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Do high end capacitors make a difference?
Old 14th July 2009
  #1
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MonkeyAdam's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Do high end capacitors make a difference?

I am hoping to get everyone's opinion on whether or not it makes a difference to use high end capacitors. Let's say, for example, the input capacitor of a mic preamp. Is there any difference between a $40 cap and a bottom of the barrel cap AND WHY?
Old 14th July 2009
  #2
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Barish's Avatar
 
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Different make caps do sound different, but this does not mean that the higher the price, the more likely the sound will be better -whatever that "better" means, because something with better statistics may not be so desirable soundwise.

On the other hand, by my experience, of the same value, a cap with larger size sounds more desirable to my ears than the one in a smaller casing. It seems like the larger the condenser sheet, the less distortion and artifacts. The smaller that it gets physically, the worse it starts to sound.

B.
Old 14th July 2009 | Show parent
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Barish ➑️
Different make caps do sound different, but this does not mean that the higher the price, the more likely the sound will be better -whatever that "better" means, because something with better statistics may not be so desirable soundwise.
Agreed. I'll also add that you have to have reasonable expectations of what your circuit is even capable of. I'll admit that I tried a $12 capacitor that was supposed to have superior musical characteristics but it made absolutly no audiable difference in a 1950s Harmony guitar amplifier.
Old 14th July 2009 | Show parent
  #4
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Does the material of the dielectric make a difference? I'm considering an expensive one with a graphite impregnated dielectric, wherein the charge is supposed to be able to move through it faster. Does that really matter?
Old 14th July 2009 | Show parent
  #5
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Lee Cardan's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
This topic will make for a pretty interesting read I think

It's really hard to say, best thing you could do is recap a channel of your console with graphic impregnated dielectric caps, and another channel with high priced caps, and another with low priced caps and see what the difference is. Best would be do to 5 channels of each to have a more reliable sample size

Mostly, the higher priced caps are better spec'd. They'll have a lower tolerance (a 1uf cap is more likely to be a 1uf cap, rather than a 0.9uf cap (10% tolerance)). They may also last longer in the case of electrolytics drying out, and possibly build to a higher spec.

I know if I was recapping my board I wouldn't be skimping on parts, especially since I had a cheap dvd player blow three caps the other day..

I'm going to settle on really hard to say..
but I'd love someone to do the above mentioned test and post some results!
Old 14th July 2009 | Show parent
  #6
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nosebleedaudio's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by MonkeyAdam ➑️
Does the material of the dielectric make a difference? I'm considering an expensive one with a graphite impregnated dielectric, wherein the charge is supposed to be able to move through it faster. Does that really matter?
The type of cap makes more difference than anything else, COG's, Polyprop. Polyst. are the better ones.
I would be surprised if you could hear a big difference if it was in a Gtr amp, distortion will be lower in better caps, a Gtr amp/spk combo has far more distortion than any cap I have ever seen...

On the input of an Gtr pre amp you could/should hear a difference...
Clearer highs for example..

COG's and Polyprop. are what I use the most depending on where/why, and a good brand as well..
Old 14th July 2009 | Show parent
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MonkeyAdam ➑️
Does the material of the dielectric make a difference? I'm considering an expensive one with a graphite impregnated dielectric, wherein the charge is supposed to be able to move through it faster. Does that really matter?
My question would be where in the circuit, what type of circuit? Mic pre? DI pre?
Gtr amp? Cond. Mic?
Old 14th July 2009 | Show parent
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nosebleedaudio ➑️
My question would be where in the circuit, what type of circuit? Mic pre? DI pre?
Gtr amp? Cond. Mic?
I think an example of an input cap for a mic pre would be significant point of interest, where the entire mic level signal is conducted through it. I'm also going to build one and will be able to conduct such comparisons (as recommended by Coschi), but this will be months from now.
Old 14th July 2009
  #9
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Ethan Winer's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by MonkeyAdam ➑️
I am hoping to get everyone's opinion on whether or not it makes a difference to use high end capacitors.
I think you should be more interested in scientific fact than in the subjective opinions of random GS posters. heh

The short answer is badly chosen caps can affect the sound, such as using a disk ceramic power supply bypass cap in series with audio. But appropriate "signal path" caps like mylar and polystyrene have artifacts too soft to be audible. Download the freeware program DiffMaker, then find and download the additional file containing audio examples of different cap types.

I suggest you also post this in the Geekslutz section to get a more scientific viewpoint.

--Ethan
Old 14th July 2009 | Show parent
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer ➑️
I tried this in Darwine. Doesn't work. Been meaning to get a windows partition running anyway.
Old 14th July 2009 | Show parent
  #11
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nosebleedaudio's Avatar
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MonkeyAdam ➑️
Does the material of the dielectric make a difference? I'm considering an expensive one with a graphite impregnated dielectric, wherein the charge is supposed to be able to move through it faster. Does that really matter?
For audio I would say forget it, the best gear made use the caps I mentioned...
If you want to spend $50.00 a cap IM sure someone will take your money and smile...
The Difference method would prove very little IF anything as far as truly high end gear goes...IMHO...
Old 14th July 2009 | Show parent
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MonkeyAdam ➑️
Does the material of the dielectric make a difference? I'm considering an expensive one with a graphite impregnated dielectric, wherein the charge is supposed to be able to move through it faster. Does that really matter?
I doubt that it does. Personally speaking, I wouldn't pay a component any more than twice the price of the second best that I am familiar with.

And $40 a cap? No fuggin' way... I'd rather sit down and make my own capacitors. The returns would be so diminished that the price jack-up wouldn't justify the additional benefit.

And I have over 25 years' experience in electronics.

B.
Old 14th July 2009 | Show parent
  #13
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Quote:
The type of cap makes more difference than anything else, COG's, polypropylene and polystyrene are the better ones.
+1

The sound is a function of dielectric material, not price.
Old 15th July 2009 | Show parent
  #14
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🎧 10 years
From my experience the type of cap and the maker/vendor make a big difference. But really its where it is in the circuit makes the biggest difference. For example swapping an input cap or an output coupling cap make the biggest difference in a mic. But swapping an RF cap doesnt sound any different since its not in the signal path (I think that was mentioned above)

On that note, swapping of a cheap ceramic or electrolytic cap for a good film cap like WIMA makes huge difference IMO. Next the changing of the size of the cap also makes a difference, from 1uF to 3.3uF in an output cap on a tube mic dramatically increases the low end.

So to answer your question, they all make a difference and depending on which cap you change, a $50 cap swap could be worth the money if its in the right spot, right size, and right model.

-Tguy
Old 15th July 2009 | Show parent
  #15
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
A good engineer knows how much a capacitor can affect in each single case. Of course we don't always design for best possible performance, we have to meet costs requirements.
To begin with, I always try to use DC coupling whenever possible. No capacitor can be as good and cheap as not having one.
I also use poliester or ceramic caps in parallel to electrolitics where needed, which I know results in better performance and lower price than using expensive electrolitics. If performance is above cost, also use best electrolitics for the task.
Paying care to biasing is also important.
A few cases require or take advantage of 'special' electrolytics. For example in high energy transfer. In some cases is better and cheaper to use several capacitors than a high specs one, but not necessarily, we have to study each case.
Values have to be calculated, it is pointless to use higher capacitance than actually needed. One value fits for all doesn't make sense. Use the equation: f = 1 / (2 * pi * R * C) to find if a capacitor is affecting required bandwidth and what susbtitute to use. For signal path DC decoupling, calculate for 5 Hz or less to ensure a flat low end below 20 Hz.
In resume, there are many things to be considered, there is not a single rule for every case.
Old 15th July 2009 | Show parent
  #16
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JoeyM's Avatar
 
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I remember something in guitar land about mica as a dielectric sounds good in caps, and I know it's worth mentioning, but I'm too sleepy to avoid bed this time.

Orange Drops (guitar amp high voltage) I think are polypropylene and for an audio preamp from a kit I modified I was advised to use polystyrene.

From what I've heard, electrolytics in the signal chain forces half the audio wave to put out an even harmonic, therefore it degrades half the symmetry. By using bipolar or non-polar electrolytics (with bypass) the sound is degraded all the time, and some audio designers prefer it that way!

If anyone disagrees with that, I can recheck the notes I took like 12 years ago. And times may have changed. Yawn.
Old 15th July 2009 | Show parent
  #17
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
Mica and polistyrene are really good dielectrics, but are not feasible for large capacities. Mica is practically unused nowadays. In most cases, for audio, except electrolytics and tantalums, everything is as good as to make it irrelevant. In some cases, capacitor choice is critical, thought.
Very often even minimal layout misperfections cause much more difference than that beween different cap types.
Old 15th July 2009 | Show parent
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jcatena ➑️
Mica and polistyrene are really good dielectrics, but are not feasible for large capacities. Mica is practically unused nowadays. In most cases, for audio, except electrolytics and tantalums, everything is as good as to make it irrelevant. In some cases, capacitor choice is critical, thought.
Very often even minimal layout misperfections cause much more difference than that beween different cap types.
I can't disagree with distinction because I'm more Heathkit/PAiA 30-watt iron , but a quick check showed micas at 500v 500 Volt Silver Mica Capacitors - on sale but they are in the pF range and not uF.

As for me, sometimes I do notice a difference with a cap switch and sometimes I don't.
What the sonics do in the context of one channel of a 100-track mix - that's where I'm not qualified at all (maybe).

Wow that Audio DiffMaker Ethan mentioned is cool! Thanks!

However I still need sleep - G night stike
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