Tapered pots, how they work and is one better than the other

guitardon

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Hello all, I’ve been hanging around the forum on and off for years but not much the last few years so I havent followed all the newer changes. I see lots on posts about the tapered pots and other things like potted and un-potted pups. I can see where changes to pups would make a difference but I don’t understand how pots can translate to better sound. I would appreciate if someone would fill me in.
 

guitardon

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Generally speaking, there are two types of tapers for guitar pots... audio and linear. They respond to turning differently, but full out on 10 at 500Kohms they will sound the same. Check this out.

https://www.hoaglandcustom.com/2017/05/15/hello-world/



If you really want to nerd out, there's this...

https://www.amplifiedparts.com/tech-articles/potentiometer-taper-charts
Great article, thanks. So what did it hey use in the 50’s? Is the point on forum that they come stock with audio taper for volume and folks prefer linear taper for volume? Or the other way around or what?
 

Rocco Crocco

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Conventional wisdom is to use audio taper for volume and linear taper for tone. Audio pots have a more gradual taper. People have different preferences. I like audio taper for volume. I don't know what they used in the 50's but I am sure someone else will chime in.
 

guitardon

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Conventional wisdom is to use audio taper for volume and linear taper for tone. Audio pots have a more gradual taper. People have different preferences. I like audio taper for volume. I don't know what they used in the 50's but I am sure someone else will chime in.
Thanks. Just seems to me I’ve seen it pop up here in there on the the forum. I do remember people saying Gibson or they change the pots. So I assumed it had to do with audio versus linear taper. Thanks for responding
 
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Kennoyce

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I'm pretty sure what you are talking about is that the Audio taper used in pots has changed from what was used in the 50s. Audio taper basically means that the resistance of the pot changes in a logarithmic manner. In the 50s the standard audio taper used in pots followed a different logarithmic curve than the audio taper used in modern pots. I know there are some specialized places to get audio taper pots like what was used in the 50s, but I don't know who makes them off the top of my head.
 

guitardon

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I'm pretty sure what you are talking about is that the Audio taper used in pots has changed from what was used in the 50s. Audio taper basically means that the resistance of the pot changes in a logarithmic manner. In the 50s the standard audio taper used in pots followed a different logarithmic curve than the audio taper used in modern pots. I know there are some specialized places to get audio taper pots like what was used in the 50s, but I don't know who makes them off the top of my head.
Wow, What type do recent CS have. If they are not like the ones in the 50’s I guess they can include them in another year and claim the new models are more historically correct and justification for a price increase.
 

strat1701

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If you can find them, get a MSSC holy grail harness. If you want taper, there is no substitute IMHO. I have them in 2 of my guitars, world of difference.

The 60th anniversary R9's from 2019 were the first to have 'new' electronics and un-potted custom buckers. They're better than the previous historic and TH reissues electronics. I've yet to play a 2020 reissue so I dunno if they were improved from the 2019 ones.

I sum it up like, pre-2019 reissues/TH/CC runs you had ZERO taper from 0-3 on the knob, then a bit more from 4-6 and then past 8 it was all the same. Very small difference. Post 2019, I noticed a difference for sure in the 7-10 range.

Nothing comapres to the lower end taper the aftermarket electronics give you though, my MSSC harness is noticeably different from 0-2.
 

Kennoyce

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Wow, What type do recent CS have. If they are not like the ones in the 50’s I guess they can include them in another year and claim the new models are more historically correct and justification for a price increase.
Unfortunately, this is not my area of expertise, I know it is something that is talked about, and I know that there are a few pots on the market that have the same taper as the 50s LPs, but I couldn't tell you which manufacturers do or don't have it.
 

guitardon

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If you can find them, get a MSSC holy grail harness. If you want taper, there is no substitute IMHO. I have them in 2 of my guitars, world of difference.

The 60th anniversary R9's from 2019 were the first to have 'new' electronics and un-potted custom buckers. They're better than the previous historic and TH reissues electronics. I've yet to play a 2020 reissue so I dunno if they were improved from the 2019 ones.

I sum it up like, pre-2019 reissues/TH/CC runs you had ZERO taper from 0-3 on the knob, then a bit more from 4-6 and then past 8 it was all the same. Very small difference. Post 2019, I noticed a difference for sure in the 7-10 range.

Nothing comapres to the lower end taper the aftermarket electronics give you though, my MSSC harness is noticeably different from 0-2.
Thanks, this was the type of answer I was looking for. So if I understand this correctly the ones Gibson puts in has no difference from 0 to 3 and 7 to 10 so there’s very little adjustability. Although I do think I hear a difference in the 7 to 10 range when I’m lowering my volume. I don’t think I want to change mine I like to keep my guitar stock and it’s not driving me crazy. But it’s something I wanted to know in case I ever change my mind. So thanks.
 

guitardon

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Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind if I ever want to change them.
I now realize my subject was vague, I meant to ask for an explanation of tapered pots. I read here and there something about tapered pots and wanted to know what was up. Another member filled me in about the different types of pots and the number value where you can hear a difference. I don’t plan on changing anything for now. Sorry for my misleading title of this post. I’ve never delved into the electronics. I see all the time that this pot has different ohms than another pots. Same with pups. People are saying I like this one and that. Again I like to keep mine stock
 

goldtop0

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For many years I thought that audio taper was the gradual incremental 1 2 3 etc increase to 10.........that is wrong, that's linear taper as I now know.
 

guitardon

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Well I hate to argue with the experts but the post that said no gain til #3 on the volume knob and no affect after you reach #7. That isn’t the case with my 2018. The sound kicked in at 2 and consistently through 10. There was not a leveling at 7 and not going higher. What am I missing?
 

MCT

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'58-'60 LP Standards, as far as I know, all used audio taper pots, with a 10% taper. The "vintage taper" marketing for a lot of aftermarket pots is 25-30% taper, which is NOT what vintage LP's were. Which taper is better is a matter of opinion, but the fact is that Centralab pots in Bursts were C2's, which was a 10% taper.
 

Sct13

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Wiring ....don't forget "how" they are wired together....it must be "50's wiring" to work properly....if they are wired 70's or modern, there is a noticeable blanket thrown over the highs as you turn the pots down....as the these frequencies are shunted differently.

Also .....the audio taper that were made in the 50's had a kick in the end ....(some, not all) where the pot seems to open wide as if kicking in the Nitrus Oxide ....Some CTS pots have this. Its as if all resistance drops out and you get pure pickup.

Traynor Amps used a pot that did this on some of their amp's (I have one from 1967) Where it actually does go past 11 .....
 

Adinol

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Generally speaking, there are two types of tapers for guitar pots... audio and linear....

https://www.hoaglandcustom.com/2017/05/15/hello-world/
Sorry, but... and I don't know if others have already pointed out... but that article is full of mistakes and misconceptions.

An AUDIO taper pot increases the signal from your guitar to your amp in a logarithmic (exponential) fashion...
A pot is a passive component and does not increase the signal. The amplifier does that. A pot sends part of the signal to ground, so less signal is sent to the next stage, which in the case of a guitar is the amp.

...past “7” or “8” on the radio volume knob, it doesn’t really increase your volume anymore. It causes your signal to clip.
What? The pot is not what causes the signal to clip. The amplifier does that.

A LINEAR taper pot increases the signal in a linear fashion. (“1” on your control is equal to 10%, “4” is equal to 40% and so forth) This works very different from an audio taper volume pot. For those looking for a smooth, predictable transition to volume, a linear taper pot will probably work best for you.
The exact opposite is true. That's why they've developed audio taper (a.k.a. logarithmic) pots.

A linear pot is used to decrease voltage in a linear fashion. The issues is that the human ear perception does not work in a linear fashion. The ear perception works in a reverse logarithmic fashion, so you need a logarithmic pot to please the ear.

We would encourage you to experiment with linear taper and audio taper pots.
No need to experiment or reinvent the wheel. All the experiments have already been done with people that have knowledge and equipment. Any further amateur experiments fall in the category of pseudo science.

There is no right or wrong.
Actually, there is.

Only what you, the player, like. Some players would like audio taper pots and volume positions and some players will like linear taper pots and volume positions.
Players are artists and most artists do not understand the nerdy science. Some players like "tone wood" and some don't. It really doesn't matter what players think they like, when their pain focus is on deciding on adjectives (linear, audio, logarithmic...) that they don't fully understand.

The article that I recommend reading is this one.

Potentiometer taper - Chapter 3 - Resistor types

The first article missed some very important points which are explained in the article that I recommended. Let's have a look at the following chart from that article.



The first and last 5% of the pot travel doesn't do anything. In the guitar player's world that's annoying. That means that when you turn your volume knob from 10 to 9.5 nothing happens. In other words, it seems to stay at 10. Then you turn another degree and the volume audibly drops. Unlike "tone wood" that's something that everyone can actually hear. The best solution I know of, to improve that: use Emerson Pro CTS pots.

The other important detail is the blue curve. Compare that curve to the dashed curve right next to it. The dashed curve is what the audio pot (also called logarithmic pot) should actually behave like. But tjey are built to behave like the blue curve. Why? To reduce the cost of the component. In other words, they use one type of resistor material for the first part of the travel and another type for the second part of the travel. The human ear perceives it as a true log curve. Or does it? I guess not all ears have been created equal, so some players might actually hear the difference between a true log pot and the blue line approximation. I don't know the answer. But as the article points out, they do make pots with "real exponential curves for specialized applications." The question is, do they exist in 250k and 500k, with split shafts? And does it really matter for this application?

Hope this helps.
 

guitardon

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Sorry, but... and I don't know if others have already pointed out... but that article is full of mistakes and misconceptions.



A pot is a passive component and does not increase the signal. The amplifier does that. A pot sends part of the signal to ground, so less signal is sent to the next stage, which in the case of a guitar is the amp.



What? The pot is not what causes the signal to clip. The amplifier does that.



The exact opposite is true. That's why they've developed audio taper (a.k.a. logarithmic) pots.

A linear pot is used to decrease voltage in a linear fashion. The issues is that the human ear perception does not work in a linear fashion. The ear perception works in a reverse logarithmic fashion, so you need a logarithmic pot to please the ear.



No need to experiment or reinvent the wheel. All the experiments have already been done with people that have knowledge and equipment. Any further amateur experiments fall in the category of pseudo science.



Actually, there is.



Players are artists and most artists do not understand the nerdy science. Some players like "tone wood" and some don't. It really doesn't matter what players think they like, when their pain focus is on deciding on adjectives (linear, audio, logarithmic...) that they don't fully understand.

The article that I recommend reading is this one.

Potentiometer taper - Chapter 3 - Resistor types

The first article missed some very important points which are explained in the article that I recommended. Let's have a look at the following chart from that article.



The first and last 5% of the pot travel doesn't do anything. In the guitar player's world that's annoying. That means that when you turn your volume knob from 10 to 9.5 nothing happens. In other words, it seems to stay at 10. Then you turn another degree and the volume audibly drops. Unlike "tone wood" that's something that everyone can actually hear. The best solution I know of, to improve that: use Emerson Pro CTS pots.

The other important detail is the blue curve. Compare that curve to the dashed curve right next to it. The dashed curve is what the audio pot (also called logarithmic pot) should actually behave like. But tjey are built to behave like the blue curve. Why? To reduce the cost of the component. In other words, they use one type of resistor material for the first part of the travel and another type for the second part of the travel. The human ear perceives it as a true log curve. Or does it? I guess not all ears have been created equal, so some players might actually hear the difference between a true log pot and the blue line approximation. I don't know the answer. But as the article points out, they do make pots with "real exponential curves for specialized applications." The question is, do they exist in 250k and 500k, with split shafts? And does it really matter for this application?

Hope this helps.
Thanks for what you said above. I’ll admit it’s all over my head, I don’t really want to think about the science of it. But I think I’ve gotten a really good education here about linear and tapered pots. I was thinking there would be a simple explanation. This is way too complicated for me. But I want to thank you for taking the time to post this.
 


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