Are All Mini Pots Bad?

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by mkdaws32, Feb 18, 2020.

  1. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    You often see that one of the first courses of action for a lower end guitar is to replace the cheap "mini" pots with good, full size ones.

    First let me say that I have learned my lesson with cheap pots ;) However, I have had great success with CTS, Bourns and Alpha pots, so I stick with those. Alpha makes mini pots and they seem to be of the same quality as their full size ones.

    I'm assuming the "all mini pots are bad" statement is a stereotype and that there should be no issues with mini pots from a reputable manufacturers.

    Can anyone comment of their personal experience with "good" mini pots? Especially Alpha?

    Thanks!
     

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  2. basher

    basher Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Most pedals use mini pots. I'd guess that maybe full-sized pots don't wear out as fast, so they're better for situations where they'd get used a lot, like in guitars? But really I have no idea. I've always used alpha mini pots in my pedal builds because that's what Tayda sells; I've never had any problem with them.
     
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  3. LutherBurger

    LutherBurger Friend of Leo's

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    The Alpha A250k mini pots in my Bullet Telecaster are excellent. Their taper has no weird "bumps" in resistance, and they turn very smoothly with just the right amount of drag.
     
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  4. corliss1

    corliss1 Friend of Leo's Platinum Supporter

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    Nope - just depends on the quality level. Zillions of amps, guitars, mixers, pedals, etc. using them with no problem.
     
  5. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    @LutherBurger - See, that is my experience, as well, with the 500k Alpha mini pots I have used recently - hence my post.
     
  6. radiocaster

    radiocaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    I don't think Alpha pots are that great, but if anything the bigger Alpha pots I had seemed of even lower quality than the small ones.

    And I also had some big Bourns that seemed quite poor in quality as well.
     
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  7. Chicago Matt

    Chicago Matt Friend of Leo's

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    Nope.
     
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  8. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Excellent point about most pedals using mini pots.

    How so? Did they feel cheaper or did you experience other issues? I've used a lot of the full size Alphas over he years, but have not had any issues - there may have been a bad one I've forgotten, but generally my experiences with them have been very good. I just asked about the minis because I had to install some in a PBass cavity that was a little off and two of the full size pots pressed up against the cavity enough to cause pressure and warping of the pick guard. The mini pots fit fine and I was impressed with the drag and smooth taper.
     
  9. radiocaster

    radiocaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    The big Alphas and Bourns felt cheaper, like you could hear and feel it scraping.

    The Alphas often burnt out pretty fast too, I figured out that I should heat sink them before soldering and haven't had problems if I do that.
     
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  10. edvard

    edvard Tele-Afflicted

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    I commented on this sort of thing in another topic where I got curious and looked up the spec sheets for different manufacturer's offerings. Basically, the stated specs for both small and large pots is 10,000 to 15,000 rotational cycles minimum. True to @radiocaster's observation, the 24mm Alpha pots are rated for fewer minimum cycles than the 16mm. Bourns gave a maximum of 500,000 for their 24mm pots, but no maximum for their 16mm, implying that anything over 15,000 is a crap shoot. Interestingly, CTS has a line of "better" quality pots that are rated for a minimum of 100,000 cycles, but only in 24mm. Conclusion? Both types are rated to at least give you a minimum service life, but the 24mms are expected to last longer than that. Think about how many times you actually twiddle your knobs every day or week and put that up against the stated minimum lifecycle... YMMV, but I think it'll be quite a while before you even begin to wear out your mini-pots. ;)
     
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  11. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    @radiocaster Thanks for elaborating. Now that you mention it, I have noticed scraping with some cheaper pots. I just threw out 20 or so really cheap ones I got in bulk - so cheap that it was worth a shot, or seemed so at the time. Way too much drag and noticeable scraping. You get what you pay for! I can't recall if I have noticed this with Alphas in the past, but not with any new Alphas I have right now (just checked :) ). Interesting your observations with the Bourns pots. I thought they were considered premium - I can usually find CTS pots cheaper than Bourns. As such I have not used Bourns pots much. FWIW, I always use a heat sink when soldering pots now - I have ruined cheaper pots in the past with too much heat.

    @edvard Thanks for the specs - no, I'll likely not see a failure any time soon :) The mini Alphas are convenient at times, so given the consensus here, I'll likely use them more often now.

    Thanks!
     
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  12. charlie chitlin

    charlie chitlin Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    I wired up an Alpha mini pot on a Gibson archtop pickguard for a master volume.
    It worked quietly and we'll for years.
     
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  13. radiocaster

    radiocaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    To be fair, Bourns might have better ones in the range. The smaller ones seem better, but the shaft size is bigger than Alpha.

    The problem with being stuck with Alphas is that the other brands don't make pots with smaller shafts and I don't feel like reaming the holes on all my gear. Well, CTS does make some, but they're way too hard to find, especially in Europe.
     
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  14. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    @radiocaster - I ream the holes on everything ;) Even metal tele control plates.
     
  15. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    .

    The relative inexpensiveness of pots makes putting in full size ones automatically an easy project.

    Combined with a choice of swapping pickups vs swapping pots to improve the tone of a guitar, the pots are the first to go. I started out like everyone else swapping pickups until I got a little smarter and realized how much influence those controls have. So when I swap pots for tone I automatically go for the full size Bourns. They also feel better to spin than the small pot which range from sticky grease to no friction at all.

    .
     
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  16. Obsessed

    Obsessed Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I put Bourns mini audio taper pots in my Sheraton years ago. I love them.
     
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  17. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    I think I’m comfortable with Alpha, Bourns and CTS in general, based on my own experience. This thread doesn’t seem to have changed that. I have learned that it’s not worth it to go cheaper for something as inexpensive as pots in the long run. I feel the same with switches - for blade switches, I only use Oak Grigsby or CRL (edit: originally said CTS switch, but meant CRL)

    I do agree with @jvin248 on pickups. I like experimenting with different pickups, I find it fun, but by in large, for example, swapping one vintage spec single coil for another vintage spec single coil of the same design (same wire gauge/same magnets) yields very little change in tone compared to simple changes pickup height. However, I do find that changing the type of pickups altogether yields dramatic results, for example, I generally prefer rail style or full-size, medium output HB pickups in the bridge of a Tele or Strat, so that’s often a go to change for me. IF I leave a single coil in the bridge position, I like them slightly overwound. Also, i don’t like the brass covered Tele neck pickup tone, so I opt for something else.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2020
  18. Preacher

    Preacher Friend of Leo's

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    I also don't look at the size of the pot, but how the taper works and if the pot turns smooth.

    I bought some cheap full size pots one time that had a very severe taper and just felt cheap. I had some others that felt cheap but the taper was very smooth and the pot felt good turning it but I would swear they weighed less than some of the mini pots I have used.
     
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  19. memorex

    memorex Friend of Leo's

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    I've used both Alpha and Bourns mini-pots with DPDT pull switches in both of my Teles. They both work fine, although they may need a little Deoxit once in a while.
     
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  20. dan40

    dan40 Tele-Afflicted

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    I have noticed that many of the pots listed as "low turning torque" pots have that scraping feeling when turned. I have always assumed that it is the wiper on the carbon track that I'm feeling because the pots don't have much grease to dampen the feeling. I have a pair of the Bourns low friction pots in one of my guitars that have that feeling when turned but they have perform perfectly for several years now. I do prefer the stiffer feeling Alpha pots for my amp builds though.
     
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