1.What makes a pot, a good pot?
Before we get into what makes a pot, a good pot. Let’s talk about some of the misinformation you will find in the market that can cloud your judgement, and take you down a weird path. Now, this is a complex topic to tackle as it tends to be divided into 2 camps of part myths. First, is “These rebranded pots are superior” camp. The other is “These cheap [insert foreign country] sound trash” group.
These rebranded pots are superior
So, if you were like me growing up in the old 2000’s forum days, (the wild west, before there was credible information) there were 2 myths that spread like wildfire. First, the pot manufacturers shifting their production overseas has killed their overall quality, and pots that are not within 10% tolerance sound bad. Because of this, both people who bought into the idea and those who wanted to make money off that group started companies selling rebranded pots at a large markup. What does rebranded mean? Anyone can contact a pot manufacturer and ask them to make a semi-custom pot. You can choose from 8 tapers, either 10% or 20% tolerance, and whether you want standard or low torque. Easy right? But, as the broader community shifted, with more credible information coming in. We realized that no, the quality of pots are the same if not better than before, and that tolerance does not affect the sound remotely, unless in an active circuit and within a few select cases. These resellers had to double down on their sales pitch to hit their $50k-$100k a year minimum order from the manufacturer. Now it's either not about lower quality, it’s “They just don’t make them like they use too” which is a contradiction since they get basically off the shelf pots, or it's “ours have a true vintage taper” which is snake oil as the number one thing that affects a “pots taper” is how the circuit is designed.
These cheap [insert foreign country] made pot sound trash
This train of thought is either a dated tribalistic belief against foreign made things, or a misunderstanding about levels of part quality. Because electronics manufacturing has exploded in the last 20+ years, we can make amazing pots at prices we once thought was impossible. So, now you don’t base pot quality off of “sound” what it is based on is durability. Pots are basically a resistor made of things like, graphite, carbon, or a ceramic/metal mix called cermet, with a metal wiper that moves across it. But since these resistors are made of varying densities, and thicknesses, the metal wiper will slowly scrape the resistor away at varying amounts, meaning some pots last longer then others. So you can imagine a cheap pot, with a thin graphite resistor is not going to last as long as the higher quality pot, with it's thick cermet resistor.
Then what makes a good pot?
So realistically the real answer is how long it lasts. Beyond that you are talking about small preferences that are uniquely your own. Do you like a pot that has a low friction shaft, that you can adjust the controls lightning fast? Or, do you like using pots that have a linear taper as when you combine that with whatever circuit you like just feels like you.