Capacitor Conspiracy Theory

Discussion in 'Tonefreaks' started by imitebelvis, Dec 29, 2011.

  1. imitebelvis

    imitebelvis Senior Member

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    I am convinced there really is not enough (enough being the key word) difference in caps to justify the extra cost or multitude of hours I have spent doing research on this subject.

    Atlantic Quality Design, Inc., The Truth about Tone Capacitors

    If you go to websites like digikey or other electronic surplus dealers and know what to look for, you can get caps for less than a buck sold on ebay and other places for one billion percent markup. :hmm:

    If I could reinvest all the time I have wasted on research into playing my stupid guitars, I would be so darn good, no one would ever notice the difference in my caps or even care.

    That is all, thanks for listening. :dude:
     
  2. Art-T

    Art-T Junior Member

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    I have done the same thing recently. It amazes me how much some places get away with charging for something that is SO inexpensive. It also kills me to know that people actually pay those prices for such things. Of course in today's world you pay sometimes just for the NAME that is stamped on it or associated with it.
     
  3. qpHalcy0n

    qpHalcy0n Senior Member

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    The reality of the thing is that in terms of their ELECTRICAL characteristics, this analysis holds true. A 0.02uF cap w/ a given tolerance will behave as a 0.02uF cap should within a circuit that demands such a value. There is a difference between its electrical properties and its practical properties. The same holds true for transformers, resistors, etc.

    For the most part, the difference is minimal but noticeable. That said, the rules of a free market apply. It costs what people are willing to pay for it. You simply have to weigh out whether or not the cost is worth it to YOU. For some folks, especially those who are gigging or simply practicing at home, the difference is likely not worth the cost. For the demanding artist who knows EXACTLY what he wants and is recording professionally, the difference is real and may be worth the additional cost.

    Having built many amplifiers and modding many guitars, I can absolutely ASSURE you that certain capacitors DO sound different. Certain resistor types DO exude a certain character. Is it a HUGE component of sound? No. Is it noticeable? Absolutely. To take it a step further, you have to realize that the guitar->amplifier chain is a "pipeline". What I mean by this is that the end product can ONLY be as great as its WEAKEST component. Crappy pickups? Crappy speakers? Crappy tubes? Not likely to hear any subtle component characteristics. Pure tone chain? More likely to hear the subtle differences that make a polypropylene cap sound different from a polyester cap or whatever.

    It's important to not see these things in black and white. That said, polyester caps are not any more or less expensive than polypropylene caps to any great degree. If you want PIO caps, you can find plenty of folks on ebay selling them. I got mine for $1.50 a piece. Russian PIO's...they sound just fine to me. Not a staggering difference from the ceramics that were in there before, but noticeable (on the better side). Worth $1.50 to me. Guitar guys will sell these things for their PERCEIVED sonic qualities which is simply what people are paying for them (Tons of $$$). Electronic guys will sell these for their electronic qualities which are no better than anything else and are likely to be extremely cheap.

    There IS a difference between their physical characteristics and their sonic characteristics, albeit subtle. You just have to determine if its worth it for YOU. The reality is that people get caught in this trap of chasing tone that they think lies in components when in fact most of it lies in the 2 pieces that make MOST of your tone. The guitar/amp and your hands. The remaining 10% are just minor tweaks here and there that are just icing on the cake.
     
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  4. Art-T

    Art-T Junior Member

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    Hmmm well I guess that depends on your perspective. I wasn't going through a surplus place for mine... just a reputable electronics company. NOT a place that sells electronic parts just for guitars. And I recommend getting them from a good source. Still some places are just WAY over priced. I still paid almost $4 a piece for my PIO caps... but have seen them for $65 and I think that is beyond ridiculous myself. Mine are working just fine too btw.
     
  5. qpHalcy0n

    qpHalcy0n Senior Member

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    Lol then whats your point? Don't pay $65 for PIO caps. Thats not on the capacitor thats on YOU for paying $65 for a goddamn cap! :D
     
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  6. LawDaddy

    LawDaddy Senior Member

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    Capacitors don't kill people, people do.
     
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  7. Epi 57 classic

    Epi 57 classic Senior Member

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    Amen to that brother:applause::applause::applause:
     
  8. LPBR

    LPBR Senior Member

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    Myth Busted!

    Excellent article! I already suspected about everything that was proven, and now I am absolutely sure that the capacitor hype is nothing else than a way to extract big money from unwarned people. Anyway... I am sure that regardless the facts, it won't change the market and there still will be a lot of guitarists affirming that they CAN hear the difference and that will keep spending lots of cash on such mambo-jambo capacitors. Well, well...

    I would like to find a such article evaluating the wire gauge difference. I have seen everywhere lots of comments telling that thicker wires are better than thinner wires. It really doesn't make any sense for me because the voltage/amperage generated by a magnetic pickup is so low that even a super-thin wire still will be underloaded. But I really wanted to see it explained technically to bust this other myth.

    Sincerely the only part in the electrics of a guitar that makes sense to make any difference in the tone are the pots -- of course, if you use them. No difference either if you are that kind of guitarist (like me) that keeps your pots always at 10.

    :thumb:
     
  9. David Collins

    David Collins Senior Member

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    While I agree with you, I do like to include a third perspective on caps here, this being that the act of changing them can affect tone in a real perceivable way, though not likely for the reasons many believe. If someone says they hear a difference, you simply cannot argue that they don't. If controlled testing shows however that changes can not be readily explained by any electrical properties of the capacitor, then an alternative explanation for differences perceived must be provided.

    First off, we're human. No getting around that, and as objective as we like to think we can be, if left unrestrained without good test controls, our minds can and will take liberty to filter and modify our senses and actions. It's 100% natural.

    When dining out, if our meal is presented elegantly by a wonderful server in a top notch restaurant with a view overlooking the ocean, it will taste better than if the exact same prepared dish were plopped in front of us on a greasy table by a hairy waiter covered in scabs, in a crowded diner with five screaming children crawling around the booth behind us? Did the food change? No. Would the taste change? Almost certainly yes.

    Or how about blue steak and green fries?.

    An Oxford study looked at MRI scans during smell tests, where participants would be presented with an ambiguous scent. When labeled as cheese it actually stimulates different areas of the brain than when presented with the the same scent sample labeled as body odor. It's not a reaction we consciously control, but tests like this do seem to demonstrate “that high-level cognitive inputs, such as the sight of a word, can influence the activations in brain regions.”

    Or when two different wine bottles of different aesthetics have been filled with the same wine, even experienced tasters have been shown to find a difference between them, most often choosing the "more expensive" bottle. Do they really taste a difference? I would say they probably truly do. The wines may be the same, but our senses are not nearly so simple as that. The taste the person actually experiences in the end is not isolated to what data the taste buds and olfactory nerves receive, but also how that data gets processed before reaching the conscious mind, and there are a lot of areas for other information to affect that processing.

    Then there are things like the [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-lN8vWm3m0"]McGurk Effect[/ame]. Admittedly, this may not exactly fit with the capacitor conundrum, but is a fun and poignant demonstration of how our mind can filter audio perception none the less.

    Also keep in mind that with something like guitars, it is not only how we process what comes in (what we hear) which could be effected, but also what we put out (how we play). If someone feels better about their instrument, more confident, I think it is difficult for that feeling not to come through in their playing, affecting a very real change not only in how the sound is perceived, but how it is actually produced.

    Now as musicians, many seem to take offense with what they see as accusations that they may be "just hearing things". Some seem to hold their hearing on a pedestal above other senses to be somehow sacred or infallible, and suggestions that it may not be as pure and objective as they think it to be can be taken as a personal affront. It should not be this at all however. If you can hear a difference between caps you changed yourself but not in a double-blind test, it wouldn't be because you are a fool or imagining things, but just because your mind is working how a human mind naturally does.

    So if someone want's premium caps because they want every element of their guitar to be "the best", more power to them. I know that an unsightly mess of disorganized wires and sloppy looking solder joints hidden in the control cavity may not directly influence the tone. Even though it has no effect and is never seen though, I still don't want it there, and so take the extra time to arrange and trim things out nicely. And I admit that I do actually like working with waxed cloth wire, and I like how it looks, and I detest an unsightly shielding job even if it functions just fine and is hidden someplace it will never be seen. If I do all this, how can I criticize someone who wants to take pride in "nicer" caps in there as well?

    So to each their own. I just think it's important to get fair information out there for those interested only in practical results. In the context of a guitar tone circuit, capacitor type or material has not been show by any reliable tests I'm aware of to have any direct effect on tone, only the value.
     
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  10. jimbob137

    jimbob137 Senior Member

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    So it all comes out now David lol I do agree with you, I think our perceptions are very complex, we always have a nagging thought in our minds when it comes to trying to hear differences between caps. I say trying to hear because like you I do not trust my own reasoning when it comes to this purchase of caps.

    I want to hear a difference, I think I can, but I have doubts. So to fix those doubts I bought the K4Y0-9 PIO caps to ensure I won't have doubts when Im playing. It's not a great expense to buy these caps, they are perhaps more vintage correct for a new 50's wiring harness, nothing else would look the part in there.
     
  11. Mookakian

    Mookakian Senior Member

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    you know there are guys out there who spend years trialing and sourcing certain caps to suit certain styles for various reasons so you dont have to waste so much time, its part of their job, it all makes a difference no matter how small, a good, honest tech can get you a long way ;)
     
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  12. jimbob137

    jimbob137 Senior Member

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    Not having or knowing anyone good to take guitars too means I had to learn to try things myself. Aswell as the fact that you can save lots of money by doing things yourself. I took my first acoustic guitar to a local music shop and their tech took to notching out the saddle with needle files to lower the action on it:wow:

    Ever since that, and the fact that local stores don't even sell Gibsons, I definately was not going to risk a good guitar on anyone like that again! If I went into my local music shop and asked about PIO caps, they would look at me like I was from Mars lol
     
  13. freefrog

    freefrog Senior Member

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    Yes. For example, I CAN hear the difference... because there IS differences (the "K" constant, among other specs). More about these things here:

    Capacitor Sound

    http://waltjung.org/PDFs/Picking_Capacitors_1.pdf

    http://waltjung.org/PDFs/Picking_Capacitors_2.pdf

    And FWIW: Atlantic Audio has NO interest to "find" any tone in capacitors, since they sell a "no cap" cable supposed to sound better than usual capacitive coaxial cables... :hmm:

    BTW, this answer comes from someone who has nothing to sell and who has been the first surprised to HEAR a difference between cap materials (even with the tone pots full up) when he has started to experiment about it.... :) Suggestively, my frequency analyzer "sees" what I hear.

    Peacefully yours,
     
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  14. Mookakian

    Mookakian Senior Member

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    Oh i agree Jim, DIY is very encouraged, but if the whole tone hunt is not your thing and as the OP suggested "wasting time", there are guys out there that can help a lot, always do your research on their ability before taking the guitar to them, ask around and it wont take too long before you get an idea if they are any good or just knock up dudes with a sludgehammer :D
     
  15. Actinic

    Actinic Senior Member

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    I will flat out state that the Atlantic Quality Designs study is a bunch of bunk too. They do not show photos of their test equipment or setup. Are they using $50,000 test equipment to make their measurements? Probably not. How many bits is their A/D converter and what sampling rate is it using? Is the RMS voltage of their test signal comparable to that coming out of a guitar pickup? Do they even own an ultralinear audio preamp that can raise the signal voltage to what is needed for the converter?

    For those of you who own vintage magic eye capacitance testers, mount your 0.022 uF caps into the input of the meter. The Sprague Bumblebee PIO caps will not generate as wide a null (opening) in the eye as modern caps. This says that the differential voltage between a reference cap (usually silver mica) and the test cap is not following a theoretical response curve. This may have to do with the age of the Bee and how it has deteriorated. I am not talking about the measured value, but the behavior of the bridge sweep about that value. I wish I owned some mylars of the same era, to compare their magic eye spread. As a pseudo-scientist (lol), I will tell you that Sprague Vitamin Q PIO caps open the eye to its max values, as do ceramics and some other caps. A second theory I would like to foist on the community is low voltage performance of caps. It is known from quantum theory that tubes have to be biased at non-zero voltages to get an undistorted A/C signal to pass through them. Caps and resistors do not have that benefit. They have to be able to operate in a zero DC (volt) average environment. What if passive components had ultra-low level diode behavior? This means they don't become linear until the input level exceeds +/- XX volts. I know this is going to get some members excited. Because whether my theory is true or not, no one can design an experiment to prove or disprove it.
     
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  16. jonesy

    jonesy GLOBAL WIRING GURU MLP Vendor

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    Lot's of opinions out there about capacitors and how they do or don't effect tone :hmm:
     
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  17. imitebelvis

    imitebelvis Senior Member

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    These are some opinions I have come across in my research. Let us see how much we may agree on some of them. Just curious what your experience has been.

    Ceramic disk: harsh sounding, highs and mids

    Polypropylene (Sprague 715P & 716P): harsh sounding, less highs and mids

    Polyester film or Mylar (Sprague 225P, Mallory 150s): warmer than ceramic and polypropylene

    Paper-in-oil: warmer than all others and with more clarity
     
  18. captcoolaid

    captcoolaid Senior Member

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    You forgot the Jensen PIO caps. They are a bit more open than the Sprague.
     
  19. jonesy

    jonesy GLOBAL WIRING GURU MLP Vendor

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    Depends which Jensen, the copper version is a little darker and more modern sounding.
     
  20. jonesy

    jonesy GLOBAL WIRING GURU MLP Vendor

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    The USA Vit. Q type have a little more clarity than the Russian K40's but both are smooth and vocal sounding.

    The Teflon caps are a little more "hi-fi" sounding

    Wax and paper sound a little harsh on the top end to me

    The Flux capacitors are good for time travel, not so good for tone :D
     
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