Volume And Tone Controls

After quite a few feedback e-mails asking what value pots I’ve used on my guitar wiring, I’ve put my thoughts on volume and tone control pot values on this page.


I’d love to write a great essay here about how and why volume pots work but a better man than me has got there first! Have a read of Alan Ratcliffe’s excellent page on volume pots, and don’t forget to check out the second article which talks about Treble Bleed mods, something I plan to experiment with some time…


Tone controls are different from volume controls because they’re not wired in the same way – tone controls are wired as variable resistors (just a resistor with a value that varies between 0 and the pot’s highest value) providing a varying degree of isolation from the tone capacitor which is in parallel with rest of the guitar circuit i.e. the pickups and your amplifier.

I’ve experimented a bit with tone controls – I have a Strat that switches between either a 500k master tone pot or a TBX tone control. The effect of the 500k pot instead of the usual 250k is that it just has more range. It’s a log pot so when set to about ‘7’ it has a value of 250k and above that it gets higher. Effectively it’s like a regular tone pot that goes up to ’15’, if you see what I mean…!

Value-wise, for a standard tone control I’d always go for a 500k tone control because that gives you all the range you’d have with a 250k pot but some extra range at the top end – if you find it too bright you can just turn the control down a bit.

I still use the stock Godin pots in my HSH design and, to be honest I can’t remember what they are and I didn’t pay any attention to them at the time of the mods! 🙂

At the moment, I’m using a Fender TBX tone circuit a lot and I’m trying to find some time to make some frequency response measurements to compare standard tone circuits and the TBX control so this page is very much still in development!

9 thoughts on “Volume And Tone Controls”

  1. Can a tbx tone control act as a blend/p.u select-type knob for for a fender pj bass setup modified? I have V,V,T,all 250k,cap=standerd bass value..p-bass p.u works fine,nothing from the bridge jazz pick up,tone control works fine..Thinking I don’t have enough/correct pots for set up.. very cool website btw..T Y..

  2. The tbx tn cnrl pot I just bought came as a blender pot w/ the caps and all,fender made. But can I use it as a volume blend pot w/out use of the caps of course..and just as is..like a replacement..even though it is sold/made as a tone control?..Yes the site is very useful..next step of course..:)..TY for writing too..

  3. I’ll give it a shot. The values yeah,could be different,create different sound from p.u’s,’mess around see what happens. The caps are different too(multi-color and drop caps). It came in 250, so i’ll roll some dice :D..Thanks for link too, all info..best info..Stewmac has one for vol but think it’s only in 500,may be wrong…But yeah man,independent websites,still the best,cheers to ya andy..: )

  4. Nice site! The TBX’s explanation on “http://www.guitarelectronics.com/category/wiring_resources_guitar_wiring_diagrams.wiring_faqs/#q3” isn’t correct. The TBX means Treble Bass eXpander and it’s a normal tone pot till 5….5 to 10 it increase the bass AND the treble.

    1. Thanks Reinaldo but that’s not quite right about the TBX… it’s a passive control so it can’t actually increase any levels, it can only cut from what’s already there. Any shaping of tone it does, it does from attenuating.

  5. Hi your links to volume pots are not available but I have a question. I’m lead to believe that 500k pots are more suited to humbuckers and the 250k suited to single coils and my guitar has a pickup configuration of humbucker, single coil, humbucker what would be the best choice of pot for this configuration?


    1. Hey Andy, good question. I’ve got a feeling they use higher values in HSH guitars but you’d better trawl the internet to confirm.

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