SG Special P90 - Different Tone Knobs

Kyle Lanning

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Hey everyone,

Brand new to the group, first post!

I have a 2019 SG special in sparkling burgundy that I bought used. It came with everything from the factory and still had the plastic on the pickguard. Only thing I knew was not original was the case as the guy I got it from switched the brown case for a Canadian TKL custom shop case.

Long story short, I played it for several months, fell in love with it and then noticed something strange. It seems every single picture of these guitars (the red and blue versions both) have black top hat knobs with mirror reflectors. Mine has all black knobs. I didn’t really care at first but it just kinda bugged me after a while, thinking that the original owner may have swapped them out. Then I noticed that my tone pots don’t really do much from 1-4 and I thought maybe the guy had switched out the pots too but thought this might be due to the fact that I have PCB and not handwired pots. The strange thing is, my guitar’s “baby picture” from the factory shows the all black knobs. I reached out to Gibson customer service to inquire on whether a small run went out with all black knobs, or if it’s possible that mine was put together this way by mistake. To add to my paranoia, I recall the guy I bought it from really stressing that it came with all the case candy and he made sure I saw the picture was in there... maybe it means nothing but who knows?

Have any of y’all seen any specials with the all black knobs? Thanks in advance for any responses!

Kyle
 

fuzbuzz78

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Sounds like You have the limited edition SG Special that was released in fall 2018. They had all black knobs, and a PCB board for the electronics. The reason your knobs make very little difference in a change to tone or volume is the PCB board. Once Gibson added the specials to their regular line up in 2019, they switched to hand wired electronics and the reflector knobs.
 

Col Mustard

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Welcome to ETSG! You have a lot of choices.

Since your SG is one of a limited number, you may choose to leave it stock
(which I think might be a wise choice)... and just play it as it is, and enjoy it
as it is, and value its unique features.

But if you are not satisfied with the way the controls work, you have the choice to
get a new wiring harness installed, and whatever knobs you like best. You might
decide that you can work with the controls the way they are, and make good music
with this instrument as issued. And you might decide that your music needs a
guitar with controls that are more responsive to your style, and therefore change
the instrument.

"Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will answer both no and yes..."
I can't help you make your decisions, only lay out the options as I see them.
Congratulations on getting a fine and unusual SG, and good luck with what
ever you decide to do.
 

Kyle Lanning

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Hey guys!

Thank you both so much for your quick responses! I wish Gibson’s customer service was that fast and detailed!!

I guess late fall 2018 makes sense considering mine obviously has one of the non traditional serial numbers and it just starts with 19 as it was considered a 2019 model.

I’ll probably leave it as is as you said - I’ll tell myself it’s “because it’s limited edition” but I’ll know in my heart that it’s “because I have no reason whatsoever to play a P90 without it being wide open because that’s the reason I bought it for anyway” haha

Again, I sincerely appreciate the info and the welcoming to everything sg! I look forward future posts and discussions!
 

fuzbuzz78

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Hey guys!

Thank you both so much for your quick responses! I wish Gibson’s customer service was that fast and detailed!!

I guess late fall 2018 makes sense considering mine obviously has one of the non traditional serial numbers and it just starts with 19 as it was considered a 2019 model.

I’ll probably leave it as is as you said - I’ll tell myself it’s “because it’s limited edition” but I’ll know in my heart that it’s “because I have no reason whatsoever to play a P90 without it being wide open because that’s the reason I bought it for anyway” haha

Again, I sincerely appreciate the info and the welcoming to everything sg! I look forward future posts and discussions!

I too am a proponent of leaving guitars stock. However, in the case of the PCB, I would highly recommend swapping to hand wired electronics if you do you use the Volume and Tone knobs regularly. If you just play wide open, it won’t matter too much. The only issue with replacing the PCB is that the pickups will have to have to quick connect ends cut off so you can solder them to the pots, or you will also have to replace the pickups. If you like the reflector knobs better, there’s no harm in swapping them. Whatever you do, for the love of SG god, keep all of the original parts in the pocket of the case and never let them separate from the guitar! One day everybody will be putting those all black knobs on and the guitars will sell for $100 more of the have them.
 

Kyle Lanning

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fuzbuzz78 - Yeah I would definitely keep them if I swap them for mirrored knobs but I don't think I will at this point. I honestly don't mind the look at all, and might even say I prefer it. The all black knobs seem to sit a little high (the bottom of the knobs sit probably a good 1/2" above the guitar's top) but no one can see that except if you're looking down from my angle when playing it. If anything, that may help speed up the process when I'm rolling off the pots a little bit because my pinky naturally grabs under them a wee bit. I think the root of my issues is me being a bit of a snob. I bought this guitar long before I started reading about them and it wasn't until I read Gibson's page saying they were hand-wired pots that I even thought to look. As somewhat of a "traditionalist" (aka snob), I was disappointed to open the back cavity and see the PCB and it was at that point that I was a little off put. I even temporarily considered trading it. When I got it back out of the case to take pictures of it to post for trade, I got a nasty feeling like I was doing something stupid. I then strapped it up, played it for 2 hours and realized how dumb I was being. My example has a very VERY dark rosewood fretboard with incredible red streaks, extremely low action that is in perfect intonation (even with the lightning wrap tail) and the P90s do exactly what I bought them for - satisfying my need for a sound that is way thicker than my strat, but crystal clear as compared to my LP standard. I really would have regretted parting with it.

Thanks again for your intel. I hope everyone has a great weekend!
 

jonnyfez

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My 2019 Pelham blue Special is the later version without pcb. It also came with the all black knobs. It left the factory that way too. I preferred the reflector style so I swapped them out. Looks better.
 

skelt101

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It wouldn't surprise me if Gibson used both knob styles for these guitars, whether "limited" or regular production runs. I have a '19 with PCB that I'm pretty sure shipped with reflector knobs, but I changed them out for witch hats. I know they used different styles of tuners. Mine came with press-fit bushings, and I've seen bolt-on bushings too. It might have been a case of whatever parts they had on hand...
 

Bad Soldering

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fuzbuzz78 - Yeah I would definitely keep them if I swap them for mirrored knobs but I don't think I will at this point. I honestly don't mind the look at all, and might even say I prefer it. The all black knobs seem to sit a little high (the bottom of the knobs sit probably a good 1/2" above the guitar's top) but no one can see that except if you're looking down from my angle when playing it. If anything, that may help speed up the process when I'm rolling off the pots a little bit because my pinky naturally grabs under them a wee bit. I think the root of my issues is me being a bit of a snob. I bought this guitar long before I started reading about them and it wasn't until I read Gibson's page saying they were hand-wired pots that I even thought to look. As somewhat of a "traditionalist" (aka snob), I was disappointed to open the back cavity and see the PCB and it was at that point that I was a little off put. I even temporarily considered trading it. When I got it back out of the case to take pictures of it to post for trade, I got a nasty feeling like I was doing something stupid. I then strapped it up, played it for 2 hours and realized how dumb I was being. My example has a very VERY dark rosewood fretboard with incredible red streaks, extremely low action that is in perfect intonation (even with the lightning wrap tail) and the P90s do exactly what I bought them for - satisfying my need for a sound that is way thicker than my strat, but crystal clear as compared to my LP standard. I really would have regretted parting with it.

Thanks again for your intel. I hope everyone has a great weekend!

You can get quick connect adapters for around $15 on eBay. Same plug as what's on the PCB, just with leads that you solder onto the pots. They're what I've got now and they're working great. Going back to the PCB is just a matter of de-soldering the ground wire.
 

Kyle Lanning

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It wouldn't surprise me if Gibson used both knob styles for these guitars, whether "limited" or regular production runs. I have a '19 with PCB that I'm pretty sure shipped with reflector knobs, but I changed them out for witch hats. I know they used different styles of tuners. Mine came with press-fit bushings, and I've seen bolt-on bushings too. It might have been a case of whatever parts they had on hand...
I like the vintage look of my tuning keys but the gear ratio isn’t my favorite. Not great for minor adjustments.
 

Kyle Lanning

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You can get quick connect adapters for around $15 on eBay. Same plug as what's on the PCB, just with leads that you solder onto the pots. They're what I've got now and they're working great. Going back to the PCB is just a matter of de-soldering the ground wire.
Awesome! Thanks. I’ll have to look into doing that!
 

Bettyboo

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I like the vintage look of my tuning keys but the gear ratio isn’t my favorite. Not great for minor adjustments.

I put new Kluson 18:1 strip button style tuners on mine, and I'm very happy with them.
3.jpg

Side by side, new/old:
12.jpg

Before and after:
20200108_162152.jpg

18.jpg

They are a functional improvement (as well as looking nicer to my eye).

But, for me, the biggest weakness for this model is the lightening bridge, so I added Faber locking nuts (due to the advice of folks who know this model very well over decades...), and that was the single biggest improvement to tuning and general stability:
1.jpg
20.jpg

This Special is a 2019 with PCB (just has an additional short vibrola as a limited run, but it has the reflectors):
20200108_161641-1.jpg


As an aside, related to your original point: my 2018 Junior came with the black knobs, and I like them. I've noticed absolutely zero difference in functional usage between them and the reflectors on my 2019 Special - both work and look great, imho.
8.JPG
 
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Kyle Lanning

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I appreciate your comments and pics. I love the tuners you replaced and on a side note, that Jr. is a great looking guitar. I think the only thing that would set the special over the edge from a solid 9.5 to a 10 would be a transparent finish.
 

PermissionToLand

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fuzbuzz78 - Yeah I would definitely keep them if I swap them for mirrored knobs but I don't think I will at this point. I honestly don't mind the look at all, and might even say I prefer it. The all black knobs seem to sit a little high (the bottom of the knobs sit probably a good 1/2" above the guitar's top) but no one can see that except if you're looking down from my angle when playing it. If anything, that may help speed up the process when I'm rolling off the pots a little bit because my pinky naturally grabs under them a wee bit. I think the root of my issues is me being a bit of a snob. I bought this guitar long before I started reading about them and it wasn't until I read Gibson's page saying they were hand-wired pots that I even thought to look. As somewhat of a "traditionalist" (aka snob), I was disappointed to open the back cavity and see the PCB and it was at that point that I was a little off put. I even temporarily considered trading it. When I got it back out of the case to take pictures of it to post for trade, I got a nasty feeling like I was doing something stupid. I then strapped it up, played it for 2 hours and realized how dumb I was being. My example has a very VERY dark rosewood fretboard with incredible red streaks, extremely low action that is in perfect intonation (even with the lightning wrap tail) and the P90s do exactly what I bought them for - satisfying my need for a sound that is way thicker than my strat, but crystal clear as compared to my LP standard. I really would have regretted parting with it.

Thanks again for your intel. I hope everyone has a great weekend!

If you don't mind me asking, what's your serial number? I haven't seen any others with Bell knobs and very few listings show the control cavity, so I'm wondering if you have one of the earliest ones built in late 2018.
 

Kyle Lanning

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If you don't mind me asking, what's your serial number? I haven't seen any others with Bell knobs and very few listings show the control cavity, so I'm wondering if you have one of the earliest ones built in late 2018.

I don't mind - 190044759
 

PermissionToLand

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Kyle Lanning

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Yeah, so that would likely be a late 2018 or early 2019 build, because it still has the old serial number format.

I did end up finding another with the specs you've described:

https://www.themusiczoo.com/products/gibson-sg-special-2019-limited-vintage-sparkling-burgundy

Does yours have Wilkinson tuners too?
I searched high and low and never found one. Mine is EXACTLY like that. Thanks for putting in the time to find it. Good to know there are others out there - otherwise the "rarity" of the one I have might go to my head and cause me to think I was special :)

I'd say the only difference in mine and that one - and honestly most that I've seen - is that mine has an incredible fretboard. As compared to my LP, it is super dark, even after I recently conditioned my LP. But it is only dark looking from afar. Upon closer inspection, it has these gorgeous red streaks. It is legitimately one of the nicest examples of a rosewood fretboard I have personally ever seen. The pics below don't do it any justice but I figured I'd give it a shot :)
IMG_6828.jpg IMG_6830.jpg IMG_6831.jpg
 

PermissionToLand

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I searched high and low and never found one. Mine is EXACTLY like that. Thanks for putting in the time to find it. Good to know there are others out there - otherwise the "rarity" of the one I have might go to my head and cause me to think I was special :)

I'd say the only difference in mine and that one - and honestly most that I've seen - is that mine has an incredible fretboard. As compared to my LP, it is super dark, even after I recently conditioned my LP. But it is only dark looking from afar. Upon closer inspection, it has these gorgeous red streaks. It is legitimately one of the nicest examples of a rosewood fretboard I have personally ever seen. The pics below don't do it any justice but I figured I'd give it a shot :)
View attachment 43793 View attachment 43794 View attachment 43795

That's a very nice shade of reddish brown!

So your tuners are marked Wilkinson as well? Because most are "Gibson Deluxe" and I just want to rule out the possibility they're aftermarket so I can add this info to the Wiki.
 


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