Linear Taper Volume Controls

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by hogy, Mar 13, 2018.

  1. hogy

    hogy Member

    Jan 4, 2002
    Vintage Fender guitars made before 1957 all had linear pots. This would include, of course, all blackguard Teles and early Strats.

    I am fortunate enough to have owned a bunch of those guitars, and I always preferred the linear taper volumes over the audio taper used after '57. I feel that they allow me to control the amp better, and they're much better for Roy Buchanan style volume swells.

    I'm wondering why they fell out of favor? Seems like nobody is using linear volume pots anymore.
  2. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Member

    Jan 10, 2016
    14 Megameters from Groong Tehp
    Ibanez is using them. The Epiphone SG I had was sporting linear volumes.
    Fender did it to cut down on the types of parts to order, or maybe Audio taper was cheaper. Clarence Leo Fender was big on saving costs.
  3. Juan Wayne

    Juan Wayne Member

    Nov 2, 2017
    I'm over here now!
    It might be due to several reasons, but here's main ones I can think of.

    1- Availavility/Cost - It's easier and cheaper to build/source them all the same. Tone pots are pretty much unusable unless they're audio pots, so you might as well make them all audio and say it's better that way, while reducing production costs. Also, the guitar universe is very small compared to the rest of the audio universe, so you might use any audio pot designed for something else, and audio pots abound in the audio market (the last part is just a bit of speculation on my side, but the first part is a common business thing).

    2- Misconception of volume control - Is is a volume control on a guitar? Do you need your volume to change widely when playing with other musicians, or do you want to mostly sit on the mix and stay there while controlling the distortion/dynamics from the guitar? I'd go for the latter, but still, since actual volume pots are exponential (mistakenly called logarythmics) to compensate for out logarythmic hearing response to linear shifts in sound pressure level, it's commonly assumed that volume pots in guitars should be the same as say, a hi-fi system. However, the moment distortion and amp compression are added to the mix, this exponential/logarythmic relationship goes to hell, and it becomes more of a taste thing rather than a mathematical and psychoacoustic matter.

    3- High gain amps - Audio pots allow for better gain control on low settings and dialing in cleans when blasting through a high gain amp, which at some point many decades ago became pretty much the norm for many genres. I used to have a lot of gain all the time as a younger dude and audio pots were great for cleanish settings on a quick adjustment, then anything past 7 was hell breaking loose and I was loving life. Now I play mostly through an crunchy Vox, so audio pots are dead below 7. Give me linears though, and I can use them from 1 to 10, even with mid to high gain pedals on.

    I'm sure there's a lot of other reason to choose one or the other, but the way I see it, it comes down either to the rig you're playing through and how you want you guitar to behave through it.

    Some exceptions to the general "gain rule" might apply depending on genre as well. I would assume a jazz musician through a squeaky clean amp playing on a band that goes to extremes on the dynamic range would appreciate audio pots to actually contol volume, and not gain.
    Lobotomie and EL34 like this.
  4. bigtone23

    bigtone23 Member

    Feb 18, 2013
    Denver CO
    I'm positive Fender went all audio to cut down on parts ordering and simplify production.
    I like linear volumes for instruments that are played on cleaner settings and audio volumes for dirtier ones. There is finer adjustment of the volume range with a clean amp and linear volume pots. Audio pots clean up a dirty amp much faster.
    My "a-ha" moment with linear volumes came via a Jazz Bass VVT set up with linear volumes. The adjustment and blending was much finer and easier to make on the fly.
  5. EL34

    EL34 Silver Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2004
    I’ve preferred linear volume pots for >15 years. In spite of conventional wisdom, I’ve found it easier to control volume and gain transitions over a wider range of a linear volume pot, at least for the way that I play. With the amp set crunchy/gainy, I can get cleanish/quieter volume at 3-5 at the guitar and progressively louder and gainier as the guitar volume is rolled up.
  6. claudel

    claudel Member

    Jul 10, 2007
    Further Outside Area 51
    I tried a linear tone pot in my bass and it seems to have given a wider usable range on the sweep.

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