September 1967 RadioElectronics
[Table of Contents]
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from RadioElectronics,
published 19301988. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

The terms "L−Pad" and
"T−Pad" refer to the schematic circuit layout of the variable resistors
(potentiometers) used to form variable attenuators. An L−Pad uses a series and
parallel (shunt) resistor combination inserted between the source and load. A
T−Pad uses a parallel (shunt) resistor between two series resistors.
Potentiometer values are chosen to maintain a fairly constant input and output
impedance throughout the attenuation adjustment range. Resistance charts are
provided rather than design equations, but they are the same as those used for RF type attenuators of the
same topography ("L," "T," "Pi"). Using the example for the T−Pad in this 1967
Radio−Electronics article and the
calculator I have on the
webpage, plug 16 Ω into the Input Resistance and Output Resistance
fields and 4.375 dB into the Attenuation field, and it will yield the
resistor values
shown below. The article's author stipulates 9.65 dB, but that is voltage
decibels. The RF calculator is for power decibels, so half the voltage
attenuation decibel value is entered.
Know Your L and TPads  How to set up stereo and hifi
systems with speakers in several rooms.
Know Your L and TPads (this is an LPad)
By James A. Fred
Frequently, it is necessary to vary the volume of a loudspeaker independently
of the amplifier, as in the case of a remote speaker in a bedroom. To achieve attenuation
and to avoid the introduction of distortion, a "pad" can be used. A pad is an attenuator
that does not change the circuit impedance as attenuation is varied.
The LPad
The Lpad is less expensive to build than the Tpad, since only two resistance
sections are ganged together. The resistance element in the front section is called
the series leg; the back element is called the shunt leg. The Lpad (Fig. 1), consisting
of two sections, maintains the circuit impedance independent of attenuation at only
one pair of terminals.
To analyze the operation of an Lpad, refer to Table I, "Rotational Measurements
for a 16Ohm LPad." As an example, let us use a 16ohm speaker connected to a 16ohm
Lpad and an amplifier. (The data in this table are actual measurements made on
production Lpads.) Notice that the resistance of the series leg is the same as
the characteristic impedance of the Lpad, while the resistance of the shunt is
eight times as much. At the counterclockwise end, or 0° of rotation, series
resistance is 16.29 ohms, shunt resistance 0.2 ohm, impedance 16 ohms, and attenuation
38.2 dB. At 50% or 150° of rotation, series resistance is 7.76 ohms, shunt resistance
18.5 ohms, impedance 16.35 ohms, and attenuation 5.4 dB. At 100% or 293° of
rotation, series resistance is 0.19 ohm, shunt resistance is infinite, impedance
is 16.19 ohms, and attenuation is practically zero. As the Lpad is rotated from
one end to the other, the impedance stays essentially the same.
Fig. 1  Diagram of a variable Lpad.
Fig. 2  How attenuation of Lpad changes as shaft is rotated.
Fig. 3  A typical 8ohm variable Tpad.
Fig. 4  Typical attenuation curves for a variable Tpad.
Fig. 5  Equivalent circuit of a Tpad and its load set up for
the maximum loss.
Fig. 6  A variable bridgeT attenuator has only two elements
which change value. ("Front" and "rear" labels are reversed.)
Fig. 7  Variable bridgeH attenuator has three variable and
four fixed resistors.
The graph of Fig. 2, "LPad Attenuation and Resistance Curves," can be used to
approximate the necessary resistance values for the resistance legs. Notice that
the series leg is linear, while the shunt resistor is a tapered winding in three
linear sections. This tapered winding gives the Lpad a more nearly linear attenuation.
Total resistance of the shunt leg will be eight times that of the series leg. The
series resistance will be the same as the rated impedance of the Lpad. Total attenuation
is 45 dB. Since the threshold of audibility usually is assumed to be 60 dB, you
will still be able to hear a signal even with the Lpad turned to the counterclockwise
end of rotation. If it becomes necessary to cut the sound out completely, a switch
must be used to open up the line. If so, it would be best to have the switch substitute
a fixed resistor of the same value as the Lpad, to maintain proper loading in the
circuit.
Lpads can be used as described to control the volume of loudspeakers, but Tpads
are generally preferred for this purpose, as explained in the following section.
The TPad
Where it is important that an attenuator and the amount of attenuation have no
effect on circuit impedance, a Tpad is used. The Tpad (see photo and Fig. 3) consists
of three control sections ganged together and operated by a single shaft. The front
and middle elements have resistance values equal to the impedances they are to be
matched to, and are referred to as the legs. The resistance of the rear element,
or shunt leg, is usually eight times the value of either of the series legs.
Table II, "Rotational Measurements for an 8Ohm TPad," shows how the T pad operates.
When the control is at the ccw end of rotation, the input series resistance is 8.26
ohms, output series resistance 8.09 ohms, impedance 8.26 ohms, and attenuation 53.5
dB. At 50% or 150° rotation, the input series resistance is 3.93 ohms, output series
resistance 3.92 ohms, impedance 7.87 ohms, and attenuation 9.65 dB. At full clockwise
rotation, the input series resistance is 0.036 ohm, output series resistance 0.029
ohm, impedance 8.06 ohms, and attenuation practically zero. From one end of rotation
to the other, the Timpedance stayed at essentially 8 ohms.
The graph of Fig. 4, "TPad Attenuation and Resistance Curves," can be used to
approximate the resistance necessary for the resistance legs. For example, let us
say that we need a 16ohm Tpad. From the curves, we find that the series leg will
be a 16ohm linearwound element, and that two will be needed.
The shunt element will be eight times this value, or 128 ohms, made in three
linear sections. The first section of the shunt element should be 10% of the overall
resistance, or about 13 ohms in the first 55% of rotation. The second section should
be 15% of the overall resistance, or 20 ohms in the next 21% of rotation. The third
section of the shunt winding should be 75% of the overall resistance. or 95 ohms
in the next 21% of rotation. The shunt coil is open for the last 3% of its rotation.
Table I. Rotational measurements for a 16Ohm Lpad.
Table II. Rotational measurements for an 8Ohm Tpad.
Those who are content to accept the preceding explanation on faith alone can
stop here, and will probably be satisfied to buy and use L and Tpads as always
in the past. For those who are mathematically minded, we will proceed a little deeper
into the subject.
The attenuation of a resistance pad is expressed as a number of decibels (dB),
where the dB expresses the ratio between two different amounts of power at two pointsinput
and output, in this case.
Strictly speaking, dB's can be used to express voltage or current ratios only
when the two points in question have the same impedance value. However, when matching
stereo controls in actual practice, input and output impedances are ignored. It
is mainly in speaker matching, in the telephone industry, and in the broadcast industry
that impedances are so critically matched.
Let us go back to the impedance of the Tpad and draw an equivalentcircuit diagram
(Fig. 5), but with a load. As you can see, the first series leg (8.26 ohms) is in
series with the shunt leg (0.034 ohms), which is in parallel with the second series
coil (8.09 ohms), which is in series with the 8ohm load impedance. Working it out
in simple arithmetic, we have 16.09 ohms in parallel with 0.034 ohm, which gives
us 0.03 ohm. The 8.26 ohms and 0.03 ohm added together give us approximately 8 ohms,
the nominal impedance of this Tpad.
An equivalentcircuit diagram of the Lpad can be drawn and analyzed the same
way.
This article is limited to L and Tpads, because these are the ones most readily
available to technicians and experimenters. There are other types.
Instead of Tpads, some companies supply variable bridgedT pads; these require
only two variable sections plus two fixed resistors. This is less expensive and,
in many cases, a bridgedT pad (Fig. 6) will work adequately in place of a straight
3section Tpad.
Another type usually available on request is the bridgedH pad (Fig. 7). This
pad consists of a conventional Tpad with four fixed resistors connected as shown.
The resistors help to give a more linear attenuation curve.
Posted September 19, 2023
