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First-time Builder Needs Advice On Pots, Caps & Switches


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Hi guys,

I'm putting together a Strat out of an old '71 or '72 hardtail body and a Fender Re-issue neck, plus a set of nice hand-wound pickups. My question is this: am I likely to waste all the money I've spent on sexy pickups and nice bits of wood if I put the guitar together with the cheap pots and five-way switch found on pre-loaded pickguards sold on Ebay for £25/$40?

I sort of suspect I should be buying nice Fender 250k pots and using two tone caps etc, but I don't know enough to understand why. And I'm too mean (and poor) to splash money around if it isn't necessary. All feedback welcome!

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I certainly can't tell the difference in sound between different brand pots. The sound between different brand caps I can tell, but that's quite often because cheaper caps are made to a lower tolerance spec - if that cap is rated to with a 15% tolerance, it might be quite larger or smaller enough in value to effect the sound. I haven't been able to hear the difference between different types of caps in the simple circuits used in a guitar, but those with golden ears may be able to.

The nice thing about electronic components like this is that you can easily swap them out later for nicer quality ones.

I do like to buy nicer pots than the cheap ones, but more for reliability's sake than sound quality. I don't bother buying Fender brand pots, however, I usually purchase nicer CTS brand or comparable pots from an electronics supply company.

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Hi Nog,

Yes it would be good to buy Fender pots but when the money is tight you will be OK with cheaper pots. The

problem will be that over time, the carbon track will break down a little and release tiny bits of carbon which

will make the pot crackle. If this happens, replace the pot concerned which shouldn't be too expensive with

cheap pots. A better way and not much more expensive is to use cermet track type plastic pots. This will be

a good compromise. The best way is to use wire wound track pots but, if you can find them in the value you

require, they will be very pricey.

Hope this is of use.

Colin Bryant

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I am pretty much right on board with J Pierce on this. Different brand and price pots sound the same to me. The only time I would say to spend the money on actual Fender pots or other electronic parts is if you are working on a vintage instrument. Otherwise, they cost more and there are better quality that cost less because they are not Fender. CTS is a great brand, there is another top brand that I can't remember right now.

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