If you’re just starting out playing an electric guitar, you may be confused about what electric guitar pots are?
Electric guitar pots are the variable resistors that control how much electric current is allowed to flow through your guitar’s pickups.
The greater amount of electricity, the brighter will sound your guitar output.
Electric guitar pots come in various resistance values, but the most common ones for guitars are 250K and 500k (ohms).
In this article, I’ll take a closer look at electric guitar pots and explain what you need to know. So without further ado, let’s just get straight into it, shall we?
How important are electric guitar pots?
Pots are an essential part of the electric guitar setup, and their importance cannot be overstated, but there are certain best practices that should be adhered to when it comes to selecting the right pots for volume or tone control of an electric guitar.
When it comes to volume, you will need a low-value pot (250k or less).
If your guitar only has one knob for controlling the overall volume of the instrument, then this is where you’ll use that particular potentiometer.
A high-value pot (500k and above) should be used in tone circuits, as it allows the tone to be rolled off gradually.
What are standard electric guitar pots?
Standard volume and tone potentiometers come in two common values: 250K (lower) or 500k (higher).
The lower value is usually used for volume, while a higher one goes with the tone circuit control.
The difference between these two is that a lower-value one will cut off high frequencies from your guitar signal as it comes into contact with the wiper, while the higher-value potentiometer allows for a smoother roll-off in tone.
As mentioned earlier, electric guitars have different output impedances depending on their construction and pickups used.
This means you may have to replace the existing pots in your guitar with higher-value ones for more headroom.
What is the difference between 500K and 250K pots?
Higher value pots, such as 500K, will make the guitar sound brighter.
Lower valued pots, such as 250K, will make the guitar sound somewhat warmer.
This is due to the fact that higher value pots put less of a strain on the pickups, preventing treble frequencies from “bleeding” through the pot and being lost.
It is very important to note that the output impedance of a guitar pickup has an important role in shaping the tone as well, and this is why some pickups sound brighter than others, even when they have pots with identical values.
So what’s my take on all of this? Well, for most people just starting out playing electric guitar, it’s best to stick with the standard values of pots and not mess around too much.
However, those who are more experienced may want to experiment a little by replacing the existing pickups on their guitars if they find that certain ones sound brighter than others despite having identical pot values.
How do you know which electric guitar pot values are right?
There’s no specific answer here since it all comes down to personal preference and what suits best for each application.
You’ll need a multimeter or an ohmmeter if you want to determine the resistance of your potentiometer.
All you need to do is check which range suits best for a certain application and make sure it’s within tolerance levels of the pot manufacturer, as any deviation from this could lead to malfunctioning or even damage to your instrument.
What are linear and logarithmic electric guitar pots?
The terms “linear” and “logarithmic”, also known as the law of decibels, are often confused for one another.
A linear pot decreases its resistance linearly with increased rotation (turning) towards either end of its travel while a logarithmic pot exhibits an exponential change in resistance according to the position of its wiper.
But how do you determine which type your guitar needs? This is where it gets a little complicated, so let’s delve into this in more detail:
A standard electric guitar uses linear pots for volume and tone controls because they allow a smooth transition from low to high values.
Linear pots are also used in the tone circuit because they allow for a smoother transition between bass and treble frequencies.
But what about logarithmic potentiometers, you ask? These are rarely found on electric guitars but only play an important role when it comes to controlling speakers’ volume thanks to their design which gives more power to low frequencies.
It’s best to go with linear pots since logarithmic ones exhibit a non-linear use of power where low frequencies will have more power than high ones when you turn the knob up towards their maximum position.
How do I know if my electric guitar pots are linear or logarithmic?
The easiest way to figure this out is by checking which type of pot you’re currently using on your guitar and replacing it with the same one.
However, keep in mind that not all manufacturers follow standards when designing guitars (even among series) so it may be difficult to figure out the type of pot you have.
If this is not an option, try replacing one of your existing pots with a linear and logarithmic potentiometer (one at a time) and see which tone circuit gives you better results when turned up or down accordingly.