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I'm digging a varitone on my ML Les Paul

DingosDog

New member
Joined
Aug 16, 2021
Messages
28
Wish I had used a varitone years ago. They are a great tonal option for humbuckers.

For over 20 years, I had a varitone in a pedal. It sat around. I never used it. I didn't understand its usefulness until recently. Back then I was mainly a strat/tele player. However, now I'm primarily 335, Les Paul, and Firebird. I think I like it better and that it works better with humbuckers. A couple of settings really soften a humbucker in a subtle way. Single coils are already softer sounding, which is why I didn't find it useful on my strat.

A couple of settings are really useful and practical. I don't know how I've done without them. Others are usable, but you usually have to tweak your gain/tone so it's not too bassy.

In the past, I would always want to add a coil split push/pull on my humbucker guitars to have available that softer single coil tone. It was never a replication of a quacky strat pickup, which was fine. I just wanted that softer alternative to a humbucker. This gives me that option and makes it very versatile.

So recently, I pulled out that pedal. After really liking the sounds, I bought a Mike D varitone switch and installed it on my Murphy Lab Les Paul, in place of the neck's tone control. It's wired to be on for both pickups.

I customized a matching top hat reflector knob to fit the varitone solid shaft, so I could preserve the cool vintage look of the Les Paul.

I love it. Anyway I recommend people consider it. I'm kinda surprised it's not a more common mod. For years, all I heard was it was a mistake by Gibson; a tone sucker. But if you like blues, country, jazz, or basically anything other than heavier stuff, I think it'll come in handy.

I felt a bit naughty installing this on my Murphy Lab Les Paul, but I'm a player, not a collector. I didn't drill any holes; just wiring, so no harm, but still it felt weird to do that. I'm glad i did though. It's made it more of a swiss army knife.

Anyone else into varitone switches?
 

Flogger

Active member
Joined
Sep 23, 2008
Messages
528
My stereo ES345 is my recording secret weapon . First 3 positions are great, and if you pile the gain on for position 6 with both pickups it'll stand in for an Octavia.
 

DingosDog

New member
Joined
Aug 16, 2021
Messages
28
My stereo ES345 is my recording secret weapon . First 3 positions are great, and if you pile the gain on for position 6 with both pickups it'll stand in for an Octavia.
It's already making my friends do a double take. I recorded something using position 3 and the treble pickup. My friend who usually hears me with my 335 thought that I was using the 335 and was surprised it wasn't. He thought it sounded more woody or mellow than a Les Paul could sound.
 

DingosDog

New member
Joined
Aug 16, 2021
Messages
28
If anyone installed a varitone switch, where did you get it? I got mine from bigdguitars.com. It's a 6 position switch. I've heard of some having more settings. Just curious the options available.
 

brandtkronholm

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 3, 2006
Messages
2,380
Wish I had used a varitone years ago. They are a great tonal option for humbuckers.

For over 20 years, I had a varitone in a pedal. It sat around. I never used it. I didn't understand its usefulness until recently. Back then I was mainly a strat/tele player. However, now I'm primarily 335, Les Paul, and Firebird. I think I like it better and that it works better with humbuckers. A couple of settings really soften a humbucker in a subtle way. Single coils are already softer sounding, which is why I didn't find it useful on my strat.

A couple of settings are really useful and practical. I don't know how I've done without them. Others are usable, but you usually have to tweak your gain/tone so it's not too bassy.

In the past, I would always want to add a coil split push/pull on my humbucker guitars to have available that softer single coil tone. It was never a replication of a quacky strat pickup, which was fine. I just wanted that softer alternative to a humbucker. This gives me that option and makes it very versatile.

So recently, I pulled out that pedal. After really liking the sounds, I bought a Mike D varitone switch and installed it on my Murphy Lab Les Paul, in place of the neck's tone control. It's wired to be on for both pickups.

I customized a matching top hat reflector knob to fit the varitone solid shaft, so I could preserve the cool vintage look of the Les Paul.

I love it. Anyway I recommend people consider it. I'm kinda surprised it's not a more common mod. For years, all I heard was it was a mistake by Gibson; a tone sucker. But if you like blues, country, jazz, or basically anything other than heavier stuff, I think it'll come in handy.

I felt a bit naughty installing this on my Murphy Lab Les Paul, but I'm a player, not a collector. I didn't drill any holes; just wiring, so no harm, but still it felt weird to do that. I'm glad i did though. It's made it more of a swiss army knife.

Anyone else into varitone switches?
Do you have pictures (cavity or otherwise) or, even better, a video demo?
I'm into the Varitone on my 1959 ES345. Indeed, some sounds are more useful than others. I did the 2nd position sound.
 

TM1

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 27, 2003
Messages
8,190
I have a 1965 Epiphone Al Caiola Custom which has a Varitone with little switches so you can turn on or off the different selections. It has mini-hums which are so clear it’s scary! I love it!
 

DingosDog

New member
Joined
Aug 16, 2021
Messages
28
Do you have pictures (cavity or otherwise) or, even better, a video demo?
I'm into the Varitone on my 1959 ES345. Indeed, some sounds are more useful than others. I dig the 2nd position sound.
I don't have videos. I'd like to though. It would be a first for me, figuring out how to make a descent gear video.

I could take a pic of the cavity, but it wouldn't be pretty.
  1. The Mike D varitone switch has it's guts wrapped up with black electrical tape, which is fine. Others do that too. That takes up some room.
  2. To muddy the cavity up more, kinda ashamed to admit I did this. I wanted to make it simple to install a new tone cap for my bridge pickup. So I soldered alligator clip wires to the vol and tone pots for the bridge pickup. The tone cap is simply alligator clipped in! I know I know, but is secured in place and situated to not touch any other parts, and it works great.
  3. Note that the varitone switch's two wires are wired to the output jack in order to affect both pickups.
 

brandtkronholm

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 3, 2006
Messages
2,380
I don't have videos. I'd like to though. It would be a first for me, figuring out how to make a descent gear video.

I could take a pic of the cavity, but it wouldn't be pretty.
  1. The Mike D varitone switch has it's guts wrapped up with black electrical tape, which is fine. Others do that too. That takes up some room.
  2. To muddy the cavity up more, kinda ashamed to admit I did this. I wanted to make it simple to install a new tone cap for my bridge pickup. So I soldered alligator clip wires to the vol and tone pots for the bridge pickup. The tone cap is simply alligator clipped in! I know I know, but is secured in place and situated to not touch any other parts, and it works great.
  3. Note that the varitone switch's two wires are wired to the output jack in order to affect both pickups.
Ugly or not, a picture has gotta be interesting!
 
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