What are the meanings of pan(ning) and pan pot?

from what original meanings of pan and pot are the meanings in sound engineering derived?

1 Answer 1


Pot is short for potentiometer, which is a fancy electronics word for "knob" or "dial". Panning means positioning something left to right in a stereo sound field. To pan is the verb meaning the action of moving something to a certain place in a stereo sound field. So, a pan pot is a knob that you turn to move a sound left or right in a stereo mix.

I'm not sure, but I suspect pan is short for panorama or panoramic as in "panoramic sound", which I believe was used to describe stereo sound when it was new and amazing compared to mono sound. Also, panning is used in video and filming to mean moving left-to-right or right-to-left while filming, so this is the audio equivalent.

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    "Potentiometer" originally meant specifically a variable resistor and I suspect that comes from being able to measure electric potential by adjusting a variable resistance to match a predetermined voltage or current point and using math to calculate the potential based on the resistance. Now "pot" pretty much means any knob; digital, analog, or whatever. Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 20:39
  • Potential refers to a voltage. A potentiometer is a device that acts as a variable voltage divider - proportionally dividing a voltage based on two resistors in series. In a potentiometer the two resistances are proportion to the position set on the potentiometer so that the output voltage can swing fully between the supply voltage and ground.
    – Bit Depth
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 9:08
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    And here I thought the Berlin techno duo Pan-Pot was just choosing extremely common kitchen apparatuses as their name to symbolize the minimalism of their style... Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 3:03

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