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Pots...everyone makes them, but which ones are best?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by cnltb, Jul 9, 2012.

  1. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    Hi all...
    CTS, Alps, Bourns, Noble, Alpha...volume and tone pots for use in a 51'style P bass...
    Which one of these companies,and others you may care to throw into the pot, make,as far as you are concerned, the best ones when looking at tone and of course reliability/lifespan?
    and what values would you recommend , and why?

    Thanks in advance for any input/advice you may be willing and able to give!
  2. LukeFRC


    Mar 15, 2012
    A pots a pot. Really some are a wee bit better than others but above the cheepos are you really going to notice the difference?

    But as you ask... doubt you would find better in the world than MEC
  3. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    CTS & Bourn would be considered "the best"
  4. mmbongo

    mmbongo Chicken Pot Pie. My three favorite things!! Supporting Member

    Love Bourns. They turn smoother than anything else and don't 'grindy' feeling over time like cheapos do.
  5. mech

    mech Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2008
    Meridian, MS, USA
    This is my ranking for quality.

  6. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    Thanks very much for the contributions so far!
  7. Bassamatic

    Bassamatic keepin' the beat since the 60's Supporting Member

    What are your criteria for "best"??

    Tone is not a factor - pots have no effect on tone - a ten cent pot sounds the same as a ten dollar pot.

    Smoothness? Low operating, noise? Long life? Mechanical precision and strength?

    Considering all of the above, In my 40 years of building electronics, I would have to say that of the popular brands, Bourns would be my choice if cost was no object. Alps and Noble, second, then CTS, Taiwan Alpha, and then the others. Mec is in the middle somewhere.

    For making a guitar - any of them are fine. Pots have come a long long way over the last 30 years.
  8. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    Different value pots absolutely have an effect on tone.
  9. mmbongo

    mmbongo Chicken Pot Pie. My three favorite things!! Supporting Member

    ..until the cheap one craps out on you, leaving you with NO tone :)
  10. scotch

    scotch It's not rocket science! Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2006
    Albany, NY USA
    Please see Profile for Endorsement disclosures
    You should do more research on the role of pots (variable resistors) in an audio circuit!
  11. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    Thanks once more!
    I tend to believe that components used in the signal chain do make a difference, subtle perhaps,in some cases, but a difference none the less.
    Tone is obviously not the only thing relevant. Reliability and lifespan too are worth considering I think.
  12. Unless one is building a Mars Rover, this is a non-issue. There's no tonal difference in a cheap v expensive pot.

    If the knob doesn't drop off or the shaft fall out and they are quiet - then they are equal.

    I've got 30 year old pots still working in some gear, guitars, keyboards and some transistor radios from the 1960s that are working just fine and I know they are both cheap and old - so what's the big deal?

    Oh --- wait! There's bragging rights - but is it for the overprice paid or the make believe tone difference?

    But then again I don't talk to dead people either so I'll disqualify myself here.
  13. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    I for one am not in the least interested in bragging rights and am not vain either.
    I am interested in what works and if something works better than something else...well it's obvious.
    My relative lack of knowledge on these things is why I posted this thread.:)
  14. Good - then buy something that works and doesn't set you back too much money.

    Really though - MOST people - perhaps you're not one of them - are so into themselves and how much they can spend on parts that don't make any difference in their playing and sound, that it gets very old and contentious.

    'Better' is relative to the design and really, the application as in: what you need and what you need it to do, and add in some perceived cool-factor.

    If these factored values are important and reliability comes into the equation, then in reality anything that's got a brand name will work in spite of country of origin and ultimate cost.

    I cite: Orange Caps. Pure drivel.
  15. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    I'm past cool or status sybol stuff, or gear fetish.,I think.:)
    I do nonetheless try to find the best tool for the job or the best possibly components to become part of a tool, in this case a 51' style P bass and some components do just have a reputation and a 'name' for a reason :).

    Funyn though you should mention orange drops, as I posted another thread on caps...another area I do not know much about, really, and orange drops were thus far, the only ones I had ever heard mentioned
  16. Hype - pure marketing and filling a non-existent gap in what is perceived as a manufacturer's poor quality first-line parts fuels the debate about caps, pots and bridge material/design.

    One can feed the beast of marketing or do what's good and right for oneself and not fall victim to the glossy ads.

    Get your caps at Radio Shack in gross lots for the cost of a pair of some pimped, questionably superior and decidedly more costly, mono-colored fashion magazine cap. I draw a line at the Radio Shack 1/4" jacks though.

    1'4" jack receptacles are typically mistreated and their failure is more embarrassing than anything, but if you keep a good quality part there, it pays off.

    And about cables: I'm preferring the cloth covered instrument cables for myself - but that's just me.

    A 250Ω pot with a 20% tolerance is the same as a 250Ω pot with a 20% tolerance and if it's a different size or from a different country - so what? Just match up the shafts and they'r fine.
  17. scotch

    scotch It's not rocket science! Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2006
    Albany, NY USA
    Please see Profile for Endorsement disclosures
    This definitely comes into play. On the other hand, I submit:

    Purely my own experience, but may be applicable to others. ?
    As I look back over my changing opinions on pots, caps, etc... I think I've been through a few stages:

    1)I didn't know anything about components, how they worked & didn't really care. I think the vast majority of bass & guitar players fall into this category. Which is entirely fine, btw! :)

    2) I started to become interested in how my various components worked & sought out opinions and did some reading. This stage yielded a lot of opinions. This information turned out to be everything from experienced techs and engineers to knowledgeable players to "anonymous chat room posters with caps lock stuck on". It's hard, sometimes, to know which is which - so I came up with my own "opinions".

    3) After a number of years, I figured I'd value my own 'expertise'! ;) I figured some legitimate stuff out, but at the same time I stopped trying to learn more and carried some bogus viewpoints around. I think this is a common and annoying stage for people to get stuck in. Somebody who knows just enough to bolster their predispositions. Sure, some instincts were probably right, but a lot that I thought was predicated on assumptions!

    4) Total about-face. Eventually, I got so fed up with the 'boutique' scene and hype surrounding "the best and greatest" that I went back to using whatever worked and I could get cheapest. You'd think I should end there, right?

    5) Circumspection & more experience. I still maintain a full-time schedule as a player (touring, recording,self promotion, etc ;)), but I've also branched out over the last few years doing tech work, repairs and building on the side. I'm fortunate to apprentice with a top repairman with about 30+ years of experience in the repair/building business (independent, boutique and corporate mass-market experience). I've learned a lot over the past few years & TB has contributed as well! As such I've come back around to valuing some components over others. If I'm repairing a guitar for a top Nashville session player, I'm not going to put a .95 cent Chinese bulk pot in his guitar. Or any other customer (including myself). I'm going to use something with a proven track record for quality and consistency (yes, I pre-measure pot values - I know they vary!). So , for me, CTS, Bourns and sometimes Alpha pots are the way to go. Hype? You can conclude that, but I've found that these parts offer excellent performance and reasonable value. If I need an odd or complex switching pot, MEC makes great options! This isn't to say that cheapie parts won't work just fine, just that I don't trust them to over the long term.
  18. scotch

    scotch It's not rocket science! Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2006
    Albany, NY USA
    Please see Profile for Endorsement disclosures
    They're the same unless the taper, feel or quality sucks! If you find yourself in the middle of the set only to find that your pot crapped out & the guitarist lost your screwdriver (you know they lose everything they borrow! ;)) you're gonna wish you spent the extra buck!
  19. Right on all counts - since you admit to conceding to the whims and fancies of a named player to add a named part - and that's OK too.

    After all, they expect what they believe is the best since they are pros and need the extra edge.

    There's nothing wrong with CTS or Bournes or any other great names in pieces, but there's the rub.

    It's not just the money spread - it's about perceptions in the predictability and performance that makes the biggest difference.

    You've heard the 'poly-v-nitro' paint debate, and that's a fine conundrum for those who make paints since it keeps the product on the mind if not the lips of adherents to the technology (or non-clinically established gut feelings, if you will).

    Same with the 'brass-v-pot metal' barrel dissertation.

    Good quality is almost always good quality, and sure - always put what works for you or your customers into their gear. It makes sense.

    However, to just rip out 'junk parts' because they aren't name-branded is folly unless they actually do something wrong.

    I've bought a few CTS pots in my time, and even one of them felt like it had teeth inside it when it should have been smooth. Things happen, I know.
  20. mmbongo

    mmbongo Chicken Pot Pie. My three favorite things!! Supporting Member

    Yep. I spend $3 for Bourns pots because it make me feel like a big man ;)