Were Older Pots Just Made Better?

Discussion in '"Vintage" Instruments' started by sheikyerbouti, Aug 28, 2019.

  1. sheikyerbouti

    sheikyerbouti Supporting Member

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    I'm lucky enough to have a LP jr and Special, both from 56. I have no idea why, but the volume and tone pots on both of them are just fantastic. Much smoother than anything new I've tried including RS wiring kits, etc.

    I just don't get it and wondered if others have had similar experiences.
     

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  2. Fitzer

    Fitzer Supporting Member

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    They've been broken in pretty nicely over the years in terms of feel, and there are a lot of factors at play in something that old that can contribute to the sound. Modern American potentiometers from reputable manufacturers are still quite nice and of solid build quality.
     
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  3. hogy

    hogy Member

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    There is something about vintage pots that makes them sound better. I've been at it for a very long time, and I know this for a fact from extensive personal experience. It's an important piece of the puzzle, perhaps on par with the difference vintage pickups make.

    I have passed on plenty of otherwise nice vintage guitars because the pots were changed.

    I do not know what causes the difference. I've heard that there is lead in the old carbon traces, something that can no longer be duplicated in these days of RohS regulations. Not sure it this is true, but there is a difference.
     
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  4. skydog

    skydog Supporting Member

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    Isn't the net result just a measurable drop in ohms through a variable resistor?
     
  5. hogy

    hogy Member

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    Yes, but the composition of the resistor has some effect on tone.

    It's one of those things where people will argue on whether the effect is real or not.It is to me.
     
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  6. Voxshall

    Voxshall Member

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    I noticed an improvement with old pots, count me it as a fan.
     
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  7. sws1

    sws1 Member

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    If people can hear the different in resistor types in an amp, then a pot has the same effect.
     
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  8. skydog

    skydog Supporting Member

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    I can only dream of having hearing that acute, so it's hard for me to appreciate those subtleties. Or is it more of a curse because of individual taste? IOW, you spend time and money fine tuning your tone to the nth degree and others either don't notice or don't agree. I once read where EVH, while developing amps & cabs at Peavey, could discern the difference between a baltic birch cab vs. a MDF cab (everything else being equal), each & every time. Anyway, my hat is off to those of you with acute hearing, I can't even imagine what that's like.
     
  9. sws1

    sws1 Member

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    Cabinet wood is a harder one for me to appreciate. But when you think of the tiny signal coming off a guitar pickup, and then just how much that tiny signal gets amplified, you can sort of understand how the tiny difference on the signal can become audible. At least, that's how I think about it.

    If people can hear the difference with A/D converters, then I'm guessing people can hear pot differences. Without doing an a/b test, it's hard to prove.
     
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  10. hogy

    hogy Member

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    Actually, that's a very big difference and doesn't surprise me at all.

    As for the difference in pots, it's not something I went looking for. I remember many years ago the volume pot in my '56 Strat got really scratchy, so I put in a new one. This is a guitar I was intimately familiar with, and I instantly noticed it sounded different. Less clear, less bubbly. It wasn't the value either, I measured. Ended up harvesting the middle pickup tone pot for the volume and putting the scratchy volume pot in its spot, and the guitar was back. That was the first time, and many similar experiences followed. I do guitar repair specializing in vintage instruments for a living, so I've had lots of first hand experience with this.

    Sometimes I'll get an old guitar with new pots, where the old ones are in the case. Clean and lube them, reinstall, and the guitar will sound better, every time.
     
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  11. Otter351

    Otter351 Member

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    Don't forget that it's a selected sampling base you're using. If you find an old guitar with original pots, that means every owner throughout it's history thought they sounded and felt good. If, at any point, an owner was unhappy with them or they stopped working, they'd have been replaced...and often were.
     
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  12. 84Bravo

    84Bravo Member

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    I think I remember reading where Roy had a pot replaced on Nancy and was despondent because the magic was gone.
     
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  13. blueworm

    blueworm Member

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    Stupid question maybe ... but did you ever experienced with old amp pots ? I think a few are 250k on the tone stack of vintage amps. I also know the shaft is different and doesn't suit guitar knobs. But I figured I'd ask anyway out of curiosity (as I do have unused old amp pots lying around).
     
  14. hogy

    hogy Member

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    Yes, plenty of times. They are the same as guitar pots and definitely usable. Some are linear, some are audio taper pots, depending on the position in the amp.

    I prefer linear pots anyway.

    Solid shaft amp pots are useable in Teles and vintage Fender basses.
     
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  15. Jeff West

    Jeff West Member

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    Hogy- Curious, what's your sense of when things shifted in that way with pots, if you have one?
     
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  16. jcs

    jcs Member

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    I was going to ask the same question Jeff!

    My beat up 58 Danelectro with single lipstick sounds very clear for example...pots really were not noisy either but all is original (i do run a compressor which works beautifully with this guitar).

    I thought about pulling the pots on my 72 Musicmaster bass (want to change the values and pickup anyway) to possibly use in a Tele build.
     
  17. hogy

    hogy Member

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    I think it changed somewhere in the late '70s. I just don't have as much experience with those post-vintage guitars, never owned one.
     
  18. Jeff West

    Jeff West Member

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    Thanks, hogy - that's interesting because I've had a couple of '60s guitars that had changed pots in the '70s (soon before I got 'em) with possibly a little different results than changed pots in the '90s that I've experienced. Wonder what relevance this has for wahs and pots?

    Hi Jim S.- was also recently wondering how you're doing, good I hope!

    J
     
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  19. jcs

    jcs Member

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    Hey Jeff West, good! hope your bunch is as well!...btw, ive kept my late 60's Italian Cry Baby and its still works perfectly fwiw....65 SG Special as well, all stock on both....something to it i think.
     
  20. Geetarpicker

    Geetarpicker Member

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    In vintage Gibsons the taper on the old Centrlabs was also better IMHO. Maybe not better with a low gain amp played clean, but with something more gainy that cleans up when you back your guitar down things can be magic with those old pots. They have a very interesting taper that dumps quite a bit a level in the first few numbers, then the lower end of the knob is more finely spread out. It’s not your typical audio taper curve. That combined with an actual tonal difference the old pots can be a very important part of the puzzle.
     
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