Capacitor Snakeoil: Can you hear a difference?

Discussion in 'Tonefreaks' started by 22Frets, Jun 4, 2013.

  1. 22Frets

    22Frets Senior Member

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    The past few days, someone else's shoddy work installing pickups on my Sheraton II has bit me in the behind, and now I have to rewire the pots and caps. To which I have been listening to any video I can find on YouTube regarding PIO, .022uf, K40-9y, K42y, etc. ad nauseum.

    Let's include Orange Drops, Mallory 150's, Sprague, Vitamin, Q, T, XY & Z. I cannot here a difference between PIO, Polyester, Poly-Mylar, and some ceramics. I can here a discernable difference between all the above and tantalum, with the tantalum really being poor.

    I challenge anyone to not only say there is a difference in the tone of the different types of materials in the capacitor, but explain to me why there is a difference. There shouldn't be, simply because of the physics involved in filtering the sound in conjunction with the pot. Material shouldn't have a bearing on it - yet I read a lot of insistence that it does. Does it?
    I dare you to explain why it does.
     
  2. Fiftywattmafia

    Fiftywattmafia Senior Member

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    I double dog dare you...
     
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  3. So What

    So What Senior Member

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    Caps are cheap.

    What not buy a few different kinds and try them in your own guitar.

    That would really answer the question for you.

    I get the frustration. I've been there myself.

    I believe that if they are rated the same, and tested to ensure they perform the same, conventional wisdom does suggest that they should sound identical.

    But, sometimes there are differences in what we hear.

    .
     
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  4. freefrog

    freefrog Senior Member

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    The problem is not to know if one "can" hears a difference between caps, but to know if the rig used enhances these differences or not.

    IME, there's a clear difference, probably due to overlooked specs (like the K factor). I've noticed it once again a few weeks ago, when I've changed two mylar caps for two Orange Drops in an Epiphone. The change was not subtle although the caps had exactly the same measured value.

    Now, I've not enough time nor any desire to "fight" about this question. With so much things to do in my life, I won't loose my energy in a vain attempt to "prove" what I say. Anyway, the tittle of the topic has already decided that my statements are pure BS. :laugh2:

    I've done a couple of topics here about caps a while back : search and watch them if you want. :)

    Have a nice day!

    Peacefully and respectfully yours,

    freefrog
     
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  5. b-squared

    b-squared Banned

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    Spelling error in title corrected. :D

    -Mod
     
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  6. p90fool

    p90fool Senior Member

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    The part of the signal which passes through the cap is shunted to ground, out of the audio path. The value of the cap decides what's left behind.

    If you can hear the part which travels through the cap then you're either drunk, spend too much time online, a snake oil vendor, or all three.

    Can you hear what kind of material your tailpiece ground wire is made of? Really? Wow!
     
  7. tazzboy

    tazzboy V.I.P. Member

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    The only difference you will hear is when you roll the tone knob from 10 to 0
     
  8. freefrog

    freefrog Senior Member

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    As a footnote to my last post... One of the things that I had in my archives and that I find pleasing (if not useful) to share with the community.

    Below is the harmonic spectrum of a mini humbucker excited by a repeated 1khz signal. Its 500k volume and tone pots are FULL UP (10/10)

    The upper screenshot shows the harmonics of this PU whose tone pot is fitted with a mylar cap of 22n.

    The second picture shows the harmonics of the same PU with the same tonee pot, but the cap has been changed for an Orange Drop of 22n.

    The two caps have exactly the same value, within a few %.

    What I see:

    the PU has almost the same "harmonic roof" with the two caps (see the white line).

    the "harmonic floor" pictured in red is obviously different: the Orange Drop passes more treble frequencies although the tone pot is full up.

    It matches my audio experience of self-taught guitar tech since the 80's.


    How can we explain this difference?

    Here is a very short and rough version of my take:

    -different materials = variable behaviour of caps according to frequencies;

    -different materials = variable "dynamics". Some caps react slowly, some others don't.

    Why? Because different materials of the same capacitance are nevertheless different in their ... /... [insert here one of the specs listed in the following article:
    Types of capacitor - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ] :laugh2:

    That being said by someone who isn't drunken and doesn't sell snake oil. Just a personal experience of user to share (and I never understand why this futile question of caps brings so much agressivity in online discussions).

    Now, I must go: although I type fast, I've a huge amount of work to do. Enjoy! :)
     

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  9. ARandall

    ARandall Senior Member

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    P90, you can hear the bit left over....sometimes that is different, hence you 'hear' the differences in caps.

    OP - if you can hear any difference in youtube clips I'd be VERY surprised. Cap differences are subtle at the very best. If you know your rig intimately, and your guitar too, you may (if your ears are attuned) hear some very minor differences in your clean tone signal.

    Thats about the extent of it. I've used various caps in a few different guitars. Its fair to say there were a small percentage of times I heard a difference. Other times (and with other guitars/pickups etc) you may get no difference at all.

    In the cases where I've heard any difference, the PIO caps gave the most pleasing difference.
     
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  10. Wulffy

    Wulffy Member

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    I was curious about this awhile ago and I found an article that gave an awesome experiment that helps you hear the difference. Wire an alligator clip where each of the capacitor leads should be and clip in 5 or 6 different types of caps. When you can do an A/B test with the same guitar, amp, cables, whatever else might be influencing your tone staying constant, while changing the caps quickly, you can hear the subtle differences between the caps. I had ceramic disc, orange drops, tropical fish, black beauties, Mallory 150's, and vitamin q's to test and I found that I preferred the Mallory 150 cap best. If you're really curious and have an hour or so to kill I'd say try this.
     
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  11. NovaSDF

    NovaSDF Senior Member

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    We had this argument a while back, and not sure I want to get into it again. But I want to give something to think about to those of you who "hear" a difference - which has to do with human senses and psychology.

    The thing you need to know about senses is how easily they are fooled, even in a fraction of a second. Instead of the ears, lets consider the eyes. Most of us trust our eyes to be accurate.

    If you ever had body work done on a fender-bender car accident, you know how this works. The body shop will paint the front fender entirely, not just the spot that is dented. They will paint to the crack where the fender meets the door. Why do they do this?

    If you were to paint only a small portion of the fender, you would notice that the color red they use is very slightly different from the original color. This would be obvious to you, and you wouldn't be happy. By painting to the crack at the door, the two colors of red don't physically touch each other. Your eye basically has to jump across the crack to look from one color red to the other. In that fraction of a second, your brain has to remember the previous color red. The memory isn't all that precise. Both colors look approximately the same, so your brain says "close enough" and you drive off happy.

    The ears work no differently. When you switch the switch from one cap to the next, you are forcing your brain to remember the previous tone. While your ears may be super sensitive to tone, your brain is a dull thing that will always lack precision.

    Given this, there is no way to accurately tell any of this by "hearing", meaning you would have to have a machine to run a scientific experiment that would give you a precise printout that wouldn't involve the senses and the memory.

    (While a printout is best as it is purely objective, you could also run the experiment with a human. You would want to have a device to ensure the string is struck at the same angle with the same amount of force each and every time - so as not to introduce unintended variables. You would have the person listen to multiple tones between two capacitors many times - perhaps in a series of 10 notes. You would have 9 of those notes on 1 capacitor and 1 of those notes randomly be the 2nd capacitor. The person would have to raise their hand when they hear the one that is different. And again, you would repeat this test multiple times to eliminate the possibility of a lucky guess.)

    The psychology part involves the expectations of the person listening and how that influences what they hear. Basically, because of the process I detailed above, if you expect it to sound "warmer" to your ears it will sound warmer. It's basically because of the minute differences we are talking about coupled with your passion for a certain result. I suspect this is an even stronger factor if you just shelled out over $100 for a vintage cap that will sound the same as the $2 part that was already installed.

    There will be variables in different caps (including the same make/model) that will affect the tone. This will be due to just slight variations in the value of the cap. In theory, it shouldn't be enough to be that noticeable, but would indicate that no 2 caps are created equal. This was probably more true of vintage caps, since machinery producing these parts has likely become more precise. I suspect a lot of the old vintage caps where made by hand, which probably introduced a lot of variation. Machines tend to apply the same amount of material each and every time, creating a greater consistency of work. (But I don't know how caps are built, so please take this part as an assumption only.)

    So - end result - that $5 Russian PIO cap will sound the same as that expensive vintage cap. The laws of physics (as stated above) that contend it won't make a difference in a guitar circuit because of how the caps function indeed holds true.

    (Of course, a bunch of people will be offended and disregard this because they can "hear" the difference - notwithstanding my argument.)

    As for me - I personally use PIO caps in my rewire, not because I believe they will sound better but because I fine them easy to work with and I just happen to like how they look. I won't spend more than a couple of bucks for one though.
     
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  12. NYC LP player

    NYC LP player Premium Member

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    I hear a difference between the different 22s even on computer speakers

    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92G-jw4TqS4]Guitar Tone Capacitors, part 1: Evaluating Material Types - YouTube[/ame]
     
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  13. IndianScout

    IndianScout V.I.P. Member

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    it's not snake oil, it does make a difference, sometimes huge, it did on mine
     
  14. Arzachel

    Arzachel Senior Member

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    different dielectric materials affect differing frequency ranges so it is possible to discern a difference in tone, not saying I can rather the theory should support the notion

    however old caps from some arbitrary golden age of cap manufacture will be no different to modern ones of the same spec, the electrons don't care, in fact the old one can only be less stable and prone to shifting spec
     
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  15. matt@msscguitar

    matt@msscguitar www.MSSCGuitar.com Premium Member MLP Vendor V.I.P. Member

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    Same ole argument that's been beat to death. You don't like old caps or a certain type, that's cool, but don't shit on the people who can and do hear a difference. Doesn't make it snake oil, just YOUR OPINION.
     
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  16. Arzachel

    Arzachel Senior Member

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    my opinion is based on years at college studying electronics yours is based on potential sales of the aforementioned snake oil :thumb:
     
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  17. bill m

    bill m Senior Member

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    Well, its a proven fact that metal film resistors sound different than carbon comp resistors of the same exact value. So, why wouldn't different compositions of caps with the same values sound different.
    Get a good guitar with a high quality low capacitance cable through a good clean Fender tube amp and you'll hear a difference. It's quite obvious to me.
     
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  18. BulldogXTRM

    BulldogXTRM Senior Member

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    Okay, and my opinion also based on years at a University(not a community college) as well as some of the best electronics schools in the world (Marine Corps/Navy Electronics) as well as real world experience say that you are absolutely wrong.

    There absolutely, without a doubt, is a discernible difference; not just on a frequency analyzer/O-scope, but also to someone with decent hearing.

    I'm sorry that your hearing impaired and can't hear the differences, but there is a difference.

    So if you want to talk about education on the subject my friend, then you sir need to go back to school.:wow:
     
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  19. Jakeislove

    Jakeislove Senior Member

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    Someone did an extensive shoot-out and you can definitely hear a difference. I was able to pick out the caps in my guitar.

    Personally, PIO sounds warmer. IMO, you'll get closer to a classic sound with components that represent that era.
     
  20. matt@msscguitar

    matt@msscguitar www.MSSCGuitar.com Premium Member MLP Vendor V.I.P. Member

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    Baseless claims.
     
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