Stratocaster potentiometers

11 Best Guitar Pots 2021 For Your Brand Of Guitar

Best Guitar Pots For Your Brand Of Guitar

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Guitar pots become worn and dirty over time. You can maintain them with a little bit of upkeep, but sometimes it’s nice to swap out old gear for new gear.

There are other reasons to swap out guitar pots too, including the tone benefits that can come from the right setup.

So, in this guide, we’ll look at the best replacement parts for your guitar.

Seymour Duncan YJM Hi-Speed Volume Pot (250k)

Quick side note before we start, I’ve had some readers ask about the easiest way to learn guitar. I’ve shared that here for those that are interested.

Ok, back to the article.

Seymour Duncan YJM Hi-Speed Volume Pot (250k)

Seymour Duncan is best known as a maker of quality aftermarket pickups (though some guitars come equipped with them too). To that extent, they are a trusted brand and their pots are also highly rated.

The Seymour Duncan YJM Hi-Speed volume pot has been designed with single-coil configurations in mind. It can be used for your volume or tone control, though it doesn’t come with a knob (in most cases, you can always use the one that’s already on your guitar).

This is a great choice for anyone who finds the resistance on their knobs a little too high. For instance, if you like using techniques like volume swells on your guitar, you’ll find this pot will reduce hand cramping because of how smooth and easy it is to turn.

It might not be great for players who find themselves accidentally hitting their knobs, as that could mean instantly going from 0 to 10, or from 10 to 0 at the least opportune moments.

By the way, we checked to make sure that the hi-speed does make a difference, and yes, it does.

YJM, in case you didn’t know, stands for Swedish virtuoso guitarist Yngwie J. Malmsteen, who worked with Seymour Duncan to develop this kit.

But is this extra functionality worth the asking price? Many users thought so and pointed out that it worked great with Fender guitars (no surprises here, as most Fender guitars feature single-coil setups).

Some guitarists didn’t like the feel of the pot. So, resistance is going to come down to preference. But if you find yourself fiddling with your knobs a lot and would prefer a speedier response, the Seymour Duncan is worth experimenting with.

Item weight: 0.353 ounces

Dimensions: 7.09 x 3.54 x 1.57 inches

Jim Dunlop DSP500K Super Pot Split Shaft Potentiometer

Jim Dunlop DSP500K Super Pot Split Shaft Potentiometer

Jim Dunlop is known for all manner of guitar accessories – pedals, picks, capos, cables, strings, and a whole lot more. With their name being so ubiquitous in the guitar world, if you’ve been playing guitar for any amount of time, it’s unlikely you haven’t heard of them.

The Jim Dunlop DSP500K super pot is made with humbucking setups in mind, but they’ve also got 250K equivalents for those who have single-coil setups. So, either way, you might be interested in this potentiometer.

This pot comes with fine-knurled 24 spline split shaft, audio taper, and sealed construction that resists dust and corrosion. Manufacturer even claims these pots never require cleaning and never get scratchy(!) and they even come with a lifetime guarantee. That alone might be worth it to some guitarists.

Reviews are slightly mixed though. Some buyers said they loved the quality of the Jim Dunlops.

Some reviewers, however, said there was no noticeable difference between the super pot and much more affordable pots, and others even said their build quality is a little suspect.

Item weight: 1.13 ounces

Dimensions: 6 x 3.5 x 1.5 inches

Seymour Duncan 500K Potentiometer

Seymour Duncan 500K Potentiometer

Not everyone is going to go wild over resistance reduced YJM potentiometers. Fortunately, there are some worthwhile Duncan alternatives, such as this one – the Seymour Duncan 500K potentiometer.

This is a smooth turning pot, ideal for humbucking setups. It can be used for volume and tone control, and it comes with evenly tapered control.

Overall, the 500k pot seems quite responsive. Most reviewers were quite happy with it and found it offered smooth turning indeed.

Although they were certainly in the minority, some users had issues with build quality, fit, and scratch.

It’s always worth checking whether the pot you’ve chosen fits your specific guitar. In some cases, it may not without some modification.

Item weight: 0.81 ounces

Dimensions: 7.09 x 3.54 x 1.57 inches

CTS 500K Electric Guitar Pots Guitar Linear Potentiometer B500K

CTS 500K Electric Guitar Pots Guitar Linear Potentiometer B500K

I like to think of CTS as the generic brand for guitar pots. They generally work as replacement parts and are relatively standard in their functionality.

The CTS guitar linear potentiometer is available in multiple configurations, and they have 250K counterparts as well. So, if this seems like the right pot for you, you shouldn’t have much trouble finding one that’s right for your axe.

The B500K is a split shaft pot with coarse knurling, nut and washer, and was made in Taiwan. CTS claims they have both Taiwan and US factories, though we can’t confirm or deny that.

Some buyers say CTS is the only brand they trust and loved the quality of the pots. Nitpicks are few and far between.

Item weight: 0.81 ounces

Dimensions: 2 x 1 x 0.75 inches

Fender 500K, Split Shaft Potentiometer For Volume Or Tone

Fender 500K, Split Shaft Potentiometer For Volume Or Tone

Some guitarists are going to see “Fender” and instantly want this pot over others. After all, Fender is one of the most trusted and recognizable guitar brands out there. But does the Fender 500K split shaft potentiometer live up to reputation?

This Taiwan-made potentiometer claims to be a genuine Fender replacement part of high-quality and durability.

It seems most users had good results with this guitar pot and noted its quality.

There are some unhappy users, too, saying this is not a genuine Fender part and it didn’t fit their guitar. But Fender has many guitars, so it’s possible this pot won’t work for all Fenders.

Item weight: 0.18 ounces

Dimensions: 5.1 x 3.2 x 1.1 inches

CTS No-Load 500K Tone Pot

CTS No-Load 500K Tone Pot

The CTS No-Load 500K tone pot is for tone control knobs on a dual-coil guitar setup. At this price point, they certainly are good bang for buck, but without many other details to go on, it’s hard to be decisive. Let’s examine what users said.

The good – some customers loved the CTS pot and even said they liked it better than the Fender alternatives.

The bad – others said this would not be an upgrade over stock pots, and said they weren’t quite the quality they expected.

Item weight: 0.8 ounces

Dimensions: 1.25 x 1.25 x 1 inches

Fender Original 250k Splitshaft Potentiometer, Volume Or Tone

Fender Original 250k Splitshaft Potentiometer, Volume Or Tone

The Fender Original 250k splitshaft pot claims to be an original Fender factory part and comes with a 250k split shaft design. Also included are a nut and washer, and the pot can work as a volume or tone pot on a single-coil guitar.

Some users had incredible results with this pot, in terms of response and clean tone.

But best we can tell, these Taiwan-made pots didn’t deliver the tone users were hoping for, at times even altering the tone of their axe.

Item weight: 0.8 ounces

Dimensions: 11.42 x 7.48 x 3.54 inches

Musiclily Guitar Full Size Pots A500K

Musiclily Guitar Full Size Pots A500K

As with the CTS linear potentiometer introduced earlier, the Musiclily full size pots come in multiple configurations and with different resistance ratings. So, regardless of whether you’re buying for a single-coil or double-coil guitar, you should be able to find what you’re looking for.

This pot claims to fit any 6mm knobs, whether on a Fender Stratocaster or Gibson Les Paul. The A500K features an audio taper design and is made with metal alloy.

Buyers liked the design of these pots, as they kept noise and scratch to a minimum.

Others said they didn’t like the stiff resistance (which is a matter of taste), and others had issue with noise.

Overall, it seems like it depends which model you get.

Item weight: 0.704 ounces

Dimensions: 3.15 x 1.77 x 1.18 inches

CTS TAOT Custom 500K Short Shaft Vintage Taper Volume Pot – 450G

CTS TAOT Custom 500K Short Shaft Vintage Taper Volume Pot – 450G

The CTS TAOT Custom 500k vintage taper volume pot promises a smooth taper ideal for volume controls, spline shaft, brass brushing and shaft, and have 10% tolerance. They’re made for U.S. guitars and aren’t intended for use with import guitars, just so you know.

Some guitarists found these babies worked better than stock potentiometers. Others didn’t like the feel of these pots, saying they weren’t responsive enough.

Item weight: 0.64 ounces

Dimensions: 3.5 x 2.05 x 1.16 inches

CTS 500K Short Shaft Audio Taper Pot

CTS 500K Short Shaft Audio Taper Pot

The CTS 500K short shaft audio taper pot comes with aluminum brushing and shaft, features U.S. sizing, and has 15% tolerance.

This potentiometer can work with volume or tone knobs and it has a modern wiring configuration too. Obviously intended for use with humbucking setups.

The best part about this pot is that it has a smooth roll off with no cracking. Others liked the overall quality too.

Some users seemed to have issue with installation and adjustment, but if you work with a guitar tech, you probably won’t have that issue.

Item weight: 2.39 ounces

Dimensions: 1.25 x 1.25 x 1 inches

Bourns Guitar & Amp Potentiometer, 500K Audio, Knurled Split Shaft

Bourns Guitar & Amp Potentiometer, 500K Audio, Knurled Split Shaft

Finally, we have the Bourns knurled split shaft guitar and amp potentiometer. Its standout feature is that it’s the most affordable pot on this list, but that’s not saying much considering how affordable pots are to begin with.

This pot is not compatible with US-spec knobs. Also, it cannot be used in import guitars with metric components, so that limits its use big time.

What users liked best about this pot is that they turn smoothly, making them great for volume swells. Some even said they liked the Bourns better than DimMarzio and ProLine pots!

Others said these are adequate at best.

Item weight: 0.16 ounces

Dimensions: 4 x 1 x 3 inches

What Factors Should I Consider When Shopping For Guitar Pots?

Although pots aren’t expensive, it’s always nice to “nail” the purchase, because it means you’ll be happy with your electric guitar setup for a long time to come.

There isn’t a whole lot to know about potentiometers, so a little bit of homework should be enough to send you on your way.

In this section, we’ll look at:

  • 250k and 500k pots
  • Pot type
  • Pot fit
  • Budget

Let’s dive right in.

250K Or 500K?

Most of the time, you should be buying 250K pots for single-coil setups, and 500K pots for double-coil setups. If you have any questions, or if you’re in doubt, then consider calling up your local guitar dealer or guitar tech.

For custom or more sophisticated modifications, we always recommend working with a qualified guitar tech (unless you’re a guitar tech yourself!).


At the top level, we have mini and full-size pots. Under that umbrella, you’ll find short-shaft, long-shaft, and push-pull (for split-coil designed guitars) pots. In terms of design, you’ll also see split shaft and solid shaft design.

So, make sure you know what you’re getting and that it will work correctly with your guitar.


Can be a bit of a challenge (also see Type). This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the sheer number of guitar brands and products available. They aren’t all created the same.

Do your homework and see what you can find. Do some pots work better than others for specific types of guitars? Would you need to make some slight modifications? Would the modifications be worth it?


Not a concern. Pots are inexpensive, even if the top shelf ones are 3x the cost of cheaper ones. Under no circumstance should you go broke buying guitar pots!

Should I Swap Out Pots Myself?

If you already have experience with swapping out guitar parts and soldering, then this is something you might be able to do on your own. If not, you should refer to online video tutorials. The process can be done in less than an hour, but if you’re new to it, it could take you several hours.

If you’re interested in “turning every screw” and learning exactly how your guitar works, then you can certainly learn to do it yourself. The risks are relatively low (assuming you research the steps), and so is the cost.

If you don’t like dealing with wires and the technical aspects of a guitar, then just get a guitar tech to do it. Sure, it might cost you more, but you could probably get them to do a couple more things without having to pay for more of their time (replace strings, dress the frets, etc.).

Does Brand Matter?

Yes and no.

Brand does matter to the extent that different manufacturers create products of varying quality. To that extent, finding a trusted brand (and checking reviews) can help you find potentiometers you’ll be completely satisfied with.

But where brand doesn’t matter is when it comes to matching up your guitar brand with a guitar pot brand. This is impossible since most guitar manufacturers don’tmake their own pots (many use stock pots on their guitars and brand them as their own).

More commonly, you will find that makers of pickups and other guitar accessories are more likely to have their own set of potentiometers (Seymour Duncan and Jim Dunlop being the perfect examples).

What matters more is the resistance rating of the pot. And generally, they are either rated 500k or 250k.

500k pots are designed for humbucking or double-coil pickups. 250k pots are designed for single-coil pickups.

So, when choosing your pots, make sure you’re getting the right ones based on your guitar’s pickup configuration.

Best Guitar Pots, Conclusion

We hope you found exactly the guitar pot you were looking for!

The right components do make a difference, and while it might seem inconsequential, you can’t forget about the importance of something as small as pots.

Have fun shopping!

Side note, do you want to learn to play guitar songs the easy way? Learn how here – results are guaranteed!

Last Updated on March 15, 2021.

Best guitar pots for metal

Music Industry How To is supported by readers. When you buy via a link on our site, we’ll possibly earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.

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.

P.S. If you're in a rush, here are our top choices:

Highly Rated

Seymour Duncan YJM-500 Hi-Speed Volume Electric Guitar Pot 500k

Full Kit

920D Custom S5W-KIT 5-Way Wiring Kit for S-Style Guitars

Great Value

CTS 250K Short SOLID Shaft Audio Potentiometer/Pot - 450G Series - PAIR (2X)

Seymour Duncan YJM-500 Hi-Speed Volume Electric Guitar Pot 500k
920D Custom S5W-KIT 5-Way Wiring Kit for S-Style Guitars
CTS 250K Short SOLID Shaft Audio Potentiometer/Pot - 450G Series - PAIR (2X)
Highly Rated

Seymour Duncan YJM-500 Hi-Speed Volume Electric Guitar Pot 500k

Seymour Duncan YJM-500 Hi-Speed Volume Electric Guitar Pot 500k
Full Kit

920D Custom S5W-KIT 5-Way Wiring Kit for S-Style Guitars

920D Custom S5W-KIT 5-Way Wiring Kit for S-Style Guitars
Great Value

CTS 250K Short SOLID Shaft Audio Potentiometer/Pot - 450G Series - PAIR (2X)

CTS 250K Short SOLID Shaft Audio Potentiometer/Pot - 450G Series - PAIR (2X)

But first, if it's your aim to do music professionally, you'll want to check out our free ebook while it's still available:

Seymour Duncan YJM-500 Hi-Speed Volume Electric Guitar Pot 500k

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

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

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 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

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

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.

Solid Construction

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.

Smooth Operation

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

Where Can You Buy Guitar Pots?

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?

Best Guitar Pots

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.

P.S. Remember though, none of what you've learned will matter if you don't know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career' ebook emailed directly to you!

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Potentiometer - Fender®, 250kΩ, Tone Control, for Tele / Strat

Potentiometer - Fender®, 250kΩ, Tone Control, for Tele / Strat image 2

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Potentiometer - Fender®, 250kΩ, Tone Control, for Tele / Strat image 2

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250 kΩ ohm. Original TBX tone control for most Strats and Teles. CTS manufactured, includes capacitor and comes in original Fender® packaging.

Some instruments have a unique tone circuit that features a TBX Tone Control (Patented). The TBX (which stands for Treble Bass Expander), is a dual concentric stacked tone pot. The pot has a detent in the middle position. From 0 to 5 (at the detent), the TBX functions like a normal tone circuit with filtration through a capacitor. Advancing the knob counterclockwise from the detent position gradually filters off high frequencies, like a standard tone control. Rotate the knob clockwise from the detent position, and you add presence and brightness by allowing the pickups' natural resonance to come through.

Questions and Answers

Click each question to see its answers.

1 answers Does this come with with a .022mf capacitor, 1-Meg resistor?

Asked by Anonymous on August 4th, 2016.

It comes with a 0.022uf cap and a 82k resistor.

Answer this question

1 answers I need a Tone Control Pot that is 250 or 500 K, with a .25 diameter shaft for a hollow body arch top guitar. I also need an Output Jack that is Mono, and has a .3125 - 5/16" diameter shaft. The last item is a Toggle switch that is On On On with a .50 - 1/2" diameter shaft. If you have these 3 items. I would like to order them. Do you have a telephone line so that I may call you with the order?

Asked by Anonymous on August 23rd, 2017.

Please give us a call at 480-296-0890 to help you find the correct parts.

Answer this question

1 answers Is this an audio or linear tapper pot?

Asked by Tg on August 1st, 2021.


August 3rd, 2021

Staff Member
The 250K pot has an audio taper, while the 1M portion uses a linear taper.

Answer this question

Have a question of your own? Ask us now!

Terms and Conditions

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Approximate reading time: 7 Minutes

Fender Stratocaster Potentiometers

Fender Stratocaster Potentiometers  ·  Source: YouTube

Last time in Part 1, we looked at the basics of soldering. Ideally you’ve had a chance to practise your soldering skills and it’s time to move onto upgrading and modifying your guitar. This week, I’m going to cover potentiometers and why you should upgrade yours before anything else. 


To give you an idea of where to start, I would first suggest that you sit down and play your guitar through a clean amp setting. Use your ears and listen for where you want to start upgrading. Whilst playing, use your guitar’s controls and listen to how they affect your guitar’s tone.

So if you find for example a noisy scratchy volume or tone control then you can look at fixing that. Or perhaps your control doesn’t have a lot of range, sounds dull in certain positions or is just not working properly. Also, listen out for noise, buzzing or crackling in any settings.

Potentiometers are where a lot of cheaper guitars often fall down. Many budget models have cheap potentiometers, so upgrading yours is a cheap upgrade that can give your guitar a much better tone.

As a guitarist, I use my volume and tone controls all the time, the best tones are often hidden in those controls. Clapton‘s Woman Tone comes from using those controls. Jeff Beck is widely regarded as a master of guitar controls, too.


Sometimes you can fix a problem just by cleaning your components. Getting crackle and noise from your volume or tone control? I would recommend using some Servisol Super 10 switch cleaner or WD40 contact cleaner. Just never spray regular WD40, the one in the blue can, on your electronic components. It isn’t a cleaner! A good contact cleaner can be used on potentiometers, switches and output jacks, so keep a can handy. That will last you ages, as you need very little to clean a guitar’s electronics.


But now we’re assuming you want to replace some of your controls. Great! First, make sure you have taken a photograph that clearly shows how your guitar is wired up before you start to change out components. If something goes not to plan, then you will be able to see how it all was wired up originally, which will save you losing your way.

Make sure you have the right tools and also a calm, well-ventilated place to work. Soldering is something that produces nasty fumes and you won’t want any distractions whilst wielding a hot soldering iron.

Why upgrade your potentiometers?

I see lots and lots of players go out and spend a lot of money on new pickups for their cheap guitar, in the hope that it will make their guitar sound nicer. Often a set of pickups will cost you well over a 100 pounds. This could be half the price of your budget guitar’s value in many cases.

My suggestion is to change your potentiometers. Why? Because they have a huge effect on the tone of your pickups. They literally control what comes out of an electric guitar.

My two favourite potentiometer brands are probably CTS and Alpha because they are widely available, robust and are cheap upgrades for any guitar. If you do some more research on pots/potentiometers you will find that you can get ones with higher tolerances. Like anything with guitars, there are some that cost more than others. But if you have a budget Squier, my first tip would be to upgrade your pots!


Volume pots should usually be logarithmic (sometimes called A, or audio taper) pots. When these are set at 5 then the volume is half what it is a 10. This doesn’t give exactly half the output voltage at 5, but it works the same as the way your ears work in response to the change in volume. The range is smooth and our ears/brain feel will feel that this is natural, pleasant sounding progression.

Logarithmic pots provide a very narrow control range. Electrically speaking, by running through 0 – 5 on the dial, you cover a very small range on the output, then tracking from 6 – 10 covers a much larger range.

Linear pots (or B pots) give half the voltage output when set at 5 compared to 10. Usually, they are used for tone pots. Linear pots give a true representation of the output, so 1 on the dial is 10% of the output, 5 is 50% and 10 is 100%.

With this knowledge, you can see we would typically use a Logarithmic or Audio Taper potentiometer for our volume control and a Linear one for our tone control.

250K or 500K?

The K number referred to here is the resistance, in Ohms. 250K means 250,000. As a very quick rule of thumb, use 250k for single coils and 500k for anything that’s either noise cancelling or humbucking. The logic behind this is that as any pickup gets hotter (caused by a rise in impedance and inductance) it also becomes darker. Humbuckers are, in essence, two single coils wired in series. They are normally hotter, so to keep them balanced they will often need brightening up just a little bit to make them appealing to the ear.

CTS 250k solid shaft potentiometer

CTS 250k solid shaft potentiometer

Split Shaft?

Most Fender-type guitars use split-shaft pots, meaning the shaft of the control has a slit down the middle. That will let you squeeze the Fender Stratocaster style knob onto them. But some guitar controls have a little grub screw on the side and these need a solid shaft post, as that grub screw needs to grip tight. Don’t use a split shaft pot with anything that uses a grub screw or it will break the shaft when you tighten it!

CTS 250k Split Shaft Pot

CTS 250k Split Shaft Pot


My favourite place to look up wiring diagrams is Seymour Duncan‘s website. It has just about every permutation covered and the diagrams are clear and concise. Below I have added the standard Fender Stratocaster diagram, as an example.

Fender Strat wiring diagram

Fender Strat wiring diagram

If you look at this diagram you can see clearly how a typical Stratocaster is wired up and if you use this and your photo that you took earlier of your guitar, then you should have enough information to wire up your guitar.

Soldering Potentiometers

When soldering your potentiometers, take into account that they are big lumps of metal and will, therefore, need quite a bit of heat to get solder to stick to them. Set your soldering iron fairly high to get that big metal casing hot enough to take your solder.

You can use a little bit of sandpaper to roughen up the back of the pot’s casing, if you like. This will help the solder to adhere and make for a better connection. Always heat the pot and then the solder will flow freely onto the pot casing, don’t heat up the solder and drip it onto the pot case, as it will just create a poor solder joint.

Pot terminals are much smaller and easier to heat up. Twist your wire into a point and make sure you ‘tin the wire’ first. This just means that you have some solder melted onto the wire. It makes it easier then to connect it to the terminal. Poke the tinned wire through the little hole on the pot’s terminal and then heat the terminal, not the wire. The solder can then be added to the join as needed.

Remember: always heat the component and add the solder, never just heat solder and drip it onto the component.

The next articles will be covering capacitors, switches and more, providing you with a cheap way to upgrade your Squier’s sound. Make sure you check back in for more tips on how to make your guitar sound better.

Need some more explanation of how to approach this? The videos below are detailed and great for beginners.

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by Jef

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