Pot Values – How do they affect my sound?

The big question… Do I use 250k, 300k, 500k, or 1meg pots in my guitar?

Well… the answer is… it depends.

The way pot values work is this:

  • the lower the number on the pot (25k, 100k, 250k, etc), the more highs the pot will attenuate (or bleed off) from your signal
  • the higher the number on the pot (500k or 1meg), the more highs the pot will allow through to your signal
  • a 1meg pot will allow, virtually, the tone of a raw pickup to shine through (which may or may not be a good thing depending on the pickup)

So, if you are going to rewire your Stratocaster with 3 single coil pickups, single coils already produce a very high amount of treble and, without the correct pot value, could end up sounding very thin, very  and “ice picky”. 250k pots are the way to go here. They bleed off more highs than 500k pots making them just right for your single coils.

On the other hand, if you are rewiring your Les Paul with a pair of humbuckers… Humbuckers produce more lows & less highs than single coils. If you used 250k pots on your humbuckers, it would make them sound VERY dark and, possibly, muddy so the correct pot value here would be 500k. If you’d like them to be darker, you can drop down to a 300k.

Now… what if you have a Les Paul with P90s in it? Those are single coil pickups. Using this logic, the right pot value would seem to be the 250k pots but, let’s look at P90s a little deeper. P90s might be a single coil pickup but they have a coil that is closer in construction to a single coil. The shorter the coil, the less highs that it produces and a P90 has a coil that is about the same height as a humbucker coil. The right pot value for a P90 is a 500k.

There are a LOT of variations and none of them are wrong. For instance, let’s say that you wanted very bright sounding humbuckers. Using a 1meg pot will allow, virtually, 100% of the raw pickup tone through to your signal. It attenuates (bleeds off) virtually, nothing. Want a VERY twangy Tele? Use a 1meg pot and let all of that Tele tone through! Using a 1meg pot on your stock Strat, though, may result in a REALLY thin sounding guitar.

I hoped this help demystify pot values a little. If not, drop me a note and I’ll be happy to answer any questions that you might have… jack@hoaglandcustom.com