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Thread: Audio Taper vs. Linear Taper (whats what) and Cap Questions...

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    Super Toneologist JordanM82's Avatar
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    Default Audio Taper vs. Linear Taper (whats what) and Cap Questions...

    Is one better then the other? Is one more appropriate for volume and another for tone? I have heard before that there is a difference in usable range for one compared to the other, is this true?

    Looking to replace the pots in my new Carvin CS4 with CTS 500k pots... Want to make sure this is the right call, will this make any changes to tone or just usability of the pots?

    Also, IRT to Caps, I have little to no knowledge in this arena... How do caps affect tone, how significant is that affect and what would be the right cap to achieve a PAF sound in my Carvin CS4...

    Thanks for the knowledge sharing guys, as always it is much appreciated...

    -J
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    LoveMachineologist jeremy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Audio Taper vs. Linear Taper (whats what) and Cap Questions...

    there is no difference in tone, only in the taper. at 10 both will be 100%, at 0 they will both be 0%. at 5 the linear will be at 50% and the audio will be less than that maybe 25% or so, i cant remember exactly, but audio rolls off faster. i used to prefer audio but ive been happier with linear recently. one isnt better than the other really, only what works better for you.

    for caps .02 (or .022) and .047 (or .05) are the most common for guitars. they change what frequency is rolled off when using the tone control. a higher value cap will give you a darker sound with less treble than a smaller value cap when the tone is at 0.

    a paf sound is easy in your carvin, a paf in a les paul sound from your carvin is gonna be much harder. old les pauls used .047 caps if i remember correctly

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    Kablamminator ratherdashing's Avatar
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    Default Re: Audio Taper vs. Linear Taper (whats what) and Cap Questions...

    Choosing audio (log) vs. linear depends on what you will be using the pot for. You should always use audio pots for volume control, otherwise you will find that the volume does not change smoothly as you turn the pot up and down. With a linear taper pot, you will find that the volume increases slowly from 0 to about 60 or 70 percent, then increases rapidly from that point on. This is because there isn't a direct relationship between resistance and volume in a passive circuit (which is what a guitar with passive pickups is). Audio taper pots compensate for this, and give you a consistent volume change throughout the sweep.

    A tone control, on the other hand, works best with a linear taper pot. The role of a tone control is to feed part of your signal to a capacitor that bleeds the treble to ground. In order to have a smooth transition from bright tone to mellow tone, the pot has to be linear. You can use an audio taper pot in a tone control, but you won't find the tone roll-off to be as smooth as it could be.

    Regarding capacitors: a guitar's tone circuit is what is known as a passive low pass filter. The capacitor only lets high frequencies through, and it dumps these frequencies to ground. Whatever is left (low frequencies) continues on to the volume control and out the jack to the amp. This is why it's called a low pass, because the lows "pass" through the circuit while the highs are blocked.

    As Jeremy said, the value of the cap determines at what point in the frequency spectrum the frequency cut-off occurs. The higher the cap value, the lower the cut-off point will be. In other words, higher value caps will make your tone darker when the tone control is set below 10. Strats and Teles generally have .022 uF caps and Les Pauls generally have .047 uF caps. I have seen guitars with caps as high as .068 and as low as .010.

    This concludes today's lecture

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    Ultimate Tone Slacker ParameterMan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Audio Taper vs. Linear Taper (whats what) and Cap Questions...

    What RD said. I'm tempted to just steal it and put my name on it.

    Oh, but pedantic as I am, I must point out that, because of the pickups' inductance, a resonance peak develops just below the cutoff frequency when the tone knob nears 0. That's how Danny Gatton and Roy Buchanon managed to get that "cocked wah" sound from their tone controls.

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    LoveMachineologist jeremy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Audio Taper vs. Linear Taper (whats what) and Cap Questions...

    every one is right on the money here but i want to point out one thing.

    in theory audio taper is what you want for volume contols, but what i have found is that if you use a cranked up tube amp linear pots can work better. i use a humbucker loaded guitar straight into a deluxe reverb and turn it up to 6. at that point the amp is cooking really nicely giving me a sweet overdriven tone. in order to clean it up i roll back the volume control. using a linear taper pot i have much more control over the clean to dirty ratio of the tone. with an audio taper it goes from dirty to cleanish very quickly making it hard to dial in shades of dirt.

    if dont use an amp cranked up to get your tone then this isnt a consideration but i wanted to clarify why i said "i used to prefer audio but ive been happier with linear recently"

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    Ultimate Tone Slacker ParameterMan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Audio Taper vs. Linear Taper (whats what) and Cap Questions...

    Hey, thanks for the info jeremy. It makes sense that the increased sensitivity would work better with a linear taper, I never thought about it.

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    Kablamminator ratherdashing's Avatar
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    Default Re: Audio Taper vs. Linear Taper (whats what) and Cap Questions...

    Quote Originally Posted by ParameterMan View Post
    What RD said. I'm tempted to just steal it and put my name on it.

    Oh, but pedantic as I am, I must point out that, because of the pickups' inductance, a resonance peak develops just below the cutoff frequency when the tone knob nears 0. That's how Danny Gatton and Roy Buchanon managed to get that "cocked wah" sound from their tone controls.
    Interesting ... makes sense.

    Quote Originally Posted by jeremy View Post
    every one is right on the money here but i want to point out one thing.

    in theory audio taper is what you want for volume contols, but what i have found is that if you use a cranked up tube amp linear pots can work better. i use a humbucker loaded guitar straight into a deluxe reverb and turn it up to 6. at that point the amp is cooking really nicely giving me a sweet overdriven tone. in order to clean it up i roll back the volume control. using a linear taper pot i have much more control over the clean to dirty ratio of the tone. with an audio taper it goes from dirty to cleanish very quickly making it hard to dial in shades of dirt.

    if dont use an amp cranked up to get your tone then this isnt a consideration but i wanted to clarify why i said "i used to prefer audio but ive been happier with linear recently"
    In this situation you're using your volume pot more like one would use a preamp volume control on an amp or a pedal, and in that sense a linear taper pot is the best call.

    If you're using your volume pot as a plain vanilla volume knob, like most people do, audio taper is best.

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    Super Toneologist JordanM82's Avatar
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    Default Re: Audio Taper vs. Linear Taper (whats what) and Cap Questions...

    I typically let my pedals color my tone more or less... I do use the volume but usually to go straight from Brown to Clean, for the in-between I come down on my volume pedal or switch the OD pedal I am using...
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    Default Re: Audio Taper vs. Linear Taper (whats what) and Cap Questions...

    Wow, A LOT of wisdom here!

    Let me just add that in all my guitars I have audio taper pots and that like jeremy I also use the volume knob to control the amount of "dirt" in my guitar.
    (usually I like it when the amp is JUST about to break where I can actually control the amount of dirt with my picking hand)

    However after some time I got really used to dialing it with an audio pot that now I can almost automatically go for the various sweet spots so chances are I'd find it harder the other way around!!!

    In short, while every single person in this thread was 100% correct there is always the subjective factor of what YOU'll like the best and what will work the best FOR YOU.

    Personally, I see myself keeping an audio pot for volume but probably swapping to a linear pot for tone since that's where I'm having the most problem finding the sweet spot of...
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    Not all guitars are created equal, so make sure it sings and if it does, you'd be silly to pass it up.

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    Default Re: Audio Taper vs. Linear Taper (whats what) and Cap Questions...

    When you buy a pot on the internet it doesn't say whether it's an audio taper or linear taper. I'm assuming all the pots I bought were traditional audio(logarithmic)taper for my Stratocaster.

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    Ultimate Tone Slacker DesertRat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Audio Taper vs. Linear Taper (whats what) and Cap Questions...

    Quote Originally Posted by 357mag View Post
    When you buy a pot on the internet it doesn't say whether it's an audio taper or linear taper. I'm assuming all the pots I bought were traditional audio(logarithmic)taper for my Stratocaster.
    Probably, but not necessarily. If you want to know if a new pot is audio or linear taper (before it's installed in a circuit), set the shaft at the halfway point and measure the resistance from the middle tab to each of the outside tabs on the pot. If the values are close to equal, it's linear. if the values are more like an 80:20 ratio, it's audio taper.

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    Ultimate Tone Slacker Philcguitars's Avatar
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    Default Re: Audio Taper vs. Linear Taper (whats what) and Cap Questions...

    I agree with all the points, but especially with Jeremy's personal preference on Linear over Audio taper. It's purely preference.
    "Well, if I knew I probably had to play this song for the rest of my life, I probably would have written something else! ...But it's too late you're stuck with this one" Joe Walsh on 'Rocky Mountain Way'
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    Default Re: Audio Taper vs. Linear Taper (whats what) and Cap Questions...

    I wish there was a taper between audio and linear. If there is, please tell me!

    I use my volume knob to go from mid-gain dirty to clean. With linear taper I find the change between 10 and 3 to be barely noticable - all the "cleaning up" happens between 3 and 0. With audio taper I find all the cleaning up happens between 10 and 6, and below 4 the tone gets pretty thin, so I rarely use the volume below 4.

    Of the two I find audio taper preferable (more usable settings) but a compromise would be sweet!
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    Tone Member benji657's Avatar
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    Default Re: Audio Taper vs. Linear Taper (whats what) and Cap Questions...

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon_F View Post
    I wish there was a taper between audio and linear. If there is, please tell me!

    I use my volume knob to go from mid-gain dirty to clean. With linear taper I find the change between 10 and 3 to be barely noticable - all the "cleaning up" happens between 3 and 0. With audio taper I find all the cleaning up happens between 10 and 6, and below 4 the tone gets pretty thin, so I rarely use the volume below 4.

    Of the two I find audio taper preferable (more usable settings) but a compromise would be sweet!
    you should check out the rs superpots!
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    Default Re: Audio Taper vs. Linear Taper (whats what) and Cap Questions...

    there is two "commonly" available log tapers but if you can get your hands on a USA Hamer pot, the taper is wonderful. i used to bribe the local hamer guy to get me some but hes gone now

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    Administrator Simon_F's Avatar
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    Default Re: Audio Taper vs. Linear Taper (whats what) and Cap Questions...

    The other point (which I should have mentioned) about audio taper volumes is that I find them easier to use in a gigging situation because most of the change is at the same end of the volume pot so smaller adjustments are required. I find cleaning up by going from 10 to 5 a lot easier than cleaning up by going from 10 to 2. 2 can be hard to find in a split second in the middle of a song when you're not actually looking at the guitar - you have to go to 0 then roll it back up!

    In favor of linears its worth mentioning that if you play clean all the time (jazz?) linear tapers are great because they give you very fine control of the volume.
    I'll wet my socks, pretend we just got caught in the rain.

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    Mojo's Minions papersoul's Avatar
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    Default Re: Audio Taper vs. Linear Taper (whats what) and Cap Questions...

    I hate to bring up an old post....but I am going through this now. I replaced all the stock pots in my LPs and SG with all audio taper pots and have never been quite happy. I ended up puting the stocks back into my SG and I think they are linear. The volume control is way more gradual now. Before it was drastic between 6 and 10!

    I am not sure what was stock in my Gibson LP (2004). I know both volumes were 300K (even the neck). But to be honest....I can tell very little difference between a 300K and 500K in either the bridge or the neck....the difference is so subtle. I find my neck pickups as clear with the 300K...

    Now, I believe my stock 2004 LP volumes are linear and I want to think the tones are audio????? Not sure.

    Maybe I will just order all new pots and call it a day.....but I must agree with Jeremy.....the linear taper pots have a more gradual taper....I can get more shades of grey without turing the volume off at 5!

    Jeremy, you have to admit through classic Alex Lifeson volume swells are near impossible or harder with linears! No?

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    Ultimate Tone Slacker ParameterMan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Audio Taper vs. Linear Taper (whats what) and Cap Questions...

    They might also be a better audio taper. In this article you'll find that not all pots are created equal. It also talks about using a resistor to approximate an audio taper with a linear pot.

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    Mojo's Minions papersoul's Avatar
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    Default Re: Audio Taper vs. Linear Taper (whats what) and Cap Questions...

    I find the audio tapers like on/off switches in my Gibsons. I was either going to put the stock linear vols back in or order some CTS linear pots....but I don't see anyone makine a 500K linear in a long shaft! I guess I could just put the stock Gibson Linear in the bridge and leave the CTS audio in the neck vol.

    I wonder how the CTS taper compares to stock Gibon. I never did A/B testing.

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    Default Re: Audio Taper vs. Linear Taper (whats what) and Cap Questions...

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon_F View Post
    The other point (which I should have mentioned) about audio taper volumes is that I find them easier to use in a gigging situation because most of the change is at the same end of the volume pot so smaller adjustments are required. I find cleaning up by going from 10 to 5 a lot easier than cleaning up by going from 10 to 2. 2 can be hard to find in a split second in the middle of a song when you're not actually looking at the guitar - you have to go to 0 then roll it back up!

    In favor of linears its worth mentioning that if you play clean all the time (jazz?) linear tapers are great because they give you very fine control of the volume.
    I wanted to revive this thread. I prefer audio for tone and volume. No difference with tone to me, and some swear linear is best for guitar volume because the change is gradual and broad, but in a gig situation I need faster changes so audio works better.

    So the next issue is value. I find 300k has a better sweep, more gradual, 500k is more abrupt. Nice things about linear is that since it is so gradual, you don't have the obvious treble loss.

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