Vintage bumblebee caps in my guitars...

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by Cobra, Mar 14, 2005.

  1. Cobra

    Cobra Supporting Member

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    I know a guitar tech in my area who has a quart size mason jar plumb full of old used bumblebee caps. I had him install a .047 in both my electrics, one with Lollar Tele Specials, & the other has 2 Z90's. They were measured right at .047, I know cuz I measured them myself. These caps are amazing! They have so many tones available. I mean, the entire range of tone pot adjustment is highly usable, & they even do the Roy Buchanon, wah in the guitar thing. Most of the heavy treble cut happens towards full CCW, which allows for all the usable tones in between, & as a side benefit, they also allow for the highs to remain intact when turning down the guitar volume. Finally, real tone controls that actually work, & work wonders too!
     
  2. cuz/karl

    cuz/karl Supporting Member

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    How can I get a hold of the guy with the BB caps?
    If you could email me the info iI would appreciate it.

    Thanks
    cuzkalvin@yahoo.com
     
  3. David Myka

    David Myka Gold Supporting Member

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    I have not used the bumblebees but have you guys ever tried the Angels/Jensen copper foil paper in oil capacitors before? The bumblebee caps were also foil paper in oil caps but with a modled bakelight casing. These angela/Jensen caps have a thin metal casing. Anyways I bought a set of these and swapped them out of my double humbucker guitar, a .022 in the neck and a .015 in the bridge. The difference was amazing and as you say the entire range of the tone pot was usable. These are all standard on my guitars ever since I tried them. A little spendy but worth it in my opinion. Overdriven with the tone rolled back is tonal bliss.

    Here are some interesting test results I found when researching capacitors: The "Sound" of Capacitors and in particular ceramics, electrolytics.
     
  4. emjee

    emjee Member

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    Thanks for the info! I must say they have a wide selection. What are the numbers following the values? Like 630VDC, and 1000
    or 1600, 2000 etc? Angela talks about guitars in the section
    marked "630" so I guess that would be the one. And yea, they are pricey!

    Thanks again

    Matt
    San Rafael, Ca
     
  5. David Myka

    David Myka Gold Supporting Member

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    The 630VDC, etc refers to the DC voltage rating of the capacitors (which are more often used for power amplifiers, etc). You don't need to worry about that spec for a guitar circuit since the range of most pickups is between 100 mV and 1 V RMS.
     
  6. hogy

    hogy Member

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    That isn't correct, I cracked open a few. They are most definitely not oil caps.

    The Jensen/Angela caps sound way different to me, and not as good as the BBs.

    Hogy
     
  7. David Myka

    David Myka Gold Supporting Member

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    hogy, you are correct about most of them since they would use mylar as the dielectric. But some of the bumblebee and black beauty caps used an oil impregnated paper as the dilelectric. The oil would appear as a greasy substance and would not leak oil if you opened them. I think these are the more rare type though. Because of this difference they do sound different than the wet oil caps (but more similar than, say, ceramic).

    ALso I just found this link that offers more of these vintage 50s and 60s capacitors for sale. It looks like a good selection too and with pictures.
     
  8. emjee

    emjee Member

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    I just went to your web site, and was surprised to see a distinct
    creation in your axes! Just unbelievable. Do you use those caps (Spoken of above) in the guitars you manufacture? I couldnt help to be bowled over bt that indescribable wood grain on the back of the Dragonfly
    #018. It almost looks as if someone has painted long curly
    lines from the top of the heel downward. Like the super long, red curly hair of a fine Irish lass. That heel is just unreal. So many winners, so little funds. Also, thanks again for the info on those caps.

    Matthew Guest
    San Rafael, Ca
     
  9. David Myka

    David Myka Gold Supporting Member

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    Thanks for the kind words Mathew. Your comments are quite poetic!~ That wood grain is beautiful isn't it? That is Australian lacewood with just a touch of amber wood dye and a hint of brown towards the edges to give it some added dimension.

    I do use the paper in oil capacitors in my guitars most of the time (unless something else is specified). I like to use a .022 in the neck and a .015 in the bridge. The change in tone as you roll back the knob is very smooth and natural sounding with these caps and the range is full of very usable tones. If I need to get more of an extreme tone control (nasal sounding) I use a .1 MFD capacitor (think of that Zappa type lead sound that he got by setting a wah and using it as a tone pedal).

    I used to use polypropolene, mylar, and sometimes ceramic disc (for Fender-ish stuff) but now I stick to what sounds best to me, the paper in oil. I haven't had to change out a capacitor since I started using them and that says a lot.

    ~David
     
  10. emjee

    emjee Member

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    Another question, if ya dont mind.
    I have always owned single coils strat type guitars. I owned one Les Paul for a couple years, and if I remember right, when the pup switch was in the middle, both volume knobs worked independently of each other. I.E., starting with both vol knobs down (And again, the switch in the middle position), I could turn up the neck pup vol knob and get sound only from that pup. I turn that all the way down, and then turn the rear pup all the way up, and again, I get volume only from that pup. But with my newer HB equipped axes, its not like that.
    On both of my Bakers and my Hamer, when the switch is in the middle and both volume knobs off, I turn up each pup knob up with the other off and I get nothing. Why is this? Thanks for the info, and again, the grain on that Dragonfly 018 is got to be one of the most beautiful grain patterns Ive seen.

    Matt
     
  11. David Myka

    David Myka Gold Supporting Member

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    Matt, the best way to describe this is to compare the two ways of wiring the volumes and a 3-way (or any switch that connects 2 or more pickups with separate volumes). The way Gibson does this is for the 3-way connection to go to the volume control and is sent to either the ground or the pickup output. This means that if you turn down the volume of any connected pickup it shorts the signal to the ground.

    The other way of wiring it is for the 3-way connection to go the volume control and sent to either the pickup output of is simply disconnected (or better, isolated) and the pickup output is grounded but not connected to the 3-way. This effectively de-couples the volume controls.

    If you are into visuals here are a couple schematics: stock Gibson LP wiring (coupled volumes)
    and modified LP wiring (de-coupled volumes)

    I wire my guitars with the volumes de-coupled. It makes more sense to me and allows the blending of the pickup signals without affecting the output of the other. To fix this on your guitar you need to swap two wires around on the volume knob. If you are handy with a soldering gun it takes about 10 minutes to do the job. The schematics should help you out with this if you wanted to make this modification.

    ~David
     
  12. rooster

    rooster Member

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    This whole "bumblebee" thing has got me wondering...

    Now, we know that the "magic" caps were paper-in-oil, a fairly easy cap to construct. Thinking about the way the treble roll-off circuit works, and what people like about the bumblebees, it seems to me that the bumblebees seem to keep a bit of the high-end shimmer when they are being turned down, only losing the entire top end when the tone pot is at 0. So, would one naturally think that maybe there is a bit of inductance inherant in the construction of the bumblebee, what with the very large size physically of the cap itself? If so, could you exaggerate that property by using say, 1/2" wide strips of copper foil for the plates, and winding the cap to be pretty darn fat with respect to its height? It would seem to me that this may introduce inductance, or at the very least, a touch of resistance due to the length of the copper foil. If you used VERY thin foil, you might get a bit more pure resistance in the plates. If this actually occurred, you would impede the very high frequencies from rolling off to ground, kind of like a RLC circuit with very small RL components.

    At that point, assuming this actually occurred, you could build "super" tone control caps for treble roll-off uses. This is generally not a desirable effect for capacitors, as the goal is usually to get as little of the R and L components as possible for highest fidelity, but as we all know, fidelity is not necessarily the best thing for electric guitars.

    Whaddya think?

    rooster.
     
  13. Cobra

    Cobra Supporting Member

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    With Z90's, & the bumblebees, no cap is needed across the volume pot to preserve highs when rolling down the volume. To my ear, it seems like the bumblebees sap much less highs off your sound when the tone control is dimed on 10, so to speak. I've read that any tone cap in a guitar will suck some highs off, cuz of the imperfect nature of potentiometers, unless you have those special fender pots, or do the pot mod where you scrape away the very last bit of conductivity in the pots range. I can roll the volume way down, with only just the slightest loss of highs, which is a good thing. I've used the little cap & resistor network before, to avoid loss of highs when turning down the volume pot, but you lose some low end too, & the sound gets thinner. This is not necessarily a bad thing, really, but it can mess with how your pickups hit the input of certain effects or amps. You can spend countless hours searching for just the right combination that works best with your rig, but I don't have time for that. I don't even have time to try out different values of Bumblebee caps. I just went for a .047 cuz I knew they would work well on a Tele. For me, simple is better for guitar wiring, & the bumblebees are a simple mod that just works better.
     

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