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  1. #1

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    This came up during a bull session on archtop guitar weights. It reminded me of the old race car analogy -" Horsepower costs money - -how fast do you want to go ? " We got to talking carbon fiber, exposed tuners, etc etc.... I started thinking of a humbucking p/u, and then it was suggested that eliminating the v&t knobs, pots etc, besides making the guitar lighter, would also reduce the cuts made into the top, and improve tone , if even slightly. The reasons offered were that the amp controls can do those v & t functions just fine..
    Any thoughts ?

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  3. #2

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    Depends on the guitar. For solid-bodies, pots are fine, and often needed. Having to go to the amp every time you need to change volume or tone is a PITA. It can be avoided with other hardware, but that always costs more money than a couple of pots. For an acoustic archtop with a floater, I like thumbwheel controls. They're also a little more expensive than a standard potentiometer, but not a lot, and they can be mounted without affecting the acoustic sound. I have one archtop with just a volume control, because I found that I never moved the tone control from full on when I had one on it. But I do want a volume control. Sometimes it's absolutely essential. You may need to control feedback, and you may want to put the guitar on a stand without worrying about howling starting, and I like to adjust the volume down some when comping, back up when soloing. I've built instruments without any controls, and learned my lesson. Tone controls are sometimes optional, but never volume. At least that's my opinion.

  4. #3

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    I've had occasion to play guitars without V or T controls. I liked the results - more presence.
    Great.
    But, as sgosnell said above, we need that V control "onstage"

    I have a modded Strat where the 5 way switch gives me a position where the neck p/up is connected to the Tone pot, and another where that p/up is disconnected. Useful. But without the tone pot connected, you do experience some extended hi's.

  5. #4

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    I can't go without either volume or tone. I like to have the amp set a bit brighter than I need, and use the tone control to add that extra treble when desired, and wind it back when not needed.

    With the right amp you probably could get around not having the tone control, but I find it essential with certain amps (particularly bright sounding amps like blackface Fenders).

  6. #5

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    Volume pot is an absolute necessity, tone I could live without. In fact, a bass cut makes a lot more sense to me, especially in a jazz guitar.

  7. #6

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    IMO, bad idea. But, the only way you’ll know is to try it.

  8. #7

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    I often gig with an acoustic that doesn't have controls onboard, just a jack. It doesn't annoy me enough to replace the electronics. Doable, but not many people would prefer it, especially with an electric archtop.

    Muting is as important as volume control onstage. I just use a pedal tuner for that.

  9. #8

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    I don't think it would improve the tone because some variation in the structure of the guitar is fine as long as the integrity isn't compromised.

  10. #9

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    There are so-called arch-top acoustic jazz guitars without any electronics.
    To use this guitar for recording or gig you need to use a microphone.
    The microphone is connected to devices where there are potentiometers of all kinds.
    The final sound effect largely depends on the quality of the equipment.
    It is all very expensive.
    I prefer to use one humbucker with two knobs on a jazz guitar.

  11. #10

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    A friend/fellow guitarist owns a very fine original "Artur Lang" archtop, a custom-build for him when the master was still active. It is a classic archtop made from fine +all-solid alpine spruce/maple with a 17" wide body. I have known this guitar for about 30 years and played it regularly , witnessed all the various modifications it underwent and can tell you this :
    - The acoustic tone did not suffer when the owner cut open the top and set in a pickup at the neck position.
    - Neither did we notice any effect after a volume and tone pot were set into the top on the treble side/lower bout.
    - Fast forward 10 years : the pickup+pots were removed and the holes plugged up with spruce, a Gibson Johnny Smith pickup +
    a volume pot (on pickguard) were installed. The acoustic tone/volume did not change to the better or worse.

    Re the omission of a tone pot : the circuit on my Suhr Strat is such that in switch position 2 and 4 the tone pot can be cut out of the signal path via a push/push pot. This does increase the brilliance some but I'd never need this on an archtop guitar.
    My Trenier Jazz Special has a KA single-coil floater installed that has a second/tapped output. When activated the tapped tone is brighter and gives me a very usefull quasi acoustic comping tone. It's a great feature and makes this guitar extra universal. I remember that Bartolini once offered multi-tapped pickups and wonder why this option is not more widely available ...

    My personal preference : I've owned 2 other really fine archtops, both with floaters and a single volume pot on the pickguard (a '63 Gibson Johnny Smith and an original Benedetto Fratello) and while the acoustic tone was absolutely fine and pleasing I could not dial in the amp-tone that I like without the use of an outboard eq pedal/rack-unit. On all of my guitars I rely heavily on both pots to vary the output between soloing/comping+tone color and I was never able to control all this with just a volume pot and the amp's eq section. YMMV

  12. #11

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    Do the controls degrade the signal on its journey from the pickups to the amp? British high-quality hi-fi manufacturers design kit with that belief in mind, cutting everything that gets in the way of the signal path, but the bare minimum.

    I saw a Vigier guitar – French – that had only one knob. I did not dare ask what it did.

  13. #12

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    The controls can also be helpful in dampening the tone. You can do this elsewhere at the amp or even an eq, but it just works well to have some controls loading the pickup. Pickups are brighter and more peaky straight to the jack. A single hole for a concentric 250k volume and tone pot controlling a single neck humbucker won't hurt anything.

  14. #13

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    When you're dealing with a mic signal or when designing the internals of an amp etc. then you want to preserve as much of this signal as possible. The same principle is applied for guitars (and amps) that are supposed to sound as clean and bright as possible
    such as we hear in Funk music etc. or just listen to Marcus Miller's bass tone. In order to get a sweeter, warm and balanced sound from an electric guitar, especially when you're NOT using overdrive the loading and "degrading" effect of cables and pots is actually a welcome thing. And it makes a big difference when you're turning down the volume and/or tone pot on the guitar - you cannot get the same result by using the eq on your amp. So we dial in a nice amp tone and do the fine-tuning with the pots on the guitar. Sometimes even a longer cable does the trick ....

    So many guitars/sounds/players : Eddie Van Halen was fine with just a volume pot, open most of the time. Larry Carlton dials back the tone on his lead pickup to 3 or 4, keeps the highs on the amp up around 7.

  15. #14

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    Or another possible option: volume control via a volume pedal, no tone unle you use a graphic eq pedal.

  16. #15

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    I can't see not having both a volume and tone control for a jazz guitar, and I use both a lot. I almost always roll off a few highs from the guitar for instance.

    With the non-invasive controls that go under the pickguard it's pretty simple, that and a floater won't affect the acoustic properties of the guitar.

    I could see wanting to bypass the tone control for a lead pickup, there ain't nothing like an Esquire pickup straight out!

  17. #16

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    I don't really think it makes a whole lot of difference, but if reducing the cuts to the top is important to you then thumbwheel pots under the pickguard will get the job done.

  18. #17

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    I think the downside of not having controls far outweigh any tonal benefit.