Capacitors...can you hear the difference?

Discussion in 'Amps/Cabs Tech Corner: Amplifier, Cab & Speakers' started by Slick51, Jan 4, 2006.


Capacitors...can you hear the difference?

  1. Yes, I can easily hear the differences, and I use them.

  2. I think there's something to it, I'm still testing.

  3. I've tried, but I can't really hear it!

  4. No. The idea is ludicrous; you can't quantify it.

  5. Sure! Want to buy some silver in oils? $30k cables?

Multiple votes are allowed.
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  1. Slick51

    Slick51 Colonel Curmudgeon Silver Supporting Member

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    I know we've danced around the subject, so let's air it out.

    Can you hear the differences in Orange Drops vs. Mallory 150s?

    Polystyrene and Silver Mica?

    Mustards?

    I still haven't decided. I can't tell how much is psychoacoustic, how much is just the fun of the modding, and how much time I'm wasting trying.

    I'd love to hear your take on it. I've read most of the opinions on the web, and have seen the O-Scope traces.

    I've also seen the differences in prices in mustards, Zoso mustards, and Zoso's 'new and improved' ones.

    ?? :^) ??

    Slick51
     
  2. Wakarusa

    Wakarusa Member

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    I'll go one better...

    I have tested Mallory 150, Sprague OD 225 and 715, and Illinois Poly film caps over the audio spectrum at rated voltage using a spectrum analyzer and distortion analyzer.

    The results clearly demonstrate that the difference between manufacturer and between dielectric type is of the same nature and not materially greater than the difference between different production batches of the same cap model from the same manufacturer.

    Too bad it doesn't involve blowing something up or we could turn it in to the clowns on "Myth Busters"
     
  3. THROBAK

    THROBAK Gold Supporting Member

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    Yes there is without a doubt a difference in sound between capacitors.

    The differences between brands of the same type of capacitor are subtle but there and really come down to the maker's personal preference.

    But between types of capacitors, mylar, polypropylene and ceramic the difference can be huge depending upon where they are place in the circuit. I spend many hours when I am developing a new design testing different caps in the circuit. As far as I'm concerned it is time well spent. Careful choice of capacitors has a real impact on the character of an amp or effect. Another thing I do is test each film capacitor to find the foil end. Proper orientation of the foil in within the circuit also has a big cumulative impact on the tone. It is like taking a blanket of the amp or effect when the foil ends are properly oriented.
     
  4. VanR

    VanR Senior Member

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    I like the Sprague 225P Orange Drops the best in my High Octane builds. Sound more organic sounding than the 715's I had in there.
     
  5. ZiggY!!

    ZiggY!! Member

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    I propose something different. This idea of different sounding capacitors will be defunct by a properly designed circuit. The sound of a circuit should never come down to what type of capacitors you use in it, and if it does it is the design which is lacking...

    Has anyone stepped back and looked at this thread? I can understand nit-picking speakers or pickups... but capacitors? How much further as guitar players will the scrutinizing go to avoid the inevitable question of "perhaps you just suck at guitar".

    Your time would be better spent scrutinizing your own guitar technique and ability. It will probably yeild much greater improvement in tone also.


    Now go make some music. After all... thats why you started playing guitar in the first place right?
     
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  6. Slick51

    Slick51 Colonel Curmudgeon Silver Supporting Member

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    Ziggy

    This is the Amp Tech section, right? I like amps. I see music in schematics. Fender, Marshall, Vox, et al have done fine with cap-coupled and -bound circuitry. Which design was yours?

    I have played for over 40 years, and have no crushing self-doubt about my playing, nor derive my self-worth from praise or pricks from netizens. My playing suits me fine, as it has every band and gig so far.

    Step back and check why you want to step on this thread.

    Others, good comments; and thanks.

    :rolleyes:

    Slick51
     
  7. TheAmpNerd

    TheAmpNerd Member

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    I can hear the difference.

    Even when the circuit is properly designed.

    I don't know why the difference can't be measured
    in some concrete terms. Perhaps the equipment
    isn't design for this type process, I don't know why.


    ANYONE who doubts this please do the followning:

    Take a late 60s brown turd capped Fender.
    Replace all the brown turd caps w/Solen fast caps.
    Play the amp just as before.
    Hear the brittle hi end. Have a headache?

    You guessed it, I do NOT like Solen fast caps
    for bypassing.



    I think styrene and mica (S&M) are close...big difference
    though between S&M v. Ceramic disc.

    This is well documented.
     
  8. ZiggY!!

    ZiggY!! Member

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    It is audiophoolery at its height. You guys can argue capacitors all you like... But some of use would rather just make music...
     
  9. Slick51

    Slick51 Colonel Curmudgeon Silver Supporting Member

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    Point made. We'll stay and talk caps. You aren't required.

    BTW, this is precisely why I posted this poll. There are many opposing, and often vehement disagreements on this. I wanted to hear what the pros here think.

    Slick51
     
  10. Wakarusa

    Wakarusa Member

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    Regards "shut up and play your guitar": Since I repair, modify, design, and manufacture amplifiers as part of my living the answer (whether real or imagined) is still important. I think a related interesting question is how much influence cap types/brands (or other components) play in purchasing decisions. Didja buy the new amp because you knew it had (or didn't have) Orange Drops, because it sounded great and, 'lo and behold, the reason behind the great tone was the cap choice, or because it was just overall a great design regardless of cap choice?

    Regards "load some in and try it": I don't doubt for a second that changing out all of the film caps in an amp will yield discernable differences in tone. Doubly so if you change out all of the caps (ceramics, micas, etc.). What my testing suggests is that:
    - The tone will change even if you change out the caps for the same brand and dielectric type due to variations in production and
    - The change is unpredictable

    "I changed the caps and it sounded better/worse" is subject to all kinds of influences and, I'd argue, is the source of a lot of mythology. It's just not a rigorous way to prove something. Show me the results of the controlled double blind test that support your assertion(s) and I'll enlist in the cause too.

    Finally, I wouldn't think that changing out 40 year old caps for new tells us anything about the differences (or lack of) between new and new.
     
  11. VacuumVoodoo

    VacuumVoodoo Member

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    How do you do the comparative listening tests ?
    Are you sure that the different caps have same capacitance to at least 1% ?
    Are you playing live being sure your playing is the same time and time again or are you feeding a prerecorded signal into the amp ?
    Is anybody else listening without knowing if the cap has been replaced or not ?

    questions,questions...

    The sound of capacitors is as complex as the complex numbers used in mathematical frequency domain analysis of electronic circuits: there is the real part: impedance, dielectric absorbtion etc and there's an imaginary part...:D

    In the context, I beg to abstain from voting
    10% difference in capacitance of a treble boost cap is audible and mesurable a 1% is measurable but i doubt anyone can hear it. Irrespective of what make the cap is.
     
  12. scottl

    scottl Member

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    Yeah, I'd love to make music too..... And practice. Me bad... I do already ;)

    But, just because your ears can't the hear the difference between a ceramic disc and silver mica/polystyrene (of EXACTLY the same measured capacitance) doesn't mean that professionals (who may be very accomplished musicians) can't hear it. I do R&D on Dumble style circuits. You can hear a definitive difference in a kind of high end hash when swapping the treble cap. I can even hear the difference between different Ceramics from different brands that measure the same. Maybe it is the distortion Ceramics impart. I ALWAYS measure the caps down to the last picofarad. I am that anal. You can hear a difference. It is well documented as has been said before. Until you try it in this circuit, you cannot possibily offer anything constructive to the discussion.

    Fwiw, I have swapped film caps as well and do believe that the polyesters have a smoother top end. Maybe I need double blind testing, but I always record my changes and the clips sound different. Same values (measured), same amp, same mic position, same player, same guitar, same cable, yada yada......

    I also can adjust a phase inverter AC balance by ear (20k trimmer in Fuchs amps). When checked by a scope, 3 amps I adjusted this way were perfectly in phase. Andy Fuchs witnessed.

    This whole argument is like denying that people can have perfect pitch because you don't......


    Scott

     
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  13. rewog

    rewog Member

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    Sorry - I know nothing about Capacitors or Electronics, but here is an article regarding some analysis of different Caps with a scope.
    I don't know how this relates to your tests, but it might be an interesting read:-

    http://members.aol.com/sbench102/caps.html
     
  14. Phil Harmoneeek

    Phil Harmoneeek Member

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    From THROBAK
    "Yes there is without a doubt a difference in sound between capacitors.

    The differences between brands of the same type of capacitor are subtle but there and really come down to the maker's personal preference.

    But between types of capacitors, mylar, polypropylene and ceramic the difference can be huge depending upon where they are place in the circuit. I spend many hours when I am developing a new design testing different caps in the circuit. As far as I'm concerned it is time well spent. Careful choice of capacitors has a real impact on the character of an amp or effect."

    Well said ... absolutely. Although I haven't heard your pedals yet (except on the site ... nice), that kind of attention to detail will bring them to a higher level.


    Randall :AOK
     
  15. StompBoxBlues

    StompBoxBlues Member

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    Just a small point...even when you measure capacitors and they measure the same, the measurements are about capacity, voltage capacity are the not? (I don't remember, I'm an old tech and I thought I remember Farads were a measurement of capacity) but used as coupling caps, filter caps, there also is the time factor...how quickly they charge and discharge, and how much they differ with different frequencies.

    There are other factors as well...in fact most (if not all) components in electronics exhibit at least minute levels of all components correct?
    I mean, a coil also acts as a resistor, etc.

    Depends how far down you want to go into it I think.
     
  16. glasman

    glasman Guest

    This subject is like opening pandora's box. I will say that I can hear a difference in cap types based on the type of amp you are building and how it will be played.

    Orange drops....

    715's
    Big bottom end and top ended has little roll-off. Might be over the top for some people. They do not hide anything.

    716's -
    Not quite a big sounding which can be a plus, the bottom is a little softer and the top end is articulate.

    PS series - never used them so no comment

    Mallory 150's -

    Depending on the circuit can have a soft low end response and also have a top end roll-off. I built two test amps (d-style) one with 715's and one with Mallorys, same trannies, power supplies etc (both built at the same time). In a D-style the 150's lacked the dynamics and sounded rather bland. This was comparing both amps with the same guitar same cabinet and recorded with the same condensor mic. The overdrive was not as articulate with the 150's.

    In a bassman style circuit, the malllory's work a little better. The 715's were too over the top, bright and edgey.

    Silver Mica vs Ceramic

    Hmmm, I love SM's in clean amps. They shimmer for lack of a better word. Very transparent (to my ears) top end. But use SM's before an overdrive stage and you will get harsh edgey top end. Ceramics in this application seem to add a little grain but still not give the harshness experienced with the SM's. Once again this was tested using two identical amps, one with SM's and one with ceramics.

    Once again, I did the spectrum and impulse tests on components (both resistors and capacitors) and really could not detect a differencein the measurements. Yet when sitting side by side with two amps you can hear a difference. I feel this is especially true when you start pushing an amp into compression and/or distortion due to the extra harmonics that are generated.

    Shall we get into the Carbon Comp vs Carbon Fillm vs Metal Film vs BooTeek resistor debate (Rikens are pretty cool!!).

    Of course YMMV

    Gary
     
  17. scottosan

    scottosan Supporting Member

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    You can have (2) OT's made by different manufacturors to the same winding and interleave specs. They will sound different. The same goes for pickups. And speaker and some will argue cables. Carbon Comp resistors sound different that metal film. These are things that are supposed to have very low to no capacitance yet we can hear a difference. So my question is why would capacitors be any different? The may measure the same on a scope, but you are only seeing a measurement which does not actually equate to audial perception.
     
  18. JerryP

    JerryP Member

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    I agree 200%. This magic cap crap is pure BS IMO.
    Jerry
     
  19. donnyjaguar

    donnyjaguar Member

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    Voodoo is on the right track. Its the dielectric absorption that is responsible for the difference in perceived sound. To me it is more noticeable on a hi-fi tube amplifier than on a musical instrument one. I suspect because there are higher frequencies and lower distortions involved. Interestingly enough it is still audible in the power amp coupling caps despite them being within the negative feedback loop. I never use orange drops in hi-fi applications because they simply don't sound as good as metalized film - and I'm pretty sure you'd hear a difference too. For guitar amplifiers they are perfectly fine, IMO.

    YMMV
    DJ
     
  20. scottosan

    scottosan Supporting Member

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    I don't think its an argument of magic, but rather tonal differences. Again, resistors have an indiscernible capacitance level, yet people prefer different types.

    My opinion is I can hear the difference.
     

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