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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Electric guitar and bass potentiometers! 250k Pot vs 500k Pot. A guide for dummies.



Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we go further in our examination of the single components of a guitar or a bass, speaking of Potentiometers, in our usual non-technical language (I'm not a physicist nor a luthier, just a guitar lover like you).
What are they? How do they affect the sound? Which potentiometer should I choose for my guitar?

A potentiometer (or Pot) is basically a filter. It can filter out the signal incoming from the pickups to the point of cutting it off completely (the volume knob) or filter out certain frequencies, acting as an in-built low pass filter (the tone knob).
Potentiometers affect the sound even just letting it pass through them, because the signal passes through the resistences and it gets somehow modified, even if the pot is totally open.
This is important, and it's also the reason why there are different types of pot choose from: to give us another tone shaping tool to adapt our guitar to the sound we desire.

Usually people chooses between 3 types of potentiometers: 250k (kiloOhms, the unit used to measure the resistance applied to the signal), 500k, and 1mh (megaOhm).
The higher the value, the higher the resistance so 500K has more resistance than 250K.
The lower the resistance, the easier it is for treble to leak right through the pot and get lost, even if the pot is fully open. 
The higher the resistance of the volume or tone pot, the more is the treble that stays in the audio signal and makes it to your amplifier when the guitar's volume and tone pots are on "10".


250K = warmer
The usual choice for single coil pickups, since a good part of the highs gets lost, therefore there is more room for mids and lows.

500K = brighter
The usual choice for humbuckers, which are less trebly than single coil.

1Meg-ohm = brightest
The potentiometer type that lets the most high frequences to reach the amplifier.

25k = active
This is the type of potentiometer utilized with active pickups; if used with passive ones, the result will be too dark and muddy.

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