Potentiometers

A potentiometer is a variable resistor. Potentiometers enable you to regulate and change the current flowing through a circuit. Potentiometers can also be called pots or potmeters.

Potentiometers have two terminals that are fixed to a resistive element (the track). The resistive element is typically wirewound or made from carbon, cermet or conductive plastic. The third terminal is connected to the wiper, which is a sliding contact. As the wiper moves along the track, the resistance changes and the current flowing through the circuit changes.

Types of potentiometer


Rotary potentiometers are easily controlled by turning a spindle or a knob. Rotary potentiometers can be single turn or multiturn.

Slide potentiometers are also known as slider potentiometers or fader potentiometers. To use a slide potentiometer, it’s simply a case of sliding a fader along a straight track to change the resistance.

Trimmer potentiometers, sometimes called trimpots, are used to calibrate and fine-tune circuits and can be mounted straight onto a PCB (printed circuit board). Trimmer potentiometers are easy to adjust with a screwdriver.

String potentiometers (or string pots) take movement and transform it into an electrical signal.

Membrane potentiometers are completely flat. Membrane potentiometers change their resistance when pressure is applied to the membrane.

Do I need a potentiometer with a linear or logarithmic taper?

The taper you need for your potentiometer depends on the intended application.

For potentiometers with a linear taper, the resistance between one end of the track and the wiper varies at a constant rate. If you turn the potentiometer halfway or slide the fader halfway along the track, the resistance will be half of the total resistance. Linear taper potentiometers are typically used in applications such as light dimmer switches.

For logarithmic taper potentiometers, the resistance does not vary at a constant rate. The level of resistance moves exponentially up or down. A potentiometer that has been turned or moved halfway along its track, will not produce resistance that is half the total resistance. Logarithmic potentiometers are commonly used for audio applications.

What is the difference between a potentiometer and a rheostat?

The key difference is the number of terminals that each device has. Potentiometers have three terminals while rheostats only have two terminals.

Looking for peripherals for your potentiometer?

Potentiometer KnobsPotentiometer Accessories Potentiometer Mounting Nuts

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Description Price Maximum Resistance Potentiometer Type Number of Turns Number of Gangs Mounting Type Power Rating Shaft Diameter Electrical Taper Mounting Hole Diameter Element Material Termination Style Tolerance Series Shaft Length
RS Stock No. 172-6396
Mfr. Part No.RSA0N11S9002
MYR66.917
Each (In a Tray of 40)
units
10 kΩ Slide 1 - Through Hole 0.5W - Linear - - Pin ±20% RSA0N -
RS Stock No. 167-9552
Mfr. Part No.248FGJS0XB25103MA
BrandVishay
MYR60.879
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.5W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Pin ±20% 248 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 460-2076
Mfr. Part No.357B0502MAB251S22
BrandVishay
MYR224.85
Each
units
5 kΩ Rotary Continuous 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Turret ±20% 357 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 484-9219
Mfr. Part No.14921F0GJSX13502KA
BrandVishay
MYR132.39
Each
units
5 kΩ Rotary 1 2 Panel Mount, Through Hole 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Cermet Pin ±10% 149 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 167-9574
Mfr. Part No.534B1502JC8872
BrandVishay
MYR108.869
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
5 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 167-9481
Mfr. Part No.157S202MB9002
BrandVishay
MYR363.531
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
2 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Servo Mount 1W 3.18 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Turret ±20% 157 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 167-3618
Mfr. Part No.53RBA-R25-A15/A15L
BrandBourns
MYR62.465
Each (In a Tray of 45)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6 mm Linear - Cermet Solder Lug ±10% 53 25mm
RS Stock No. 460-7504
Mfr. Part No.534B1101JL
BrandVishay
MYR127.90
Each
units
100 Ω Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 172-7657
Mfr. Part No.RK1631110TV8
MYR7.084
Each (In a Box of 1000)
units
50 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Logarithmic - - Pin ±20% RK163 -
RS Stock No. 410-384
Mfr. Part No.248FGJS0XB25103MA
BrandVishay
MYR69.65
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.5W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Pin ±20% 248 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 692-8632
Mfr. Part No.PDB241-GTR02-254A2
BrandBourns
MYR15.15
Each
units
250 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.25W 6.35 mm Audio - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% PDB241-GTR 19mm
RS Stock No. 263-3270
Mfr. Part No.RSA0N11S9002
MYR37.24
Each
units
10 kΩ Slide 1 - Through Hole 0.5W - Linear - - Pin ±20% RSA0N -
RS Stock No. 486-7093
Mfr. Part No.534B1103JC8872
BrandVishay
MYR157.84
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 167-9485
Mfr. Part No.534B1101JL
BrandVishay
MYR88.09
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
100 Ω Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 167-9571
Mfr. Part No.534B1202JC8872
BrandVishay
MYR96.044
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
2 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 249-9250
Mfr. Part No.RK1631110TV6
MYR14.73
Each
units
50 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.1W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK163 -
RS Stock No. 167-9763
Mfr. Part No.357B2103MAB251S22
BrandVishay
MYR91.593
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Turret ±20% 357 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 729-3464
Mfr. Part No.RK097111020N
MYR9.81
Each
units
50 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm - - - Pin ±20% RK097 15mm
RS Stock No. 165-5982
Mfr. Part No.3683S-1-502L
BrandBourns
MYR219.43
Each
units
5 kΩ Digital Display - 2 Panel Mount 2W - - - - Solder Lug ±3% 3680 -
RS Stock No. 842-7131
BrandRS PRO
MYR46.36
Each
units
1 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% NHP22 20.5mm