Can I mod my tone/volume pots to brighten up my 85/15 pickups?

CakeEater

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Hi everyone,

So I've had my CU24 for about a year now. While I quite like the vocal qualities of it's 85/15 pickups, I always have this compulsion to roll the tone pot up a bit more, even though it's at 10. I guess I'm trying to take it to a hypothetical 11 or 12.

I've been playing a strat with Kinman Woodstock Pluses for years, and I'd like to move my CU24 a little more towards that vocal range of brightness.

Could anyone please advise on how I could do this?
Thanks!
 

LSchefman

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This may seem a bit obvious, and you’ve probably already tried it, but you could experiment with the treble and/or presence on your amp, or try an EQ pedal.

I mention this because sometimes we don’t think of it. All of my PRSes have different pickups, and I have amp settings I like for each of them; I also use an EQ pedal that’s based on vintage recording console designs, to further shape the tone coming off the pickups. But every so often I forget, and wonder what’s suddenly wrong!

Usually, though, I’m using the controls to get exactly what I want for my recording projects.

Tastes vary on this stuff, of course. I find myself cutting a bit of treble on my CU24 with 85/15s, because they’re so bright!
 

Tone-y

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Can't discount Les' response above about amp controls.

But as to the guitar itself there's not an awful lot that I can think of. Just really the value of the tone capacitor and the tone pot itself. Nominally it should have a 500ohm tone pot, but it's possible that it could be measuring low. The tolerance on tone pots can be quite a bit - though I readily admit I don't know if PRS has any particular screening process that filters out ones past a particular threshold. Anyway, if it's particularly low, it could be like your tone pot is stuck on 9/9.5 instead of 10. Putting a higher value pot on there would have the affect of seemingly going up to 10.5/11 so that might be an option. As is changing the tone pot to a 'no load' pot. These completely remove the pot from the circuit when put on full so you know you're getting all the treble you can. It won't increase it by much, but would probably get you to that imagined turned to 11 value.

The other option is the tone capacitor. I think a 0.033uf cap is probably installed as this seems to be the standard that PRS uses. A 0.022uf or a bit smaller will move the frequency point of the tone pot up a bit and make it sound a bit brighter.

One thing to check might be whether the 'treble bleed' capacitor is still properly installed across the volume pot. If it's not connected (I know I've unsoldered one leg on mine as I prefer them out of the circuit) then putting it back might increase your perceived brightness, specially if the tone cap is still 0.033uf.
 

pac90

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I echo the above, re the EQ being best bet

you may have a 'darker' than normal tone pot ie got one which is a lower value (but within the % tolerance), so its a relatively cheap swap out if you want, get a replacement from PRS store, although you have to solder and run lottery of the new pot value. You could breifly unsolder the pot and check what it reads I guess?

I have a darker guitar, an S2 with no maple cap, and find it matches the 85/15 perfectly. Just for reference there is no treble bleed cap on that stock S2 SC wiring, and it has an 0.033 tone cap, so I believe from what I see and what I have read that they normally tend to be brighter pickup set than most, with same circuit attached.
 

CakeEater

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Thanks for all your feedback.
I completely understand where you're coming from with the amp EQ. I suppose my philosophy is if I can brighten the tone pot, then I can keep it open for more brightness, or roll it off to get back to where I am now. I pretty much never roll the tone pot off at the moment, so it's not really functioning as a control.

I also try to set-and-forget my amps and pedals, and just control tonal ranges from the guitar, mainly because I'm prone to going down the rabbit hole of tone tweaking, and it's a means of discipline for me to avoid that.

It seems like I have options to experiment with the tone pot's capacity, and the treble-bleed capacitor on the volume pot if understand correctly. I've never messed with this kind of stuff before, but maybe now is the time to learn and experiment.

Thanks!
 

Tone-y

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I have a darker guitar, an S2 with no maple cap, and find it matches the 85/15 perfectly. Just for reference there is no treble bleed cap on that stock S2 SC wiring, and it has an 0.033 tone cap, so I believe from what I see and what I have read that they normally tend to be brighter pickup set than most, with same circuit attached.
very interesting, I had a 0.033uf tone cap on my guitar, and when I took the treble bleed off I thought it was just a hint darker than before. I changed the tone cap to 0.022uf (which is a pretty default value) and got it back to where I wanted. I assumed that the choice of the 0.033uf tied in with the treble bleed. though as you say, nothing wrong with PRS tuning the values for a particular guitar/pickup.
 

Tone-y

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Thanks for all your feedback.
I completely understand where you're coming from with the amp EQ. I suppose my philosophy is if I can brighten the tone pot, then I can keep it open for more brightness, or roll it off to get back to where I am now. I pretty much never roll the tone pot off at the moment, so it's not really functioning as a control.

I also try to set-and-forget my amps and pedals, and just control tonal ranges from the guitar, mainly because I'm prone to going down the rabbit hole of tone tweaking, and it's a means of discipline for me to avoid that.

It seems like I have options to experiment with the tone pot's capacity, and the treble-bleed capacitor on the volume pot if understand correctly. I've never messed with this kind of stuff before, but maybe now is the time to learn and experiment.

Thanks!

It could also be partly what you're used to. If you are mainly used to the sound of a Strat with Kinman Woodstocks (I also played a strat with woodstocks for years) then the CU24 will sound darker compared to that. And a quick tweak of the amp between a bright single coil and darker humbucker guitar would be fairly normal. I know what you mean by not wanting to get too bogged down in tweaking settings, but it doesn't have to be too laborious, have a quick twist of the treble knob when you have the CU24 plugged in, maybe going from a 5 to a 7 say, and see what that does for you. Then just go between those two settings.
 

LSchefman

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I understand the concept of set-and-forget, though I don’t do that myself for a variety of reasons. However, one thing that might be very easy is to simply have an EQ pedal that you set, forget, but switch on when you use the CU24, as opposed to the Strat. One stomp, boom, done!

Not that I’d suggest a particular EQ pedal for anyone else, but I use a Pettyjohn Filter EQ that (to my ear) adds a nice “thing” to the tone, and I like it so much it’s very nearly an “always on” kind of pedal.

Or...set the amp up brighter for the CU24, and roll the tone back on your Strat.

Or...this is often overlooked...try different cables (shorter will preserve more high frequencies); another thing you might try: I also use a dedicated, high quality buffer at the beginning of my pedal chain to preserve high frequencies. Talk about set and forget, most buffer boxes don’t even have controls (mine does, but I’m weird that way)!
 

garrett

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Wow, I find 85/15 to be quite bright for humbuckers and really wouldn't want anything brighter. I think as suggested so far, the two guitars exist in different tonal worlds and that's okay.

My ramblings:
You can tweak the overall pickup and pole piece heights on the Custom. It's really not a big deal to turn a couple EQ knobs on the amp when you switch guitars. You could try a 1meg volume pot and/or a no-load tone pot on the Custom. Use a higher capacitance cable with the Strat and a lower capacitance cable with the Custom.
 

pac90

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very interesting, I had a 0.033uf tone cap on my guitar, and when I took the treble bleed off I thought it was just a hint darker than before. I changed the tone cap to 0.022uf (which is a pretty default value) and got it back to where I wanted. I assumed that the choice of the 0.033uf tied in with the treble bleed. though as you say, nothing wrong with PRS tuning the values for a particular guitar/pickup.

It's stock prs S2 wiring apart from the pickup change and they nailed it, really useable range, much better than any of my previous 'experiments' with my SE
I just had the pickups from a random ebay evening, you know, beer, the weekend, ebay searches, next thing you know...
 

CakeEater

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Thanks again everyone. My main amp right now is a 68 Deluxe Reverb RI, and my main overdrive is a Strymon Riverside. I also spend an equal amount of time playing through a helix into good monitors/headphones.

It could very easily be just personal preference, but my first impulse when playing through any amp with the CU24 is to turn up the presence or brightness. So at a certain point, I thought maybe brightening the guitar a little would be the better solution. I don't have access to any other CU24s to compare the tone with my own, but it does sound bright and crisp unplugged, so I don't believe it's the guitar body itself.

There are some great options given here that I can consider. I'll be taking my strat to a tech soon to get the neck set, I'll bring the CU24 along and see what he thinks of the pots and your suggestions. I'd also like to say that I'm not dissatisfied with the CU24 tone, it's absolutely the best guitar I've ever owned, (my guitar teacher says it's the best guitar he's ever played, and he's a Les Paul die-hard). I'd just like that extra notch on the tone knob.

I'll try configuring the amps a bit more too. Maybe if you spend years taming a bright guitar with your amp, that's the paradigm you get used to, I'll play around with my amps some more and see.
 

Tone-y

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Thanks again everyone. My main amp right now is a 68 Deluxe Reverb RI, and my main overdrive is a Strymon Riverside. I also spend an equal amount of time playing through a helix into good monitors/headphones.

It could very easily be just personal preference, but my first impulse when playing through any amp with the CU24 is to turn up the presence or brightness. So at a certain point, I thought maybe brightening the guitar a little would be the better solution. I don't have access to any other CU24s to compare the tone with my own, but it does sound bright and crisp unplugged, so I don't believe it's the guitar body itself.

There are some great options given here that I can consider. I'll be taking my strat to a tech soon to get the neck set, I'll bring the CU24 along and see what he thinks of the pots and your suggestions. I'd also like to say that I'm not dissatisfied with the CU24 tone, it's absolutely the best guitar I've ever owned, (my guitar teacher says it's the best guitar he's ever played, and he's a Les Paul die-hard). I'd just like that extra notch on the tone knob.

I'll try configuring the amps a bit more too. Maybe if you spend years taming a bright guitar with your amp, that's the paradigm you get used to, I'll play around with my amps some more and see.

Sounds like if you're always wanting to turn your tone pot to 11 then either a 1meg ohm pot/no load pot is probably the answer - providing that the cause of your desire isn't because the pot you have in there at the moment is abnormally low, so would be interesting to get that measured first. Then maybe a change in tone capacitor
 

Jazzedout

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IMHO, a pedal is your solution. Engage for the one guitar, disengage for the other.

Now the way I see it there are 2 options:
1. You set your rig based on your Strat and you get an EQ to engage when playing the Cu24
2. You set your rig based on the Cu24 (that is what I would do) and get a clean boost with a tone pot to engage with a Strat. Roll off the tone, and give a boost the signal and Voila!! you have equal level and nice tone at once for both guitars.

My 2p, YMMV and all that...
 

Rider1260

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I would try playing with the pickup height and the pole pieces to fine tune, in your case possibly raising the pickups a bit should brighten things some .
 

LSchefman

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If it’s me (and ymmv), I set the amp up for the CU24, and just roll back the guitar tone on the Strat. But it isn’t me.

Individual preferences are a wonderful feature of human existence. They assure that we remain uniquely ourselves.

I wish you a good journey in your Quest For Tone!
 

Ironwolf

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It reminds me of back in the day quite a while ago, my first guitar was a Fender Stratocaster, with $49 amplifier.
I ended up buying a Fender hot Rod deluxe, very happy sounded Really good with the Stratocaster, the overdrive channel was useless, but I did buy an overdrive pedal.
so I was getting Reasonably good tones at moderate gain, of course clean Crunch was great. but then I bought a Gibson SG, I couldn't seem to get a good tone out of the amplifier so I blamed it on the guitar. So I sold the guitar, bought another humbucker guitar, Same problem too dark to bassy, Got very mighty very quick. Had a hard time getting them to sparkle, it finally dawned on me that the amplifier was not good for humbucker's, I do just think they get along really well even awesome with single coils and not so well with humbucker's,

so I took the guitar to the guitar Center, ended up going home with a Mesa boogie Mark five, all problems solved every guitar sounded good, the EQ controls could adapt to every pickup. I couldn't wait to sell the fender. although I have to say I do miss the reverb tank I think that's what originally attracted me to the amplifier when I had the Stratocaster, excellent reverb.

so I actually think those pickups which are very reminiscent of 1958 PAF, but still hotter, very close to 9K resistance, will probably just not get along with that amplifier, I believe You can get a good tone, but you'll have to work extremely hard to get a great tone. once I got my Marshall JVM, every humbucker equipped guitar sounds awesome.
so I'm just thinking out loud brainstorming, I also have a helix which is really good, but it's very bass heavy bias, And easily has way too much gain on tap, I get great results by automatically dialing the bass control down to 1 or 2, Same thing gain set at 2 to start. then bring it up if it needs more.
I've actually started doing that on every amplifier I test, I roll the bass control down to zero, it's amazing how good the guitars sound with that EQ knob all the way to zero, Of course bringing back a little bass makes the tone even sweeter, but I was surprised how much bass remains in the All of the amplifier circuits.
so that might be one trick is to really dial way back on the bass perhaps.
You should be able to get some tremendous sounds from the helix, I put my Marshall amp side-by-side with the helix and dialed all the controls till I had identical tone Out of each amplifier it was amazing I could not tell which amplifier I was plugged into, Had my buddy clicking the AB switch.
And like I said all the knobs on the helix were considerably lower settings than the knobs on the Marshall.

This could be just the excuse you need to buy a PRS amplifier, seriously Sonzera 20? Sonzera 50
 

Matte82

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I second the 1 Meg pot idea. But measuring yours first is a good idea. Make sure it doesn’t have an out of spec one.

If you don’t use the tone control, you can disconnect it for a more open sound.

And lastly an EQ pedal can help here also. I have a source Audio programmable eq pedal.

The idea was to have different settings for different guitars. But I mostly use two guitars that tonally sound enough alike. My 594 and a strat copy with BG v60 pickups. They actually work well together. The 594 is bigger with more mids and low mids and drive, while the strat is just a bit leaner, and “jangly’er”, but not weak. It still has good lows and mids. Anyway just some options to think about.
 
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