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Replacing tone pot with a rotary tone selctor switch.

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by NoiseNinja, Jan 23, 2017.

  1. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Experimental-psychedelic-ambient-noise-drone Banned

    Feb 23, 2011
    I recently busted the tone pot on my passive bass by pressing too hard when trying to get a knob to fit on the pin, so I disabled the tone pot completely.

    Why I usually don't use it much, I was thinking of replacing the tone pot, with a rotary switch that would give me different tonal options.

    Now my questions are:

    Would it be possible to gain even more usable tonal options with a rotary switch than with a normal tone pot?

    Is there any prefabricated models on the market and if where would I get these?

    Eventually, if not, how would I go about making one myself?
  2. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    I'm pretty sure you'd reduce your tonal options from infinite to however many positions the switch has.
    el_Bajo_Verde likes this.
  3. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Experimental-psychedelic-ambient-noise-drone Banned

    Feb 23, 2011
    Why I am not very well versed in electronics I do know even a single volume pots have a limit.

    Also I was thinking maybe by connecting a combination of electronic components to the different positions of the switch maybe it would be possible to for example have it cut some of the highs in one position and in another some of the lows and in yet another the mids, of course this example wouldn't be very useful, but I figure you get the idea of it.

    You know different tonal options from just the usual tone pot that just cuts the highs according to how low you roll it.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2017
  4. Crater


    Oct 12, 2011
    Dallas, TX area
    Yes. :)

    Google the "Tonestyler" or search here on Talkbass. It's a passive tone control with a rotary switch that selects between various capacitor and inductor combinations.

    Rotary switch of your choice, I would probably choose a 5 position, two pole switch but it depends on what you'd like to do.
    NoiseNinja likes this.
  5. gfen


    Aug 21, 2014
    lehigh valley
    stayed at a holiday inn, once...
    There's lots of options for this out there, loko for things like Varitone or Tonestyler and you should find lots of other options compared to those, as well.

    Most people pair them with a tone knob for more control, but you can run them alone, too.
    NoiseNinja likes this.
  6. Multiple capacitators give you this frequency boost you get when the tone pot is fully closed, at separate frequencies. If you like this boost go for the switch...Check Lemme gitarrenelektronik in germany since you are from europe
    NoiseNinja likes this.
  7. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    I stand corrected. I've never heard of that. Neato!
  8. tbplayer59


    Jan 20, 2013
    I use a Tonestyler alone, in place of the tone pot. However, I think the best use would be in conjunction with a tone pot. In this case, the tonestyler becomes a way to change the value of the capacitor, so different frequencies are cut and the tone pot determines how much. This requires drilling an additional hole in the pickguard (in my case a P bass) and a very crowded control cavity (or moving the input jack to the edge of the bass).
    NoiseNinja and Gabbs like this.
  9. tbplayer59


    Jan 20, 2013

    And you'll find others on YouTube as well.
    NoiseNinja, Marikk and electracoyote like this.
  10. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    A passive system does not boost anything ever.
    VerryBerry and 40Hz like this.
  11. I have a bass with this installed. The builder collaborated with one of his electronics techs to develop it. I use it in conjunction with a standard tone pot, but it sounds great solo'd. I love it.


    I like the sound of that ToneStyler too. Very similar to what I get.
    NoiseNinja likes this.
  12. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    The capacitor switching scheme changes the corner frequency point, so you will get a greater variety of more distinct tones with a varitone or capacitor switch as opposed to more or less of your signal being shunted to ground (i.e. cut) at the same corner frequency with a standard tone control.

    Since most people like the tonal differences of the different capacitors enough by themselves (i.e. dimed) they tend to not miss a variable "tone" pot to go with it. It's a fairly subtle effect. Most people only like a couple of the choices on one of these things anyway. (The most popular values are: .033, .047 and .1) The rest just sit unused. However, it's always possible to use a stacked V/T pot and just put the rotary selecter switch in the vacated hole. That way the mod is easily reversible if you one day decide (and many do) that you're not really all that impressed about what you're getting by switching capacitors.

    If you really want to get a variety of very distinct and different tones out of one bass, or you want to have very precise control over all aspects of your tone, then your best bet is to install a preamp and go active.
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2017
    NoiseNinja likes this.
  13. You can use a tandem/dual/concentric pot for V/T. So no additional hole needed.
    NoiseNinja and tbplayer59 like this.
  14. fermata


    Nov 10, 2015
    Mountain West
    I have capacitor switches in both of my basses, and I really like them. (One bass has three tone caps and no tone pot, the other has two caps and a tone pot--I like both set-ups.) Like @40Hz says, the different corner frequencies (and the corresponding resonant peaks) of the different caps are really cool and yield a variety of sounds, like you can hear in the Tonestyler video.

    Here are two great (big) threads on the subject:
    A simple varitone circuit for your bass -
    Multi-capacitor tone control

    I say go for it! And half the fun is playing around with alligator clips to find out what capacitors give you sounds you like. After lots of experimenting, I'm using .015, .03, and .047 in my Hofner and .022 and .047 in my Thingray.
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2017
    NoiseNinja, Marikk and Buszkock like this.
  15. DavC

    DavC Supporting Member

    May 17, 2005
    Tallmadge , Ohio
    i bought a Varitone w/13 caps on Ebay ... i just installed it into a small pedal box , since it had a few bass settings and mostly guitar cap values ( more normal Varitone ) ... it has a Bypass position for straight thru use ...

    while kinda interesting , most guitars that had Varitones also had Tone controls .. 335 type gtrs ... with my 13 switch Varitone , everything is preset via caps/resistors .? different high/ mid/ low cuts

    from my limited experiences with these ... if i wanted a variety of tone options , i think i would install a Push/Pull Tone knob that has two different Caps ..! or maybe a 3 way switch /caps / tone pot ...

    i don't really find the Vari much use for bass ... it's just OK for guitar ... something more simple and built in might be much more useful ..!!??

    if memory serves ... mine was from Kellysound - ebay ...
    NoiseNinja likes this.
  16. fermata


    Nov 10, 2015
    Mountain West
    If it's a true Varitone, it'll also have a small inductor, which makes it a mid-cut control, so the effect is different than a Tonestyler (decade control), which rolls off highs (starting at various frequencies). I've never tried one, but Varitones (mid-cut) seem to get mixed reviews for bass.
    40Hz and NoiseNinja like this.
  17. Will_White


    Jul 1, 2011
    Salem, OR
    This is not necessarily true with the case of tone caps without a parallel resistance. Right before the cutoff frequency you get a resonant peak boosting that frequency, that's why a tone pot on 1 or 2 can sound darker then a tone pot on 0.

    I haven't used a full blown varitone or tonestyler but I've used a three way cap selector on a couple basses and I like how they work better then a standard tone pot.
    NoiseNinja and ctmullins like this.
  18. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    A passive system can't boost power, but in a lightly loaded system, at resonance, you can (and in the case of basses you do) get a voltage boost.
    NoiseNinja and Will_White like this.
  19. I second this. I have this so called "C-Switch" from Lemme and find it great. Look here: http://www.gitarrenelektronik.de/produkte/soundschalter/c-switch-fuer-e-baesse

    The issue with regular tone controls is that they not only cut the highs but also the mids and therefore the tone looses character. Imo bass tone is all about mids. Even if you go to the most right position on the C-Switch the tone still has character/mids. The only slight disadvantage is that because you have fixed positions you can not make subtle changes. The difference between the positions is very audible and there may be positions you don't use at all. That why I decided to go in my Yamaha BB424X (PJ with Vol/Tone/3-way toggle) for concentric Vol/Tone pot, C-Switch and a 4 way rotary selector also from Lemme (J / P-J parallel / P / P-J series). If I change the position on the C-Switch from one to the other and the other is too dark I go back to the previous and roll the tone a little bit off. I love having such flexible controls on a passive bass. But I'm not sure if it stays that way. 1. I love trying things out :D, 2. I generally like a simple setup :cool:
    NoiseNinja likes this.
  20. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Don't know if you're familiar with a gent by the name of Joe Gore. But he's a superb guitarist (played with Tom Waits and a host of others) and does the occasional column on modding for Premier Guitar magazine.

    Anyway, he has a website (tonefiend.com) that gets into a lot of mods and sonic experiments that it may be worth to looking into. It's guitar oriented. But much that's there carries over to bass. And many of the comments are from fellow experimenters and tinkerers, so this is one site where the comments can actually be worth reading.

    He did a series of articles (with videos) on some of the varitone type circuits you can play with. Search link to just the varitone articles here.

    Cool site. If you're into passive mods, Joe is your guy. His "no talk with deadpan expression" videos where he demos things are a riot.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2017

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