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We have received many requests for technical information on several guitar related subjects. This installment is the first of many and we hope you like it. Have a special request, drop us a email
Lets Talk About Guitar Pots
Potentiometer's for guitars basically come in two versions, Linear and Audio. Within both these types there are various taper characteristics and resistance levels (measured in ohms). Generally an Audio (or Logarithmic) pot will have a full swell of sound increasing from 1 thru 10. A linear pot will give most of its swell of sound in the first quarter of a turn of the 1 thu 10 scale. Thus the Audio taper is more pleasing and what your ear would expect, while the linear is more abrupt. Both do the same thing, decrease resistance from 1 thru 10 increasing the sound or tone level as you turn the knob. But, how they get there is the difference.
Potentiometer's for guitars basically come in two popular resistance's. This would be 250k and 500k. The 250k is generally used on single coil pickups and gives a bright sound, the 500k are generally used on humbuckers and give a darker sound. Installing a 500k on your strat, will give it a fuller but darker sound, there are many variations and wiring possibilities, but that is for another article.
To measure your pot, use a multimeter on the two outer lugs and read the resistance. Say if you have a 500k pot and you read 475k, it will be within the percentage range, as it is not an exact science and there will always be a stated tolerance in manufacturing. Note that it does not matter where your knob is turned for this measurement, you are simply reading the total ohm resistance of the unit. To determine if you have a linear or audio pot, measure from the center lug to either outer lug with the knob turned to 5 on a 1-10 scale. If it reads close to 50% of the total resistance it is linear, (say you have a 500k pot and it reads 250k during this test) if it reads appx. 10% or 90% of the total value depending on which lug you use, it is audio.
Which is best? This is so much a matter of what sound you prefer. For the most part, my opinion is use audio taper pots for both volume and tone. However, this is not cast in stone, and experimentation is what sets players apart. This only covers the outer shell of pots, but hopefully it will get you started on shaping your sound.
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