What does a Fender Greasebucket tone circuit actually do?
I received an email asking what this specific circuit does and am answering it with an article on the subject.
The Fender American Special Stratocaster, seen above in a lovely Sonic Blue finish, features the Fender Greasebucket tone circuit. This is something Fender introduced back in 2005 and was originally featured in Highway One models along with a few offerings from the custom shop.
A regular tone circuit in a Strat is a 250K potentiometer with .022 orange drop capacitor.
A Greasebucket tone circuit is also a 250K potentiometer with .022 capacitor, but with 4.7K resistor and .1uf capacitor.
With the regular 250K, as the tone is rolled off, there is an increase in bass frequency. And as you roll the tone knob back and forth, a "wow" or "wah" sound is heard.
With the Greasebucket tone circuit, as the tone is rolled off, bass frequency isn't increased. And as you roll the tone knob back and forth, less "wow" or "wah" is heard.
How does Greasebucket benefit the player?
The idea with the Greasebucket tone circuit is keep the bass EQ "flat" so as the tone is rolled off, bass boom isn't added in, thereby making the tone control on the Stratocaster guitar more usable...
...depending on application, which is something a lot of people seem to gloss over.
Typically, where the Greasebucket tone circuit works best is with effects in use such as overdrive, distortion, chorus, delay and so on. If you're the type of player that uses a lot of effects, Greasebucket is your friend. Having a tone circuit that allows you to shape the tone to an almost surgical level is nice to have.
Where Greasebucket does not work well is when going after vintage style Strat tones. An example of this is using the third pickup position (middle pickup) and then rolling the tone down to 5. With regular Strat wiring, more bass frequency will be heard. If that is the kind of Strat sound you're used to, then you will not get along with the Greasebucket circuit because that increased bass will simply not be there.
So in the end, if you're a Stratocaster player that actually uses the tone control and want something more effects-friendly, then yes, Greasebucket works great and that is its best application. But if you never use the tone control and/or prefer a Strat with more traditional wiring, Greasebucket really won't do anything for you.