Differences Between Potentiometers and Trimpots

Resistors are passive two-terminal electrical components that incorporate electrical resistance as their circuit element. In electronic circuits, resistors are intended to reduce current flow, adjust signal levels, and divide voltages, among other tasks. There are a wide range of resistors, two of which include a potentiometer and a trimpot.


A potentiometer is a three-terminal resistor equipped with a sliding or rotating contact that creates an adjustable voltage divider. When only two of the three terminals are utilized, one end and the wiper, the potentiometer can act as a variable resistor or rheostat. More than that, potentiometers have a range of value from 50Ω to 1MΩ.

In the world of electronics, potentiometers are generally used to control electronic devices like sound control on an amplifier. Typically, a potentiometer that is operated by a mechanism can be utilized as a transducer. Additionally, it can function as a volume control, often being equipped with an integrated switch.

There are various types of potentiometers, with the most popular types being digital, rotary,  logarithmic, linear, and manually-adjustable types. For further context, a digital potentiometer is controlled by digital signals instead of mechanical movement and mimics the analog function of a conventional potentiometer. Moreover, they do this by using a resistor ladder which is a string of small resistors in a series.


A trimpot, on the other hand, is a miniature, adjustable electrical component that can change the value of resistance or voltage in an electronic circuit. In order to change the resistance, the axis must be adjusted using a screwdriver, and the resistance value of these resistors ranges from 0 to 100KΩ.

When a trimpot is used as a variable resistor, they are called preset resistors. Usually, they are mounted on printed circuit boards (PCBs), and the material they use as a resistive track varies, with the most common being either carbon composition or cermet. If they are used in the place of normal potentiometers, keep in mind that their lifespan is only 200 cycles.

There are several different versions of trimpots, those of which take advantage of varying mounting methods, orientations, and single or multi-turn configurations. Single turn trimpots are used where a low resolution of turn is sufficient, whereas multi-turn trimpots are designed for higher adjustment resolutions.

For multi-turn trimpots, the amount of turns varies between 5-25 though 5, 12, and 25 are most common. Furthermore, they are often constructed using a rotary track (worm-gear) or linear track (lead screw) mechanism to achieve high resolutions. Due to their complex construction and the manufacturing processes associated with them, they are more costly than their counterparts.


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January 10, 2024

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