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Guitar pots are also known as potentiometers.
Electric guitarists tend not to think about them, because they are more interested in playing their instrument and getting the desired tone out of their gear than in fiddling with the electronics and construction.
Ironically, pots can play an important role in your tone and getting the right potentiometer(s) for your guitar could make the difference. So, it’s worth thinking about replacements.
You might be interested in killing some of your guitar’s frequencies, or maybe you want to replace your guitar’s cheap pots. Either way, here are the best guitar pots and where to buy them.
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Seymour Duncan YJM-500 Hi-Speed Volume Electric Guitar Pot 500k
Seymour Duncan is a well-known name in the guitar pickup space. Naturally, they would know how to make a great guitar pot too, right?
As you may have guessed from its name, the YJM-500 pot was designed in collaboration with the legendary Yngwie Malmsteen. So, it better be good.
Well, Seymour Duncan doesn’t disappoint. The construction and design are robust, and the special Seymour Duncan lubricant allows for smooth operation too.
The YJM-500 works for both volume and tone control. And, you don’t need to use it alongside Seymour Duncan pickups. You can choose whatever humbuckers suit your style.
CTS 450G Series 250k Short SOLID Shaft Audio Taper Potentiometers
If you want the CTS 450G, you’ll need to buy a pair. That’s not so bad when you consider the price.
Their 250k rating make them perfect for single coil pickups, and if you happen to have two dials you want to replace, you’ll like having the pair.
These robust pots offer 10% tolerance, which makes them a little less accurate than pro pots, but that’s not a problem if you’re still a beginner or developing guitarist.
For a quick refresh, it’s hard to argue with the CTS pots.
Fender Stratocaster Start 5-Way Wiring Kit – CRL Switch – CTS Pots
Let’s start with the basics. The Fender Stratocaster five-way wiring kit is ideal for players with Start style guitars and five-way switching.
The wiring kit comes with more than just potentiometers, which probably explains its price point.
A great product for anyone looking to upgrade their Strat or give their old Strat a bit of a refresh.
But do check your Strat’s setup before purchasing this piece of gear, as it may not be an improvement over your current equipment unless your guitar is old, or your pot is a cheap one.
This kit comes with a GRL five-way switch, a CTS 250k with split shaft pots and a Switchcraft output jack.
When Start players are looking to replace their guitar’s electronics, these are usually the components they seek out.
This kit should help you clean up your tone and keep your guitar in good working order.
Again, this product is perfect for owners of Strat style guitars where a five-way selector switch and three single coil pickups are used.
Also note that depending on your guitar, the pot shafts won’t be a perfect fit. You might need to use a drill to create the right amount of space for them.
DiMarzio 500k Push-Pull Pot
DiMarzio creates some killer pickups. It’s no surprise that they also deal in guitar pots.
Naturally, the 500k push-pull pot is perfect for DiMarzio humbucking pickups but they also work great with split coil pickups because of the well machined shaft and push-pull mechanism.
The push-pull feature works great and doesn’t have any negative effect on your signal.
The DiMarzio pot is durable, long lasting and functional. Worth a look for anyone with a humbucking or split coil setup.
Kmise MI0321 Guitar Wiring Harness Prewired Two Pickup 500k Pots 3-Way Toggle Switch Chrome
Here’s another option for humbucking guitarists, especially those who have two pots and a three-way pickup switch.
The MIO321 is affordable, high-performance and are prewired, making the installation process straightforward.
At 500k resistance, we know it’s best for double coil pickups and will offer a solid tone.
But it is worth mentioning that the installation process will require soldering, and there are no instructions that come with the potentiometer.
Aside from that, the Kmise is a great product.
WD Music WD500 Full Size 500k Pot Split Shaft
Not that guitar pots are especially expensive, but the WD500 is quite cost efficient. And, it’s still a quality piece of equipment.
As you may have guessed from the name, the WD500 is rated for 500k, making them ideal for humbuckers.
The WD500 will act as a perfect replacement for pots that are starting to fail and could even be a bit of an upgrade over your existing pots.
Highly durable, easy to install and worth the money. Your tone will clean up nicely with this potentiometer. But it’s not as good as other products on this list.
Either way, it’s hard to argue with the WD Music pot, as it’s amazing value for the money.
What Should I Look For In A Guitar Pot?
Guitar pots aren’t complex by any means. A significant part of your buying decision will likely come down to whether you’re looking to refresh old pots or give your guitar an upgrade.
We also know that guitar pots aren’t expensive, though installation is somewhat technical, especially if you’re buying an entire wiring kit.
So, with that in mind, here are a few factors worth considering when you’re looking to buy new guitar pots.
Guitar pots should feature solid construction and be reliable over the long haul.
Though potentiometers aren’t terribly expensive, it doesn’t make much sense to have to constantly replace them.
Sure, you might want to exchange pots every once and a while, but it shouldn’t be all that frequent.
If in doubt, check the customer reviews to see what people have had to say about the pot or wiring kit you’re thinking about buying.
New pots should make your guitar sound cleaner. They should also be smooth.
Volume and tone controls should work perfectly without issue.
Once installed, your pots should bring some life back to your guitar and help to create a great sound.
Of course, a guitar’s tone isn’t exclusively reliant on pots. But when you’re switching out pots, you should notice a difference/improvement.
The Right Resistance Rating
I’ll be sharing more about resistance ratings in a moment.
For the most part, pots are either rated 250k or 500k and you should buy a pot that’s matched to the type of pickup you’re using.
So, 250k is best for single coils while 500k is best for double coils. It’s not that hard – it’s just good to know.
What Is The Difference Between 500k And 250k Guitar Pots?
Guitar pots have different resistance ratings. The most common ones you will find are 500k and 250k.
250k is generally a perfect complement to single coil pickups while 500k is well-suited to humbucking pickups.
Now, just in case – single coil pickups are generally what you would find on a Strat style guitar.
They have a bit of a thinner tone, but that’s also what makes them perfect for certain genres like blues, funk and sometimes rock. They also tend to offer more high-end clarity and a bell-like tone.
Contrast that with humbucking pickups, which are basically like two single coils squashed together. They are sometimes called double coil pickups.
You’ll see humbucking pickups on a variety of guitars, but perhaps the most relatable example is a Les Paul style guitar.
Tonally, humbucking pickups tend to have a fat, warm sound and long sustain that comes alive with overdrive and distortion.
You’ll hear guitars with humbucking pickups being used on rock and metal, but depending on the style of guitar and pickups, you’ll also hear them being used for jazz and blues.
There are no limitations one way or another. You don’t need to use one type of pickup for a certain genre.
It usually just comes down to what you want your guitar to sound like.
Using anything less than 500k resistance with humbucking pickups will cause you to lose some of the treble and definition, though some players opt for that.
Since humbucking pickups are already warmer than single coils, most players don’t want to lose whatever high end they have.
That’s about all there is to know about resistance rating.
When Choosing Pots, Does It Matter What Type Of Guitar I’m Using?
Yes, it does matter.
So, before doing anything else, look at your guitar. How many pickups does it have? Are they single or double coil? How many dial knobs do you have?
Earlier, we looked at the Kmise prewired pots. The MI0321 is not of much use to you if you don’t have two pots and a three-way toggle switch on your guitar.
Since it’s rated 500k, it’s also made with humbuckers in mind.
Likewise, 250k pots are generally best for single coil setups.
So, knowing how your guitar’s electronics are set up is crucial.
Also, in some cases, the pots you buy won’t fit properly. It’s worth looking at the applicable measurements for your guitar as well as the potentiometer you’re thinking about buying.
Assuming you pay attention to the above, you should be equipped with the knowledge you need to make an educated buying decision.
Top Guitar Pot Brands
While there are a lot of great guitar pot brands, here are some of the best:
Best Guitar Pots For Metal & Other Genres, Final Thoughts
When it comes to creating your ideal tone, it might seem like fiddling with the finer aspects of your guitar’s electronics is a waste of time.
But we all know how important pickups are. They account for roughly 80% of the guitar’s tone.
The remaining 20% comes from other components, the player, tonewood, effects, amp and so on.
It’s safe to say that any component that’s closely related to the guitar pickups (such as the potentiometer) is going to have an impact on your guitar’s tone.
So, is it time for you to replace your guitar pots? If you aren’t sure, talk to a qualified guitar tech.