It’s becoming more common these days for guitars to be wired without a tone knob.

Not only are there tonal benefits to this approach, but for guitarists who run their tone knob on 10 all the time, there’s really no point in having one.

Removing it gives you one less knob to bump into, and one less variable to worry about when your tone “doesn’t sound like it did yesterday!” It definitely saves the embarrassing “Oh…” moment when you realize your tone knob wasn’t on full…

But what about those of us who still want access to the tone knob? Maybe you love the warm, dark clean sounds for jazz music or the sludgy, fuzzy, thick distorted tones for doom metal.

There’s one more option on the table, and it’s a compromise between having a tone knob and removing it entirely, that’s where the No-Load Tone Pot comes in.

What Does It Do?

A no-load tone pot effectively removes itself from the signal chain when the volume is set to 10. When the tone knob is below 10, it does its job just as intended.

Most people heard about this feature as a result of its place on the Fender Yngwie Malmsteen Signature Stratocaster – a surprisingly cheap and effective modification.

A similar feature has been employed in the past which most of us learned about through Guthrie Govan’s use of it. A “blower switch” is a toggle switch that when pressed down bypass all electronic controls, running the bridge pickup straight to the output jack.

With a no-load pot, however, there is no switching required as the process is entirely automatic. On settings 0-9.9 it acts just like any other tone knob. On 10, it is effectively removed from the signal path.

What Are The Benefits?

In short, the less circuitry in your signal chain, the more “pure” the tone is from the guitar. This isn’t necessarily a positive or negative thing, it’s entirely subjective. There are no real strengths or weaknesses to this approach but instead, come down to personal preference.

It’s a similar idea to true bypass switching in guitar pedals – the goal here is the same: remove as much circuitry as possible when not in use to keep the original signal unaffected.

The benefits of this are a brighter and clearer tone, as there is less resistance between the pickup and the output jack.

It takes no extra thinking or energy from the player during a show, it doesn’t require expensive parts, and it’s simple to install, which is one of the benefits it has over something like a blower switch.

What About Volume Knobs?

It’s a great idea, but some of you may be wondering if it’s possible to do the same with a volume control. The short answer is: no.

Simply put, due to the way a tone and volume pot are wired different, it will result in no sound at all when on 10.

There are ways to wire these pots where you do get volume on 10, but it results in a huge jump in volume on other settings, making the range of your volume knob extremely nonlinear and jarring.

Our advice: leave your volume knob the way it is, as there’s no good solution for this, unfortunately.


And there you have it! For those who prefer a cleaner, simpler signal chain, this is a no-brainer for your instruments. You’ll have to decide for yourself if it helps you on your tonal journey!

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This article was written by Connor Gilkinson, our editor located in Canada.

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