PIO caps vs. cheap ceramic caps

Ron Kirn

Member
Messages
7,104
the issue with PIO caps is the manner in which they are made.. there is a piece of paper separating two ribbons of a conductive foil... there can be NO continuity between the two slivers of foil..

There's nothing wrong with any of that except the paper.. Ever notice how paper gets yellow as it gets old? That's the sulfites contained within the body of the paper turning into acid... No, it's not the kinda acid the Mafia uses to get rid of "former employees", ex business associates and business competitors, it's more or less like the acid ya find in a lotta fruits and vegetables .. kinda low key.

the problem is, Acid is conductive.... you can poor a glass full of Vinegar, stick a VOM's leads in either side and see that there's continuity... you can get the same results sticking the probes in the opposite sides of an Orange.. so in a PIO cap, as the paper is becoming more and more acidic, it's value is changing, until it gets to the point the paper simply can no longer keep the two ribbons separated electrically and it fails completely.

Do not worry, if the cap fails, nothing dangerous is gonna happen, it's just gonna sound funky. It's not gonna blow up...

So, you guys paying big bux for genuine vintage caps are buying, what's like a car with 250,000 miles on it... it might make it another 250K or it may die completely backing out of the driveway.

Nothing relative to a capacitor, ANY Cap, assuming a correct cap for the application, is relative to a guitar, and/or it's voice, except it's value....

check this video, this guy is an EE (electrical engineer) and has no interest in anything related to the guitar, he is simply telling ya like it is, devoid of any cognative biases one way or the other.. everything ya need to know is in the first 3 minutes...


check YouTube for examples. Countless people experimenting and showing that there is a subtle difference.
How in heck does one "hear" a difference representing a quantitive reality over the internet? Does anyone know anything about reference monitoring. That simply CANNOT happen using a transmitted media, Not color, Not Sound, not the stoney character of a '51 Mouton Hoytoyty. You have to be there using real ears or real scientific equipment... It kills me to hear someone say something like, "I heard the subtitles between the Alder and the Swamp Ash (as an example) when some guy played a You-Tube video he made.. :rolleyes:

r
 
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Surgeon

Member
Messages
1,423
That’s your opinion.

Try for yourself or check YouTube for examples. Countless people experimenting and showing that there is a subtle difference. Whether that matters to you or not is a different story.

Like I said, I’ve tried it myself. I have nothing to gain by posting my experience. In my experience, I prefer the PIO.

No need to attack by saying people who think differently are deluding themselves. No need to throw a cyber punch at those who disagree with you.
No need to take this so personal. I didn't attack you.
What makes you think I haven't tried it by the way?
When you have, have you measured the caps before swapping them? Capacitors have a lot of variety and tolerances aren't as tight as resistors.
I maintain my point: if people hear a difference, they either hear differences in capacitance due to variation in value (due to tolerance) or they delude themselves.
You don't believe so? You have every right to but I don't agree with you.
 
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VintagePlayerStrat

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,692
the issue with PIO caps is the manner in which they are made.. there is a piece of paper separating two ribbons of a conductive foil... there can be NO continuity between the two slivers of foil..

There's nothing wrong with any of that except the paper.. Ever notice how paper gets yellow as it gets old? That's the sulfites contained within the body of the paper turning into acid... No, it's not the kinda acid the Mafia uses to get rid of "former employees", ex business associates and business competitors, it's more or less like the acid ya find in a lotta fruits and vegetables .. kinda low key.

the problem is, Acid is conductive.... you can poor a glass full of Vinegar, stick a VOM's leads in either side and see that there's continuity... you can get the same results sticking the probes in the opposite sides of an Orange.. so in a PIO cap, as the paper is becoming more and more acidic, it's value is changing, until it gets to the point the paper simply can no longer keep the two ribbons separated electrically and it fails completely.

Do not worry, if the cap fails, nothing dangerous is gonna happen, it's just gonna sound funky. It's not gonna blow up...

So, you guys paying big bux for genuine vintage caps are buying, what's like a car with 250,000 miles on it... it might make it another 250K or it may die completely backing out of the driveway.

Nothing relative to a capacitor, ANY Cap, assuming a correct cap for the application, is relative to a guitar, and/or it's voice, except it's value....
Very helpful info.

Can buy new PIO caps too, like the Emerson's above, if that's your bag. But yes, value is the thing.
 

joafink2

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
337
No need to take this so personal. I didn't attack you.
What makes you think I haven't tried it by the way?
When you have, have you measured the caps before swapping them? Capacitors have a lot of variety and tolerances aren't as tight as resistors.
I maintain my point: if people hear a difference, they either hear differences in capacitance due to variation in value (due to tolerance) or they delude themselves.
You don't believe so? You have every right to but I don't agree with you.
Saying people are deluding themselves isn't exactly a non critical remark. Either way when I said "Try for yourself or check YouTube for examples" I was referring to anyone reading this thread, not you in particular.

I did measure the caps and they were within .001uF of each other. Not exactly the same, but very very close. I don't like to just base my decisions on what I read or watch alone. I like to experiment myself and determine what I like.

I have no problem with you disagreeing, just try not to insult people in the process when they've actually performed an experiment on this exact topic and have a different opinion.

Was it a huge difference? No. Worth it for me in this guitar? Yes.
 

Surgeon

Member
Messages
1,423
..try not to insult people in the process when they've actually performed an experiment on this exact topic and have a different opinion.
I don't. I haven't attacked anybody. Humans delude themselves constantly (we all do), guitar players seem to be very prone to this. The guitar world is filled with "magical things" that aren't magical at all.

The thing is, as it is with believerrs of any kind, no amount of contrary proof would change one's belief.

I won't argue with this about you. I related my experience just as you. My opinion, however, is based on scientific fact, which usually goes against the grain of people who want to believe that excellence, fame and "tone" are just a few bucks away.
 

joafink2

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
337
Saying people are deluding themselves isn't exactly a non critical remark. Either way when I said "Try for yourself or check YouTube for examples" I was referring to anyone reading this thread, not you in particular.

I did measure the caps and they were within .001uF of each other. Not exactly the same, but very very close. I don't like to just base my decisions on what I read or watch alone. I like to experiment myself and determine what I like.

I have no problem with you disagreeing, just try not to insult people in the process when they've actually performed an experiment on this exact topic and have a different opinion.

Was it a huge difference? No. Worth it for me in this guitar? Yes.
I'll add that gear is supposed to be fun. How something makes you feel can be just as important as how it sounds. People get inspired all the time by using and doing things I would never do. Stacking pedals, changing preamp tubes, strings, picks, pickups, eq pedals, reverb, delay, compression... the list goes on and on. Does that mean with what I use that my opinion is superior, correct, better? Not at all.

I choose to try to learn what I can from this forum and share my positive experiences with others, rather than just put them down.
 

Mickey_C

1.428571428571429e-10 of humanity
Double Platinum Member
Messages
2,229
I like the way bumblebee capacitors look in a guitar control panel. That is all I can meaningfully contribute to the topic.

Caveat: EE with years of experience, including musical instrument electronics design.
 

VintagePlayerStrat

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,692
I like the way bumblebee capacitors look in a guitar control panel. That is all I can meaningfully contribute to the topic.

Caveat: EE with years of experience, including musical instrument electronics design.
Old caps do look cool. I like the way old Sprague PIOs look. Nobody is gonna see them, I suppose. But still. I know.
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
33,075
the list goes on and on. Does that mean with what I use that my opinion is superior, correct, better? Not at all.
There is a long list of misconceptions related to how things work, 'magic' and snake oil in this field.
We have a thread here and some folks are 'afraid' that their guitar will be adversely impacted by string removal.
It flexes the neck..really?:facepalm

If you want to fix something it helps to know what actually works.
Do experiment but critically analyze the results.
Trust nobody under 30.:dude
 

Ron Kirn

Member
Messages
7,104
ALL you guys need to make up a little jumper gizmo of some sorts so you can flip between a couple of different caps YOURSELF.. Then let someone else flip from one to the other so you don't have a clue. play your hearts out... throw a .047 and a .033 in there.. you guys will be amazed in how little real difference there is.. and by "real" .. I mean REAL.

Guys do it.. I mean if ya aren't willing to put out that little bit of effort to make a real, honest, valid, determination, you aren't really "material", qualified for a discussion. And listening to anything on you-tube, or any of the other means by which a audio comparison can be transmitted, would have a audio engineer rolling on the floor at light speed, he'd probably break something.

In several posts it's obvious some are still laboring under the notion that all you have to do is replace a cheep part with an expensive one and bingo, the tone improves.. NO IT DOESN'T, IT ABSOLUTELY CANNOT. It can only present a sonic change, then if "YOU" like it, then it was an improvement.. IF you knew it was a more expensive part, most, instantly succumb to the cognitive bias that says $$$$ is better than $ .. Like yanking the 3 cent Mica wafer and installing a 25.00 PIO in there just cannot do anything but make the sound better... Sorry but it just doesn't work that way.. for one thing, the electrons don't have a clue where anything came from, or what it cost... They're just scootin' down the wire, and run into an exit valve ... anything eligible heads out, gone forever, the rest of the signal starts scooting along once again. Ultimate destination, the Amplifier..

as I said.. the cap, in a guitar's circuit is a one way exit ramp.. and just like any other exit ramp it has no impact on the traffic that passes it by.. That traffic doesn't care if its paved with Mica, Polyester, or PIO, or Concrete ... it doesn't exist unless some guy is motivated to try it... that motivation, in the guitar's circuit, is the pot.

and like I mentioned before, this is electronics.. if ya wanted, any EE could write a 500 page dissertation on this one aspect by itself.. But despite all the subtle peripherals that MIGHT be in play.. they all fall in with those subtitles that rarely if ever rise above the threshold of noticeability when the guitar is used for that which it was designed...

Sure if ya wanna head of to an acoustic lab somewhere, hook 'er up and analyze away. You bet you can see the difference in the traces the audio spectrum analyzers spits out... in a dead quiet anechoic room. But you don't play in an anechoic room do ya... you let her rip in front of a few dozen half drunk "kids" on a Saturday night, where a PIO gets as lost as any inhibitions that may have been present once upon a time.

r
 

bullet69

Member
Messages
634
Ok here is the deal, I will never have a “vintage guitar “ so it’s fun for me to try to make as accurate a representation of that as I can. Can I hear the difference in a reproduction luxe phone book capacitor or a ceramic of the same value? Nope but it “looks right “and that’s fun to me. I know you cant see it but I know it’s there. Can I hear the difference between nitro and Poly? Nope but it looks right and again it’s fun for me to try and create something that will age as I play it. I know that wasn’t the original point of this post but I’m always hearing that there is no point in doing this or that because it won’t sound any better but sometimes you just want to make something yours.
 

John Hurtt

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
18,977
Some good info here, let me add a couple things.

All capacitors are made to tolerance, so you'll have some manufacturing drift. Pots are the same way, so your 250k pot could actually be 225k or 275k and still be in spec. Guitar tone, IMO, is the value of a bunch of interconnected things. Wood, pickups, electronics, strings, etc. all produce variations in the final tone of the guitar...I think most of us agree with that. Change something, and it changes the tone. You could swap necks and get a massive tone shift...or swap out a resister value and get a much smaller change. Nothing is better or worse, it's as Ron Kirn said...it's "different". It is up to you to decide if you like it or not. No two sets of ears are the same, and no two applications are exactly alike.

Many people, especially those in the "it doesn't matter PIO or ceramic", believe value is everything. That is true, to a point. If both the PIO and the ceramic cap are at say, .033uf, there will be no real change. But, change that .033uf ceramic capacitor (that is actually .036uf) with a PIO capacitor that is .047uf (but tests at .056uf) and the change could very well be noticeable.

Guitar players are strange beasts...we often hear something we really don't. But, if you "think" you hear a difference...that will be your reality. It will impact your playing. The mind is a powerful tone shaping tool, and if you think something is better...it is.

Last, I've built a couple hundred strat electronics assemblies over the years. One thing most players have in common is that they want their gear to look cool. There is nothing cooler in an old guitar than vintage looking caps. More modern high end guitars seem to have lots of Sprague Orange Caps under the hood. Which, in itself is interesting in that Sprague doesn't make these any longer. So I say...do what you want. If it's fun to change caps or swap out those ugly little ceramic capacitors with an old expensive Russian NOS cap....do it. Have fun, it's your guitar.
 

IAE

Member
Messages
1,380
There is a difference. I can tell. So many others say they can’t or it’s no big deal, but let me assure you that I have noticed a “noticeable” difference in my guitars when I changed them from ceramic to PIO. You have to try it for yourself. And I really don’t care what others hear on a recording or not. If all you care about is what others hear then wtf are you doing, silly?
It’s crazy to me how many guitarists will try to convince you not to experiment with such things.
Did you measure each value, and were they identical, before installation?

Regardless,
You aren’t hearing the substrate, you’re hearing value and tolerance.

Linking to a guy who is hardcore into all vintage gear as some kind of objective reference isn’t real great. I’ve talked to him on YouTube about a few parts (pots, resistors, capacitors and SAD vs MN ICs) and he’s more interested in the magical voodoo Mojo than any real and measurable scientific results.


————
Regarding capacitors, values, and mojo:
Similar can be said of potentiometers...they don’t sound good or bad - and size has nothing to do with it - as they don’t have a sound at all, they simply resist; a predefined amount of signal is shunted to ground and the rest goes to the amp. They suffer the pitfalls of +/– tolerances just like capacitors and everything else.

I recommend many double blind tests, analyze the data, and believe what it says.

Also, the average guitarist/musician doesn’t know much about anything electronic other than what he’s sold via advertising, media, propaganda, stores or others who have been sold the same things and then transmitted it online as legitimate.

It‘s like those guys that claim a cloned pedal which was made for $40 on the kitchen table cannot possibly sound like the original which sold for $400 when the reality is it does sound identical because it is; it sounds as identical as any two pedals of that exact circuit can sound.
 
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VaughnC

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
17,851
While the math says that a capacitors dielectric material is a non-factor in it's reactance value, in a very familiar Strat the thing I noticed is that PIO's seem less like an on/off switch in a tone circuit when compared to other dielectric types. So I left the PIO in my Strat...but, then again, I don't use the tone controls much so its a non-factor for me.
 

Guppie

Member
Messages
1,114
I've experimented with caps myself and if there are differences they are negligible. The only one that sounded audibly different was this mustard coloured one. It had a much more " cocked wah" sound. I like it and those are the ones I use.
 




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