The 'Sound' of Capacitors..

Frequently asked questions on capacitor types, ratings, brands, use and abuse.

Re: The 'Sound' of Capacitors..

Postby FiveseveN » 16 Nov 2012, 05:43

It's a voltage source in series with an inductor. See Lemme's article and Guitar Electronics for Musicians.

what are we trying to prove here

Good question. The initial claim was that certain models of capacitors have an intrinsic set of properties, a characteristic impact on sound that is pretty much independent of their actual role in a circuit. Now that's just kooky bananas. [smilie=banana.gif]
There are more reasonable claims pertaining to the idiosyncrasies of some dielectrics (ceramics in particular) and/or methods of construction, relevant for a particular set of circumstances. I.e. a ceramic coupling cap at the input of a high-gain rig would be microphonic due to its piezoelectric properties. Proximity to a loud speaker might result in positive or negative feedback, which would modulate the sound in an audible fashion, that is to say it would sound different if the cap wasn't microphonic, ceteris paribus.

Things that fuel a 30-page debate and prevent us from reaching a consensus:
1. People think we don't understand capacitors well enough, that they have some metaphysical properties or that tiny variations in capacitance or parasitic/nonlinear properties have a significant impact on the signal. Learn about electronics.
2. People mistake their subjective aesthetic values with falsifiable, testable claims. Learn about basic aesthetics and epistemology.
3. People overestimate their powers of perception and ignore their plasticity. Learn about cognitive psychology.
4. Lots of people believe batshit crazy things and they get sore when we don't take them seriously. Stop saying stupid shit.
Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge. (Charles Darwin)
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Re: The 'Sound' of Capacitors..

Postby Shiny_Beast » 16 Nov 2012, 08:23

1. People think we don't understand capacitors well enough, that they have some metaphysical properties or that tiny variations in capacitance or parasitic/nonlinear properties have a significant impact on the signal. Learn about electronics.


This brushes over a lot. Aside from the mystical crap, you are basically saying "any differences that exist don't matter, look it up" well that's what this thread is about and the results so far seem inconclusive aside from the obvious truth that questioning it at all is just bananas.
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Re: The 'Sound' of Capacitors..

Postby kleuck » 16 Nov 2012, 08:43

GuitarlCarl wrote:
FiveseveN wrote:
GuitarlCarl wrote:Why we mostly use RC networks when an LRC network can do so much more is what really makes me wonder...
But a guitar's circuit (with passive pickups) is a LRC network. If you're referring to stompbox designs, well audio inductors are fairly large, prone to noise, harder to source etc. Gyrators ("fake" inductors) however are reasonably common.


I know that a pickup is a coil but ... not strictly an inductor, wouldn't the introduction of a magnet change it's roll in the circuit? I do know an inductor from a wah makes a big difference while a dummy coil ( Fender has done this in a strat ) only acts to make the circuit quiet like a humbucker, and neither has a magnet. Sooo... I don't think the pickup is actually part of an LRC tone control, it's the sound generator...

Agree with Fiveseven on this one, actually the tone generator is the PU+the electronic+the first cable (except with active PU obviously).
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Re: The 'Sound' of Capacitors..

Postby kleuck » 16 Nov 2012, 09:42

FiveseveN wrote:Good question. The initial claim was that certain models of capacitors have an intrinsic set of properties, a characteristic impact on sound that is pretty much independent of their actual role in a circuit. Now that's just kooky bananas. [smilie=banana.gif]

Nope, who said that, apart from you ?
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Re: The 'Sound' of Capacitors..

Postby allesz » 16 Nov 2012, 10:40

I jump on one of my favorite treads just to tell a funny capacitor and resistors story:

I bought Guitar Classics DIY Amps & Pedals Bible made from the folks at Guitar & Bass Magazine and I found an article where they build three Gainsters clones, with different components; the first with cheap caps and cheap resistors, the second with the same caps and carbon resistors, the third with carbon resistors and expensive big caps. Than they submitted the three boxes (looking the same and with just different color leds) to three guitar layers to listen to their opinion.
Every guitarist told they preferred the box with expensive components. After reading it I thought: so maybe all this bullshit are true; maybe we just find a way to build a meter to measure this extra quid, a mojometer.
Or maybe the secret for better sound is a different color led (the mojo dirtbox had a blue led :secret: ).
Sadly I never put leds on my pedals :? , because when I engange an overdrive I can clearly hear it.
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Re: The 'Sound' of Capacitors..

Postby kleuck » 16 Nov 2012, 11:51

Yeah, blue leds have more mojo, i use only blue leds in my pedals.
Or maybe it's because i can run them with less than 0,5 mA ?
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Re: The 'Sound' of Capacitors..

Postby FiveseveN » 16 Nov 2012, 14:28

kleuck wrote:who said that, apart from you ?

viewtopic.php?p=92224#p92224
viewtopic.php?p=92227#p92227 (a Muff has a lot of caps doing different things)
viewtopic.php?p=92955#p92955
viewtopic.php?p=98543#p98543 (more or less)
viewtopic.php?p=113692#p113692
and of course viewtopic.php?p=113748#p113748
viewtopic.php?p=118715#p118715 (?!)
That's from the first 15 pages.

This brushes over a lot. Aside from the mystical crap, you are basically saying "any differences that exist don't matter, look it up"

Yes, that's pretty much what mictester and I are saying, when it comes to 9V "stompboxes". Read the datasheets, do the math, use simulations, see what impact the differences have. Look it up. But if you're gonna tell me you can hear a 0.001 dB difference, I won't be able to take you seriously.
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Re: The 'Sound' of Capacitors..

Postby GuitarlCarl » 16 Nov 2012, 16:09

FiveseveN wrote:It's a voltage source in series with an inductor. See Lemme's article and Guitar Electronics for Musicians.


Nice article. I never really thought about guitar wiring + cable +amp as a whole circuit, I always pictured things like building blocks A+B+C etc. I do see the pickup as an inductor in that sense. What you haven't addressed is the addition of another inductor such as one from a wah pedal, which is exactly what was done in the Gibson Varitone circuit and the Tone Qube and what the article skipped too, even when it mentioned (goop alert) their epoxy encased tone control. All I originally meant was, I'm surprised the addition of an inductor in the tone section of a guitars wiring is not done more often. :blackeye Also I've had that book for a long time, hopefully the one out now has more current information, some of the info in mine, while nice as a historical reference, obviously isn't up to date with manufacturers wiring diagrams and pickups models and such.
I want it to sound like bees buzzing around in a 55 gallon drum...
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Re: The 'Sound' of Capacitors..

Postby kleuck » 16 Nov 2012, 16:48

@FiveseveN : a little old yes, and i did not see really anybody claiming that some cap can sound "better" whatever use you make of it, anyway, can be my poor English and i do not have a lot of time to read all the thread from the beginning again, I'll take your words on that, anyway, it's not my experience, i was very disappointed with PIOs for example in some places, after i thought, (i must confess) "yeah, that's THE cap" (well not exactly, but it was close to that)
@GuitarlCarl : i did some filters in axes with inductance, the interesting thing is that you can have a passive mid-scoop, but there is drawbacks : as the efficiency of the filter is low, you must use resistors to improve the filter, and at the end the loss of amplitude is not trivial.
Tried to counter-act this with very efficient inductances (high inductance and low resistance) to get rid of the series resistor (i used a motor from an electric shaver and a big ferrite from a radio in place of the core) but in this case, the axe became very prone to hum, actually i got electric shocks every time i was approaching the electrical board in the house (don't know the word in English) -was above a door- (really)
Anyway, just like the Vary-Tone, these tricks can be useful with powerful and plain sounding PUs, as they can only remove a band, that's another limitation.
Just too much complication i think, compared to the result, but there's other ways to use inductors : to simulate a guitar PU for example, different from the actual you are using, to simulate a speaker etc.

There was an interesting page about PUs simulation in Spice, and their interaction with bot cable capacitance and values of the pots, but it's no longer accessible.

EDIT :actually, Wayback machine has it, but not the pictures : http://web.archive.org/web/201004141213 ... cables.htm
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A: Yes. Silver solder keeps werewolves away from your amp.
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Re: The 'Sound' of Capacitors..

Postby Intripped » 16 Nov 2012, 19:09

FiveseveN wrote:So you'd only try to be more rigurous if the results don't match your expectations?!


first of all i'm curious to see (hear) if there is any audible difference
if i can't hear differences then i can choose to make some more investigations or not - but at least i've satisfied my curiosity.
further investigations may or may not prove that there are differences in the audible spectrum; i'm thinking about the best testing methodology - maybe pink noise and spectrum analysis

... but if i do hear some evident differences, well, i would be very pleased and also surprised, because something so easy to hear had been discussed for so long and with all this fighting and blind prejudice from both the sides.
then if i will want to convince you, the negating side, of course i will have to prove it. hopefully pink noise and spectrum analysis will suffice.
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Re: The 'Sound' of Capacitors..

Postby Shiny_Beast » 16 Nov 2012, 19:24

FiveseveN wrote:Yes, that's pretty much what mictester and I are saying, when it comes to 9V "stompboxes". Read the datasheets, do the math, use simulations, see what impact the differences have. Look it up. But if you're gonna tell me you can hear a 0.001 dB difference, I won't be able to take you seriously.


And if you start telling me teddy bears live on the moon I won't take you seriously either, neither of those things are being discussed here. All those tests only mean something if you consider them to be conclusive. Unfortunately, proving a negative is kind of difficult. I don't think arnyone is arguing we are talking about subtle shades here.
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Re: The 'Sound' of Capacitors..

Postby Shiny_Beast » 16 Nov 2012, 19:56



blow me
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Re: The 'Sound' of Capacitors..

Postby FiveseveN » 16 Nov 2012, 20:19

Shiny_Beast wrote:blow me

Stop saying stupid shit.

kleuck wrote:can be my poor English

Must be, because that's not what I was arguing and not what you objected to (wording of the principal claim). This "better" business is a different issue, an instance of fallacy #2 from my short list.
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Re: The 'Sound' of Capacitors..

Postby Shiny_Beast » 16 Nov 2012, 20:37

FiveseveN wrote:Stop saying stupid shit.


Stop taking cheap shots at me
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Re: The 'Sound' of Capacitors..

Postby wheezystrat » 16 Nov 2012, 22:39

It is hilarious wading through the back and forth here.

I would contend that no one has conclusively proven that capacitors themselves independent of a circuit do or do not have properties that might lend them a tonal "character".

Firstly, since they *are* going to be in a circuit, then how in Blue Hell could one *ever* prove how they "sound" independent of one?! It is 100% *irrelevant* as they *will be in a circuit*, end of story.

Therefore, the question must be in the context of a circuit. Duh.

No one has presented a data set that proves anything here either way, save for irrelevant benchmarks that don't address the argument. You cannot argue that "this property is consistent across all caps, therefore all properties will be consistent across all caps." That is baldly idiotic. Alternately, to say that the property is consistent across all caps therefore they all sound the same is tacitly ascribing tone affecting qualities to that property, thus admitting that the property might affect tone. Or that another property might.

To obstinately insist that there is nothing more to learn about capacitors and how their manufacture might lend them certain tonal qualities in the context of a circuit is akin to being a flat Earth advocate: "Listen: the Sun revolves around a flat Earth! There is just *no way* anyone will ever prove otherwise! Just look at this 'data set' I got from the entrails this morning! You people are so superstitious!"

I would contend that that kind of thinking is anti-science. Until every variable has been exhausted it's all myopic extrapolation, conjecture, logical fallacy, anecdotal fish stories and rhetoric.

Think: maybe in one type of circuit the differences are nominal or non existent, while in another they aren't. The scientific mind is never satisfied, especially when the jury is still out, which it most definitely is in this case.

Advocating an end to research when the answer has yet to be definitively reached is simply an appeal to indulge in willful ignorance. Appealing to the "authority" of inconclusive or irrelevant tests is an empty gesture in lieu of an argument.

IMHO, it is more superstitious to insist that we know all there is to know about caps than it is to acknowledge that we don't. Not to mention that since they *will* be in a circuit, then one must consider the confluence of all the variables. Since no one has, not even for one circuit, the mystery remains. Focus groups of stoned people enduring their gear head buddy's noodling are pointless, as are all anecdotal accounts.

I for one enjoy that fact that there are unsolved mysteries related to my favorite past time.

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Re: The 'Sound' of Capacitors..

Postby Shiny_Beast » 17 Nov 2012, 00:02

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfAgOdOr ... e=youtu.be

I didn't want to bother trying to prove anything, and I don't, but this link deserves tobe in this thread, I think?

Like, what is someone supposed to think? I'm sure someone is going to chime in with a good believable reason why this test is irrelevant... I'm no EE. it doesn't matter to me. It just seems odd to consider these claims as outlandish.

Either way, it'll be a long time before I use ceramics as coupling caps if I build a DIY hifi amp, you can count on that.
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Re: The 'Sound' of Capacitors..

Postby wheezystrat » 17 Nov 2012, 00:22

I stand corrected. Someone *has* tested caps in a circuit and discovered a notable difference in a property that is definitely tone related!

That vid illustrates that different materials indeed can affect tone. There is no counter to that that I can muster.

What I would like to see is similar tests using ubiquitous stomp circuits.
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Re: The 'Sound' of Capacitors..

Postby wheezystrat » 17 Nov 2012, 02:26

In this example, caps of the same value are compared in a guitar circuit. There is no discernible difference:

http://www.aqdi.com/tonecap.htm

These guys tested the performance of various dielectrics:

http://www.reliablecapacitors.com/pickcap.htm
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Re: The 'Sound' of Capacitors..

Postby andregarcia57 » 31 Jan 2013, 16:19

what is the difference between using
1uf electrolytic
1uf tantalun
1uf film
klon in project
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Re: The 'Sound' of Capacitors..

Postby Nocentelli » 31 Jan 2013, 18:44

I don't think anyone could answer that, but I read online (from Bill Finnegan himself) that the reason he wanted to eliminate electrolytic caps from the Klon KTR was because the tolerance of such caps was too high to give consistency between pedals, not because they sound inferior.
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