Resistance is futile

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Resistors aren’t just resistors. They come in all shapes, sizes, and types: thick film, thin film, metal film, carbon, wire wound, plate, variable.

Resistor types all sound different, and not by a small amount, and not just by type. Take metal films from three different manufacturers and you will get three different sound characteristics. A good example happened recently. While voicing the new Stellar Control DAC engineer Darren Myers and I were unhappy with a somewhat occluded, closed in confusion to music. Our toes weren’t tapping. Changing from thick film to thin film resistors opened things up wonderfully and put smiles on our faces and rhythm in our feet.

Volume controls are resistors too. No wonder they color music.

The simplest volume control is called a potentiometer, or “pot” for short. Constructed of a length of deposited carbon or plastic on a circular substrate, a metal contact tenuously slides along its surface to get different loudness levels.

Our worries of precious metal switch contacts coloring sound pale next to brass sliding on granulated carbon or plastic to control volume levels.

Yet, turning the volume up and down is required even more so than selecting inputs. Consider a single input “pots in a box” arrangement and what havoc it might wreak on music’s purity.

Tomorrow’s post will explain how simple pots work.

We’ll next move on to more exotic solutions; switched attenuators; electronic controls; and anything else we think might be relevant.