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View Full Version : Capacitors for Bass Guitars: which capacitors are the best for bass guitars?


echo unit
07-21-2010, 12:46 PM
I want my bass to sing but i want it to sound tight and focused and punchy in the bottom end. No loose or muddy.

Which caps will be best to use with my new pickup in my '51 P-Bass?


I know that guitarists love the PIO caps for guitars but that doesn't necessarily make these the best for Bass guitar.


I see that the standard caps most of the time are the Sprague orange drops. Is there anything better than these?

CavePassivePedals
07-21-2010, 10:29 PM
IMHO, any real or perceived tonal variation from changing a capacitor on a bass guitar is just cork sniffing.

I'd be interested to hear "before and after" recording samples from anyone who can prove it makes any difference.

echo unit
07-22-2010, 12:43 AM
IMHO, any real or perceived tonal variation from changing a capacitor on a bass guitar is just cork sniffing.

I'd be interested to hear "before and after" recording samples from anyone who can prove it makes any difference.

You funny man!!!

I'm going to try a few different ones.

I'll tell you if I hear any improvements.

Orange Sprague type (polypropylene)
Vitamin Q (paper in Oil)
Mallory (polypropylene)
LUXE (Paper in Oil)
RS Guitarworks Guitar Cap (polypropylene)
RS/Jensen Guitar cap (Paper in Oil)
Dr. Vintage capacitors (Paper in Oil)

Tonebender
07-23-2010, 02:01 PM
I say go for a vintage Paper/Oil....

.047mfd for vintage tone

.033mfd for something a little brighter/punchier

-Can't go wrong with some old Good-All's or Sprague Vitamin Q. Lots of my customers are bassists and they love 'em.

Rick Turner
07-23-2010, 02:23 PM
Do you understand how passive tone control caps work? If you did, you'd realize that you simply do not hear any signal that goes through the cap; all it is is a shunt to ground of highs, and the frequency at which that happens is a matter of the interaction between the capacitor and the LCR factor of the pickup itself plus any strap capacitance in the cabling.

This is completely different from coupling capacitors in amplifiers or preamp stages where the caps are passing audio signal and you can hear the different qualities of how they're made.

In other words, you do not hear tone control capacitors, you only hear what they leave behind. So given a particular set of values...voltage rating (which doesn't matter really) and capacitance, as long as you are comparing caps that are plus or minus 2%, you'll not hear a difference.

If you are hearing a difference between cheap and high buck caps, it's probably that the actual capacitance values are different. If you want to do a fair test, you have to start with measured and tested caps of exactly the same values.

tkozal
07-23-2010, 03:34 PM
what he sayeth, for he knoweth

(ive always admired your work Rick, didnt know you were here)

echo unit
07-23-2010, 10:28 PM
What are these Vitamin Q caps that are currently being manufactured?

Is it like a re-issue of a capacitor?

I thought that the Vitamin Q was an old capacitor long out of production?


What were vitamin Q caps originally used for?

What guitars came with these caps in them?

What makes them so special?

Or are they just hype?

Rick Turner
07-23-2010, 10:56 PM
If you think that there is any mojo associated with treble bleed tone control caps in passive tone controls in guitars or basses...well, as P.T. Barnum was reported to have said, "There's a sucker born every minute..."

I guess you may imagine that you get more of less, but if that is the case, I'll have one of whatever your drinking or smoking...

PCR
07-24-2010, 03:32 AM
If you think that there is any mojo associated with treble bleed tone control caps in passive tone controls in guitars or basses...well, as P.T. Barnum was reported to have said, "There's a sucker born every minute..."

I guess you may imagine that you get more of less, but if that is the case, I'll have one of whatever your drinking or smoking...

I deleted my earlier posts because I have a feeling this thread is heading in the wrong direction, and I do not want to be a part of that discussion...

Peace all....

:horse

echo unit
08-01-2010, 11:03 PM
How are orange drops compared to all these overpriced bumble bees and Vitamin Q's ???

Rick Turner
08-01-2010, 11:55 PM
Do you think you can hear a capacitor in a passive treble cut circuit?

I don't.

Given two capacitors of exactly equal capacitance, and OK, voltage rating, you're simply not going to hear a difference between a ten cent cap and a ten dollar one.

Set up a simple double blind test using a rotary switch selecting among however many capacitors you want to audition. Test the caps to within plus or minus two percent of value. Run a test in true double blind fashion where the person at the selector switch does not know one cap from another on the switch, but logs the switch positions. Have someone play the bass without knowing what switch positions are being chosen. Do this with six different players.

Now tell me that you can hear the difference.

If you spend more on the capacitor, you will be prejudiced toward believing it sounds different. In the end, you'd be better off with higher grade pots and tighter spec caps if you want to really want consistency. The variance in actual value of really cheap caps is pretty enormous; ditto cheap pots where too low an actual value can load down pickups when the knob is all the way up. If you have + & - 20% parts, a 500 K pot can actually be 400 K, the taper may be all over the map, and the effect of a range of actual capacitance can make one pot/cap set act completely different from another. It's the parts values that count here, not whether it's one composition or another.

It's a whole different ball game with regard to the use of capacitors blocking DC from one stage of amplification to another (coupling caps), and in smoothing power supply to tubes, transistors, and ICs, more is better. In those applications, you can hear the effect of better or lesser caps, and in power circuits, more capacitance makes for quicker response to signal voltage swings.

whiteop
08-02-2010, 12:20 AM
I'm a Sprague Orange Drop cap typa guy. I've tried the oil caps but they make your tone sound too smooth for my tastes. I can tell a difference in caps especially if you record the tone after you change them out and substitute different ones.

whiteop
08-02-2010, 12:25 AM
What are these Vitamin Q caps that are currently being manufactured?

Is it like a re-issue of a capacitor?

I thought that the Vitamin Q was an old capacitor long out of production?


What were vitamin Q caps originally used for?

What guitars came with these caps in them?

What makes them so special?

Or are they just hype?

for me, they were. I have two of them and boy are they expensive compared to others. But if it makes you feel like you can play better and gives you the extra mojo via the placebo effect I see nothing wrong with spending your hard earned money on them. All guitarists I've ever known, including myself, have an incurable condition known as..."chasing tha' tone". It's an imagined oasis sitting in the desert that changes position everytime you get closer to it.

echo unit
08-02-2010, 11:17 AM
I think I am going to try the Vishay/Sprague Orange Drop cap then.

Apprently it has a tighter more focused bottom end.


Which value should I put in?

The stock capacitor in my MIJ '51 P-Bass is .111


Does that sound right?

I guess I should put in a 0.1 value orange drop but I'd love some suggestions.

CavePassivePedals
08-02-2010, 06:15 PM
I think I am going to try the Vishay/Sprague Orange Drop cap then.

Apprently it has a tighter more focused bottom end.


Which value should I put in?

The stock capacitor in my MIJ '51 P-Bass is .111


Does that sound right?

I guess I should put in a 0.1 value orange drop but I'd love some suggestions.


Don't forget to post some "before and after" audio samples so we can all hear the difference that the new capacitor makes :Devil

echo unit
08-03-2010, 04:37 PM
Don't forget to post some "before and after" audio samples so we can all hear the difference that the new capacitor makes :Devil


OK buddy. Will do.

dkelley
01-08-2013, 10:56 AM
Hi guys,

I know this is (a) an old thread and (b) I've basically never posted here pretty much, but I would like to clarify how capacitance alters the sound of a pickup in electronics.

I'm not talking about the quality of the capacitor, but I am talking about how choosing a different value cap and how you use your tone control can alter or even improve the sound of your pickup(s) if you find them too bright, lacking in presence, or too clean (for example).

When you turn your tone control ALL the way down (anything in between all the way down and all the way up is a different story I won't get into here), the value of the capacitor in your tone control is adding to the internal capacitance of the pickup. It lowers the resonance frequency of the entire circuit (everything in a passive guitar/bass is part of a circuit right up to the first external buffer, such as your amp or your first buffered guitar pedal). It also increases the Q of the filter which increases the output at the resonance frequency and increases how sharply the filter goes down above and below this frequency. So it could be looked at as turning up the mids and turning down the highs and lows a bit.

Having the tone control anywhere other than all the way up or all the way down also decreases high frequencies in what I feel is an unattractive way (I won't get into why here though), which is why I prefer to change my tone controls to stepped switches with different capacitors in the different positions.

I far prefer the tone of a guitar or bass with much smaller than normal tone capacitors and the tone control all the way down (or of course tone control wide open without the cap having any effect) to the muddy dull tones of a tone control turned down partly - but this is a subjective thing of course.

I don't disagree with rick turner about the quality of the cap, but I did want to point out that the value of the cap is a huge thing in changing your tone as long as you understand that the tone control cap will only have an effect when it's turned down, and will only have it's most interesting (imho) tone shaping effect when turned all the way down.

This is why the classic fender precision recording tone of yesteryear was a vintage bass with tone turned down all the way. it is imho actually brighter and clearer than with the tone turned down only part way, because the tone control isn't tossing some of the signal away through the pot's resistance. Instead you get the pure bass tone but with the resonance frequency lowered and q increased.

I used to own an active Alembic bass (series 1), and it had an active tone control circuit who's end result was similar to this effect but much more pronounced and with much more control and clarity.

However for those without several thousand to throw down on a guitar, try choosing a smaller tone control cap value (.047 is far too big imho, try a third of that value more or less, or maybe half depending on your guitar or pickups), and turn your tone down ALL the way to hear your instrument really sing.

On a strat in particular this can really push the mids making it more of a lead humbucker type of tone, and on one of my basses that has quite hifi sounding passive pickups it lowers and increases the resonant frequency making it sound much more agressive.

cheers
Don

Jarrett
01-08-2013, 11:33 AM
Which capacitors are the best for bass guitars?

Why the flux capacitor of course!

STLPT
01-09-2013, 06:40 PM
I'm a Sprague Orange Drop cap typa guy. I've tried the oil caps but they make your tone sound too smooth for my tastes. I can tell a difference in caps especially if you record the tone after you change them out and substitute different ones.

I find this to be very much the case in my experience. I'm will claim to be one of the few that can hear a difference.

:brick

walterw
01-09-2013, 10:33 PM
some knowledgeable folks have pointed out that when the tone knob is all the way up, the type of cap is almost irrelevant, because the frequencies that matter here (around the resonant peak of the pickup) go right through the cap to ground like it was a straight piece of wire!

apparently a 500k volume and a 500k tone (regardless of which kind of cap, or even which value above a certain point) both full up is no different to the pickup than a 250k volume by itself!

walterw
01-09-2013, 10:36 PM
I want my bass to sing but i want it to sound tight and focused and punchy in the bottom end. No loose or muddy.

Which caps will be best to use with my new pickup in my '51 P-Bass?

funny, since at best tone pot caps only affect highs and mids.

The Golden Boy
01-12-2013, 09:42 AM
I don't think I saw this thread first time around.

I'm assuming there's been a bunch of posts deleted- I find it incredible that anyone is going to blatantly ignore advice offered by the guy who designed and built Alembic (among other things).

Zingeroo
01-12-2013, 12:27 PM
Tone control caps don't just shunt highs and mids. They become part of the circuit and the pickup is affected by the load, even when the tone pot is on full.

R13D
01-12-2013, 12:48 PM
I don't think I saw this thread first time around.

I'm assuming there's been a bunch of posts deleted- I find it incredible that anyone is going to blatantly ignore advice offered by the guy who designed and built Alembic (among other things).
It is incredible.

ngativ
01-12-2013, 02:26 PM
Only matters the capacitance and its tolerance. Since a bass guitar produce lower frequencies, is safe to assume that lower a value of capacitance than commonly found in guitars is a good option.

walterw
01-14-2013, 11:07 PM
.047μF still seems to be a good choice for passive basses; it rolls off highs when you back the tone off without killing too much of the "meat" of the tone, then gets that neat resonant mid-hump when you hit "0".

Shiny_Beast
01-14-2013, 11:27 PM
Man, you guys that piss all over threads like these, really. Some guy just wants to know what people think about tone caps and all you can do is call him an idiot. Nice, real nice, the truth is you really don't know either, you just think you do.

vibrostrat43
01-14-2013, 11:52 PM
In my jazz bass did my own tone control and I chose to do the Fender "Greasebucket" tone circuit which is both a high and low pass filter and the values I chose were .033uf for the large cap instead .1, and .01uf for the high pass instead of .022uf. It's a much more usable sound to me, and still gets that "flatwound" sound at zero. I wish I could explain it, but it makes the knob much less sensitive with no sudden drop to no highs, and it makes the bass a bit more mid pronounced rather than just all bass.

The Golden Boy
01-15-2013, 08:00 AM
Man, you guys that piss all over threads like these, really. Some guy just wants to know what people think about tone caps and all you can do is call him an idiot. Nice, real nice, the truth is you really don't know either, you just think you do.

Well, what do YOU know?

I mean, if I don't know what I think I know- I'm willing to bet that YOU don't know what I know that I think that I know that I don't know. Scratch that. I KNOW you don't know what I know that I think that I know that I don't know.

Shiny_Beast
01-15-2013, 03:32 PM
Well, what do YOU know?

I mean, if I don't know what I think I know- I'm willing to bet that YOU don't know what I know that I think that I know that I don't know. Scratch that. I KNOW you don't know what I know that I think that I know that I don't know.

that's just like, your opinion man...

jay42
01-15-2013, 05:47 PM
Tone control caps don't just shunt highs and mids. They become part of the circuit and the pickup is affected by the load, even when the tone pot is on full.I don't really want to argue with Mr. Turner either, however, yes, since you're not going with 1M pots, any shunt cap is always there. It's most important when tone is rolled off, which may be more typical for bassists than guitarists. (dunno)

I think, as long as you pass on ceramic caps and stick with film types, you're doing yourself a favor. Now a $10 film vs. a $0.75 film...well, the law of diminishing returns kicks in....ymmv.

If you have a 4001/3 with the series cap, film for sure. Lots of guys get rid of that one, so you have to look.

dspellman
01-16-2013, 09:16 AM
I want my bass to sing but i want it to sound tight and focused and punchy in the bottom end. No loose or muddy.

Which caps will be best to use with my new pickup in my '51 P-Bass?

I think you're starting at the wrong end of your rig, and working with the least important component and the one least likely to help you achieve what you want.

I'd suggest starting with the speaker cabinet first.

walterw
01-16-2013, 10:13 PM
agreed! "i want my guitar to have awesome crunch and sustain, with a clear low end and fat high end; which knobs should i get?"