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Tone Switching


reantel
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I was just thinking today about all the different tone capacitors out there and I had an idea for hooking different ones up to a switching system…2, 3 or 5 way switch, switching between different capacitor tones.

Does anyone know if this has been done? Better yet, is this even possible, logical, or legal?

Has anyone tried it? How would you wire this?

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Is it possible? Yes.

Melvyn Hiscock shows one way of doing it in his book, where he uses a double pole 4 way rotary switch, but you can use any kind of switch you'd like, depending on how many capacitors you want. Simply connect the switch where you would normally connect the cap on the tone pot, and the capacitors between the switch and ground

And, depending on where you are, it should be legal :D

Heggis

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I was just thinking today about all the different tone capacitors out there and I had an idea for hooking different ones up to a switching system…2, 3 or 5 way switch, switching between different capacitor tones.

Does anyone know if this has been done? Better yet, is this even possible, logical, or legal?

Has anyone tried it? How would you wire this?

Do you mean different value caps? You'd be created a switched tone control - might as well use a pot and have it continuously variable.

If you mean caps, all the same value, but different brands and types, e.g. polyester, ceramic etc, then the effect is very subtle. Some doubt it can be really heard even in hifi, much less for a guitar. Is it worth it?

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I was thinking about a similar idea, but with preset trimpots combined with the caps on a multiswitch. Being able to switch the cap(s) completely out of the circuit would allow a brighter over all sound.

Yeah... trimpots would be good to adjust each capacitor's tone to how you like it. Then when you switch to a cap, it would be at a good sounding preset tone instead of adjusting the tone with your tone potentiometer for each cap when you switch to it.

I've never tried this but, can you have different caps wired at the same time? does it change the sound..... possitively? Because then you can have just a bunch of on/off buttons or switches and combine tone caps. But I dont really know all that much about using capacitors for tonal use. I'll take a look at the electronic section of my Melvyn book.

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I was thinking about a similar idea, but with preset trimpots combined with the caps on a multiswitch. Being able to switch the cap(s) completely out of the circuit would allow a brighter over all sound.

Yeah... trimpots would be good to adjust each capacitor's tone to how you like it. Then when you switch to a cap, it would be at a good sounding preset tone instead of adjusting the tone with your tone potentiometer for each cap when you switch to it.

I've never tried this but, can you have different caps wired at the same time? does it change the sound..... possitively? Because then you can have just a bunch of on/off buttons or switches and combine tone caps. But I dont really know all that much about using capacitors for tonal use. I'll take a look at the electronic section of my Melvyn book.

Parallel filters will steepen the slope of the curve. If they are not quite at the same frequency, the curve will be flat up to the first, slope down to the second frequency, the double it's slope from there on up. Could be an interesting experiment.

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I ordered a few different caps and a few trim pots and a 5 position 4 pole rotary switch. i dont know if that switch will do what i want. i have no experience with rotary switches.........probably wasnt my best choice......but, i'll see what happens when i get all the parts in the mail.

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I was thinking of trying something like this. I don't believe that there is a lot of difference from all the mojo caps...a cap does what it does regardless of what it is made of...but the values and the resistances matter. In fact there is a formula to work it out.

It has been done before of course and I have been trying to find the just as good but much cheaper version...I thought guitar fetish might have had them as I think artec make them and most of GF comes from them...but can't find them now.

As most people don't even use a tone control...in which case the caps are doing nothing really and ideally would be switched out completely (which should be position one in such a tone control if you are making one by the way). Perhaps a more interesting version of this is the Varitone that Gibson put on 335's and some nighthawks and such...these use variable caps and resistors but also inductor coils to produce a range of tone cut effects.

Depending on the guitar and if you wanted to get complicated...you might be able to work out a way of switching in a small amount of the neck pickup in or out of phase with the bridge...or perhaps some kind of coil to boost or cut the midrange which could be a cool effect...but tricky I am sure.

Still good luck with it and post some results...have a look around and you may even fine the varitone like circuits around. I know there is one about that uses a tiny transformer to get the inbetween strat sound even with HB's which is supposed to work well...so there are options.

These ones priced at $79+ are a bit rich though, way over priced for what they are (a circuit made for a dollar or less of resistors and caps...not your mojo "orange drops" or anything either) and I know they can be had a lot cheaper...just can't remember where, but post a link if anyone finds them...

pete

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I'm more concerned with the values of the caps. I didn't go too extreme, I kind of just stuck with the normal range of tone caps...

-Ceramic Disc .001 MFD

-Ceramic Disc. 022 MFD

-Orange Drop .033 MFD

-Monolithic .1 MFD

-Poly Film .47 MFD

and some low resistance trimpots to dial in the tone of each one.

I dont know a whole lot about tone caps so i am kind of interested to see what happens.

If the results turn out interesting I might get some crazy value caps just to see the differents, most likely a darker undesirable sound.

But we shall see.

I did some looking around after looking at that stellartone site and saw some guitars with two different caps hooked up to a switch. I'll hopfull will have five different caps hooked up to a switch.

I kind of want to try wiring each cap to their own ON/OFF switch and combine them in different combinations.....would that explode or something?

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I was just reading a topic someone started about using a blend pot instead of a 3 way switch to blend/switch between his pickups. And that got me wondering how a blend pot would work with blending/switching with two tone caps. I'll have to try that one too once i get my capacitors in the mail.

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I'm more concerned with the values of the caps. I didn't go too extreme, I kind of just stuck with the normal range of tone caps...

-Ceramic Disc .001 MFD

-Ceramic Disc. 022 MFD

-Orange Drop .033 MFD

-Monolithic .1 MFD

-Poly Film .47 MFD

and some low resistance trimpots to dial in the tone of each one.

OK, speaking only about values here, there's not a lot of point in having different cap values. The formula for what a tone control (which is really a low pass filter) does is

F = 1/(2*pi*R*C)

If you double the cap size, that's EXACTLY the same as halving the resistance. So just use one cap, and multiple resistors (or trimpots at different settings) and you'll hear exactly the same thing (and save the cost of all the other caps). If you are using a trimpot as well as a normal tone control, the R in that equation is the total resistance.

Edited by bluesy
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I'm more concerned with the values of the caps. I didn't go too extreme, I kind of just stuck with the normal range of tone caps...

-Ceramic Disc .001 MFD

-Ceramic Disc. 022 MFD

-Orange Drop .033 MFD

-Monolithic .1 MFD

-Poly Film .47 MFD

and some low resistance trimpots to dial in the tone of each one.

OK, speaking only about values here, there's not a lot of point in having different cap values. The formula for what a tone control (which is really a low pass filter) does is

F = 1/(2*pi*R*C)

If you double the cap size, that's EXACTLY the same as halving the resistance. So just use one cap, and multiple resistors (or trimpots at different settings) and you'll hear exactly the same thing (and save the cost of all the other caps). If you are using a trimpot as well as a normal tone control, the R in that equation is the total resistance.

You make a good point. But i already got my caps. If this experiment becomes guitar worthy i will find a better, cheaper way of doing it.

I just got my caps and a 5 way 4 pole rotary switch and i am begining to think i should have gotten a different switch. In my head i picture using the switch to choose between 5 different caps but still have a master tone pot.

Configuration on a LP:

N_UltraFeat4.jpg

I need help wiring the switch.......it is very intimidating.

I got this switch.

http://www.guitarelectronics.com/product/S...ary_Switch.html

Should i get a different one?

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Ok. Just a quick update.....i got it all put together and wired how i thought it would work, but it doesn't work. its like the tone pot isn't there, (no tonal change) it doesn't do anything. so im pretty sure that the switch is hooked up in a way that it does absolutly nothing. if anyone has any experience or good recources in rotary switches I would EXTREMELY appreciate any guidence and help.

Thanks.

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There are different rotary formats...I would need to see a pic and the specifications and you may need to test connections with a multimeter. I also would need to see a diagram of what you have done and get a better understanding of what you think it you might be hoping for or trying to achieve...I am still a little lost about it.

Also, I saw an interesting thing of guitar caps in a long thread over at guitar nutz 2 that reminded me of this thread issues and cap mojo in general...Caps for guitar thread

It should not be too hard to make a rotary selecting tone control...but a full "varitone" is possible more the kind of thing you may be seeking. Basically, you are switching between various combinations of set resistor and cap combinations. These are RC networks (resistor/capacitor) that filter out frequencies. A varitone adds an inductor (basically a coil) which can have have some interesting effects as well. Some have even used tiny transformer coils to create strat like quack effects in this way :D

Wiring in various R/C chains should not be hard and I suspect that you have gotten the rotary connections confused (they can be confusing) so...mor info required...

pete

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The goal: have five different value caps in the guitar at the same time and be able to switch between them.

The trimpots are optional and certainly dont have to be used. the only reason for them is to help dial in a preset tone of the cap so you dont have to with the main tone pot.

Here is a blank tmplate of the 5 pos. 4 pole rotary switch i have. I got it at

http://www.guitarelectronics.com/product/S...ary_Switch.html

Blank5wayRotary.gif

Here is how I wired the guitar minus the pickup, but it is a normal humbucker, no coilspliting hooked up.

Alexs5wayRotary.gif

I only used the outer switch deck.

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Ahhh...I see your problem there...

In the colorful diagram you only need half of the top deck I think you will find so all of the ground wires on the right are completely unnecessary...

The problem is that the connection of the middle of the switch should be going to the ground...

so...the caps connect from the wiper of the pot to the switch (you got that right) and then from the switch middle (black wire, left side) to ground.

There is another possible error...the trim pots need to be wired from an outside connection to the middle wiper, if you have wired as the diagram suggests you will have a consistent 25K resistance regardless of setting by using the outer "legs"

As you have wired it, the switch is having no effect which is exactly what you are getting...connect black wire to ground and the problem should be solved.

I wonder if you might get some interesting results by putting some very different caps values in parallel with each other.

A setting with no connections at all would be most useful as the way you have it set up, when it works there will be always some tone control effect while having no tone at all will give a powerful non loaded sound (probably similar to what you have now or better). Another benefit to having a no tone selection is that you can easily use the switch to go between no tone and a tone setting preset by the tone pot of your choice.

I would also be looking at this as a first step in which case it is commendable.

In reality, the changing of tone caps (the trim pots are perhaps a little overkill) has more of an effect on the action of the tone pot than on the actual "tone" of the instrument. Given the rarity that people even use a tone pot (it is after all a reductive tone-sucking passive system that is draining the high end to ground, not enhancing/boosting like an active circuit) it's use is limited. Really, have a look around at Varitone circuits for inspiration, you appear to be reinventing this device.

You have a lot more switching power there to play with in future and a varitone kind of thing may be of use, and or "pickup characterizer" ... :D

For instance, I don't recall the pickups you are using but a cap on one coil of an HB can create a cool single coil sound that is still humbucking and has some increased warmth and bottom end (basically, tone full off on one coil only, full on for the other).

There is often a misunderstanding and a lot of intentional mojo about tone caps and such...they are not there to add tone, they are there to filter "tone" (mainly the high end and harmonic content and pickup efficiency where tone "lives") to ground...to get the most from your pickup no tone control at all is going to be the most "tone-full" if that makes sense.

Similar with cap brands, the audible difference is in the values, not the color or material that makes the component.

hope that helps you on your way...

pete

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I only used the outer switch deck.

You have a 4 pole switch, and each "deck" has 2 poles. You only need one pole for your application. As psw said, the centre pin on the left hand side of the "outer deck" (looking at your drawing) needs to go to ground. These pins near the middle of the rotary switch are the common connections that connect to each of the 5 pins around the perimeter, one at a time, as you turn the switch.

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Yes...so it would appear to be a reasonably powerful 4P5T switch which would make an effective super switch or some such for pickup selection like a PRS for instance.

While not totally convinced about this application (at least as it stands) if it did turn out to be something, you could substitute this rotary for as a compact 1p12t switch allowing you to switch in and out up to 12 different cap combinations...problem is you might not hear any difference :D

It may well be the start of something though...there are things that could be done but the tone cap alone is not necessarily one of them.

pete

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Well..........it works!

You can really notice the differences of the caps when you roll the main tone pot back a little. I fixed the trimpots so they work, i'll take it down to my studio and give each one a listen and dial in the tone for each cap, i'll try to record some of the different sounds. Thanks psw for your help, thanks everyone for your ideas and contibutions. I intend to do some more experimenting with this. Maybe i'll get a 1pole"X"throw to add some more combos. I want to try blending caps. Let me know if you have an idea you want me to try. Thanks again!

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Well done...I am glad it works and I do encourage you to try other stuff...you could for instance adapt the black/strawberry ice thing to it :D with a couple of suitable diodes...just a thought!

"1pole"X"throw" is a good way of putting it. I can get semi sealed rotary switches down here reasonably easily and I think the single pole has up to 12 possible. They have an adjustable stop ring so that you can set the number of 'steps' of the switch from 1-12 and adapt them later. The limitation is as you add poles...a 2xpole switch has a maximum of 6 steps...a 4pole like yours only 3 steps. But for simple exchange functions like yours, they can do a fair number and not much larger than a full sized pot.

good luck...keep us posted...glad I was of some help...(in real life I have trouble helping myself lately) :D

pete

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  • 1 month later...
Ok. Just a quick update.....i got it all put together and wired how i thought it would work, but it doesn't work. its like the tone pot isn't there, (no tonal change) it doesn't do anything. so im pretty sure that the switch is hooked up in a way that it does absolutly nothing. if anyone has any experience or good recources in rotary switches I would EXTREMELY appreciate any guidence and help.

Thanks.

Hello Reantel-

You have probly solved this by now, but here is the basic solution: The hot pickup wire should be connected to the center terminal of the rotary switch, each capacitor should have one lead connected to one of the outer terminals, and the other ends of the capacitor need to be connected to ground. (polarity/direction seem to make no difference) The rotary switch idea works great, you just have a wiring issue.

Best scenario is to solder a wire from the volume pot terminal where the hot wire connects to it (not the ground- most likely it comes from your pickup selector switch to the volume pot terminal) to the center terminal of the switch. All the caps can have one end soldered together and send that to ground- either the back of your volume pot or the ground of your output jack.

By the way, I've been messing with this concept for years on all my guitars, and the best sounding cap is.....drumroll, please.......3300 pf, aka .0033 mf. Definitely try that one.

I did something similar a few years ago to one of my guitars, it had a 6 position switch with 5 different caps. The problem is, there isn't much audible difference between the tones when using only capacitors. To REALLY upgrade your tone options, you have to include a coil (inductor) in the circuit! Cap + Coil (the right coil) = awesome. This is the concept of the 'varitone' circuit, except I don't use any resistors- they are not needed.

A Jarring difference in tone, sounds like you've changed amps, distortion pedals, guitars just by turning a switch! Pretty fun- guitar players always get bored & want more, this really helps, especially if your playing with a friend's amp and need more options.

So I recently experimented & came up with a 12 position rotary tone control using 10 capacitors & 3 coils. Some of the sounds are really different- one sounds like a fat fender tone, others high thin mid, others bassy- lot to choose from. I'm not down with the science of how this works, I am a tinkerer, and have tested tons of coils and caps, and this was the wildest collection I ended up with. Position 1 goes to ground & is like an off switch- great for playing a trick on your friends-they can't figure out why it doesn't work. Also there is one setting that sounds like dogmeat, another one to play a trick on your friends!

If you want more info, let me know- I can give you a parts list of the best combos of caps and coils. Keep up the modding- you should try at lest one coil!

:D

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I'd like to know more and what you found different combination's worked and sounded like for you. Would you be prepared to add them to this thread for future reference for others?

I mentioned this earlier on that this was kind of reinventing the varitone...but I think this was just a start...this one is interesting as it combines the switch with the tone pot...so it is not just caps, but you are right coils help a lot. Someone makes something using a tiny transformer coil, caps and resistors to make a fairly convincing strat inbetween sound switch on a dpdt switch pot.

BigDguitars...a member here makes varitone circuits too...

pete

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