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Bypassing guitar pickup volume and tone knobs for hotter and less cloudy tone

Discussion in 'Backline' started by Djabthrash, Aug 7, 2012.

  1. Djabthrash

    Djabthrash Member

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    Bypassing guitar pickup volume and tone knobs for purer, hotter and less cloudy tone :

    Anyone heard about/tried this before ?

    I've read about this on a Karl Sanders' (Nile) gear column, where he says some of his passive Seymour Duncan-loaded axes have the volume and tone knobs bypassed... which yields a "hotter and less cloudy tone" as he says...

    Another quote of his : "The pickup is wired directly to the jack leaving the pure unadulterated tone of this incredible guitar to blaze unrestricted and unchained"

    "no volume or tone knobs and no icky finish to cloud up the tone whatsoever"


    Not a bad idea (having the signal go directly from pup to input jack, making a purer tone), but curious to hear about you guys think about it.

    source : http://www.metalsucks.net/2012/08/07/rigged-niles-karl-sanders/
     
  2. Rex Rocker

    Rex Rocker Call me Hugo!

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    Yup. Not just with passives. Even with actives that holds true.

    Back in the day when I installed actives in my guitar, I was a big noob and never could get it to work. So I decided "fuck it" and just soldered the bridge pickup straight into the battery/output jack. It seriously was quite a bit louder that way than afterwards when I got a tech to do the wiring with two pickups, each with individual volumes, and a 3-way.

    I'm a big tone knob hater for the same reason. In a contemporary scenario where you've got TONS of possibilities regarding multichannel amps and other stuff, it always seems to me like a tone knob is just there uselessly, unnecessarily, and parasitically sucking tone off your guitar and pickups.

    Volume knobs... that seems more like a necessary evil to me in a sense, lol.
     
  3. Djabthrash

    Djabthrash Member

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    Thanks Rex for your input !

    I wish you did an A/B test or something (maybe Marcus AKA Mr "A/B comparison" would do that ? :) ).

    Besides a louder/hotter tone, did you feel the tone was purer/better ?

    From just a "philosophical" (for the lack of a better word sorry) point of view, i'd go with purer tone if i had the opportunity, but i was wondering how much having working knobs affected the tone.

    About the use of knobs themselves, i hardly use the tone knob, but i love to use the volume knob and humbucker to single coil push-pull to reach a variety of tones.

    If i had a straighforward guitar aimed at one type of tone only (like straight-up metal rythm guitar for instance), i'd love to give the "pickup to jack input direct" + "no finish on the wood that might choke the guitar resonance" a go !
     
  4. Djabthrash

    Djabthrash Member

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    I've heard of plenty of pro players who have a guitar sig with only one pickup knob (be it volume or tone) or even none (not sure who it was : max cavalera, jim root, dino cazares, can't remember...), and they sounded like they did this purely for the sake of simplicity and because :
    -they never used the knob anyway
    -they always want to have the volume and tone MAXED, for studio and live tone consistency

    But i never heard somebody talking about a "purer tone" thing. This is new to me, and makes plenty of sense in hindsight.
     
  5. Rex Rocker

    Rex Rocker Call me Hugo!

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    Haha... yeah, didn't think of an A/B clip back then. Sorry. :(

    But anyway, yeah, the pickup seemed overall brighter as well. It's been a while, but the output thing seemed to be the thing that jumped out the most back then.

    I had heard of the "purer tone" kinda thing several times before, tho. I had always heard that people who don't use tone knobs report that, even if the tone knob is wide open, there's a little bit of treble being lost from the pickups as opposed to not having a tone knob there at all.

    I myself can't really tell for sure because on my Ibanez and on my bass (which neither have tone knobs), I decided to switch the pickups out and/or disconnect the tone knob almost immediately after I got them. :lol:

    I have the EMG solderless system installed right now in my guitar with EMG's. There might actually be a way of connecting stuff so that only the bridge pickup goes directly into the output without knobs at all. I'll look into it when I've got a little bit of time. It might be not exactly what you're looking for since there's the whole solderless thing involved, but if it is so, I guess I could pull a clip off. :)
     
  6. abt

    abt BT

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    Yes. I remove both the tone and volume pots and just go pickup only. At first I kept the volume pot but now that's gone as well. It does make a difference. The first thing you notice is how much you reach for those knobs in a negative way, ie to turn them up to full, as opposed to actually using them for something useful.
     
  7. Adrian Warren

    Adrian Warren Member

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    If you want to use a tone knob but at the same time don't want it to take away higher frequencies even if it's at full, you could get yourself a pot with a "no load" mod or mod your current pot yourself. It's not necessary to completely remove it if you don't want to.



    As for the volume knob what you can do it to use pots which real values as as close as possible to your desired resistance value. For example a 500k pot might just have a real resistance value of 460k, resulting in some tone loss. Using quality pots or even military spec pots which have less tolerance and are therefore much closer to the desired value would result in the least amount of tone loss possible. Some of these pots have tolerances of just 2% meaning that a 500k pot wouldn't have a lower value than 490k.

    There's a lot of info on guitar electronics on http://www.youtube.com/user/johnplanetz/ and even more if you Google guitar pots and values.
     
    #7 Adrian Warren, Aug 7, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 20, 2015
  8. greyskull

    greyskull Member

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    In my Telecaster, I Took out the tone pot and rewired it for an additional volume, so I have 2 volumes and a 3 way switch. I have never in the history of ever used the tone knob on my guitars.
     
  9. JakeAC5253

    JakeAC5253 Frozen Sun Audio

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    It's entirely relative to what happens downstream as to how different it sounds and whether it is an improvement or not. (Z1 x Z2)/(Z1 + Z2). For a passive pickup into an amp, this will create a percentage difference of 66.7%, assuming that the guitar had a 500k pot and the amp has an input z of 1M. For a passive pickup into an overdrive pedal, this will have a percentage difference of 48.5%, assuming 500k volume knob and pedal has an input z of 470k. For an active pickup into an amp, you will get a whopping 97.6% difference, and active into overdrive will give you 95% difference. This is all just dry impedance values mind you, circuity stuff. As for how much difference this makes to the actual sound, well you have to listen for it, all I'm saying is that there is theory to back it up. One of the major things you lose when you cut a volume pot is the ability to put series resistance in the circuit to alter the impedance network. Series impedances of both overdrive pedals and amps alike are low compared to the amount of resistance you could quickly and easily dial in using an onboard volume pot. So you do sacrifice some control for the benefit of some extra power or clarity. You could set up a cutoff switch to kill the sound when you are not playing too.
     
  10. ProjectHamsterdam

    ProjectHamsterdam God of Emptiness

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    I have a bypass switch on one of my guitars (came with it stock). What it does is the following:
    - Position 1: both pickups WITH tone and volume controls and a 5-way switch, pretty much as every other guitar
    - Position 2: switches directly to the bridge pickup and bypasses everything else (makes it go directly bridge Pu ->output jack)

    It's a very easy and useful mod, you can rip out your tone control and put a mini toggle in its place and you will get the best of both worlds.

    (With volume all the way down it will work as a killswitch; you can also use it to jump from some setting like neck Pu, vol half, tone 3/4 to bridge Pu full on, then back to the previous elaborate setting without touching anything but the mini switch - but that's for the jazz blues players lol)
     
  11. exoslime

    exoslime Member

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    i have taken out the tone control on most of my main guitars too, i usually never use the tone control and want to avoid that those got accentily turned down.

    I also tried out what you are asking, to wire the pickup directly to the output with no volume poti nor tone poti in between, but my experience back than was that there was no hearable difference for me between direct output and a maxed volume poti, neither on the DI Tracks nor the Amped Tracks.
    Perhaps i still have the files somewhere, i did this experiment about 3-4 years ago.

    but i use the volume knob quite often, and there is a mod that you can turn the volume, but dont loose highs in the sounds, so they sound doesnt get as cloudy.
     
  12. reneisgod

    reneisgod Rene

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    no tone pot for me either;

    SD invader stright into SD liberator vol pot, piece of cake set-up easy to swap pups around.
    went directly to the jack before and things sounded really fuckin strange, far too much high end bite
    it sounded terrible im guessing i did something wrong.
     
  13. Djabthrash

    Djabthrash Member

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    Additional volume is for the second pickup i guess right ? (when before you had one volume for both pickups i assume)

    In my Tele (not a real Tele tho') i have one volume knob for both pickups and one tone knob (which i hardly use) for both pickups, and i wouldn't mind having the tone knob being replaced by a volume knob (thus having one volume knob for each pup).
     
  14. Djabthrash

    Djabthrash Member

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    Thanks, exactly the kind of feedback i was looking for !

    I guess the results also depends from the whole signal chain, and also guitar wood, construction quality, pups, wires between your pups and input jack, etc...
     
  15. Djabthrash

    Djabthrash Member

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    Nice !

    Did you notice a big difference in tone between those ? :

    -position 1 on bridge pup and volume maxed
    -position 2
     
  16. ProjectHamsterdam

    ProjectHamsterdam God of Emptiness

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    The difference is very little, not more than 2-3% I should think. There is a little bit more output and a little bit more highs, but only a wee little bit, nothing drastic.

    I think they made it more for convenience's sake rather than anything else.
     
  17. greyskull

    greyskull Member

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    Correct.
     
  18. Wrecknine

    Wrecknine Member

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    I've seen them called "blower/blowout" switches. Some Suhr and Yamahas come with them.

    The "no load " tone pot idea mentioned earlier is good too.
     
  19. Axonic Rot

    Axonic Rot Member

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    I have bypassed tone and volume pots before. Removing the tone pot from the circuit is my favorite trick. It makes an improvement without losing a feature that I would ever use. I have mixed feelings about removing the volume pot from the circuit. Some pickups it will add clarity and heat, but really modern pickups need a 500k volume in to my ears because they sound good and were designed to sound right with it in there and can get too scratchy with it gone. Not having a volume in is also an inconvenience, you have to have a good way to mute your instrument easily at all times or it can get annoying. I've made the center position on three way switches a "kill" before and that worked well.

    The short version: Bypassing the tone is always a winner, Bypassing the volume depends on the pickup.
     

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