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Section 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Topic Objectives and Summary Resistors - Features of the Component Resistor Circuit Symbols - British Standards Resistor Colour Code System Tolerance and Preferred Values Resistor Letter Code System - BS1852 Fixed Value Linear Resistor Construction Fixed Value Linear Resistor Types Variable Resistor Types Variable Resistor Extended Features Non-Linear Resistor Types Resistor Power Rating Linear Resistor Types and Features Table Page 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14 15 16

Correct selection of component design and materials at the start gives best long term use
Nick Brackenbury Electronics Notes September 2004 page 1


All electronic circuits include a variety of resistor types. The circuit designer calculates each resistor value required. However, there are many other aspects to selecting the correct type of resistor, often these aspects are taken into account by a Production Engineer, as opposed to the Circuit Designer. The standard resistor is a two-wire component, generally with four coloured rings painted on it to identify its value. These resistors are Ohmic or Linear. That means the resistor value does not change with possible signal voltage or waveform. There are a number of ways of manufacturing Linear resistors, and these design methods are explained. Understanding the construction and materials used enables you to select a resistor type that meets other design criteria, over and above the resistor value in Ohms. Other factors include frequency range of applied signal, heat dissipation required, electrical noise level, physical size and cost. Most analogue electrical equipment, particularly audio-visual, will have User Controls for volume, tone, brightness, colour, etc. These controls are effected using Variable Resistors. These also manufactured in a variety of forms, which are explained as well, to enable correct component selection. There are three types of resistor that are not Linear or Ohmic. They are thus called non-linear. Their resistive value changes with the application of a second energy source, the first or primary energy source being the electric current passing through the component: LDR (Light Dependant Resistor), whose value of resistance varies with ambient light intensity Thermistor (Thermal Resistance), whose value of resistance varies with ambient temperature Varistor (Voltage Dependant Resistor), whose value of resistance varies with the applied signal (source) voltage These resistor types are used in Sensor circuits and component protection circuits. The Chapter ends with a Summary Table of Linear Resistor Types & Features.

Nick Brackenbury

Electronics Notes

September 2004

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RESISTOR FEATURES - CONT Some resistors are designed to be variable by User adjustment, in some forms these are called rheostats or potentiometers. In normal use they are called volume controls or brightness controls A principal aspect of circuit design is to calculate the resistor value in Ohms () that is required. However, when selecting a resistor component there are other features that also need to be considered: Fixed Resistors - Linear properties Variable Resistors - Preset or User Adjustable Fixed Resistors - Non-linear properties Preferred values - the range of allowable values Tolerance - how accurately resistors are made Power rating - the maximum voltage that should be used Frequency response - high frequencies can cause problems Fixed Linear Resistors are normally marked in one of two ways: Colour code system to identify value BS1852 letter code system to identify value Resistors are not polarised like electrolytic capacitors or semiconductors, so it does not matter which way round they are connected in a circuit. Resistors should not be reactive. This means they should not have any element of inductance or capacitance in them - they should be purely resistive. However, some resistor designs do have inductance due to the winding nature of their designs. In particular any fixed or variable resistors that are wire wound will be unsuitable for high frequency use. This is not a problem at DC or low frequency AC, but is a problem at higher frequencies.
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All materials have some resistance to the flow of an electric current. Materials are classified as: Conductors for very low resistance and high current Semi-conductors in the middle resistance range Insulators for no current flow at all The term RESISTOR describes a passive electronic component that is designed to have a resistance value somewhere between a conductor and a semi-conductor. A standard fixed value linear resistor is a two-terminal or two-wire component whose value remains constant regardless of: The level of applied voltage The direction of the applied voltage Whether AC or DC current The waveform shape The waveform frequency Resistors are used in electronic circuits to: Limit current flow through another component Provide voltage division Provide current division Resistance values vary with temperature. This is an undesirable feature in most cases of electronic circuit use. Some resistors create electrical noise. This is also an undesirable feature, particularly in analogue amplifiers. A variety of resistor types are manufactured using different materials and methods of manufacturing. Resistor types are selected according to specific application, i.e. switching circuit, amplifier circuit, transmitter circuit, in-vehicle circuit, and so on.
Nick Brackenbury Electronics Notes

RESISTOR CIRCUIT SYMBOLS Old symbol New symbol General Variable Resistor Normally fitted with User adjustable dial for applications such as volume and tone control, brightness control. Pre-Set Variable Resistor Soldered onto PCBs and located inside equipment enclosure. The resistance value is adjusted with a screwdriver by a production or service engineer.

The British Standards Institution, BSI for short, have specified a series of symbols for use in circuit diagrams. The Standards Document Reference Number for electronic circuits used to be called BS3939. The scope of these symbols expanded considerably with many new component types being designed. As a result BS3939 has been superseded with a new d o cu m e n t re f e re n ce n u m b e r BS60617. The most commonly used resistor types and their British Standard symbols are shown on the right. The British Standards web site is

Fixed resistors are the usual colour coded components as soldered onto Printed Circuit Boards.

Moving contact variable resistor Historically known as a rheostat

Variable resistor as voltage divider Historically known as a potentiometer

+t0 PTC +t0 NTC Thermistors Derived from thermal resistors Give a large change in resistance for a small change in temperature. PTC Positive Temp Coefficient NTC Negative Temp Coefficient
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LDR - Light Dependant Resistor The resistance reduces when the light gets stronger; used in light detector circuits
Nick Brackenbury Electronics Notes

Varistor - Voltage Dependant Resistor The actual resistance value changes with applied voltage; also called VDR
September 2004


Fixed value resistors are tubular in shape and often very small perhaps only 5 mm long. Often there is not enough space to put readable values on the resistor body. To overcome this problem a colour code system was introduced, as shown in the table below. The first Band is the one that is nearest one end of the resistor, as indicated on the drawing above. On very small resistors only 5 mm long, it may not be obvious which end to start. In these cases one can use the preferred values list overleaf which can assist in guessing the first two colours, since there are only a few combinations allowed. There are only three bands for a resistor with a tolerance of 20%. This is because Band 4, the normal tolerance band position, is no colour for 20%. There are four bands for resistors with tolerances of 10%, 5% or 2%, with the fourth band being silver, gold or red respectively. There are five bands for resistors with a tolerance of 1% or less. In these cases the first three colours are integers, with the fourth colour being the number of zeros or decimal point position. The fifth colour is the tolerance. 12K 100K 3.9K 2.2K 3.9K 470

Colour Black Brown Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Violet Grey White Gold Silver No colour

Band 1 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 -

Band 2 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 -

Band 3 none 0 00 000 0 000 00 000 000 000 0 000 000 0.1 0.01 -

Band 4 1% 2% 3% 0.5% 0.25% 0.1% 5% 10% 20%

Band 1 Band 2 Band 3 Band 4

Nick Brackenbury Electronics Notes

gives the first digit gives the second digit gives the number of following 0s gives the tolerance of the value
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If a resistor has a 22 value and a 10% tolerance band, then its value can vary from 22-10% to 22+10% = 22-2.2 to 22+2.2 = 19.8 to 24.2 The tolerance value is 2.2 .The tolerance range is 24.2-19.8 = 4.4 or 20% Example: What is the tolerance value of an 82 K resistor with a red tolerance band? Answer: red is 2% of 82K = 1640 One can use a Digital Multi Meter (DMM) to measure a resistors actual value and see if it is within the manufacturer specified tolerance value. Example: The above 82 K resistor was measured with a DMM to be 81,230 . Is it within tolerance? Answer: The difference between manufacturer specified value and measured value is: 82,000 - 81,230 = 770 770 is less than the 1640 (2% of 82K) allowed, so this resistor is well within tolerance. Resistors are not manufactured to arbitrary values. The values available originate from three sets of preferred values as per the table on the right. This is in accordance with BS2488 (UK) and IEC Puc63 (USA). The E6 steps are about 40%. This is because E6 originates from 20% tolerance resistors. The E12 steps are about 20%. This is because E12 originates from 10% tolerance resistors The E24 steps are about 10%. This is because E24 originates from 5% tolerance resistors. These days most resistors are in the E24 column with 5% tolerance as a consequence of modern improvements in manufacturing technology in the last 10 years. 50 years ago the standard item was E6 at 20% with E12 10% being a slight premium on price. 25 years ago the standard was E12 with E24 being a slight premium. Now there is little cost benefit in not buying E24. When visually identifying a resistor it is quite possible to read one of the colours incorrectly. This could be as a result of discolouration due to heat, or the use of a dark body colour. However, reference to the Preferred Value table enables correction of the error. For example, you may see the first two colours as yellow and brown, being 41, for a 10% tolerance resistor. The only digit following a 4 is a 7, so the colours are yellow and violet for 47 .
Nick Brackenbury Electronics Notes

E6 Series 20% tolerance 10

E12 Series 10% tolerance 10 12

E24 Series 5% tolerance 10 11 12 13 15 16 18 20 22 24 27 30 33 36 39 43 47 51 56 62 68 75 82 91


15 18


22 27


33 39


47 56


68 82

Table of Preferred Values

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3R3J means 3.3 5% 11W

The Letter Code system is an alternative to the Colour Code system in marking components with their values. It is not always possible or ideal to print colour bands on a component. Particular examples are resistors that get very hot (colours change), very small components, and variable resistors. This code consists of letters and numbers printed on the resistor body indicating the resistor value. In the value the following letter abbreviations are used: R means x1 K means x1,000 M means x1,000,000 Examples are: a 4.7 K resistor is 4K7 a 5.6 resistor is 5R6 a 470K resistor is 470K a 56 resistor is 56R a 6.8 M resistor is 6M8 a 12 M resistor is 12M The Letter Code System purposely avoids using a decimal point, which could easily be visually missed or rubbed off. Tolerances may be specified by adding a letter at the end of the code: F means 1% J means 5% G means 2% K means 10% M means 20% Examples are: 4R7F is 4.7 1% 16MG is 16 M 2% 5K6J is 5.6 K 5% 82KK is 82 K 10% 330RK is 330 10% 3M9G is 3.9 M 2% The letter code typically takes half the number of digits of the full mathematical expression, so the Letter Code is a good short form to use on small or awkwardly shaped components.
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1KF11 means 1K 1% 11W

Wire wound over ceramic tube Ceramic Heatsink Body over Wirewound Resistor 270R means 270 also it is 10% 3 Watt

Pre-set Wirewound 100RK8 means 100 also 10% 8 Watt

FIXED VALUE LINEAR RESISTOR CONSTRUCTION mixture of carbon and clay crushed into a rod

The word resistor generally refers to fixed value linear resistors. Resistors are the normal component as plentifully used in practically every electronic circuit, analogue and digital. There are many manufacturing methods and variations in common use, which can be summarised to: Carbon rod made from crushed clay and carbon compound Ceramic tube filled with clay and carbon resin compound High resistivity metal wire wound onto a ceramic tube Metal or Metal Oxide film sprayed onto an insulator tube Metal or Metal Oxide film helix sprayed onto an insulator tube Resistors are fixed value because they have no means of adjustment, mechanical or otherwise. They are linear because once manufactured, their value of resistance is constant regardless of applied voltage or other conditions such as heat and light. However, they are not perfect, which is why a number of different types are made. The winding and helix techniques produce inductance and so these types are unsuitable at higher frequencies. The metal thick film technique overcomes these problems, but is restricted in power consumption and cannot reach high resistance values. Films of carbon-boron and metal oxides give high values but are electrically noisier. vitreous enamel coating Thick film Over surface of metal or metal oxide Metal or Metal Oxide Film Resistor Full Coat
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silicon lacquer off white

embedded connection lead

Carbon Rod Resistor

vitreous enamel coating high resistance wire winding Wire Wound Resistor

ceramic or clay former

metallic end cap with lead

vitreous enamel coating ceramic or clay former spiral film of metal or metal oxide Metal or Metal Oxide Film Resistor Helix
September 2004

ceramic or clay former

metallic end cap with lead

Electronics Notes

metallic end cap with lead

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Carbon Composition The carbon-clay compound is bonded together with a resin. A higher proportion of carbon will give a lower resistive value. Early volume production resistors were the simple crushed rod type, but they break easily. A ceramic tube filled with carbon-clay compound is much stronger. Carbon content resistors are electrically noisy, particularly with high currents and/or when hot. They are very low cost to make. Full Coat Thick Film Resistors The thick film can be a resistive metal, or more likely a metal oxide or carbon-boron. A thick film is made over a tubular bobbin such as fibreglass for low power devices or ceramic for higher power devices. This construction technique enables low to medium values, reasonable power dissipation and high frequency use because there is no coil or winding. Wires are welded to metal caps which are pressure fixed over each end, giving rise to the rim bulge at each end. Resistor Packs Resistor Packs conform to Integrated Circuit style packaging. One type is the Dual In Line (DIL) package containing a number of equal valued resistors. The picture shows a 16-pin DIL with eight 270 metal oxide W resistors. A further space saving option is the Single In Line (SIL) packaging which contains a similar number of resistors but all wired together at one end (for ground) to save board space. Resistor Packs are used to terminate the data lines from a peripheral device (disc drive) to the motherboard (controller) in a computer system to eliminate signal reflection.

Metal Film 470 5% Watt

Carbon Rod 10 K 5% Watt

Carbon 1.5 K 5% 1 Watt

Metal Oxide 4.7 M 5% Watt

Pin 8

Pin 10

Pin 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

SIL Resistor Array, 8 resistors

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Enamel wirewound on ceramic tube

Wirewound on fibreglass bobbin

Metal Wire Wound Nichrome, an alloy of nickel and chromium, is popular due to its high resistivity and physical resilience. The central former is made from a ceramic and the outer coat a hard vitreous enamel. Wirewound resistors are low value high wattage and can be safely run at constant high temperatures. Tolerances down to 0.1% are easily achieved. Wirewound are the most expensive to make and are unsuitable at high frequencies due to the inductive effect. Metal and Metal Oxide Helix Film Similar in construction to the full coat thick film, but with a helical groove cut into the film coating leaving a resistive spiral track from one end to the other. This enables higher resistance values and physically smaller sizes. Being very low cost they are popular as general purpose low power low to medium frequency use. The helix has an inductive effect at high frequencies. Heatsink Encapsulation Heatsink resistors are designed to dissipate from 5 to over 30 Watts. 5 to 10 Watt resistors are made using a ceramic enclosure as the heatsink. 10 to 30 Watt or more resistors are built into an aluminium extrusion which can be screwed to the chassis. Typically they are very low value, less than 10. A wirewound bobbin is inserted through a tube and sealed in with a ceramic paste and baked dry. This construction can safely dissipate a large amount of heat, supporting very high currents. Characteristic Graph of all Linear Resistors All Linear Resistors have a straight line graph when plotting current Amps against Volts applied.
Nick Brackenbury Electronics Notes

10 5% 5 W Heatsink Wirewound 4.7 10% 4 W

100 1% 1 W Heatsink Wirewound 1 1% 25 W

Ceramic enclosure

Aluminium Wirewound on fibreglass bobbin

40 30 20 10 0 0

high resistance

R1 R2 R3 Amps
4.0 4.5

medium resistance low resistance 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5

Graph of current reading for increasing voltage setting across three linear resistors R1, R2 & R3
September 2004

3K 1% 10 W
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Slider variable carbon 10K pot

There are a large variety of variable resistor types covering many options. Variable resistors combine Linear resistor materials with a mechanical construction that facilitates User variations. Carbon or Wirewound Just as with fixed linear resistors, the main choices for variable resistors are carbon based or wirewound. The carbon based are made from a thick film of carbon onto an insulator base such as mica, like PCB material. Long term reliability is poor due to the carbon wearing off. The good points are low cost, small and light. Wirewound utilise nichrome wire wound round a small strip of mica or a plastic tube. The resistance value changes in small steps as the slider moves from one turn to the next. Due to the inductive effect wirewound are not suitable over 500KHz, and can cause inductive problems well below that frequency in many circuit designs. Resistance Range Manufacturing methods are such that best reliability is achieved below 10K with carbon and wire. Up to 25K is readily availlable in carbon. Up to 250K is available with carbon but can pose long term reliability problems with wiper wear, over -current use and electrical noise. Slide or Rotate The mechanical movement can be either rotational (less than 3600)or a longitudinal slide.

Rotary variable carbon 10K pot

Rotary variable carbon 10 K All plastic pot

Rotary variable, dual carbon 10K ganged pot

Rotary variable pots - one wirewound and twocarbon - carbon are much smaller in size

Rotary variable wireWound 10 K pot

Nick Brackenbury

Electronics Notes

September 2004

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Rheostats and Potentiometers See Section 3 on Resistor circuit symbols. A Rheostat is a 2-terminal device whose resistance between those two terminals can be mechanically varied from zero to the maximum. A Potentiometer (pot) is a 3-terminal device where a full circuit current is continuously flowing from one outer terminal through to the other outer terminal. A sliding centre tap provides a third terminal with a signal strength somewhere between 0% and 100% of the full applied signal. Mounting and Connecting Methods One popular method of combining mounting with connecting is to solder the 3-termal device onto the edge of a PCB using strongly designed tags. Before PCBs, the most popular method was to drill a hole through the equipment outer casing and use screw nuts and thread to fix the pot through the hole. Wiring up would be done separately. Pre-Set Potentiometers The lowest cost variable resistor is the pre-set skeleton pot for PCB mounting. Adjustment is made with a small screwdriver rotating the dial from zero to almost a complete turn on a carbon-mica surface. Power Rating Standard variable and pre-set pots forget to display maximum power rating information. Generally, small carbon pre-sets are and Watt, whilst larger carbon variables may go up to Watt. It is not advisable to design circuits with a high ambient DC current passing through a pot, since it leads to electrically noisy and carbon wear. Wirewound are designed to be more robust, combining lower noise and higher ambient DC current to handle from 1 Watt to 10 Watts. The downside is wirewound are physically larger and more expensive.
Nick Brackenbury Electronics Notes

Pre-set carbon film enclosed pot

Pre-set carbon film skeleton pot

4.7K W 1K W Pre-set wirewound pot, 100 8 Watt, high current use

Cermet trimmer pre-set wirewound enclosed pot 1 K W

Pre-set wirewound Cermet Trimmer

1K W

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Linear or Logarithmic Most variables are linear which means the resistance is proportional to the movement of the dial. Linear are used for volume and brightness controls. Some are logarithmic which has a low resistive value at the start building up to a high resistive value at the end of the turn. Log is used particularly where the User outcome is frequency related such as tone controls or radio tuning. Preferred Values Above 250 most values of: 250 500 1K variable resistors are made to preferred 2.5K 5K 10K 25K 50K 100K 250K 500K 1M 2.5M

Ganged Potentiometers Ganged potentiometers are where two or more pots are adjusted in unison by the rotary shaft. Typical use are for any adjustments in stereo systems or quadraphonic systems. Mid-Range Click A small click in the centre of the range is useful with bass and treble controls where the centre position represents the Norm, neither attenuated nor amplified. Also useful in remote control of moving motorised vehicles. Integral On/Off Switch Quite often a pot used as the volume control is also used as the On/Off switch

Miniature 4-ganged carbon Pot with mid-range click

Miniature 4-ganged carbon Pot with On/Off switch

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Electronics Notes

September 2004

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Light Dependant Resistor

Light Dependant Resistor - LDR LDRs are sensitive to light - as the light level increases the resistance reduces. The 1 cm diameter component consists of a clear circular window with a cadmium sulphide etched looped track underneath it providing about 12 cm of light sensitive track. Thermal Resistors - Thermistors Thermistors are designed to maximise resistance change with change in temperature. They have a controlled temperature coefficient with the heat sensitive material being made from a semi-conductor. The coefficient is positive when resistance increases with temperature increase, and negative when the resistance reduces with temperature increase. Old Thermistors looked like a 1 cm diameter disc or rectangular plate. Modern designs are a much smaller bead which is sometimes enclosed in a glass tube. The component may use the standard resistor colour code (bead), the BS1852 Letter Code (glass) or a single colour dot (rod). The dot has the following values for a resistance reading at 250C: 3 K - red 5 K - orange 10 K - yellow 30 K - green 100 K - violet Voltage Dependant Resistors - Varistors Varistors are made from a semi-conductor family material. The resistance increases as the applied voltage increases. They are principally used as voltage surge suppressors.

Thermister bead

Varistorvoltage dependant resistor

Thermister bead in glass tube

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Electronics Notes

September 2004

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Resistors have a Power Ratingthis is the maximum power that should be dissipated by the resistor. If the power rating is exceeded the resistor will heat up, and in some cases explode. The Power Rating is generally known from its physical size, particularly with carbon-clay resistors. It is good practice to operate a resistor below half its rated power value. There are a range of standard or preferred power ratings, all in Watts: 0.125 0.25 0.5 1.0 2.0 3.0 5.0 10 20 The formula for Power in Watts consumed by a resistive load is: P = I2 R or V2 / R Watts Thus the maximum voltage a particular resistor should be operated at is:


- the square root of P Watts times R The maximum voltage that can be applied to a resistor will depend on its Power Rating AND its resistance value. This has to be worked out for each and every resistor value under consideration. Low value resistors are prone to heating because they pass a higher current. This is often a cause of unreliability in electronic equipment. Example: What is the maximum voltage that can be applied to a 5.6 K 0.25 Watt resistor Answer: Vm = PR = 0.25x5600 = 1400 = 37.4 volts. Example: What is the maximum voltage that can be applied to a 33 M 0.5 Watt resistor? Answer: Vm = PR = 0.5x33,000,000 = 16,500,000 = 4,062 volts
Nick Brackenbury Electronics Notes

Avoid component overheating to avoid unexpected component mortality

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Selection of the type of resistor manufacturing method can ensure a circuit works reliably; the wrong selection leads to early circuit failure. FIXED VALUE LINEAR RESISTORS RESISTOR PROPERTIES Typical resistance range Typical tolerance % Typical min-max power rating Temperature stability Temperature coefficient (ppm/C) Electrical noise issue Relative size (per ) Stability at high frequencies Stability over time Physical wear with use Applications
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VARIABLE RESISTORS Carbon film 1K to 1 M 20 - W poor -250 poor standard pass poor Very poor Wire wound 10 to 100K 5 -1 W Very good 250 good large poor Very good Very good

Carbon rod 10 to 10M 10 -2 W pass -250 poor standard good poor -

Carbon film 1 to 10M 5 -2 W pass -250 pass standard pass pass -

Metal film 1 to 1M 1 - W Very good 50 to 100 good Very small poor good -

Metal oxide 10 to 1M 2 - W Very good 250 good small poor good -

Ceramic Vitreous wirewound wirewound 0.1 to 20K 5 4 to 20 W good 250 Very good large Very poor Very good 0.1 to 20K 5 2 to 4 W good 75 Very good large Very poor Very good -

Audio, toys, general

Electronics Notes

Amps, test equip, transmitters, receivers

Power amp output, pre-set lighting switch

September 2004

Controls tone, volume Colour, brightness

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