Amongst the things I’ve read about but never actually experienced before, is the effect pot (potentiometer) values have on the basic voice of a guitar. Well, that’s actually not true: in my post about why GAS is bad for you I tell a sad tale about the Carvin guitar I used to have. One of the reasons I hated it was that it was extremely bright. In addition, the taper on the volume pot made it very difficult to control. You’d turn the knob, and nothing happened until you got down to 2.5 on the dial. At that moment the sound all but disappeared completely. 90 % of the volume reduction happened during 10 % of the pot’s travel. I’ve come to believe that this may have been caused by a very high pot value.
I just had guitar doctor extraordinaire Erik Welo change the pots on my 2002 Les Paul Classic. This guitar will probably get its own post at some point, but for now I’ll just say hooray! I’ve liked this guitar since I bought it new in 2002, but I never loved it. One of the reasons for that is that I always thought it sounded somewhat muffled. It has always served up great high-gain tones, but these days I’m more into mid- and low-gain. In this context, its tone was just too dark.
Well-tempered volume control
In short, the Les Paul now sounds as I’ve wanted it to sound for some time. Warm, but clear, and with a nice taper to the volume and tone pots. It now retains high end when you turn down the guitar’s volume, making on-the-fly volume adjustements a lot easier to get right, dynamically and tonally.
I’m guessing that the original pots were 300k, based on stuff I’ve read on different places on the web. UPDATE: I measured them and found that the volume pots read 265k and 285k, respectively, while the tone pots were around 485k each. I’m guessing that – taking pot tolerance into account – the tone pots could’ve been labeled 500k. I’m less certain about thevolume pots- They’re pretty much in the middle between 250 and 300, so it could’ve gone both ways. Anyway, they’re now swapped with 500k (I haven’t measured these) pots, and all is well with the world.
More of the same
If you’re interested in the minutae of pots and how the work, you can read more about it here:
Stewart MacDonald has some good information about choosing pot values
Guitarelectronics.com also has quite a bit of information about potentiometers as it pertains to guitar electronics