Detailed Information
 
 
 

Our Most Frequently 
Asked Questions

-How To Choose the Correct Stepped Attenuator Value. General Rules and Considerations:
1. When upgrading from a potentiometer, use the same value stepped attenuator. (5K, 10K, 20K, 25K, 50K, 100K, etc.)
2. Choose the stepped attenuator value to be the same as or less than the input impedance of what it will be controlling. For a 100K input impedance, use a 100K, 50K, 25K, or even a 10K level control.  This applies to passive preamps, active preamplifiers, and power amplifiers when the control is to be installed at the input. Check your owner's manual to find the the rated input impedance of your unit, or contact the manufacturer directly. "Same as or less than" is the rule of thumb.
3. Regarding the choice of stepped attenuator values in Goldpoint SA1, SA2, SA4 (25K) and SA1X, SA2X (10K)
much observation and thought has gone into this over the last 15 years. We have concluded that the values which we are using for our standard off-the-shelf, in-line passive preamps and precision level controls are the right values and should not be changed unless absolutely necessary. (see 2. above) Also, an in-line unit such as those mentioned above are best with lower value stepped attenuators - making them compatible with a wider range of Input impedances over the years.
Notes: 
-  Some say that with the higher value level controls, such as 50K and 100K, they can hear slightly higher amounts of (desirable) high frequency harmonics, or even that "it sounds more open and airy". And that the lower values, such as 10K and 25K sound slightly "richer" or "more full bodied". The actual truth may depend on the equipment being listened to and/or which set or ears is doing the listening. I have found that the stepped attenuator (volume control) value is usually not critical - and that it does not make as much difference as some people claim - but that other aspects of the equipment or system can make bigger, more noticeable sonic differences.
-  There is a common misconception that larger value volume controls such as 50K or 100K will result in LOUDER sound compared to using 10K or 25K volume controls. This is not true. 10K controls usually yield exactly the same loudness as 100K units. (Technically, there are other reasons why different value controls are used in different places or applications.)
-  Vacuum tube equipment often uses 25K, 50K, or 100K level controls, due to the high input impedance of tubes. Solid-state gear usually has 10K, 25K, or 50K level controls. 
-  You can begin to have "high frequency roll off" beginning to appear with volume control values above 100K. If you don't have an engineer handy, or just can't decide, 25K is a good choice for both vacuum tube and solid-state equipment, especially for passive level controls. 
-  We use the 25K stepped attenuator value in our home audio (RCA connector) SA1, SA2, and SA4 passive preamps. Our balanced (XLR connector) SA1X and SA2X precision level controls use 10K stepped attenuators - as this level control value is common in the Pro Audio environment.
-  Catch 22: But you can also get away with using a stepped attenuator value which is HIGHER than the rated input impedance - this doesn't really hurt anything - so don't worry about it if that's what you end up with. About all that would happen is front panel -dB calibration markings, if shown, may be a little bit less accurate - but the sound quality will typically not be affected to any real noticeable degree. 
Goldpoint Standard stepped attenuators of any value will always sound better than potentiometers - 
due to the transparent sonic quality of the Thin Film Nichrome resistors we use on them.
-Which Type of Goldpoint Stepped Attenuator Sounds Best?
All Goldpoint stepped attenuators improve sound quality and provide much better channel-to-channel signal level matching compared to potentiometers. You just cannot beat them. Highly recommended, our Mini-V stepped attenuators have low noise, precision resistors already installed. (0.1% tolerance, 25ppm, Thin Film, 0805 SMD (Surface Mount Devices). 
Our resistors are SO transparent sounding that we no longer hear any advantage to producing Ladder or Shunt type stepped attenuators. These resistors are SO "quiet" you can string dozens of them together and that will still sound like a single individual resistor!  (see Goldpoint Historical and Attenuator Type Comparisons)
Alternatively, you can use our Mini-V Custom stepped attenuator (blank) switches to make stepped attenuators of any custom value or taper, even linear controls. With these custom stepped attenuator switches you must, however, install your own chosen brand of through-hole resistors. Different brands or different kinds of through-hole resistors typically do result in various (usually slight) sonic differences.  (see Goldpoint Stepped Attenuator Resistor Values)
-How Do I Wire The Stepped Attenuator?
Normal Wiring: Wiring is easy for both our standard Mini-V and Mini-V Custom stepped attenuators: The pads are labeled IN, OUT, and GND. They are oriented the same way as on a potentiometer - as shown in the rear view sketch at right:
-How Much Attenuation is Right for Your System?
The word "attenuation" means the opposite of amplification or gain. It is "reduction in the amplitude of an audio signal"  or  "how much the volume level is turned DOWN".
On all stock Goldpoint stepped attenuators, turning the knob fully counter-clockwise is OFF, (= infinite attenuation). Turning the knob fully clockwise is zero attenuation, (= full ON). The chart below shows the size of the steps we use. Our modified audio taper has larger steps for the first six positions, and then -2dB per step up to full ON.
Our off-the-shelf stepped attenuators supply the correct amount of attenuation for most audio systems. But with some systems which have relatively low overall gain, you might have to turn the knob up past the 12 o'clock position to achieve normal listening levels. And some systems with relatively high gain cause the volume level to be too loud after turning the knob up to only the 4th or 5th position. These conditions are easy to remedy, however, as explained below. The graph shows standard and modified stepped attenuator tapers. The blue line is the standard Goldpoint taper.
-"It gets loud too soon".
This could mean that your system has relatively high gain (or too much gain). The volume level is too loud after turning the knob up only a few steps - and there are lots of unusable positions higher in the knob rotation because they are all too loud. This is easy to fix by adding a pre-attenuation circuit (two resistors per channel), as shown at left. The red line in the chart (above) shows the results of adding this pre-attenuation circuit. In the example, we gave the stepped attenuator -20dB more attenuation (at every knob position). See more: Sample resistor values are shown on the page titled: 
How To Get More Usable Steps For Your Stepped Attenuator
 
-"It does not get loud enough soon enough".
This could mean that your system has relatively low gain available. There would be a large number of silent knob positions before you could hear anything. One fix for this is to add a resistor as shown (at left). The green line in the chart (above) shows the results of adding a resistor to the ground terminal of the stepped attenuator. In this example, we made the stepped attenuator start at -42dB, instead of OFF, so the volume level will be "louder sooner". See more: Sample resistor values are shown on the page titled:
How To Get More Usable Steps For Your Stepped Attenuator
-Which Stepped Attenuator Values Are Stocked?
Mini-V stocked values include: 5K, 10K, 20K, 25K, 50K, 100K, and 250K. 
They are all available in Mono, Stereo, Quad (4-Channel or Balanced Line Stereo), and 6-Channel. 
We also offer a special precision volume control replacement for the McIntosh C20:
 
-Can I put a Loudness Control Tap on a Mini-V Stepped Attenuator?

You can choose from the many places which are available along the perimeter of the stepped attenuator.
Use an ohm meter to test your old, worn out potentiometer to find where the tap was made. Then you use your ohm meter to choose the closest matching tap point on the Mini-V. 
If you have the standard Mini-V which has surface mounted resistors, take care to not overheat the small pad (which is one side of the SMD resistor) when attaching your tap wire.
-What Kind of Switches Are Used
----and What Are their Dimensions?
Goldpoint stepped attenuators employ ELMA, 24 position, precision switch components. They have smooth turning torque, great for audio applications. 
All current models employ thick, hard-gold plated switch contacts on PC boards designed (with high precision) by Arn Roatcap. They are fabricated in the San Francisco Bay Area by a leading PC board fabrication facility.
Click here or on image for dimensions
ELMA - Precision Switch Components
-Which Attenuators Come In Kit Form, and Can I Get a Custom Value?
Although we are not offering kits, we do offer Mini-V Custom (MVC type) blank switches, which accept any 1/4 watt or 1/2 watt through-hole resistors of your choice. If you want any special taper, attenuator value, or special type of resistor, the Mini-V Custom switches are for you. These attenuator switches come fully built but without resistors. You can use our resistor lists if you wish, or make up your own.
If you want an attenuator value which we do not stock, or one with a special taper, contact us to work out your custom resistor list for you - we can usually do this within a day or so.
-How About Some Knobs?
The shafts on all Goldpoint attenuators are 6mm (.237"). This size is close enough to 1/4" (.250") to allow you to use knobs designed for 1/4" shafts. However, if you are using knobs designed for 1/4" shafts, we recommend wrapping a few layers of tape, such as Kapton tape or common Scotch tape onto the attenuator shaft to create a better fit.
We sell custom machined aluminum knobs designed specifically for 6mm shafts. All of our knobs are shown (half-way down) on the Prices page, click here or on photo >> 
 
Machined Aluninum Knobs
-How To Install a Goldpoint Stepped Attenuator or Selector Switch:
_______Very Important! The most common error made when installing one of these units is to fail to: 
           1) Use a second hex nut inside the mounting panel - as shown in Mounting Method #1.
_______2) Cut or file a channel (keyway) for the key to fit into -as shown inMounting Method #2
_______3) File off the protruding key - as shown in Mounting Method #3.
Mounting Method 1: If the panel you are mounting to is thin: up to 0.70", (1/16"), (1.5 mm), you can mount the unit using two hex nuts and a flat washer. This is the preferred and easiest mounting method.
Important: Never allow the locking key to touch the inner hex nut - doing so could warp and damage the unit.
Mounting Method 2: If the panel is thicker than .070", mount the unit with only one hex nut and a flat washer. 
Make a notch in the mounting hole - as shown at left: 
"Mounting Hole with Keyway".
Important:Never allow the locking key to touch the inside of the mounting panel - doing so could warp and damage the unit.
Mounting Method 3: File off the protruding locking key - whether the mounting panel is thin or thick. Then use only one hex nut to secure the unit to the panel - as shown at left. While filing, cover the rest of the unit with plastic wrap or other suitable material to ensure the filings do not get into the switch contacts.
Complete Mounting Data in Acrobat PDF file

-How to Determine if a Passive Preamp is Right for Your System:
Passive Preamp Tester
Use an inexpensive audio taper stereo potentiometer to build an In-line Volume Control. Split some inexpensive (cheap) audio cables in half and wire them to the pot as shown above. You can make it neatly using a stereo interconnect cable - like the free ones that often come with new audio equipment. Just don't ruin your good interconnects for this test!
Just about any stereo audio taper potentiometer is OK - from 10K to 100K for this test. In the U. S., the inexpensive stereo pots and audio cables from Radio Shack work well for making this "Passive Preamp Tester". 
If using this In-line Volume Control shows that your system DOES have enough Gain - and yields you enough "headroom" (meaning you can still turn the system up louder than you need), then you can get even better sonic performance by using a Goldpoint Passive Preamp - because our stepped attenuators really do sound much better than any carbon or conductive plastic pots.
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