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250k vs. 500k pots: How Each Would Affect Your Tone (and Which is Best!)

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A guitar Potentiometer (abbreviated as “pots”) is a passive electronic component that often performs a variety of functions in an electric guitar. Oftentimes, pots function as tone and volume controls. 

Also, they can be used to blend two pickups together, and also attenuate one coil of a Humbucker, etc. Pots are very important in the overall electronics of an electric guitar. They contribute a great deal to your tone as a player. 

They work rather simply. They affect your overall tone and volume by either increasing or decreasing resistance.

Although it might seem a bit too techy for the average guitar player to study or know about potentiometers, it is still a very important aspect of your overall sound. 

This makes it quite an important thing to take into consideration as a player. You don’t need to be a nerd or a luthier to know which pot is best for your electric guitar. 

The debate on which pot is best for your guitar does not have a clear-cut answer. The higher the pot value, the more treble you will get on your guitar. This means that a 500k pot will have more treble than a 250k pot. 

This explains why Strats always use the 250k pot—it helps give Strats the warmth and depth we know them for.

On the other hand, a typical Les Paul will make use of a 500k pot, which gives it the bright and trebly sound we have come to know them for.

How Do Guitar Pots Work?

Guitar pots work as variable resistors that modify tones and volume by boosting or dropping resistance. Going around the wiper adjusts the volume of resistance, which in turn determines the frequencies allowed to pass.

By turning the pot, you change the electricity flow. There is a circular resistor strip or element that is being wiped by a sweeper inside the guitar pot.

The sweeper determines the length the electricity can travel, and by turning the knob, we change the position of the sweeper in the resistor strip. 

The cap or capacitor, if fixed into the pot, turns it into a simple Equalizer. It allows you to decide how electricity travels and how it reaches the output. Understanding your guitar pot enables you to make great manipulation. 

You can see that the guitar pot performs two tasks at the same time. Volume control and tone change through the introduction of short across the signal and series resistance. The shorts can numb the high frequency even when the pot is on 10. 

Hence, you can choose from 0 to 250 for 250k pots and from 0-500k for 500k pots. The K means kilo or 1000. These “K” numbers are the resistance ratings (kOhms). 

You must understand the resistance of your guitar pots. It is very crucial because some factories have tolerance issues. 250k pots might be 243k in reality. Check your pot by taking the ohm of the two lugs.  

Types of Guitar Pots 

The logarithmic, which is shortened to ‘log‘ and Linear, also shortened to ‘Lin,’ are two traditional types of pots that have been used for amplifiers and effects on the guitar. 

The log gives the feeling of a linear adjustment of volume, which makes it ideal for a volume-type application. Like a curve line demonstrated on a graph. 

The Linear pot has noticeable shifts at low volume and extremely tiny shifts over other ranges. Consider this before using the linear pot for volume control. 

Furthermore, there are full-size pots and mini-size pots in the advanced range. Pots layouts are long-shaft pots, short-shaft pots, and pull-shaft pots.

Other pots layout also include solid-shafts layouts and split-shafts layouts. And all potentiometers have splines. 

The mini-sized potentiometer is about a dime in the body (case) and you can use that to remember it.

They are generally inferior to a full-sized potentiometer. Manufacturing companies always employ mini pots to reduce production costs. 

However, mini-sized pots are also used by elevated-end trademarks like Spector and Ibanez. The Full-sized potentiometer is identified by its case (body) which is about a quarter in diameter. 

They are superior with a shaft that has fair splines and requires ⅜ mounting holes. Unlike the mini-sized pots, which usually have coarse splines and require 5/16 round mounting holes. 

If your guitar is using a full-sized pot, then you do not have to worry about upgrading it. But if you have a mini-sized pot, you may need to consider upgrading to full-sized pots when it is time to change your guitar pots. 

250K Vs 500k Pots; How Each Would Affect Your Tone 

The two most generally used variable resistors for guitars circuits are 250k pots and 500k pots. Although the 300k and 1meg pots are also remarkable. 

The 250k pots are designed for single coil pickup guitars like the Squier, Strat, and Tele. While the 500k pots are for guitars with Humbucker pickups like the Gibson Les Paul. 

The 250k pots supply smaller resistance, hence the high frequencies are bled to the ground. 500k pots supply much resistance, so signals that are of high frequency are not bled to the ground like the 250k pots. 

250k pots mean a lower value and will produce warmer tones. 500k pots are higher values and will produce brighter tones.

A Higher value also means a smaller load on the guitar pickup which prevents the high frequencies from coming out. 

The higher the value of the pots, the more high frequencies you get, and the lower the value of the pots, the warmer the tone of your guitar. 

Les Paul utilizes the 500k pots for a brighter tone while the Fender Strats have 250k pots for warmth and depth tones with less emphasis on the high frequencies. 

The 500k pots are used to add some edge and give more brightness and reduce the treble loss in guitars with Humbucker pickups. If you are looking for this kind of sound, then you may consider fixing a 500k pot on your guitar. 

But, if you have a bright and high-sounding pickup, you may need to change to a lower-value pot like the 250k pot to reduce the high end. You will get a low and warm tone from your sound after replacement. 

That being said, there is no standard for pots. It is now in your court to decide how the potentiometers will affect your tone based on your sound and style.

Go ahead and use any pots for any guitar and play around with the sound you will come up with.

250k Pots; When to Use 

250k pots are lower value and have weaker resistors than the 500k. They dampen the sound in the arm. You can use the 250k potentiometer to reduce the high end in a single coil pickup that is too bright. 

The 250k pot gives a warm and low tone. If you are going to be playing your guitar to some music genre that requires warmth and mellowness, music genres like ambient and lofi, you might need the lower value 250k pot. 

10 Guitars with 250k pots

The following is a list of 10 guitars that use the 250k pots. 

  • Fender American Vintage II 1973 Stratocaster electric guitar 
  • Fender American Vintage II 1951 Telecaster electric guitar 
  • Squier Stratocaster 
  • Gibson P-90 
  • Fender Jazz master 
  • Squier FSR classic vibe 
  • Hansen guitar S-style electric guitar 
  • Sire larry Carlton T3 electric guitar 
  • Chapman ML3 pro-traditional electric guitar 
  • Ibanez AZES31 AZ essential series electric guitar.

500k Pots; When to Use 

Use the 500k potentiometer when you need a bright and high sound from your guitar. Remember that the higher the value of the pots, the higher the treble. 

The higher resistance of the 500k pot does not allow a large signal to bleed off. They maintain more highs in the signal to the arm. 

If you have a humbucker pickup, then the 500k pot is generally the best preference for your guitar. The 500k is often used to add brightness to the mellow tone of the humbucker and reduce treble loss. 

10 Guitars with 500k pots 

The following are guitars that use the 500k pots. Some are using the 500k as a choice. 

  • Gibson Les Paul 
  • Epiphone Les Paul Muse series 
  • Gretsch G2420T streamliner 
  • Gretsch G5230T Electromatic Jet 
  • Epiphone ES-335 
  • Squier Classic Vibe 70s Telecaster 


  • Dean Z 79
  • Jackson JS32 Dinky 
  • Ibanez RG4210 map 
  • Sterling by music man Axis Ax3fm

250k Pots – What Styles of Music Should You Use them for?

The potentiometer does not determine the style of the guitar player. However, the warm and darker tone produced from the lower ohms 250k pots has been used for jazz, blues, and even soul. 

We have also seen the country and surf guitarists using the lower-value ohms 250k pots to perform on stage. Jim Hendrix is one of the popular guitar players often seen with a Fender Strat.

We can not possibly conclude which potentiometer was inside the guitar. The style of music most times hangs on the pick up of the guitar.

Any Genre that works for a single coil pickup is already suited for lower-value ohms like 250k pots. Richie Blackmore played neo-classical and rock with Fender Stratocaster. That’s a lower value 250k pot. 

500k Pot – What Styles of music should you use them for?

We will not just consider what style the 500k pot can be used for, but also consider the guitar it is best recommended. The higher value ohm 500k pots are regarded as the standard for humbucker pickups. 

Nevertheless, the higher value ohms 500k pots are also popular with music genres like heavy rock and heavy metal. Sometimes even jazz and blues guitar players have 500k pots in their guitars. 

Seems like both 500k and 250k are used for jazz and blues. Randy Rhoads, one of the best metal guitarists and frontiers in rock guitar, used his worn white 1974 Gibson Les Paul in live performances and recordings. 

Even Les Paul himself played the humbucker pickup, which now comes with higher-value pots. 


Having a bright guitar tone does not exactly mean that you sound awesome. What this means is that resorting to 500k pots because of a higher value will not guarantee an amazing guitar sound.

Just like you can not possibly say that a Les Paul is better than a Fender Strat. Too much treble might sound a little harsh to some people. The key is to balance out the frequencies.

This explains why Fender uses the lower ohms 250k pots to dampen the already bright 3 single coil pickups. Also, this explains why Gibson uses higher ohms 500k pot to add brightness to their muddier pickups. 

If your electric guitar came with a default factory pot and you are about to replace it. Understand that choosing between 250k and 500k depends on your feel and the sound as the signal leaves the guitar.

A better pot should be able to get the job done without noise, perform satisfactorily, and last longer. A better pot is not 250k or 500k.

However, some guitar players even go ahead and mix both 250k and 500k pots. They use the higher value ohms 500k pots on the volume to make it sound lower and 250k pots on the tone to make it sound brighter. 

That being said, Experiment with what you need and be satisfied. The 500k is just a standard for humbucker pickups and the 250k is for a single coil pickup. Don’t be stuck to what you think is working for others. Discover your sound.