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Thread: Upgrade pots/switch

  1. #1
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    Upgrade pots/switch

    Hi All,

    I am about to start a build (style) and have upgraded to some tonerider pickups. I probably know the answer to this but how important do you all feel it is to upgrade the pots, switches etc from a sounds quality perspective?

  2. #2
    Member ILRGuitars's Avatar
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    All electrical components on an electric guitar will effect it's performance and tone quality. Tone is also a matter of personal choice and what you want to achieve. Depending on the style of build, upgrading can always be done later after you hear how it initially sounds. Tele's are very easy to upgrade but a semi hollow body can be a pain.
    Toneriders are a good choice. I have some in my Tele and they sound great.
    I have found the standard kit is not too bad. Capacitors can be bought at Jaycar for a few cents each. I always upgrade the input jack so it's nice and tight. Pots and switches are readily available online.
    But I usually plug it in when it's finished and then see how it sounds, you can never underestimate what a good amp can do too.

  3. #3
    Mentor fender3x's Avatar
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    I test everything before soldering it in to make sure the specs are close to what the design asks for.

    I have tended to use either CTS or Bourns pots, but I honestly don't know that it matters. If your parts spec properly and the pots aren't scratchy electricity probably doesn't care where it's made or who made it. I use the name brands mostly for consistency of quality and durability. Not sure they actually are more durable

    Sent from my ONEPLUS A3000 using Tapatalk

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    Thanks for all the advice - will stick with the kit electronics and go from there once itís all together

  5. #5
    Hi FCD.
    Reading your other post, I know you got a TL kit. It's worth noting that if you want to upgrade the pots, specifically to 24mm pots, the control cavity in the PBG TL kits need to be widened to accommodate the larger pots. This means routing (or other similar method) and that is much better to do (IMO) before getting any finish on the body.
    Routing can be done after finishing, but you always run the risk of damaging that finish which likely took you many hours to get it right.

    I try and think ahead as far as possible so can have as much routed & drilled etc before beginning my finish. Sometimes it's inevitable that something will need doing after the finish goes on, but do as much as you can beforehand is my advice.

    I mentioned this in another post the other day but I'll repeat it here, there are good quality mini-pots available too if doing the routing isn't a viable option for you.

    I will also put my hand up for Tonerider pickups. I've had/have a few sets and they all sound great. Equally as good as many twice their price.
    Making the world a better place; one guitar at a time...

  6. #6
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    Thanks for this info - am going to do the build and if I would like to upgrade I will put some mini pots in as stated.

    As this is my first build and I have no real wood working skills and limited tools I think this is the best option.

  7. #7
    Mentor fender3x's Avatar
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    I've never had a TL kit, but I have done some re-routing, and would agree with McCreed on all fronts. If you are going to rout you may also want to make sure the cavity is deep enough for a push pull pot.

    I used to think the 24mm pots were better. But after years of using minis in my Frankenbass (because it's very hard to find a push-pull dpdt switch that isn't a mini), I don't see any difference.

    Both Bourns and CTS make decent minis that won't break the bank. My experience with the Chinese cheap-o pots is that the ones that come with the Pitbull kits is that the housing are identical to Bourns. They are so close that if you take them apart the housings are literally interchangeable. I initially thought that the Bourns were more consistent...not even sure of that anymore.

    For some silly reason I have about 25 500K audio pots. 11 are Bourns. I would love to say that they are more consistent than the chinese no-name Chinese pots, of which I have 9. Which are more consistent? The one that tested the most above 500K was a Bourns at 568K the one that tested most below 500K was a Cheapo at 435K. As a test of consistency, I did a standard deviation. For the cheapos I got 25, for the Bourns I got 27... meaning about 2/3 of the cheapos were within 25 of 500K, and about 2/3 of the Bourns were within 27... The cheapos were slightly more consistent, but not enough to matter. More importantly, nothing to indicate that the Bourns had any better quality control.

    Of the 25 500K Audio pots I own only two had values of exactly 500K...both cheapos.

    Some people will tell you that the Bourns are smoother and less scratchy. Maybe, but since all the other quality measures are pretty much the same, I don't see why that would be the case.

    So, your decision to leave the pots you have in place seems fine to me. If you do "upgrade" you have lots of mini options. My pick would probably be to buy 4-6 Alphas because they will fit your control plate (unlike the CTS or Bourns which would need a bigger hole), and just use the two that spec closest. Alphas don't get much love here, but they have spec'd fine when I have tested them. I have a bunch (just not in 500K) and they are used by lots of top MFGs. In fact, I think they came with my EMGs. Bottom line is that they all should probably be tested before going in your guitar, but none of them are consistently good enough or bad enough to make a huge difference.

    The one caveat to that is that I would not use CTS pots with push on knobs. The great thing about CTS pots is that you can swap the wafers to create custom values. The bad thing is that sometimes when you try to pull of a very tight knob it can pull the shaft right out of the pot.

    More than anyone wanted to know...and yet I still have not solved the mystery of why the heck I have so many 500K audio pots?

  8. #8
    For the cheapos I got 25, for the Bourns I got 27... meaning about 2/3 of the cheapos were within 25 of 500K...
    That's a tolerance of around 5%. That's pretty dang good. A general standard amongst mfr's is up to 20%! And some will charge a premium for under 10%. I reckon you've done pretty good fender3x!

    Alphas don't get much love here, but they have spec'd fine when I have tested them. I have a bunch (just not in 500K) and they are used by lots of top MFGs.
    I've had very good luck with Alpha. I will say that there are *good* Alpha and crap Alpha models though. The ones that Jaycar sells just feel chintzy. I've never used those in a guitar. The ones I've bought from guitar parts sellers have been just fine.
    Making the world a better place; one guitar at a time...

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Mc,Creed View Post
    Hi FCD.
    Reading your other post, I know you got a TL kit. It's worth noting that if you want to upgrade the pots, specifically to 24mm pots the control cavity in the PBG TL kits need to be widened to accommodate the larger pots.
    I've just discovered you may have to drill the control plate holes a tad wider also.

    cheers, Mark.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by king casey View Post
    I've just discovered you may have to drill the control plate holes a tad wider also.

    cheers, Mark.
    Yes, that's a good point KC, but only if installing US size pots with the larger (3/8") threaded bushing.
    "Full size" metric pots (Alpha, Gotoh and similar) have an 8mm bushing which should fit through those existing control plate holes.
    Making the world a better place; one guitar at a time...

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