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

Discussion in 'Bass Area; The Bottom Line' started by echo unit, Jul 21, 2010.

  1. echo unit

    echo unit Member

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    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?
     
  2. CavePassivePedals

    CavePassivePedals Member

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    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.
     
  3. echo unit

    echo unit Member

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    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)
     
  4. Tonebender

    Tonebender Supporting Member

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    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.
     
  5. Rick Turner

    Rick Turner Member

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    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.
     
  6. tkozal

    tkozal Member

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    what he sayeth, for he knoweth

    (ive always admired your work Rick, didnt know you were here)
     
  7. echo unit

    echo unit Member

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    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?
     
  8. Rick Turner

    Rick Turner Member

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    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...
     
  9. PCR

    PCR Supporting Member

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    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
     
  10. echo unit

    echo unit Member

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    How are orange drops compared to all these overpriced bumble bees and Vitamin Q's ???
     
  11. Rick Turner

    Rick Turner Member

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    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.
     
  12. whiteop

    whiteop Senior Member

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    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.
     
  13. whiteop

    whiteop Senior Member

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    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.
     
  14. echo unit

    echo unit Member

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    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.
     
  15. CavePassivePedals

    CavePassivePedals Member

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

    echo unit Member

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    OK buddy. Will do.
     
  17. dkelley

    dkelley Member

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    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
     
  18. Jarrett

    Jarrett Member

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    Which capacitors are the best for bass guitars?

    Why the flux capacitor of course!
     
  19. STLPT

    STLPT Member

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    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
     
  20. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    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!
     

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