Pots and caps. That’s right. Potentiometers and capacitors. The debate over these parts are as legendary as Eddie’s brown sound and Jimi’s coiled cable.
Today, we are looking at the ones from Bare Knuckle Pickups. BKP sources their pots and caps from CTS and Jensen, respectively. Let’s start with the pots.
It can be easy for some players to overlook the relatively easy and affordable benefits of quality pots. Generally speaking, the standards are 250k for single coils and 500k for humbuckers. Bare Knuckle offers these in 280k and 550k and with a tight 10% tolerance. That means that even if it’s 10% low, you still have a full 250 or 500k.
The four 550k pots I have range in value from 552.2k to 570k.
These BKP pots sport a bit of a gradual sweep (also referred to as taper), especially toward those last few numbers on your knob. That’s great for smoother transitions across the travel, more so than surprising quick jumps.
Why are those things important? Well, imagine the potentiometer to be a little like a resistive load on your pickups. We do measure pot values in ‘resistance’ after all. So we have the value and the sweep. And those interact with the pickup(s) in a way that affects the resonant peak. It’s not so much of a shift as it’s a flattening of the curve.
In other words, the little things add up. That bit of extra headroom in the pot value and the architecture of the sweep responds for a more musical result.
Bare Knuckle goes with paper in oil caps from Jensen. Why paper in oil? It’s a little more organic and smoother sounding than some of the options like ceramic, which can have a sharper bite to the character by comparison.
The caps that BKP offers are available in 0.022μF and 0.015μF. The ones that I have measure 0.0221μF and 0.0166μF, respectively. And those capacitor values are, you guessed it, for capacitance. Not to worry, as capacitance is in most of the signal chain to begin with, starting with pickups and down through the cable(s). It’s always been part of the equation.
For application purposes, Bare Knuckle suggests that 0.022μF for the bridge position and the 0.015μF for the neck position. Why? Well, a smaller value will leave more of the high end. These suggested values are designed to ideally accent those positions. Of course, chasing tone is all about variables. So please do as you consider best for yourself. Grab a handful of each (links below) and knock yourself out! LOL!
Since we did look at how the resistance of the pots works with the pickups, how about looking at the capacitors as well? Where a pot can flatten the resonant peak, a cap can actually lower the value. That’s why the tone knob rolls off the highs as you turn it down. You are basically operating a low-pass filter.
What Does All That Mean?
Great question! All that can turn one’s brain a little soft, and that’s not what any guitar player needs! HaHa!
All these things add up to be excellent companions to a player on a tone quest. When you are serious enough about your tone to seek out high quality pickups (such as Bare Knuckle, for example), you want the most out of your sound. Do you have a soft drink with that filet mignon? No. You might order a pinot or maybe a chardonnay. Same idea.
A top shelf pickup that’s crafted with transparency and with a unique voice is the beneficiary of the finer details of quality accessories such as these. Check out some of the BKP pots and caps. These parts are affordable and can open up your tone for that sound you’ve been wanting.
Here’s a video using these very parts as an installation guide:
The Bare Knuckle CTS potentiometers come in long and short shaft, as well as in a push-pull option. Here are some links to learn even more and to buy them directly from BKP:
For reference, this Bare Knuckle Pot and Cap evaluation was conducted using BKP Silo humbuckers with a Fractal Axe-Fx II XL+ featuring Celestion Impluse Responses and Fractal MFC-101 MIDI Foot Controller. Real cabs in use are Marshall 1960B, Mojotone British, and Peavey 6505 cabs loaded with Celestion Classic Series Vintage 30s, Classic Series G12M Greenbacks, and Heritage Series G12-65s.
7 string 8Ω 16Ω 59 Alnico 2 Alnico 3 Alnico 4 Alnico 5 Alnico 8 Bare Knuckle BKP Brown Sound Celestion Ceramic Custom Shop Dean DiMarzio DMT Dual Resonance EVH Fishman Floyd Rose Fluence Gibson Humbucker Ibanez JB Jimmy Page MJ Mojotone Nut PAF Pariah Pickup Professor Guitarism Satch Satriani Schaller Seymour Duncan Singlecoil Single Width Speaker Steve Vai Tech Tip Tremolo