Historic Gibson Faux Bumblebee Caps

Discussion in 'Historics & Reissues' started by TM1, Dec 6, 2010.

  1. freebyrd 69

    freebyrd 69 Premium Member

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    It's amazing to me, all of this. I have played around quite a bit with it all....pots, caps, pickups, all of it.

    So many engineers I know are so caught up in their educations and what they learned in school. I know many who could build a watch, yet fail to be able to tell you what time it is. :laugh2: "I know all of these big words, and I went to a fancy school, and their books and teachers said so, so, this is the way it is! (foot stomp)".

    Education is great, but many times, I will take the advice of people who have been there, done that, and had their hands dirty in the process.

    There are most certainly differences, and very discernible ones at that, in all of the things mentioned in this thread. I couldn't care less about which flux capacitor or widget makes a theoretical difference in a text book. I play guitar. Like many other MUSICIANS, I have learned to trust my ears.

    My apologies to most (not all, but most) of you higher educated, more holy than thou engineers and scientists out there. Rant over. :thumb:
     
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  2. EpiLP1985

    EpiLP1985 Senior Member

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    Being educated in the fundamentals that govern the operation of your equipment and being proud of that, as well as having an interest and passion in playing music and modifying your equipment, are not mutually exclusive. Being an engineer does not preclude one from being a musician as well.

    This isn't an "us versus them" argument. It's a "your equipment is not magical" discussion. There are clearly defined physical constraints at play that, in my opinion and experience, are quite often misconstrued as something inherently special. That's of course my opinion. You can lead a horse to water so to speak. I am certain that If I had a "magical" sounding Bumblebee or other vintage cap in my possession and had the chance to analyze it's characteristics, that I could produce an identical sound with a $2 Orange Drop given time to tailor the circuit to that instrument. I'd be willing to bet that in a blind test it would be hard for people to tell. That would take some work and analysis but i'm sure of what the results would be. Is that more work than its worth? Probably, but it would at least put some of the misconception to bed.

    Is there anything wrong with capitalizing on an intrinsic shortcoming of an old PIO cap for it's frequency shaping capability? Absolutely not. Just call it what it is. It's a limiting physical characteristic that happens to aid in the tone of the instrument. The truth of the matter is that drift exists and tolerances are always a factor. It's not magic. It's not the number of other adjectives I've heard attributed to these "special" caps. There isn't anything wrong with demystifying the topic.

    But it's tomato, to-mah-to. If your a Jets fan and I'm a Giants fan does the fact that the Giants may have a better overall record than the Jets make you less of a fan? Of course not. A Jets fan is a Jets fan regardless of record. Does the fact that the Giants have won more games make them a better team empirically? Yes, of course it does.

    Only a blind playing test, where members of both camps successfully identify certain caps by material over others (or conversely don't identify a difference at all), would ever solve an argument like this. I'm not innocent of the belief that cap material makes a difference. I used to preach it and believe it. Now I don't. That doesn't mean others should do what I do. A person has to look at the facts at their disposal and decide for themselves. I get joy out of splurging for $3 caps in my guitar and getting the same results as when I bought RS Supercaps, Jensen PIO, Bumblebees, Black Beauties, Sprague Q, Russian PIO and many more. Some get joy out of hearing a difference with expensive caps.

    As long as everyone is having a good time then nothing has been lost but much has been gained.
     
  3. Pythonman

    Pythonman Senior Member

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    To EPILP1985, no need to apologize because I wasn't upset nor offended. It's all but impossible to hurt my feelings at my age. I don't suppose almost completing an EET curriculum from Purdue gives me a basic knowledge of ohms law and pythagorians theorem and/nand gates and other stuff and things and whatnot electrical. I did learn just enough not to electrocute myself working on my geetar amps. Steel mill work sidelined my collegiate asperations I'm afraid. Your explanation of why something of a system like a humbucker from the 50s doesn't sound like the Seymour 59 are satisfactory. I can handle that but (and I know this is gonna drive you up the wall probably) as an experiment have you ever tried swapping one manufacturers A2 mag with anothers A2 magnet of equal lengths? I hate to admit I did try this in a Seymour Alnico II Pro Slash humbucker set which sounded kinda modern and characterless. I swapped both magnets with Throback sand cast A2 mags from an SLE-101 LTD set and not only did the sound change, it got quite a bit better. Not louder nor less loud, just more sparkly and more defined and stronger in the low end. So I would surely agree components sourced from different manufacturers, polepiece screws and slugs using slightly different product mix of steel and cobalt, slightly different pitches on screw threads etc can possibly have a similar effect on tone that slightly different winding patterns or polysol vs plain enamel wire can have. It is a system and when the component count of the system is few, component sourcing provides designers with a selection that can influence the overall sound of the system, I would guess.

    Peace.
     
  4. EpiLP1985

    EpiLP1985 Senior Member

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    I've always felt magnet swaps are some of the easiest ways to improve the tone of a pickup. I used this method to change my SD 59 tone for the better years ago.

    Pickups are unique because they have so many individual components that making a sweeping statement about thier operation is tough. Not to mention that the composition of the components such as magnets can vary depending on manufacturer.

    By far the most important input is the wind though. Magnet swaps, and to a lesser degree other metal parts and potting, can have fine tuning type effects but the wind should be considered the most notable contributor.
     
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  5. jamman

    jamman Premium Member

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    OK , Please explain ,,,(Lab) Results = as, Tone heard :hmm:
    Paper or an Ear ???
    If it were as it's professed .Why can't we get ,"that" tone on an consistent basis ??? (more so for Pups) It's not for lack of trying ...(It's more then 1 thing that builds tone) :wow:

    I've tried $3.00 caps and $15.00 caps . Those are ~ all the same with different packaging ... Prettier package = More $$$ That's America and how we sell stuff here .... Has nothing to do with better

    I'll sick with the Vintage PIO .... They just sound better ,imo . And that's what counts . Each of our own opinions.... :thumb:
    Funny how Real World is much different then the books . Not all the time .Books are a good base to start from .. But life proves out there's more then just what's in the books .....

    Don't want your Vintage PIO caps ...??? PM me :wave:
     
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  6. EpiLP1985

    EpiLP1985 Senior Member

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    Your post is a bit disjointed and your points are a little unclear.

    People keep missing the point. I'm not saying anyone's beloved caps aren't changing thier tone.

    I'm saying there is a concrete, definite reason why it is. It isn't some intangible that can be hand waved away.

    And for the record, saying that the performance of a simple component like a capacitor somehow defies the laws of physics and makes "magic" noises with no empirical evidence other than peoples subjective opinions is crazy. The academic environment and the "real world" environment your describing very much depend on one another.

    Let's be clear: I'm not saying that caps don't make a difference in tone, I'm saying that the composition of the cap, however glorified or mystified, doesn't make a difference in tone. If a PIO cap intrinsically rolls off less highs because it's not that great at its job, then an adjusted value of modern cap can duplicate it.

    I would sell you all my caps but I sold them, while at school actually, to pay for my books junior year! That was actually the last year I bought textbooks!
     
  7. DADGAD

    DADGAD Senior Member

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    At concert volume and after a few beers nobody is listening for the "highs and frequencies". I don't even care about the tone pre se. If the vibe is good and the performance is great, the guitarist could have crap tone for all I care.
     
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  8. EpiLP1985

    EpiLP1985 Senior Member

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    Agreed. As a matter of fact, with the money I'll save from buying cheap caps, I'll buy you a beer. He'll I'll buy everyone a beer.
     
  9. wizard1183

    wizard1183 Premium Member

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    I'll take mine now please! Just overnight it. It's about the fastest rout I know. I'm not an alcoholic so I can wait a day.:thumb:
     
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  10. blackie2

    blackie2 Senior Member

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    Just remember guys, "In space no one can hear you scream!!!"
     
  11. EpiLP1985

    EpiLP1985 Senior Member

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    Interesting story:

    When I was first going to college in Troy, I visited this small, old school electronics shop. This was the kind of place that smelled like it does when you first turn your amp on and the tubes are warming up. Real delicious solder/burning dust smell.

    I probably had about a 20+ cap stash at the time: some Sozos, RS Supercaps, RS/Jensen PIO, Orange Drops and some Russian PIO. I was pestering this guy weekly about his stock, which consisted of a ton of NOS vacuum tubes, resistors and capacitors. Finally he started letting poke around in the sections just beyond the counter. This is where I found a box of Sprague Vitamin Qs. All were in the typical guitar values.

    I kept asking him about what else he had and we dig up a box of Black Beauties. Now I know I've found a gold mine. His old man had been running the store since the 50s and North Adams, MA is not that far away geographically. Turns out he's carried Sprague caps since the 50s. Bzzzzzzz.

    So the next week I go in. The old man had heard I was looking for old Sprague PIO caps with stripes like resistors. Out comes the box. 50s Bees and thier predecessors (the older PIO caps that looked like Black Beauties). I found about 6 in the standard guitar range and bought about 4 .0022.
     
  12. grayd8

    grayd8 Senior Member

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    I'll bet it went something like this:

    Gibson custom shop guys said hey, we want some money to make real authentic bumblebee capacitors. There are people selling the 50 year old ones on the bay for $100 a pair. Their managers thought it was a good idea, probably even Henry loved the idea.

    The plans went to the accounting department until it got to an MBA who looked at the cost, looked at the current market capacitors and said why don't we just make modern caps that look like bumblebees, we could reduce costs by 500%. These results went back to Henry, he bought a new yacht and gave us "vintage spec" bumblebees.
     
  13. EpiLP1985

    EpiLP1985 Senior Member

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    I'll play "Devil's Advocate":

    I have never had the luxury or the pleasure of owning a Historic Les Paul. I've lusted after a Plaintop R8 for a long, long time but have never had the funds to make it happen. I have, however, read a ton of information posted by their owners and invariably, even when someone gets a good one, there always seems to be an aesthetic concern somewhere down the line. The headstock isn't quite right. The plastics aren't the right color and the tooling marks are off. These comments don't come from all owners, but enough of them have brought it up that it's a thing. It is no wonder there is such a market for repro parts. It makes sense. You spend a boatload of money on a guitar and you want it to be as vintage correct as you can.

    Let's face it, the Les Paul is about the sexiest, most aesthetically pleasing guitar of all time. It makes the Stratocaster look like a trashy, trailer park hillbilly. I have always been and continue to be drawn to its looks and tone.

    So empathize for a second with Gibson. They aren't dumb. They do market research on their offerings and in the age of the Internet they are well aware of the gripes against their instruments. So it is totally logical that they would offer a capacitor which, in an aesthetic sense, captures the look of the vintage Bumblebees. It strikes me as a misguided attempt to provide the consumer with what they (Gibson) thinks they (Consumer) wants. If it had been played right, meaning if Gibson hadn't been so seemingly disingenuous with their offering, it would have likely been received warmly.

    Charging that much even for a well made replica of a cap is pretty shifty though, especially considering that the very nature of its construction wasn't disclosed.

    I guess my point is that Gibson likely thought that this kind of attention to minutia would have been received well. The idea was obviously corrupted at some point but I'd venture to say the intentions were pure early in the process.
     
  14. LPCollector

    LPCollector V.I.P. Member

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    This whole thread is a replay of many prior conversations we have had on this subject.
    The above quote is always the crux of the discussion, from an EE's point of view.

    Let me throw a curve ball at this discussion.
    I paid $40 for 221 1950-1953 Sprague Bumble Bee's.....and some labor pulling them out of an old organ.

    By my math, that is $.18 each.

    Are you sure that I wanted to hear the difference in my "expensive" caps?

    Or, is it possible that I just wanted to find out for myself? :wave:

    Again, If you can't provide a pic like this one, I will be steadfast that your $3 caps (btw, you over paid for yours) being equal, is just your opinion.


    [​IMG]
     
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  15. EpiLP1985

    EpiLP1985 Senior Member

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    The expensive thing was a poor generalization on my part.

    We're all adults here. I can't provide a picture of my old cap collection because I don't own it anymore. I have had as many as 12 Bumblebees in the past. Great caps. No different than my Mallorys or Sozos. Different ears different opinions I guess.

    Like I've said 5 or 6 times now, the difference your hearing is easily explained and easily replicable with modern caps. A few hand calculations and nobody could tell a Bee from a Mallory in a blind test.

    Your lucky that you paid pennies on the dollar for yours and if they work for you then rock on.
     
  16. EpiLP1985

    EpiLP1985 Senior Member

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    I think an experiment is in order. I'll put my money where my mouth is.

    LPCollector:

    Can I PM you and get the brand and model of the harvested organ?

    I'll try to obtain a buttload of Bumble bees and analyze them. I'll obtain a number of other vintage caps and modern caps and analyze them as well. Then I'll construct some sort of objective sound experiment and post the results here. Not sure what kind of planning will be involved ( I've got baby nĂºmero dos coming and a buttload of work) but I'll try to make it happen.
     
  17. grayd8

    grayd8 Senior Member

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    If they would have been honest about what they really are, and sold them for for a reasonable price, they probably would have been well received for people that wanted a vintage correct look. The orange drop caps in 2014 were well received because they was no bs. Encapsulating a 25 cent cap and charging a 800% markup is what people are really mad about.
     
  18. DADGAD

    DADGAD Senior Member

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    I wonder if Joe B would chime in on his experience.
     
  19. krakatoa1313

    krakatoa1313 Senior Member

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    You could do all this. If you want, please do. I would guess all that effort won't help. Maybe just a wiring diagram. With emphasis on the capacitors input to the tone potentiometer, output of tone potentiometer going straight to ground, and a explanation of ground. Probably won't help either but with your already busy schedule, certainly would be easier.
     
  20. Pythonman

    Pythonman Senior Member

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    I think from what I've read lately, that Gibson probably did at some point want to offer PIO caps that looked like Bumble Bees but because of the EU restrictions and other regulations involved they can't use paper in oil caps. Violates something or other. But to me that would have left the door open for a mylar film Bumble Bee which is a cap Gibson also used in the late 50s and early 60s that nobody's ever complained about the sound of. Too bad they went with what they have, but as others have noticed, they do work and personally I've heard other caps I didn't like as much such as Angela's Jensen PIOs for instance. I would never NEVER have bothered hacking into the stock Gibson harnesses that I did except the ones I did were pre-2009 with modern wiring and other than my 2005 R8 that wasn't too bad sounding, the rest had muddy neck pickup tones and a sad, non-chirping middle switch position tone that did not sound like:
    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muKkVufgkAE[/ame]

    It's THE classic original Gibson sound for me, much exploited by Jimmy Page to good effect and totally ignored by others. I gotta has it!
     

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