What’s The Difference Between ’50s Wiring and Modern Wiring?
This is a very high-level overview of this topic. Different Tone Caps, Pickups, body woods, playing styles, etc. will all affect the outcome of your tone.
’50s Wiring vs. Modern Wiring – What Gives?
If you have a Les Paul® or Telecaster Deluxe, chances are you have run into this thing called “’50s Wiring“. What is it? Is Modern Wiring better? (spoiler alert: Not necessarily)
Gibson 50’s wiring only refers to how the tone cap is wired into the guitar.
’50s Wiring applies to any guitar with two pickups, each with their own respective Volume Pot and Tone Pot. It involves how the tone cap is wired into the guitar. There are many ways to wire a Tone Cap, but, without getting too technical, the way the tone cap connects between your pots actually changes how your Volume Pots and Tone Pots interact with each other. There are subtle differences between the two that might actually suit your playing style better. Let’s explain the difference between 50’s Wiring and Modern Wiring:
With ’50s Wiring, the tone cap connects to the middle lug of the Volume Pot, and Lug 3 of the Tone Pot.
Pros of ’50s Wiring:
- The pickup tone stays consistent when turning down the Volume Pot.
- Pickups don’t lose high frequencies when turning down the Volume Pot.
- High frequencies tend to stay clear with the Volume Pot in it’s lower ranges.
- Turning down the tone pot can affect the pickup’s volume.
- Some high-gain situations can yield an overly bright tone.
With Modern Wiring, the Tone Cap connects to the Input Lug of the Volume Pot.
Pros of Modern Wiring:
- The Tone Pot will not affect your pickup’s volume.
- A smoother tone in general, which some players like.
- Turning down the Volume Pot will send some high frequencies to ground, darkening your tone.
Which Wiring Is Better For Me?
It depends! As listed above, you can tell that there are subtle trade-offs between the two wiring schemes. If you have a dark-sounding guitar, you might like the 50’s Wiring. If you play a softer-style of music, you might like the rolled off high frequencies provided by the Modern Wiring.
With such an easy modification to make, we urge you to experiment. See what works best for you, your guitar, and your playing style!
Oops! I just rechecked, I have modern wiring (signal coming from input side of pot through resistor to tone control) but with an 0.001mF cap between input side and wiper. I think this was a mod done to not lose the highs with volume turning down, and it seemed to work. Is this a variation?
I am not sure from where but my Les Paul sounds great, but has 50’s wiring BUT ALSO a .001mF cap between volume wiper and input. .??
Thank you for the interesting article. I wish people would actually provide the schematics of the circuits involved and not simply the ‘dumbed-down’ wiring diagrams. It’s much easier to analyze a circuit with a schematic than with a drawing of the components.
Can you use 50s-style wiring on guitars with two HB pickups but one tone and one volume control?
Yes, you can!
I switch all my Les Pauls to ‘50s wiring it really brightens up the overall sound of humbuckers
Man I have been loosing my mind trying to find the right pickup for one of my Telecasters .I would put pickups that I knew sounded great in it and nope not it. I just ran across this article on your website . So I flipped the control plate over and looked and sure as sh** it is in the 50’s wiring. If this works I will be one happy man. THANK YOU!!!