Can changing the stock capacitors on your “modern” electric guitar make it sound as if it was built in the 1950s?
By: Ringo Bones
I recently discovered this “tweak” almost by accident near the end of summer of 2017 after fixing – actually tweaking - a late 1970s Japanese made Gibson Les Paul equivalent after the owner complained it started picking up AM radio during high-gain settings of the preamplifier in use. It was late Saturday night after all DIY electronic shops have already closed for the weekend in my neck of the woods when the closest functioning 100-picofarad ceramic capacitor to replace the one on the guitar that was essentially used to prevent it acting as an AM radio with a detached lead which I replaced with one rated at 2,000 volts and looks like it was manufactured from the 1950s. to my surprise, The Japanese Les Paul replica’s DiMarzio Super Distortion humbucker pickups started to sound slightly like a mid 1050s PAF (Patent Applied For) humbucker pickups. And it ever sounded more vintage after I replaced the stock 0.1-microfarad 50-volt mylar capacitor used in the guitars low-to-high tone control with one rated at 1,600-volts.
Given that most original Gibson Les Paul electric guitars from the 1950s with original PAF humbucker pickups has now become “investment grade musical instruments” that are now often speculated by anyone interested in using musical instruments as investment tools – i.e. mid 1950s Gibson Les Pauls with their original PAF humbucker pickups which are left unmodified or has been properly maintained by collector standards now start at around 8,000 US dollars or more. While used pristine quality Japanese made replica Gibson Les Pauls from the late 1970s hover around 300 to 500 US dollars on the used market despite often used in classic rock gigs. So it makes perfect economic sense to sell that heirloom Gibson Les Paul for around 12,000 US dollars or more and use that money to buy more “tonally flexible” newer electric guitars or one of those snazzy new recording equipment.