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  1. #1
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Pups Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Sorry for the dramatic headline, just thought it would get your attention, ha ha !
    Seriously though, if a pickup is made in all respects to capture the elusive tone of a great PAF, can wax potting have an adverse effect on achieving that end?

    I say this as I was dissappointed to find the Burstbuckers in my R7 were wax potted, and have since found that only 'aftermarket' purchased Bustbuckers now come as standard without wax potting, why did Gibson do this?

  2. #2

    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    I personally think that potting doesn't affect the direct tone as much as it does little characteristics, such as percussive little chirps, howls, and clank (IYKWIM). I think it is very subtle, but it is there. The unpotted ones just sound a little more alive IMO. Not as constrained. That said, Angus Young used potted pickups back in the 70's and he had a very articulate sound (Listen to "Ride On" solo). The Burstbuckers are fine if you get a good set.

    My unpotted Antiquities do not feedback any more than my potted '57's and Burstbuckers even with lots of gain, so I don't think it's that big of a deal unless you are playing nu-metal or something.
    Last edited by les strat; 04-04-08 at 07:53 PM. Reason: Cause I spell like Todd L.
    "So I let the poison go, 'cause baby I always know it'll be there for me"

  3. #3

    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    .
    "So I let the poison go, 'cause baby I always know it'll be there for me"

  4. #4
    Les Paul Froum Member
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Les Strat speaks the truth, BUT it is those subtle things that sets the better PAFs apart!! The difference in tone, that elusive, subtle difference is what most people are seeking. It is just that different people may be seeking different subtle aspects...personal taste. I am not a fan of wax potting myself.

  5. #5
    Les Paul Forum Member Humbuck's Avatar
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Eddie's tone didn't seem to suffer from it.

  6. #6
    Les Paul Forum Member Leña_Costoso's Avatar
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Conceptually - the tone may improve with potting.

    It has been argued that, potting reduces the subtle vibration of the windings, thus "killing" the tone that that produces.

    It can also be argued that those vibrations in and of themselves may be killing tone, and the elimination of them might improve tone.

    Doesn't amount to a hill of beans to me either way. If it feeds back, and its not the cover doing it, then pot it, move on. If it doesn't feed back, it aint broke - SO DONT FIX IT.

  7. #7
    Les Paul Forum Member PaulSG's Avatar
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    I think ear wax affects tone more.

  8. #8
    Les Paul Forum Member uOpt's Avatar
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    I plan to pot my Antiquities some day and I'll let you know.

    Personally, what I'll test first when it comes to these little things is pickguard mount versus humbucker ring mount versus wood mount. Not as destructive to the pickup.

    Both experiment will reveal how much movement of the coils against the guitar base do to the sound. I expect it to be more noticeable than fiddling with capacitors and pots (as long as you don't do all pots and caps at once).

  9. #9
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    If you mix the wax thin and don't leave the pu in the pot more than 6-7 minutes, the effect on tone should be somewhere between zero and negligible.
    "Only if there is a God who created man is man worth anything beyond the chemicals of which he is composed."

    -- Dennis Prager

  10. #10

    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    You shouldn't need to ot a PAF even with a cover so long as it's been assembled well.

  11. #11
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Thanks, Well I certainly havent suffered with skreeches and feedback from using unpotted pups, so far..

    I have a set of unpotted Burstbuckers from the first yr of manufacture and they are my favorite Gibson pickup to date, and Im not dissatisfied with the present pups in the R7, they have pretty much what I want in a pickup.

    So, the concensus seems to be that if potting has an effect, that effect is small and not detrimental to the tone of a repro PAF type pickup.

    I believe I hear a difference in unpotted pups at high volume, could that be the effect refered to by earlier posters to the thread I wonder.
    It could be that the SPL is actually moving the coil windings perhaps and creating an almost indefinable 'something' in the sound were hearing, its all interesting stuff really, Im quite gealous of these pickup makers who get to experiment withall these varied perameters, cause the reality seems to be that we are now able to recreate almost perfect PAF pickups for the first time ever, and Im enjoying the fruits of their hard work, cool, eh?

  12. #12
    Formerly fishnose
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Quote Originally Posted by PaulSG View Post
    I think ear wax affects tone more.
    Hmm, we'll have to subject this hypothesis to a controlled test:

    If everybody collects earwax for say the coming month or so, then we all send it to Paul, and he can try potting a suitable PAF with all the earwax.
    And of course record identical tracks before and after with the exact same equipment - the only way to make a fair judgment if this hypothesis is correct.

    Okay, everyone agreed on this? Good.

    Paul, could you put up your postal address so we know where to send our envelopes of wax

    :] Fish

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  13. #13
    Les Paul Forum Member Black58's Avatar
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    When volumes are up (like most of us like it), the most minute details are also WAY up. EVERYTHING matters. Personally, I'd rather stand in one particular spot sending great sounds to great people than something runnin' 'round the stage like MTV 1988 with my balls on fire! Music or theater? Ask yerself wath'cha really NEED to do!

  14. #14
    Les Paul Forum Member el84ster's Avatar
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    I've had the same pickup non potted and potted and I can tell you there is a fairly large difference. It seems to get rid of some of that klanky kinda sound that gives a PAF so much character.

    THere are some clips around here on some thread where a dude compares the same pickup potted and un potted. You can hear it. A little less...detail. It's almost like the difference between cover off and on...something in the high end...something not quite as open and detailed.

  15. #15

    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Normally when I'm speaking of mods and things, I like to think of what the non-musician people in the crowd would be able to hear and what they wouldn't. Suffice to say, I probably consider more things negligible than most folks here on the forum (like the half-ounce difference from this tailpiece to the next, etc.).

    However, I had some unpotted burstbuckers that squealed on me pretty bad once I put covers on them. So I potted 'em. Not only could I DEFINITELY hear the difference (which caught me by surprise), the bloody things still squealed too. And yes I clamped them before soldering.

    Anyway, I agree with the description above. They weren't as "articulate" or "crisp" as before.....
    If you can't get the tone you want from a Fender or a Gibson, you don't need it!!!!

  16. #16

    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    from what I read years ago, eddie used surfboard wax melted in an old coffee can, and dipped an old gibson pickup rewound by him to have more turns.

    he had some pretty great tones out of thhat old plank of wood with an old pup screwed into it.

  17. #17
    Les Paul Forum Member reswot's Avatar
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Eddie lied a lot, too...

  18. #18

    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    So who was really playing on those VH albums? ;-)

  19. #19
    Les Paul Forum Member Mr Fuzzy's Avatar
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Quote Originally Posted by Minibucker View Post
    So who was really playing on those VH albums? ;-)
    Ibanez Destroyer on the 1st album, non trem stuff.

  20. #20

    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    It was Eddie, though, right?

    Those destroyers were cool, too. Is that the one on the Women And Children First album cover?

  21. #21
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Ahhh Eddie. The guy who couldn´t rewire a strat style guitar (hence the one volume knob frankenstein) but he re-wound a PAF and potted it to get his tone. Not sure which one of those I believe. Don´t get me wrong, anybody who knows me knows that I think Ed is one of (if not) the greatest talent(s) alive. I just get tired of the BS and wonder where "The truth" is.

  22. #22
    Les Paul Forum Member roadrunner's Avatar
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Quote Originally Posted by Sol View Post
    Sorry for the dramatic headline, just thought it would get your attention, ha ha !
    Seriously though, if a pickup is made in all respects to capture the elusive tone of a great PAF, can wax potting have an adverse effect on achieving that end?

    I say this as I was dissappointed to find the Burstbuckers in my R7 were wax potted, and have since found that only 'aftermarket' purchased Bustbuckers now come as standard without wax potting, why did Gibson do this?
    To answer your question precisely...

    Gibson pots the stock pickups to keep the guys that play with a lot of gain happy. It's a "cover all the bases" move to keep customer complaints down; because the first guy that plugs his Rwhatever into his Mesa/Marshall 35 knob, 6 channel, Super-Wonder-RockGrinder-5000watt-GainMaster Double stack in his bedroom, turns everything up to deafen the neighbors at the end of the block a quarter mile away... and gets the least little bit of squeal out of his pickups, then gets on the internet and whines that his guitar sucks... Well,

    That guys sets off a chain of like complaints to the company by other bedroom heros with the same setup... and Gibson would rather not deal with all that... hence, potted pickups.
    Achieve the Possible!


  23. #23
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Thanks, good thread.
    Ill continue to use unpotted pickups, there is something to this, even though I can only hear this at higher volume levels, and as a blues based player Im not using rectifier levels of gain anyway, and dont have feedback issues, the burstbucker's get very close to the only genuine PAF I ever heard up close, although Im sure some builder has got closer to that sound than Gibson has, if youve a name feel free to reveal all, because Im always looking on my personal tonequest, arent we all?

  24. #24
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    I'd like to do a lie detector test on the Rev. and EVH and see which pegs out the needle harder. Face it, most of these guys won't give the straight on tone since its their rice bowl and they love their endorsement $. I am surprised at how close mouthed their techs are though, they must sign a contract.

    D

  25. #25

    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Quote Originally Posted by Drawrein View Post
    I'd like to do a lie detector test on the Rev. and EVH and see which pegs out the needle harder. Face it, most of these guys won't give the straight on tone since its their rice bowl and they love their endorsement $. I am surprised at how close mouthed their techs are though, they must sign a contract.

    D
    Don't forget Page.
    "So I let the poison go, 'cause baby I always know it'll be there for me"

  26. #26
    Les Paul Forum Member Black58's Avatar
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    It's all a combo of talent and equipment trial and error. I'm certain EVERYONE here has made their own little discoveries that they do not wish to share and they shouldn't, either. I guess, when yer famous and some weirdo with a tape recorder is in yer face and won't go away, it's best to give 'em something interesting to chew on so that ya can finally go enjoy a good shit that you've been waiting on for half an hour!

  27. #27
    Les Paul Froum Member
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Quote Originally Posted by Drawrein View Post
    I'd like to do a lie detector test on the Rev. and EVH and see which pegs out the needle harder. Face it, most of these guys won't give the straight on tone since its their rice bowl and they love their endorsement $. I am surprised at how close mouthed their techs are though, they must sign a contract.

    D
    My vote is for Ed. I remember in his interview in Guitar Player mag: when asked about his solo on "On Fire" Ed claimed he just winged it on the spot in the studio as if it were a one take masterpiece. Then I started to collect bootlegs of old Van Halen stuff and they were playing that song at least two years before they put it on the record and there is Ed playing the solo note for note to what wound up on their debut album. He lied about almost everything he ever talked about in interviews in those days. I especially like his story on his use of the Variac.


    GP: Did you plan the solo in “On Fire”?

    EVH: No. It’s funny -- I wanted to do a melodic solo and the guys go, “Pretend you’re John McLaughlin!” So then that solo came out. I don’t even know what key I’m playing in! I just started playing and it fit perfect. That’s how a lot of it works -- totally spontaneous. It’s not like I decided, “I’m going to start here and end up there.”

  28. #28
    Les Paul Forum Member hogy's Avatar
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Yes, it kills much of the magic. We just had two long threads about this, with sound clips.

    First one here:

    http://www.lespaulforum.com/forum/sh...d.php?t=142553

    Continued here:

    http://www.lespaulforum.com/forum/sh...d.php?t=142854

  29. #29
    Les Paul Forum Member Leña_Costoso's Avatar
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    could add to the magic too......!~

  30. #30
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Wax potting reduces microphonics. When those are reduced/removed, the perception can be less dynamics and high end...

    Much the same way that many people mistake the hiss of low quality resistors as presence/high end articulation in vintage amps.

    Why did Gibson wax pot their pickups- because the majority of live musicians don't enjoy microphonic feedback; or having to mash down on their pickup cover to stop the squealing...
    (IMHO) <----flame retarder!

  31. #31
    Les Paul Forum Member Leña_Costoso's Avatar
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    If the microphonics were phase opposed to the high end, then you could be getting more sparkle by potting. It would not take too much to kill the upper end with anything... so the supposition of phase alignment being the motivator of high end attenuation, holds.

    Thing is... its totally .... case by case if best.

  32. #32

    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Quote Originally Posted by Skoorbdooh View Post
    Ahhh Eddie. The guy who couldn´t rewire a strat style guitar (hence the one volume knob frankenstein) but he re-wound a PAF and potted it to get his tone. Not sure which one of those I believe. Don´t get me wrong, anybody who knows me knows that I think Ed is one of (if not) the greatest talent(s) alive. I just get tired of the BS and wonder where "The truth" is.
    It's probably way simpler. I read in an article that Eddie had the same problems as many guitarists have and tried to solved them with the least amount of money involved.

    1. He liked the tremolo arm of his strat but the band thought the guitar sounded thin. At the same time he had a LP Junior which he liked very much but that P90 hummed like crazy. So the solution was to put a humbucker from a 335 on the strat. There you go - wiggle stick and fatter tone. I doubt that Eddie himself rewound the pickup but he may have potted it.

    2. The strat with the Fender wiggle stick did not stay in tune for the dive bombs - here comes the Floyd Rose.

    3. The 100 W Marshall was too loud for the club gigs. The solution was a resistive load off the main amp and into separate power amps.

    So it basically comes down to function. Same with potting pickups. What good is the magic of an unpotted pickup if you cannot use it with the gain and loudness levels you want/need because it squeals like a banshee? The only answer is potting or getting a different pickup that sounds the same/similar and does not squeal. On the other hand I use one set of pickups which I know is not potted and yet it does not squeal. If pickups squeal at low volume and medium gain they just were not made right.

  33. #33

    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Quote Originally Posted by Spencer Mumford View Post
    You shouldn't need to ot a PAF even with a cover so long as it's been assembled well.

    I have heard this from literally 4 different boutique winders and 800 plus bucks later, they all went the way of ebay due to uncontrollable squealing.

  34. #34

    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    How much gain do you use? I take it PAF's weren't really designed/meant for Soldano/triple rectifier levels.

  35. #35
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Quote Originally Posted by darkbluemurder View Post

    So it basically comes down to function. Same with potting pickups. What good is the magic of an unpotted pickup if you cannot use it with the gain and loudness levels you want/need because it squeals like a banshee? The only answer is potting or getting a different pickup that sounds the same/similar and does not squeal. On the other hand I use one set of pickups which I know is not potted and yet it does not squeal. If pickups squeal at low volume and medium gain they just were not made right.
    Exactly. I love my Voodoo '59 set, but in a live band setting they squealed badly as soon as I stopped playing (even in between chord chanes, or song stops). I potted them myself and while I noticed a SLIGHT loss in dynamics and complexity, the feedback was eliminated.

    FWIW, I noticed more tone effects from the different rooms I played in than any pickup waxing.

  36. #36
    Les Paul Forum Member Black58's Avatar
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Quote Originally Posted by Minibucker View Post
    How much gain do you use? I take it PAF's weren't really designed/meant for Soldano/triple rectifier levels.
    No. '50s tehnology, man.

  37. #37
    Les Paul Forum Member In The Light's Avatar
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Quote Originally Posted by les strat View Post
    That said, Angus Young used potted pickups back in the 70's and he had a very articulate sound (Listen to "Ride On" solo).
    That was 1976 - what are you basing your assertion on regarding Angus' pickups being potted? Thanks.
    "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

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  38. #38
    Les Paul Froum Member beck-ola's Avatar
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Potted or unpotted, tonally it doesn't matter at all if you're a good player with a good touch. If it's feeding back do something about it.

    Most people including the majority, if not all members of guitar gear forums can't even say for sure when someone is using a tele or a les paul on recordings, so a potted pickup isn't all that important.

  39. #39

    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Quote Originally Posted by beck-ola View Post
    Potted or unpotted, tonally it doesn't matter at all if you're a good player with a good touch. If it's feeding back do something about it.

    Most people including the majority, if not all members of guitar gear forums can't even say for sure when someone is using a tele or a les paul on recordings, so a potted pickup isn't all that important.
    I'm on your side of the fence. Well put.

  40. #40
    Les Paul Forum Member Black58's Avatar
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    Re: Does wax potting destroy PAF tone ??

    Quote Originally Posted by beck-ola View Post
    Potted or unpotted, tonally it doesn't matter at all if you're a good player with a good touch. If it's feeding back do something about it.

    Most people including the majority, if not all members of guitar gear forums can't even say for sure when someone is using a tele or a les paul on recordings, so a potted pickup isn't all that important.
    True, true. I think it's mainly for the player, though. Tryin' to harness somethin' that's out of control. It's a bit of a pain in the ass, but, once ya figure out how to do it, ya really don't wanna go back! It feels like YOU are plugged into the wall, picks up EVERYTHING ya do, VERY inspiring!

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