# Free the tone! Skip the tone control! Comments and Experiences

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by theprofessor, Sep 17, 2019.

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1. ### jrblueFriend of Leo's

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I do not experience the effects you describe to any level of significance. I think in terms of my whole signal chain, and given the many places where I can shape my sound, gaining virtually nothing at the expense of a tone control, which is for me a help, not a hindrance, in arriving at tones (not one tone), eliminating the tone control is a step in the wrong direction. It's a fiction that unmodified, unfiltered guitar output is somehow the best sound (ditto for amps); mostly, it's not.

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2. ### Derek KiernanFriend of Leo's

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Yes. With guitar wiring, one might assume that halfway down a 500k linear volume pot is the same as a 250k all the way up, but it doesn't work that way since the volume pot is wired as a voltage divider. When the pot is all the way up, it's just a simple resistor to ground, so you're losing very little of the general output.

I think many guitarists think more resistance to ground = more output, so likewise, no tone pot = no tone pot losses. The resistance of a tone pot is always high enough that you're not rolling off any highend at the top of the taper, so removing it doesn't make it less rolled off.

Try out a simple idea with a parallel resistance calculator: https://www.allaboutcircuits.com/tools/parallel-resistance-calculator/

Say you have a 7 kOhm pickup in parallel with a 250k pot. You'll notice the resulting resistance is 6.81 kOhm, which is not quite a 3% reduction in resistance. You can even try a 125 kOhm pot, which gives you 6.63 kOhm -- a 5% reduction in resistance. When you roll a 250k linear halfway down to 125k and get less than a 3% change in resistance, it's doing absolutely nothing to the general output, and the pot's resistance isn't low enough to have the capacitor affect anything. What you do get is more load down on the resonance, making the resonance duller.

With a lower inductance Strat-style pickup this is often fine, and I encourage everyone to use the tone control. With a higher inductance pickup like a P90, 125 kOhm could potentially kill the tone of the pickup, if you like how it sounds with ex a 500k pot. It's still true that the pot has left the general output virtually untouched, but the accentuation of the resonance has dropped substantially.

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3. ### alnico357Tele-Afflicted

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I am OK with the pot in my American Standard. It has a no-load position but I don't use that feature due to TELECASTER DEATH TREBLE.

My Carvin has a Stellartone Tonestyler passive tone pot. I think it is a great addition.

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4. ### theprofessorPoster Extraordinaire

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Hahahaha!

5. ### brookdalebillTele AxpertAd Free Member

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I’ve eliminated the tone control on my Chet, avatar guitar, and Cabronita.
I never use tone pots, and rarely even use the volume control.
I dislike potentiometers on guitars generally.
I sometimes hit them inadvertently, and mess up my otherwise “happy” tones.

Last edited: Sep 17, 2019
6. ### Rob DiStefanoDoctor of TeleocityVendor Member

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7. ### Ess EffTele-Afflicted

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I'm a 'full on' tone person but was always reluctant to completely dispense with it.

Recently did a HS tele with only 2 Vols and it works great (for me) !

The middle position allows a blend of both pups and the individual pups sound much nicer without the Tone control.
.

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8. ### dougstrumTele-Afflicted

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I like to wire only the bridge pickup to the tone control. If I have a tone control on the neck pickup it usually sounds best rolled all the way up.
Without a tone control on neck pickup I can kinda preset control for bridge pickup to be in the sweet spot.

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9. ### spellcasterTele-Holic

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I've tried guitars with no tone control, and it can work well for certain sounds. What impresses me is what a Fender Precision can sound like wired direct to jack. It's quite remarkable.

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I've made 2 guitars without tone pots....

my latest Tele bass and Browny, a 2xp90 tele with 2xV 500K pots.... a rather brash guitar, it can sweet talk you or rip your head off.....

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11. ### 4pickupguyDoctor of TeleocitySilver Supporter

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I haven’t had a tone knob since the late 80’s early 90’s.

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12. ### Antigua TeleFriend of Leo's

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Getting rid of the tone pot just increases the Q factor, because youre removing a resistor that sits parallel to the pickup, thereby reducing the impedance, at all times, but most especially where the LC reactance (resonance) reaches peak effect. Another thing that does that is brass covers, because it causes greater eddy currents, as you can see from this plot below, brass covers take the Q factor waaaay down:

Therefor, if you have a brass cover, a no load pot or a no-tone circuit might not make any difference, because there is no Q factor to be had, but if you have a nickel silver cover, or no cover on the neck pickup, the no-load or missing tone control might expose the high resonance of the pickup, a sound that is very audible, though usually described as bright and shrill.

A P-90 is more similar to a brass cover, because it too is dogged by eddy currents, but not by the cover, but rather the steel screws. Some P-90's have metal covers, and the Q factor can become even worse if the P-90's cover is also brass.

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13. ### brookdalebillTele AxpertAd Free Member

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I forgot that my EJ Strat (with Kinman pickups) also has no tone pot.
It just has a master volume, and it’s placed in the position of the second (middle) tone control.
Perfect for me!

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14. ### moosieDoctor of TeleocitySilver Supporter

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I don't get it. Why go to all that trouble and lack of flexibility, when a no-load tone pot does the same thing?

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15. ### theprofessorPoster Extraordinaire

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Because I didn't have a no-load pot at the time and only later thought of doing that. I wouldn't call it "trouble," though, in that it's just wiring something up with one wire different. I've also noted that I almost never use the tone pot on my Teles (much more on my Les Paul, actually) and don't remember a case of needing to roll back the tone on positions 3 and 2 when playing live.

If I were doing it all again, I think I'd go back and use a no-load tone pot for everything.

Last edited: Sep 18, 2019
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16. ### theprofessorPoster Extraordinaire

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Would you please give a brief description of what "Q factor" is and, more importantly for the purposes of this thread, what sonic effects you might normally attribute to an increase in Q factor?

17. ### RonkirnDoctor of Teleocity

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The way I explain it to those less well versed in electronics is, the signal generated by the pickups is much like the water in a small stream... As it flows to it's eventual destination, the water will seek each and every opportunity to leak away from the main flow... While there will be more than ample water making it to the end... something is lost at "every turn" along the way..

in a similar fashion, the electronic signal carrying multiple levels of "information" to the output, will seek an opportunity to "leak" away as it transverses the path. These "opportunities" present in the many mechanical "cataracts" the signal must flow through.

Things like pots, solder connections, and most certainly bad solder connections, along with switches, caps, etc etc... everything presents a chance for a part of that signal to slither away. The very part of the signal that is lost FIRST are the higher frequencies... Thats the part that transmits the openness, the clarity, the "cut through the mix" presence.. the articulation.. What remains sounds muddy by comparison... Or its like photography through a dirty lens... sure you can still recognize what the subject is, but the precise focus the full rich colors saturation, etc is history...

the signal is composed of many frequencies oscillating back and forth at very high rates, and it's the highest frequencies that want to leak... They will leak... that's why it's damn near impossible to make a very complex switching arrangement that results in the clarity, articulation and presence that something wired clean and direct does..

in my experience, occasionally someone will order one that has either NO controls, or at the very least a volume only.. it always strikes me how pure the sound is from those guitars with very little else making much of a difference.

An experience that has stuck with me through the years... often guys will drop by and offer me "crazy money" to own my personal guitar... Back in the 80's My personal Strat, with simple electronics sounded great.. so some guy drops by to play a few.. wants to know what I play, and throws a wad of cash on the table... but, he wants it wiring changed .. He wants, phase switching, dual tone, wants it to be able to communicate with the Soviet spy satellites and link to his Trash 80 computer (remember those) and jump start his '68 goat when it's raining. But in reality this guy wanted about everything one could imagine... I reluctantly said yep, explaining what I just did above...

The inevitable occurred, the guy got pizzed, and claimed I swapped the guitar that it didn't sound anywhere near as congested when he tried it...

So... those that have talked with me know.. my philosophy is... less is more... If you want the guitar to make different sounds, and sound good doing it, learn to master the darn thing, but leave the electronics alone..

and just to remind ya,, while the full audio spectrum is 20 to 20,000 hertz... it's only about 40 to 6000 hertz for the guitarists... it's limited by the amplifier's speaker. If the speaker can not transmit 7000 hertz and above.. it does not exist...

rk

18. ### theprofessorPoster Extraordinaire

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What a magnificent explanation! Thank you very much.

19. ### rigateleTele-Afflicted

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"The Q factor is a widespread measure used to characterize resonators. It is defined as the peak energy stored in the circuit divided by the average energy dissipated in it per radian at resonance." - Wikipaedia. In guitar circuits, total load resistance is the main influence on that.

Antigua's post actually just explained the sonic effects that you mentioned in the first post:

(1) a bit more openness
(2) a bit more touch-sensitivity
(3) a bit more presence (and therefore also a bit more treble)

All those derive from an increased output at resonance (the peak visible in the graphs).

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20. ### RonkirnDoctor of Teleocity

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perhaps this will also help..

The "audio" signal ONLY travels on the surface of the wire.. its not like a DC current that uses the full section of a conductor... This is known as the "skin effect" and was "discovered" and subsequently incorporated in the manufacture of coils, circuits etc., that deal with high impedance, since the mid '80's... that would be the 1880's.. so it's well founded...

but with the signal traveling only on the surface.. think what one of those funky solder joints made by amateur "techs" so often seen in photos... the signal runs into one of those then has to scurry around looking for a "plan B" to get to where it's going... since the signal is oscillating.. it bumps into such a "speed" bump thousands of times a second.... so . . . quality of sound. . . "poof". out the window... Thus.... while you're learning to master the guitar... spend a little time learning to master the soldering station too...

It's "stuff" like this that reenforce the luthiers that stand with me in insisting.. the tone you want is NOT found only in a piece of wood, or a set of pickups. etc., etc., ... it's a sonic calculus... and why so many of us are bald.. its from scratching our head...

rk

skin effect ... interesting ain't it oh . . . this is a HUGE deal in super esoteric audio systems... I'm talking' rigs that start at the entry level north of \$200,000.00 Fortunately it hasn't weaseled it's way into our world, but you can bet someone gonna try to capitalize on it...

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