Friday, September 24, 2010

Working It Out

There is one thing all players agree on when it comes to their tone, and that is - "We can always do better". Throughout my many years of playing guitar I have tried and tried again just about everything under the sun that exists to improve one's tone. From playing different amps and guitars, to different pedals and effect setups. And don't get me wrong, all of these elements make a huge difference in what the outcome of your sound will be. But for me it wasn't until I learned about swapping out components, such as caps and high quality pots, that I was able to truly fine-tune the sounds I was after. To some this type of modification may not seem all that important, and I once thought this exact same way. After all, a part is just a part right? Wrong! There is nothing, and I mean nothing like a quick swapping of components to get your guitar sounding it's best. The cats at RS Guitarworks specialize in this area, offering a huge selection of parts, components, and kits for just about any guitar out there. It doesn't matter if your hunting down vintage or modern correct parts, or even reissue parts. RS has get them all. RS Guitarworks also runs their own repair shop, provides aging and refin services, and builds their own stunning line of guitars. I think it's safe to say these cats know more than a thing or two about killer sounding tone. Anyone looking for a quick and easy way to upgrade their sound must check out the insane collection of parts and components that RS Guitarworks has in their arsenal. Cause you never know when you'll need to be ready for war.

RS Guitarworks
Vintage 335 Upgrade Kit
(shown here with Luxe repro Bubblebee caps)

  • (2) Vol 500k RS SuperPots™ - Designed in conjunction with CTS
  • (2) Audio Taper 500k CTS Pots
  • (2) Your choice high quality caps
  • (1) Pre-wired toggle switch - Manufactured by Switchcraft
  • (1) Pre-wired input jack - Manufactured by Switchcraft
  • Includes pigtails for pickups
  • Gold hardware for toggle nut, jacks, nuts, and washers also available

A few years ago I got myself a reissue Hagstrom Viking semi-hollow body. All in all the guitar was pretty impressive straight out of the shop. It sounded decent, played ok, and looked great. But as time went by I started to look for ways to improve it's sound, and get myself a proper vintage 335 tone. I hunted down the perfect set of age period pickups, got myself a nice bridge and tailpiece, and had it setup something beautiful. The guitar was playing like a dream, but I still lacked the vibe and feel I was after. When I later learned about RS Guitarworks and said "what the heck", and gave them a try. I went ahead and contacted them, explained the sound I was going after, the layout of my guitar, and a few days later my custom pre-wired kit was designed. Ever since installing the kit my Viking has never sounded better. Oh, and the installation itself? A breeze. The 335 kit came so neatly put together that it was almost a shame to hide it in the guitar. The pots comes marked, you get two pigtails for wiring onto your pickups, and the RS Guitarworks Youtube channel has a great How-To video that helps you with anything you might need assistance with. What more could you ask for!?

Once the kit was installed the difference in my tone was undeniably noticeable. The quality went up up up like magic! I had more clarity, warmer lows topped off with a special "oomf", and my highs and mids were punchier but overpowering in any way. I was able to hear my guitar's natural woody tone, airy smoothness, and silky sound go diving into the pickups and out of the amp. I will just say right now - Out of all the parts and components I have ever tried in my Viking, this kit rules them all! The build quality to is second to none, and the variety of tones are mind numbing. A couple weeks after having the kit inside the guitar I played it for my partner who has a 2007 Gibson 335. He was truly envious and even a little jealous. I found him regularly picking up my guitar, stunned at how much mileage he was able to get from both volume and tone pots. For gigging and practicing it has been like day and night. it works with my setup like never before. I use a Deville for all my big sparkling clean tones, and a 15 watt head for the dirty goodness. I began testing the kit through my clean main tone first. Starting with the neck pickup and rolling up both tone and volume pots to 10. Right away my eq projection, harmonics, overtones, and undertones all sounded amazing. This made for an overall balanced root tone that gave me splendid note separation. This helped with big complex chords and everything I stacked on top of my root tone became easier to work with. The ultimate was definitely playing with the tone controls and getting tones I had no idea were there before. In fact, for the first time ever I was able to dial in a proper jazz tone from my semi-hollow guitar. I know that sounds crazy but you go ahead and try to get a jazz tone and see what happens. If ever you've tried to roll back the tone control on your guitar you know it just ends up giving you a muffled unpleasant sound. With this kit I was able to get a dark and beautiful sound that had me playing my favorite Grant Green, Wes Montgomery, and Charlie Christian licks. I could roll back as far as I wanted without etching away at my clarity and snap. One thing you learn when you're able to get more from your tone pot is all the sounds that live between zero and ten. Doing this while in the lead pickup position also created some handy and useful tones. By rolling down some of my highs I was able to fine tune my lead tune to sit in the mix much nicer. This helped with gigs and band practice like you wouldn't imagine. I was also able to get more from my dirt pedals which was very very nice. Having a more forgiving root tone created many more sweet spots within my stompboxes, which was like having new pedals! I had always searched for that soft super smooth lead tone out of my semi but had trouble getting it. Before I would get close but not exact, and end up just being frustrated with my sound. This kit helped with that problem like you wouldn't imagine. The overall sound of my pickups was just way better, which let me hear the true quality of their sound. When I first swapped out the cheap humbuckers with proper ones, I was able to hear a bit of a difference. But it wasn't until I had the 335 kit stacked up with the buckers that I heard their true nature. I would imagine the stock pickups would have probably sounded amazing with this kit. A big part of the smooth vintage tone the kit got me has to do with the Grey Tiger caps. These things are like instant mojo injectors. They add a silky suave sound that just can't be beat. In the end I found I was able to fine tune all the sounds I imagined with knock out ease. If you've played enough gigs you know that the tone you get in your rehearsal space does not always work in the venue. These even work great for that application. All around just a super great choice. What else can I say? Grab yourself a kit and let it speak for itself.

RS Guitarworks offers a killer selection of parts and components perfect for upgrading any guitar. You'l find everything from Luxe repro Phonebook, Chicklet, Bumblebee, and Grey Tigers caps, to RS's own caps and RS by Jensen paper in oil caps. They have an array of high quality pots, switches, hardware, knobs, pickups and pickup covers, and wire for building your own setups. Then of course is the insanely cool line of RS Guitarworks guitars WHICH YOU MUST CHECK OUT! RS builds both traditional style guitars, both new style and relic'd. And a completely original design called the Sidestep which blew me away (one day I will own one!). Once you visit the RS website you'll instantly know the level of class in which these cats work in. We're gonna try and bring ya'll more kits for different style guitars in the near future so make sure and look out for that.


For more info on RS Guitarworks go to or visit their online shop at You can also check out s bunch of cool videos on RS Guitarworks doing refins, relic work, and other upgrades on Youtube. You can check out all the vids on our Youtube search engine at the bottom header of the site. Just type in "rs guitarworks" and you're good. Stay tuned for more from this awesome company

(Pictured is a RS Guitarworks "Sidestep JR.")



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