will be the different. CTS feel stiffer while Bourns turn with less resistance. I personally like the feel of CTS and the taper of Bourns. Both are quality pots. Alphas work OK. They feel more like CTS, but they aren't built as well and will likely fail before a CTS would. I sure wouldn't put them in your Heritage.

If you want a brighter sounding guitar you might consider going to 1meg pots.

Pots are cheap, and if you know how to solder, it isn't a big job to swap them out, so it won't hurt to try some different ones. CTS makes pots for companies that put their own logo on them, such as Gibson, Mojo, deMarzio... Allparts pots are CTS as well. The picture ICR posted shows CTS pots ( I think he was kidding about the Chinese mini pots).
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
35,504
Wooly on 10?
disconnect all pots and clip the pup signal straight to the output jack to hear what your guitar can offer.
Anything you connect after that will diminish the signal in some way, perhaps for the better, but if it is wooly then look at the pups or some wiring fault.
Maybe you just need a treble bypass.
 




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