Question about Volume / Tone controls

Discussion in 'Gibson SG' started by Buffalo SG Dude, Jun 3, 2018.

  1. Buffalo SG Dude

    Buffalo SG Dude New Member

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    I've played all my life (almost 40 years now) and believe it or not, I've never played a Gibson before. Always been set on bridge pup with tone fully open type of player. Anyway, picked up a 2018 SG Special. Man, wish I had tried this before. This has quickly become a revolutionary moment for me and wow, my favorite guitar now. Maybe it's the "slim taper" neck, the light weight, it just fits me better than anything ever has, all of the above - whatever.

    Anyway, a question about controls. Not sure if this is how it's supposed to be on this particular guitar, on all such Gibson setups, or if something is wrong. Tone control positions are irrelevant to this question. Neck pup selected, works great and as expected. Bridge pup selected, same thing. But, when I'm in middle position with both pups active and both volumes all the way up, it's fine. If I roll off, say the neck volume, it slowly rolls off with the rear volume becoming more prevalent however when that vol control reaches 0 all sound is completely cut off. Nothing. Go back to 1 and the other pickup comes back on. Slowly roll up and the neck pup slowly gains back into the mix. The same is true if reversed: if both vols are all the way up and I slowly roll off the bridge vol control, the bridge pup slowly lessens in the mix until I hit 0 on that bridge vol control and then bam, all sound is cut off even from the neck pup.

    Now I can learn to do some cool stuff with this behavior but seems to me if one vol control is completely rolled off to 0 I should simply be left with only the other pup producing output ..rather than it also completely shutting off at that 0 point.

    Hope that made sense. Is this normal behavior for Gibsons with this pup/controls setup or for this specific SG or do I have something not working right?
     
  2. Daniel.S

    Daniel.S Well-Known Member

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    Hm now you’ve got me thinking haha!
    I think that’s normal from memory.
    I’m sure some of the other guys can shed some more light on this.
     
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  3. donepearce

    donepearce Well-Known Member

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    Normal behaviour, I'm afraid. It's because of the way the selector switch is wired. Any volume control backed off to zero shorts out the whole signal. On my SG I have reversed the hot and centre contacts on my volume controls so this doesn't happen.
     
  4. Daniel.S

    Daniel.S Well-Known Member

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    Any negative effects from doing that?
     
  5. donepearce

    donepearce Well-Known Member

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    Not that I've ever found.
     
  6. S.Ustain

    S.Ustain Active Member

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    I do think that is likely normal for the wiring currently being used. I dislike it. It's a small thing, but since I usually fine-tune my electronics (cap values, modern wiring, treble bleed) I eliminate this effect. Since I use the PU selector to choose which PUs are active, and since I don't think I ever use the low, low end of the volume knob travel, this particular quirk is a non-issue for me. Still, I clean it up.
     
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  7. plankton

    plankton Well-Known Member

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  8. DrBGood

    DrBGood Well-Known Member

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    OH ! It's that simple ? I think I'll do the mod to all my 4 pots guitars tonight !
    Thanks for bringing it up SG Dude and thanks Donepearce for the tech point.
     
  9. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    Welcome to ETSG!
    Yes, it works fine both ways IMHO (and in my experience).

    I've decoupled the volume controls when I re-wired one of my guitars, and
    then gone back to "fifties wiring" on the recommendation of my luthier.
    He explained it to me in terms of tone loss with the decoupled controls
    and purity of signal with the fifties wiring... I confess that I didn't understand
    the whole explanation, but went with his recommendation because he knows
    his stuff.
    He's been to Luthier School, and has an excellent reputation, so
    I listen when he speaks.

    You'll read posts on this forum and many others that discuss the claimed benefits
    of "fifties wiring" (which is what normal Gibsons have, stock from the factory).
    "fifties wiring" is what the OP describes.

    IMHO it's not unusual for players unused to Gibson guitars and their quirks
    to struggle with this, and either come to love it or hate it and change it.

    You can also find and read posts discussing the decoupled volume controls and the claimed
    benefits of that. I'm sure you can google it and find 'shoot-out videos" where the guys
    play both for you and you get to listen.

    My suggestion is to do this, read up on it, listen a lot and make up your own mind.
    My suggestion also is to play your new Gibson as designed, until you are
    familiar with how it works. Then you'll get a clear understanding of what's being
    discussed. Then you'll know if you want to change it.

    At this point in my guitar odyssey, I have both of my SGs with fifties wiring, and I'm
    used to it and it works fine for me. It feels traditional and gives me no problems.
    I have one of my Epiphones wired with the controls decoupled, and that one works
    fine for me as well. Personally, I wouldn't say one was "better' than the other.
    I like my instruments to have unique voices, so I enjoy the differences.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2018
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  10. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    Dan Earlewine explains it quite well in his book: "How to make your Electric Guitar play Great"
    and has a diagram of how to wire it. He also explains it in his DVD "How to Wire Gibson Guitars"
    which I bought and studied as I was modding my prized SG.

    https://www.stewmac.com/How-To/DVD/...ing_DVDs/How_to_Wire_a_Gibson_Guitar_DVD.html

    StewMac includes wiring diagrams when you buy hum buckers from them, and I'll bet you
    can download those online from their website.

    I believe that decoupled volume controls are considered "modern wiring."
    I agree with Don... I am unable to hear any negative tone quirks when using it.

    Fifties wiring pre-dates all of the tone shaping equipment that modern players
    have at our toe-tips. For someone (like me) who plays with their bridge pickup wide open all the time, it's a non-issue. But if you actually USE the controls on your guitar, (such as volume swells with your little finger) then the differences come into play.

    Lucky us, we have all these choices.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2018
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  11. Buffalo SG Dude

    Buffalo SG Dude New Member

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    Thanks to everyone for all the great info. Very cool.
     
  12. Paul G.

    Paul G. Well-Known Member

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    It's the way Gibsons work. I've been playing Gibsons since 1969 and it never bothered me.

    You can decouple the volumes, but it doesn't mean anything to me.

    I like "50s" wiring and that's what I use. Never thought about it as a negative.

    P.
     
  13. plankton

    plankton Well-Known Member

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    Just to be clear, decoupled volume pot wiring and "50's wiring" are not the same thing.

    50's wiring is when you connect the tone pots via the middle lug of the volume pot rather than the outer one, as shown in this diagram,

    SGWiring 50s.png

    To decouple the volumes you move the hot wire from the pickup to the middle lug and shift the wire running to the switch on to the outer lug.

    At least that's how I've always understood things.
     
  14. Buffalo SG Dude

    Buffalo SG Dude New Member

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    I really don't have a problem with it at all. Really just wondering if it was normal. Since I'd never really played one b4 I was just surprised and wondered if it was by design. Good stuff to know. Since I'm a traditionalist personality to the core, and the fact that I'm constantly chasing tone, I believe I'll leave the 50s wiring as it is.

    One thing that's really does bother me is the pcb in these new guitars. I think I threw up a little when I saw that. ...but it sounds great so oh well. I'll probably take the opportunity to strip that piece of junk out and wire properly first sign of something wrong with it.

    Hey, so there's 50s wiring and modern. When did they switch back to 50s as they did with this 2018 model? Just curious.
     
  15. Paul G.

    Paul G. Well-Known Member

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    50s wiring keeps the treble when you roll down the volume, but loses volume when you roll down the tone.

    Modern wiring keeps the volume when you roll down the tone, but loses treble when you roll down the volume.

    The reason "modern" wiring is used is that the interaction of the tone controls in the middle position is more linear and predictable.

    I use volumes controls a lot, so I personally prefer the old-style to preserve clarity with the volume lowered. Many people play wide open, or nearly so...in that case "modern" may be more controllable.
     
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  16. DrBGood

    DrBGood Well-Known Member

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    You might never "have" to do it then.
     
  17. DrBGood

    DrBGood Well-Known Member

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    Depending on wich pups, I often play with the volume rolled down to 8. Don't loose that much on volume, but I find it gets the pup in its sweet spot, mellows it clean and OD.
     
  18. plankton

    plankton Well-Known Member

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    I use my volume controls a lot to dial in the amount of gain. I've tried both 50's and modern wiring and have found I prefer modern but with Kinman-style treble bleed circuits to deal with the issues Paul G mentioned above. If you're handy with a soldering iron it's easy to try all these different things out and find what works best for you.
     
  19. cerebral gasket

    cerebral gasket Well-Known Member

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    I recently installed a Kinman zero-hum P-90 in the bridge of my SG Classic which has rendered all my other SG with humbuckers obsolete. It sounds that good.
     
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  20. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    I like the way Paul G explains the difference above... My luthier got a bit more convoluted
    than that, and I didn't really get it all.

    For players like me, who set the volume controls in one position and play it like that
    almost all the time, the difference in wiring doesn't matter much. That's my experience
    anyway, and reading Paul G's explanation helps me understand why.

    I like middle position too, with my neck p'up about 8 and my bridge p'up set at 11.
    That's my sweet spot especially with the '57 Classic and Classic plus. I usually control
    volume with pedals.

    If I had a guitar with a PCB, I'd likely leave it be, and play it as designed...
    and then all of a sudden I'd yank it
    and replace the whole wiring harness with something upscale.
     

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