Quality guitar capacitors

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by TheGuildedAge, Jun 24, 2008.

  1. TheGuildedAge

    TheGuildedAge Member

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    I just put some new pickups in a guitar, and was told by the builder that .047 caps work great. What is the benefit of shelling out more money for caps by companies like rs guitar works, hovland, etc?

    Does it effect the tone of the instrument in general, or just when using the tone knobs?

    Right now the guitar has two brownish/orange disc caps on the linking the volume and tone pots, but I don't know what value or brand.

    Bryan
     
  2. John Mayes

    John Mayes Member

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    The ceramic disc caps are horrible imo. You'd, for sure, be served well by getting some nice caps. The ones you mentioned are nice. I personally like angela paper in oil caps (made by jensen I believe) They are about $20 a pop, but they are awesome imo. Then again what sounds awesome to me you may hate. But for sure try some different ones out.
     
  3. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    Ceramic disc caps are great in my opinion. Maybe for a hi-fi audio circuit the Hovlands or various paper/oil or mylar caps are better, but for a guitar circuit I think the ceramics are fine. A friend an colleague that I often work with told me of when he was in Cesar Diaz's shop years back and his thoughts on caps. His first choice for many guitars was the 50v ceramic disc caps that you can pick up at any Radio Shack. It seemed to work okay for Stevie. ;)

    Everyone has different tastes though, and some really prefer different types. Different caps can have slightly different "colors", and tones would get pretty dull if we all liked the same. Still, the bleed off to ground through a guitar tone won't have near the effect that it does in a hi-fi circuit, and you're not going to hear a real difference unless you actually use the tone.

    Like John said, the best thing to do is get some different ones and try them out yourself. The best way is to wire two or three different caps to a little toggle switch taped somewhere easily accessible (padded if you're taping it to the body of course). This way you can flip back and forth and hear the difference in real time - best way to test in my opinion.
     
  4. TheGuildedAge

    TheGuildedAge Member

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    The maker of my pickups suggested Sprague, for $.99, it's worth a shot.
     
  5. EADGBE

    EADGBE Member

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    Ceramic sound fine. I use mylar because they're harder to damage while soldering. I don't think people really can hear the differences between the various caps. Basically their job is to divert part of the signal to ground. And the way most of our tone circuits work is to send some of the highs to ground. As far as I can tell it isn't that complicated.
     
  6. Jason Myers

    Jason Myers Member

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    I use the Mojotone Vitamin T's and I dig 'em. Thats me tho.
     
  7. paraedolia

    paraedolia Member

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    Here's a nice article (I stumbled across trying to answer a similar question to yours for myself) that details a setup for trying multiple caps:
    http://www.premierguitar.com/Magazine/Issue/2008/Mar/Auditioning_Tone_Capacitors.aspx

    Exerpt:

    Finding the Perfect Value

    [​IMG] To find the perfect value for you, I suggest getting a piece of cardboard, two 10” pieces of wire, two solderable alligator clips and some cheap standard ceramic caps. The cheapest caps from a local electronic store are good enough for this, and the voltage rating is completely unimportant. Get values from 1200pF to .1uF, plus every value in between you would like to try. One piece of each value is enough. Glue the caps side by side on a piece of cardboard, with the legs reaching over the edges. Don’t forget to note the value of each cap on the cardboard! Then, solder the alligator clips to the wires (one clip per wire, soldered to one end of the wire).

    Now open your guitar and desolder and remove the existing tone cap. Solder the end of the wires opposite to the alligator clips to the points where the original tone cap was connected and close your guitar leaving the wires hanging out. Now you can change the different caps within seconds by simply connecting with the alligator clips. Play your guitar and use the tone control to see which value works best.
     
  8. Mike9

    Mike9 Supporting Member

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    I use PIO (paper in oil) caps - I've tried ceramic disc, foil, Malory's, etc. What I notice most is the way they affect the taper of the tone pot. And that's why I settled on PIO caps. I sell them and believe they impart a better tone and usability to the tone circuit than other types of "modern" caps.
     
  9. Boris Bubbanov

    Boris Bubbanov Member

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    This is a wonderful idea. Thanks so much for this post.

    I tend to emphasize caps values over types, once you get to poly film cap quality. There's a Radio shack .010 mf film cap that'll fit right alongside the 5 way single wafer switch when you do some of Bill Lawrence's mods.

    Bubban0v
     
  10. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    If you want to hear a real time difference, it is much much much better to hook the caps up to a switch than to switch them with alligator clips. Hearing differences in real time is much better than having to stop, move the clips, play, stop, etc.
     
  11. Quarter

    Quarter Member

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    I've heard great tone from ceramic cap equipped guitars, but for myself, I like and use the Sprague Orange Drops. They are a good quality cap and reasonably priced.
     
  12. outtahear

    outtahear Supporting Member

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  13. operanonverba

    operanonverba Silver Supporting Member

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    I am no expert on this subject but I recently put a set of pots and switch in my Les Paul project. It was recommended to me to use Orange Drop caps of the value of .47 for both bridge and neck. I installed them and the guitar just sounded dark and the neck pup sounded muddy and the overtones were gone. I went and got some at 022 and installed them. The bridge sounded good but my neck was still too muddy. I wound up putting .10's in for the neck pup and I was back in business. I know people say you can't hear a difference at these values but I sure could. Just my opinion. The orange drops are ok but probably not really any better than the others. They were just easy to get.
     
  14. Mike9

    Mike9 Supporting Member

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    For Les Paul's I use .022uF caps for bridge and .015uF caps for neck. I like this combo with PAF type pickups. I also recommend upgrading to 500k volume pots.
     
  15. smolder

    smolder Gold Supporting Member

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    operanonverba,

    those probably should have been .047, not .47. What you had would be dark. Most recommend exploring the range between .1 and .01. You will find caps commonly at .022, .033, .047 in between.
     
  16. Hugo Da Rosa

    Hugo Da Rosa Silver Supporting Member

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    I think quality caps are only important if you use your tone knob. Although certain caps allow more or less treble to pass through, if you are one of those people that leave their tone knobs dimed at all times with their pickups wide open, you really probably wouldn't notice the difference in tone (except the fact that you would hear more treble in a .022 cap than a .047). For 99 cent Spragues, you aren't going to go too wrong but just make sure you actually use the tone knobs if you consider spending $10 or more on caps.

    With that said, I've found different caps to be effective for different pickups in different guitars. I'm not a fan of ceramic disc caps - I think they just sound terrible. My three favorite caps are Orange Drops, Vitamin Q's, and Paper-In-Oil (PIO) caps. PIOs are very typical in Les Paul VOS, Historic, Custom Shop, RIs style guitars. They have a nice creamy smoothness to them when you roll the tone knobs down - It adds the richness to your leads when you play in the neck position during solos. The Orange Drops have a lot of clarity to them as well but they tend to be a little bassier/punchier than PIOs. If you have a very bright sounding guitar naturally, these tend to help add depth to the sound. As for Vit. Q's, I haven't really had that much experience with them but I hear they work best with strats.

    Anyway, it's hard to describe the effectiveness of caps as it varies between guitars, electronics, wiring, etc. As people have said, it's best to test from cap to cap using alligator clips to find what's best suited for you.
     
  17. Rosewood

    Rosewood Member

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    I wish I could believe there's a difference in guitar caps, I guess i'll have to set up a test board to find out. The only part of the pickup signal that goes through the cap is grounded, killed, so unless there's some inductance thing going on I just don't see how it could be different with the same value caps.
     
  18. operanonverba

    operanonverba Silver Supporting Member

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    Thanks Smolder- my bad, they were .047. Forgot the zero. Big Difference!
     

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