Can bad pots/switches/jacks/wiring affect max guitar volume?

BoomTexan

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I bought a Chibson Firebird a little while back, and the pickups were the lowest output pickups I've ever played through. I was fully expecting a reading of like 2k, but this morning when I opened it up to start installing Cavalier Bear AR90s (thanks Rob Distefano for the great deal on those, can't wait to hear them!), they all measured 10.5-11.5k ohms. Those are around the ratings of my GFS Crunchy minihumbuckers that I put in my partscaster, and that guitar is like 5 times louder than this one.

What could be affecting the volume otherwise? I was thinking the pots could be an issue, or the fact that they used like 10 feet of wire on each pickup (every cavity was crammed full with yellow and black wire). I have a set of pots in my room right now, but I'm not sure that's the issue. Does anyone know what could possibly be the problem?
 

Boreas

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First, have you experimented with pickup heights? There is a lot of wiggle room there.

Without knowing the values and design of the rest of the chain, it is impossible to troubleshoot. But yes, if the components are filtering out too much of this or that, it will make any pickups sound weak. The tiny amount of signal generated in a guitar can be attenuated by any improper or faulty component in the path.

One way to tell is to check the resistance of the pickups at the pickup and again at the output jack. Should be roughly the same. But equal resistance still may not mean everything is OK as magnets play a big deal as well. Weak magnets can't pick up the string vibration as well as strong ones, and resistance values won't show this. But my gut feeling is that the pickups are OK.

My guess is the pots are attenuating too many high frequencies. Knowing the actual values, it is hard to say for certain. Another test would be to bypass the signal chain altogether and try each pickup wired directly to an amp. That will help you determine if the pickups are up to snuff. My guess is they are. Pickup manufacturers, even in China, aren't likely to turn out thousands of identically worthless pickups, as it costs little more to make them right. Weak magnets could be a culprit, but most manufacturers, even cheap ones, that are ordering hundreds of them aren't likely to keep ordering inferior parts or they won't be in business long. They don't set out to build an inferior product. They set out to build an acceptable product at a good price point.
 
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Blues Twanger

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Are your Chibson Firebird pickups designed like Gibson Firebird pickups? Their engineering differs from the usual humbucker and single coil and resistance might not be a good way to compare output.
 

BoomTexan

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First, have you experimented with pickup heights? There is a lot of wiggle room there.

Without knowing the values and design of the rest of the chain, it is impossible to troubleshoot. But yes, if the components are filtering out too much of this or that, it will make any pickups sound weak. The tiny amount of signal generated in a guitar can be attenuated by any improper or faulty component in the path.

One way to tell is to check the resistance of the pickups at the pickup and again at the output jack. Should be roughly the same. But equal resistance still may not mean everything is OK as magnets play a big deal as well. Weak magnets can't pick up the string vibration as well as strong ones, and resistance values won't show this. But my gut feeling is that the pickups are OK.

My guess is the pots are attenuating too many high frequencies. Knowing the actual values, it is hard to say for certain. Another test would be to bypass the signal chain altogether and try each pickup wired directly to an amp. That will help you determine if the pickups are up to snuff. My guess is they are. Pickup manufacturers, even in China, aren't likely to turn out thousands of identically worthless pickups, as it costs little more to make them right. Weak magnets could be a culprit, but most manufacturers, even cheap ones, that are ordering hundreds of them aren't likely to keep ordering inferior parts or they won't be in business long. They don't set out to build an inferior product. They set out to build an acceptable product at a good price point.
Pickup height was the first thing I worked with. It didn't affect it very much. I forgot about the magnets, that might be the culprit.

I don't think it's the pots bleeding off treble, because the bridge pickup in particular is incredibly ice-picky. It's like a Strat bridge pickup with a 500k pot. I will definitely check the output at the jack, that could very well help me solve this. Thanks!
 

Boreas

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Pickup height was the first thing I worked with. It didn't affect it very much. I forgot about the magnets, that might be the culprit.

I don't think it's the pots bleeding off treble, because the bridge pickup in particular is incredibly ice-picky. It's like a Strat bridge pickup with a 500k pot. I will definitely check the output at the jack, that could very well help me solve this. Thanks!
One thing you could do is spray some contact cleaner in the pots and switch and see if it makes any difference in output. Was the control cavity very dirty (buffing compound debris, etc.)? That can get in the moving parts/contacts and interfere with signal. But usually this results in "scratchy" operation.
 

BoomTexan

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The pots are fine, when turning there's no noise. I tested the magnets and the ones in the pickups are substantially weaker than the ones in the P90. I think that, compounded with the fantastic length of wire used, was the main issue.
 

Boreas

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The pots are fine, when turning there's no noise. I tested the magnets and the ones in the pickups are substantially weaker than the ones in the P90. I think that, compounded with the fantastic length of wire used, was the main issue.
P90s have some beefy magnets.

I believe there are ways to "re-gauss" magnets, but that is voodoo stuff to me. I am a screwdriver/hammer kinda guy...
 
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SbS

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Have you replaced the strings? I think it's rare, but I've heard about some odd imported strings that are not magnetic enough. And therefore pickup signal can be weak.

Edit: Never mind, I read it wrong first.. you've already opened the guitar and everything. Not the strings we can assume.
 
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Peegoo

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The only way to know what the cause is will be to methodically replace each individual component one at a time and test it to see if that one change makes a difference.

In most cases this is the way to do it because it makes sense and can save you money.

The alternative approach is to "shoot it with the parts cannon" (replace everything). This is normally not recommended because it can get expensive to be guessing about the cause.

However, in your case, you have already spent the $$$ on pickups. All the other jellybean parts are inexpensive...unless you buy something like an Emerson or Mojo other pre-assembled (read: grossly overpriced) circuit.
 

24 track

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you stated its a chibson si i can guess they used Alpha mini pots , cheap switching , and green chicklets for tone caps , plus miles of cheap very thin wire , I got lucky with my chibson , although I had in most probability the same crud parts in mine , I replaced all my parts with real gibson parts that I got off kijiji for under 100.00 and found real gibson machine heads ( klusons for 40.00) after the initial set up it plays beter for me than my real les paul . I had a real gold switchcraft switch and used orange drops and I put a TBX tone control on the neck pick up, really fun to play with.I replaced the wiring with real gibson pull back wire , getting rid of all the soperfluous crap original stuff ,
do not be fooled I never pass this off as anything but a chibson and never will this was taken before I completed the mods it also has a real gibson ABR1 bridge on it as well

I got this so I could identify a fake if I saw one , now I can tell in seconds if its a fake or not .

it took Long & Mcquade 15 minutes to tell , I was lucky enough that Grant down there had 2 very real gibson ultimas , that had never been played , great to compre it to.

ultima.JPG
 
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hopdybob

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I bought a Chibson Firebird a little while back, and the pickups were the lowest output pickups I've ever played through. I was fully expecting a reading of like 2k, but this morning when I opened it up to start installing Cavalier Bear AR90s (thanks Rob Distefano for the great deal on those, can't wait to hear them!), they all measured 10.5-11.5k ohms.
crusial now is what measured 10.5-11.5k??
do you mean when you pulled the low output sounding pickups and measured them?
Than you would have a problem between the pickups and the output jack.
the later posting you write that the pickup were substancial weaker.
did you take the pickups apart to see how they were build?
because if these chibson pickups are fully covered disguised mini pickups the magnet is at the bottom of the pickup.
i would check solder joints, take the pots out and measure them and check the pickupswitch and its soldering joints
 
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