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Gibson Historic 500K pots

Mark Abbott

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When I bought my R0 secondhand it came with a Dr Vintage control harness and Sheptone Bluesky pickups (A4 magnets). The first I didn't like about the guitar was the controls, the volume control was okay, but the tone controls didn't work very well at all. Basically nothing happened till the tone control was on "3" which made the pot act more or less like a switch, in that there wasn't a lot of subtly there at all.


I was lucky to have bought a set of Timbuckers years before (A2 magnets) and I put those into the guitar. I REALLY liked the Timbuckers they sound very nice.


I read about the Historic pots when they came out in 2013 and tried to get a feel on them to see if they were a good thing or a bad thing. Not every new product hits the mark as we know.


As far as I could tell the taper is dead on. I tried 2013 Les Paul and I really liked the taper of the pots. So late 2013 I bought five pots so if one of the values of the pots was a little low I'd have choice. The values of the pots I bought was 420K, 430K, 2 X 440K and 450K.


I was disappointed as I expected some pots to be greater than 500K and some pots to be lower than 500K, but I didn't expect to see all pots to be 450K and lower.


At this point in time it seemed pots with a 20 -30% taper were thought to be vintage correct and thus the only pot on the market. I decided to live with the problem and put the two 440K pots in the guitar as tone controls. The taper was fantastic for use as a tone control. Rolling the pot to "5" made a noticeable difference in timbre.


This Xmas I decided to take the cover off the bridge Sheptone P/U and mount it back in the guitar. The Sheptone pickup sounded different with the cover off and sounded beefier than the Timbuckers (highs about the same without the cover.) To get off topic for a bit, I had thought the combination of an A2 pickup in the neck and an A5 pickup in the bridge would pull quite different tones from a Les Paul, I think it is a good combination.


On to the sticky issue. I decided to put the Historic 450K pot into the guitar as the neck pickups volume control. I loved the taper, but I noticed a difference in the highs. This lead me to wonder do I have to keep buying Historic pots till I get the right value or is there a better way?








Gibson Memphis Science of Volume and Tone controls


Someone sent me the above link which didn't help quell my annoyance as it confirmed what I knew already and perhaps I should have returned the pots to Gibson as they were out of spec.


Typical pots have a plus or minus 10% tolerance, so a 500,000 ohm pot can measure as little as 450,000 ohms (or even less if the pot is out of spec), which doesn’t make much difference when changing volume in a radio or TV—but can make a big difference with passive guitar pickups.


The Memphis division found that with their magnetic pickup and wiring configurations, 500,000 ohms for the volume and tone pots is a “dividing line” for loading. While lower values can affect the sound, the loading from higher values is so slight most musicians won’t notice it. So, to insure that the pots provide minimum loading, Memphis specifies a custom-made 550,000 ohm pot


Considering the pots should be +/-10% and only one pot falls within the lowest limit and I've bought the premium product too. This statement renews some of my annoyance.


The question I'd like to put to the group is how do I get pots with the right Centralab taper and are around the 500K value. I don't want to throw good money down the spout on this. There has to be a way to get the pots to respond "right" and not adversely effect the tone of the pickups.


Thanks for your patience and I hope I don't come off as too disgruntled, frustrated yes.





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