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Advice on les paul brightness.

Postby Urumiko » Tue Feb 14, 2017 10:31 am

I was just wondering if anyone could shed any light for me on this topic.

I have a 2008 Les paul studio, my friend has a 2014 les paul classic.
We often record together using the same audio interface and I noticed that his guitar is much brighter than mine (which I prefer). His is so bright he doesn't even seem to need to bother with engaging HI-z. I thought it might be a combination of him using a lighter gauge string and the 15db boost, but I noted that Andertons have a video where they review the 2014 studio and classic together, and they comment that they are both unusually bright.

Could anyone comment on why this may be? Do they use a different circuit or cap or something?
I've been looking a this guitar as a test bed for potential mods anyway so was wondering if it was something i could tweak.

Could i also bolt on there a 2nd question?.. do active circuits/pickups (bass or guitar), tend to play nicer with lower end audio interfaces? I was just curious basing this on my friends guitar, and also after trying an active bass di vs passive.
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Re: Advice on les paul brightness.

Postby Wonks » Tue Feb 14, 2017 10:54 am

It's not easy finding out the specs for older instruments. Do you know what pickups your 2008 studio has fitted? Also, what value pots? I've read someone talking about 300k pots in his, which would certainly make it sound darker than if fitted with standard 500k pots.

The 2014 LP Classic has '57 Classic pickups, which are fairly bright sounding PAF style pickups to start with. Obviously it's got a revised control layout with one master tone control, though that should only affect the mix-position sound slightly. It's certainly got 500k pots, but I don't know whether the active boost circuit means there's a pre-amp that's always on and simply raises the output level when the switch is operated, or is only connected when the boost is engaged. If it's always on, the low impedance output of the pre-amp means that the guitar sound is less affected by the capacitance of long guitar leads and so will sound brighter.

It certainly gets a lot of reviews saying how bright it is, so I'd suspect the preamp is always in circuit (you could get your mate to remove his battery and see if he gets any sound with the boost switch off - if nothing or the sound is a lot duller, then you know a lot is the pre-amp).

But I'd first look at your pickup types and the pot values used. There may be some easy improvements to be made here, e.g. the caps are probably .022uF ones, but if the tone pots are 300k ohms, then that's 200k less than a 500k pot, so like turning the tone control down to around 7 on a guitar with 500k pots. 300k volume pots will naturally lower the resonant peak of the pickups more than a 500k volume pot will.
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Re: Advice on les paul brightness.

Postby Wonks » Tue Feb 14, 2017 11:16 am

On the active vs passive and audio interfaces question:

The tone of passive pickups are affected (loss of treble) by running into relatively low impedance inputs, which is why you get hi-Z inputs on some audio interfaces. Active pickups (or guitars with passive pickups but active pre-amp (and often EQ) will drive into standard line inputs without the tone being (noticeably) affected.

A passive DI box will have an input impedance similar to that of a line-input, so isn't really designed for use with passive pickups. Ideally you'd use an active DI box with a Hi-Z impedance for this. However, '60s studios had to use passive DIs (often custom built) before active ones became available. Like today, the bass was often DI'd, where the loss of high frequencies didn't matter so much. James Jamerson is known for having a DI'd bass on his Motown work. A remake of that Motown DI box is now availble (at about £400) and that's only got a 22k input impedance!

So sometimes you can put the treble loss to good use, but other times you do need the full sound of a Hi-Z input. with a passive instrument. The Orchid Micro DI box http://www.orchid-electronics.co.uk/micro.htm is probably the most cost-effective way of getting a full normal bandwidth passive guitar or bass signal into the recording chain.
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Re: Advice on les paul brightness.

Postby Urumiko » Tue Feb 14, 2017 12:49 pm

Cheers Wonks,

I don't know much about such thIngs but after a little research i'm fairly confident mine has the standard 490 combo.

I'm actually away from home at the moment but i will try and locate a screw driver to get a look at the pots.

We were going for G&R esque tones and his guitar definitely had a bit more clarity and bite than mine. One could run out and get some new pickups but as you say i suspect it may be a lot to do with the pots etc..
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Re: Advice on les paul brightness.

Postby ore_terra » Tue Feb 14, 2017 1:03 pm

Cheap things you can try: as Wonk said, different capacitors and knobs. Also play with pickup height.

Beyond that, a change of hardware may give you also a brighter tone. Bridge and tailpiece.

Of course a change of pickups...

I wouldnt go for active pickups only to get a clearer high end.
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Re: Advice on les paul brightness.

Postby Wonks » Tue Feb 14, 2017 1:16 pm

If they are the 490T and 490R, then they are both Alnico II so should be pretty bright and clear. They aren't particularly overwound, though are on the higher end of the resistance scale for PAF style pups.

Though you probably have the hotter 498T in the bridge position, which is a higher output Alnico V pickup with a 9k ohm DC resistance. Hotter and a bit more shouty in the midrange than the 490T, so not quite as bright.

But I'd look at the pots first. I know Gibson sell 300k pots as well as 500k ones, and they did fit 300k pots in LPs at some point in their history (probably when they were looking for darker jazz tones), so first stop is to check those pots.
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Re: Advice on les paul brightness.

Postby zenguitar » Tue Feb 14, 2017 1:36 pm

A couple more options to brighten a Les Paul...

If you have 500k volume pots, try 1Meg pots instead. They will be brighter. Try a low value capacitor in series with the pick-up output, try .01 microfarad or .005 microfarad or .02.

Changing to a higher value pot lets more treble through, using the series capacitor filters out a little of the bass.

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Re: Advice on les paul brightness.

Postby Urumiko » Tue Feb 14, 2017 3:03 pm

Thanks all. will report back soon.
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Re: Advice on les paul brightness.

Postby CS70 » Wed Feb 15, 2017 12:12 am

You may also look at the pickup height, lowering them down a little. I don't have any LP at the moment, but in all guitars the height of the pickups has a major influence on the sound.
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Re: Advice on les paul brightness.

Postby Urumiko » Wed Feb 15, 2017 9:55 am

Quick question,

If i convinced my mate to take a screwdriver to his LP tonight, Would the value of the pots be written on them and be clearly visible just by removing the cover? or is a multimeter required?

cheers.
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Re: Advice on les paul brightness.

Postby Wonks » Wed Feb 15, 2017 10:47 am

They should either be engraved on the rear of the pots, or else printed on the insulating base by the pot's three connection terminals. You shouldn't need a multimeter.
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Re: Advice on les paul brightness.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Feb 15, 2017 10:56 am

The value is usually stamped or printed on the back of the pots and should be visible if you take off the cover plate.

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Re: Advice on les paul brightness.

Postby Urumiko » Fri Feb 17, 2017 12:59 pm

Hmm ok so,

We took the cover plates off both guitars.
Both sets of volume pots (and my tone pots) were visually similar and feature only an engraved gibson logo on the base with no values. His tone pot had additional black plastic gubbins on the bottom (presumabley for push/pull coil tap),

There seem to be some black numbers stamped on the sides but nothing i could see clearly due to the writing conveniently facing the cavity wall in every instance.

I could pop out my electronics or stick a multimeter on them.

I did note that his capacitor was physically a lot bigger than mine.
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Re: Advice on les paul brightness.

Postby Wonks » Sun Feb 19, 2017 2:28 pm

If you can't see any numbers, then a multimeter reading will do, Move the selector switch so it's not in the mid-position (otherwise you'll measure both pot's resistances in parallel). Turn the knobs to 10, then measure the resistance between the two outer tabs on each volume pot. Avoid touching the central tab when measuring.

If in doubt, post a photo so we can comment.
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