Make Your Les Paul sound Great!! Part #2

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Make Your Les Paul sound Great!! Part #2

Postby Don Butler » Fri Jun 19, 2009 6:08 pm

Well... as I said at the end of Part 1, This would be about pots and caps. What I look for it a pot is clarity. I've tried just about everything on the market these days as well as old ones from the `50's & `60's. the ones made by Centralab and CTS in the `50's & `60's have a great taper and a nice openess to them.. Most today don't have that. Both Gibson and Fender use the cheapest ones they can get, Gretsch uses a bit better quality CTS pot. Centralab hasn't been in business in a few decades. I've tried almost every pot made today.
The two best pots I've found are both made by CTS. One is the 500K's that are made for Dr.Vintage. These have a great taper and alot of air quality to them when you have them wide open or turned down. The other one is the RS Guitarworks SuperPot. Both of these are their interpitation of the old Centralab 500K audio taper pots used by Gibson from `53 to `65. Fender has almost always used CTS Pots (usually 250K audio taper's). Gretsch used IRC's and then CTS. Let's face it, the quality of these back in the day was so much better than was most companies use for stock pots these days. Like most companies where the bottom line is the most important factor, anywhere they can cut costs is always going to be the main thing. Makes one wonder why on a $7K Les Paul Historic they use garbage pots. It seems to have sprouted a small cottage industry for pots made the way they were made 50 years ago. The only two I'll use are the Dr.Vintage or the RS SuperPots. I love the tapers, the resistance reading of them is over 500K(I've seen lots of pots marked 500K that were in the 420K-450K ohm range..) and quality of the build is like what you would have bought 50 years ago. sure they're extra price-wise, but they will really let the sound of your guitar and pickups come thru better. Now some guy with a EE degree will tell you a 500K pot is a 500K doesn't matter who made it.. Bullshit! Your ears can tell you and it only take a few minutes to swap one out.
Caps: there alot of caps on the market touting to sound as good or better than the old Sprague Bumblebee's or the P160's. Early Bumblebees were paper in oil, later ones and the P160's are mylar film. the crappy repro's that come in custom shop Gibson's are a shitty polypropelyene Wesco .022/400v cap housed in an old Sprague Bumblebee-looking piece of plastic. now another factor is where the pot is wired onto the volume pot because that will make a big difference. If it's wired onto the lug where the pickup input is wired onto the pot, it's going to make the pickup sound darker and even darker still when the pot is rolled back. You want to wire it to the center lug of the pot, which is the output of the pot. when you wire it to the center lug(or wiper of the pot) it will sound clearer and stay clear when you roll the pot back.
Caps are suggestive, it's like what's your favourite pickup.. I like Paper in Oil like old Spragues. You can find russian military surplus paper in oils that sound great. I personally avoid any ceramic disc cap as they sound harsh and muddy when rolled back. the best way is to buy a handful of different caps and clip lead them into you tone control. Find the one that sounds best to your ears..
Coming soon.. Part#3
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Re: Make Your Les Paul sound Great!! Part #2

Postby Epidrake » Fri Jun 19, 2009 6:56 pm

Keep 'em coming Don! That was great.
“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, that he not be wise in his own eyes. (Prov. 26:4–5).
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Re: Make Your Les Paul sound Great!! Part #2

Postby Paladin » Fri Jun 19, 2009 7:04 pm

Another good post Don! I've already got the caps sorted on mine but this is great info for those that haven't experimented in that area.
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Re: Make Your Les Paul sound Great!! Part #2

Postby Epidrake » Fri Jun 19, 2009 7:36 pm

Does this kind of modification reduce the value of your guitar? I have a Historic Goldtop, which is not as valuable as a flame top but it's holding its own compared to what I paid for it.
“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, that he not be wise in his own eyes. (Prov. 26:4–5).
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Re: Make Your Les Paul sound Great!! Part #2

Postby Paladin » Fri Jun 19, 2009 7:42 pm

Epidrake wrote:Does this kind of modification reduce the value of your guitar? I have a Historic Goldtop, which is not as valuable as a flame top but it's holding its own compared to what I paid for it.


On a newer guitar I think that it is a matter of opinion. Would the buyer appreciate the upgrades and better tone or not? I would, as long as the work was done properly and I would want the original parts for the grand kids to reinstall should it affect the value a hundred years from now. ;)

Some purist may turn their nose up at any mods but if they are reversible, why should it matter?
Propaganda is a soft weapon; hold it in your hands too long, and it will move about like a snake, and strike the other way.
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Re: Make Your Les Paul sound Great!! Part #2

Postby Don Butler » Fri Jun 19, 2009 8:06 pm

Most people I know would conside the better quality pots and caps a good upgrade and shouldn't devalue the guitar. You can always save the old parts and include them with the sale if you sell your guitar. Most folks that I deal with want their Historic's to be as close to the real deal as you can get. My R-4 Goldtop and R-7 Custom have Dr.Vintage pots and `50's Sprague caps. My R-0 standard has Dr.V volume pots and 1960 Centralab 500K pots for tone. My `62 SG/ L.P. Std reissue has a full set of Centralabs from the 40th week of 1961. I traded for a complete harness with Kim @ Vintage Checkout. It has 4-pots, a switch, jack and two of the original.022 disc caps that gibson used on the early SG's. Don't care much for disc caps, but in this guitar they sound pretty nice and is waht was used. the only soldering and unsoldering that's ever been done to the harness was the pickups unsoldered from it and the harness removed. It was a "beyond repair" damaged SG/LP that Kim owned and parted out..
In fact the only new parts on my SG/L.P. are the body, neck and a set of Throback SLE-101 Ltd. pickups. all the other parts(plastic, tuners, screws, bridge, studs tailpiece, etc are all from `61 or `62. It's about the closest thing I'll ever own to an original SG/ Les Paul without spending $20K. I've compared it to about 7 or 8 original SG/LP's and it sounds nearly identical to those old beauties!
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Re: Make Your Les Paul sound Great!! Part #2

Postby Don Butler » Fri Jun 19, 2009 8:10 pm

BTW, these days I usually buy guitars to keep and not to upgrade or improve and sell later. Every guitar I have now is a keeper and I'll probably sell them in 20 years when I retire (if I ever retire...)
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Re: Make Your Les Paul sound Great!! Part #2

Postby Epidrake » Sat Jun 20, 2009 12:43 pm

Thanks Don, that's what I thought. Great advice!!!
“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, that he not be wise in his own eyes. (Prov. 26:4–5).
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