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View Poll Results: Do expensive "boutique" capacitors sound better in bass wiring than metal film ones?
Yes, definitely. 26 18.44%
Nope - no real difference. 115 81.56%
Voters: 141. You may not vote on this poll

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  #41  
Old 11-05-2012, 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Cameron Mc View Post
Why do I get the feeling people are upset because there is a tonal difference to be heard?
I don't think people are upset there's a difference, I think people are upset that the difference is being associated with the manufacturer or style of capacitor instead of the capacitance value. I haven't listened to your recordings (I typically don't participate in these listening experiments because I just don't hear the difference), but I'm curious to see how much of a difference there is between the values of like-valued caps that others claimed sounded different.
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  #42  
Old 11-05-2012, 01:29 PM
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Cool!


I'll have access to a meter in a month or so that can measure the caps. I also plan on getting more caps to add to the test. That way everyone can be satisfied with the results
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  #43  
Old 12-10-2012, 08:40 PM
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nice thread.. i almost like the radio shack ceramic disc .o47 better than the green chicklet .047 on my korean j bass.. great thread
  #44  
Old 12-10-2012, 09:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cameron Mc View Post
This is how the test was conducted:
Desoldered the old cap
Soldered alligator clips with wire to the tone pot
Swapped caps in and out after recording briefly
Looked at spectral analysis to see what was changing
Chose the best sounding three to my ears from the recording.
Wired those three up again, and made a final choice.
What you need to do is first measure some caps to get them close to the same value. I guarantee you they were not. Most caps are 20% tolerance. You may have to go through several of each type to get a match. And make them all the same value. We already know that .047F will sound different from .02F and .1F. That has nothing to do with the type of cap it is.

Then solder them to a rotary switch, and then into the bass' circuit. Don't turn the pot 50% down, because you will never get it in the same spot. Use a trim pot for that which you switch in, or fixed resistors.

Then as you play the same part, have someone else switch the switch. And make sure you don't know which cap is being switched in, because that might make you play differently.

Then you will have a valid test.

By choosing the best sounding clip, you are using confirmation bias; you are picking the ones that you think it should sound like.
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Last edited by SGD Lutherie : 12-10-2012 at 09:23 PM.
  #45  
Old 12-10-2012, 09:29 PM
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There is a BIG misconception here - that because the cap goes to ground, it has no affect on the sound. This is TOTALLY wrong. Why? Because what it LEAVES in the signal is what you hear. SO - if there is a difference in what caps send to ground, then what remains (what you hear) is also different.

There are well known differences in the sound of different caps. In general, film caps are just fine for low-level audio signals in terms of ACCURACY. However, maybe the sound you want is not accurate, it is distorted in a particular way. Think Flats vs. Rounds, Tubes vs. SS, Fender vs. Gibson pickups. None is BEST.

So - is there a BEST cap? I'd say NO - it depends on what sound you like. If you want the least effect on your sound quality, choose a film cap. If you want some other performance criteria, pick something else.
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Last edited by Bassamatic : 12-10-2012 at 09:33 PM.
  #46  
Old 12-10-2012, 09:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fourstringbliss View Post
Thanks for the suggestion!! I had been struggling with the scope of my business, whether I was going to be doing general repairs or what, but my original thought was finding a way to get paid for doing wiring. I'm really just looking for a part-time gig to bring in more cash. Your suggestion helped me narrow things down.

I don't want to out-vintage these other guys but I think I can out-information them and offer innovative products that do more for about the same cash. Some guys are totally satisfied with V/V/T on a Jazz but (obviously) some want more options while keeping things passive. I can do that. Now I just need to source my parts and try to keep costs low.
Finally, someone offering logical options instead of magical "Mojo". With that in mind I think you could definitely capture a fair part of the market. Kudos and good luck!
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  #47  
Old 12-10-2012, 09:47 PM
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As stated in a previous post, I didn't anticipate letting the world hear the backroom test, I just thought it would be helpful since there was no audio posted. Forgive my brief description of how the test was conducted, however, I chose from the audio. There was no confirmation bias because they were not labeled. But I get it. The caps were mostly 5-10% tolerance, but as I conduct this test again, I'll be sure to appease everyone's A-B triple double blind observer bias free test
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  #48  
Old 12-10-2012, 10:09 PM
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You think you're being cleverly snarky, but failing to measure the caps was like failing to read the manual before taking a driving test, and failing to set a consistent tone pot value made matters worse. It wasn't even close enough to a real test to be called "half assed". So don't be so smug about people insisting on more accuracy--we just want you to figure out how to actually do a test, before proclaiming you have the answers.

Last edited by bongomania : 12-10-2012 at 10:20 PM.
  #49  
Old 12-10-2012, 11:09 PM
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I was being smug and snarky because I've stated many times that this was all for personal use until I found this thread, and that I thought I'd share. Maybe semantically I shouldn't use the word "test." And I'm ok with that if that stands out to you. It was done in the pursuit of exploration and information, and it WAS flawed. Not denying that. However, this is talkbass, and in the pursuit of DObass, I did something, albeit "half-assed." I was also pleasant in stating that I would get a meter to measure the caps, buy more caps from more manufacturers, and conduct the test to the latest parameters that would satisfy the mass populace. Forgive me for thinking my bass community would have a sense of humor and "get" my sarcastic joke about the A/B blind thing. Sorry that offended you. Genuinely. I have nothing to prove to anyone. I just find this conversation rather interesting and wanted to contribute something tangible, rather than rhetoric about what the math says. You guys are the learned ones. Show me the reality of your claims. I am being open minded to see whether what you say is true or not in reality, not just on paper. I am choosing to bear the burden of proof because I'm ok with being wrong. It seems that this subject has everyone all worked up, and I find that even more intriguing.
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  #50  
Old 12-11-2012, 01:49 AM
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Originally Posted by SGD Lutherie View Post
See, different values. But the same value of each cap sounds the same. You can see me there trying to talk sense into people, but hey, it's a lost cause!
Are you kidding? The orange drop tone was like night and day!

Mostly it showed what I've always said which is that if you use a QUALITY cap differences are going to be VERY slight. They will have non-lossy dielectrics and tolerances will be much closer. Getting an orange drop is just a way to make sure (by spending more money) that you've got a quality cap. Personally I prefer polystyrene caps because tolerances are tight and leakage is extremely low. But I have a stock of them so it doesn't matter. I'm sure you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between those and your cheapo radio shack caps. (I use those too sometimes and I can't tell any difference). But junk caps DO exist and sometimes DO show up in "entry level" basses. These are usually ceramic disks designed for power supply filtering that cost but a few cents each. Note, NONE of these were tested in the video!

And there is other bad news too. As someone mentioned crossover networks is a place where caps DO make a difference. Cheap cabs often use electrolytic caps in back to back pairs. Eew! Non-linear. Leaky! Nasty. Advantages: Cheap as dirt, small, sort of work. I always try to go with paper in oil if I can. Really worth the extra cost, weight, and size. But remember in a crossover you are talking REAL voltages and REAL currents. None of this appiles to a bass or guitar tone cap.

And as long as we are talking wire, I'll give my personal opinion on that too. I always use teflon insulated stranded wire. The main reason is that it ends up looking much nicer and less likely to short because the insulation doesn't melt at soldering temperatures. Down side is it takes a special stripper to really do the job right. I use stranded rather than solid because solid has a bad habit of breaking off at the connections especially if you end up nicking it when you strip the wire. With complex jobs (G&L Trib) I sometimes use thinner wire but thinner wire even stranded still is more prone to breaking off at the connection. (this is especially true with wires going to circuit boards) Sometimes you just have to live with that. Push-back wire is OK and doesn't melt into a mess, but it also can push-back by accident and create a short. But it's still pretty good stuff. But for me Teflon stranded wire just ends up with a better looking job. And it should be obvious that except for the breaking problem wire has zero effect on tone. (Inspite of the comments at StewMac from folks convinced they can hear differenced in hookup wire.)
  #51  
Old 12-11-2012, 08:52 AM
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I really can't see where capacitor leakage or dielectric losses have any effect in a tone control circuit. The leakage will never be even close to the "leakage" you get from 250k volume and blend controls. Dielectric losses might be significant in high power circuits as they are in RF circuits where the circulating currents can be huge even at modest power levels. The only thing I can see being an issue is non-linearity. I don't even see value as being an issue because you can either check it with a meter or just buy tight tolerance caps. Plastic film caps and many ceramic caps have excellent linearity. Some ceramic caps have poor linearity but in a bass guitar application it is hard to say if that is a defect or a feature! And I am quite certain that the oil used in paper oil capacitors is Snake Oil....

Ken
  #52  
Old 12-11-2012, 09:13 AM
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Originally Posted by bongomania View Post
FWIW, I really think the market is too saturated with people making basic J plate setups. Some of them are even based out of high-volume shops that buy their parts at lower prices than you'll be able to get. There's even one or two that do fancy-color powdercoating of the plates and knobs.

If you want to stand out from the crowd, I really think you'll need to go active. As many onboard preamps as there are out there, I actually think there is significant room in the market in between passive harnesses and full-blown EQ preamps. For example, add a simple FET boost to a standard J plate, with a push-pull pot for on/off and gain control. Or add a simple buffered mixer between the pots, instead of the traditional blend pot or v/v pots. Most onboard preamps don't even have buffered blending! There are a couple of course, but they have EQ and a higher price tag.

Give it some thought.
I agree that the market is saturated with standard VVT Jazz plates, but I don't think you have to go active to stand out. Not that that's a bad option, there could certainly be more options out there, like buffered blend, filter based pres, and maybe even a stereo 2-3 band for each pickup.
There's plenty you can do with passive electronics though, even having two tone pots can get you a lot of tonal variety. Roll off the neck tone (and volume a little) and its like a bass boost with some real force\thump behind it, roll off the bridge and its like a mid control that's full of character. Then you can add switches for different cap values, coil switching, series\parallel, and even bass cut if you want it.

Last edited by iunno : 12-11-2012 at 09:17 AM.
  #53  
Old 12-11-2012, 09:24 AM
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I have a little test harness for my guitars that allows me to switch between different value pots and between different types of capacitors.

I thought I hear a difference between some capacitors, namely between the ceramic disks and the orange parts, so I also went through the trouble of selecting one ceramic disk that measured the same capacitance on my meter as the orange one. Whatever difference I thought I hear was still there, or in other words the two ceramic disks sounded the same, although their value was a bit different, and there was a difference of either of them toward the orange.

The military paper-in-oil that were sold over at TGP also sounded different, but they sounded "more ceramic" than the ceramics. The ceramics have a more "driven" sound, a bit of a roar, than the orange parts, and the PIO had more of that.

So everybody who just says that the ceramic disks are bad and all the big one are good didn't actually do any of these tests.
  #54  
Old 12-11-2012, 03:23 PM
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Originally Posted by uOpt View Post
I have a little test harness for my guitars that allows me to switch between different value pots and between different types of capacitors.

I thought I hear a difference between some capacitors, namely between the ceramic disks and the orange parts, so I also went through the trouble of selecting one ceramic disk that measured the same capacitance on my meter as the orange one. Whatever difference I thought I hear was still there, or in other words the two ceramic disks sounded the same, although their value was a bit different, and there was a difference of either of them toward the orange.

The military paper-in-oil that were sold over at TGP also sounded different, but they sounded "more ceramic" than the ceramics. The ceramics have a more "driven" sound, a bit of a roar, than the orange parts, and the PIO had more of that.

So everybody who just says that the ceramic disks are bad and all the big one are good didn't actually do any of these tests.
Well, yeah, when it comes to music and musical instruments one really can't start talking about "bad" and "good" unless you know exactly the kind of tone that is desired. I mean would a bass made out of Masonite be killer? Or would it be "bad"? The knee-jerk reaction would be to discount the cheap bass as "bad" but we all know that Danelectro basses are one of the most killer instruments on the planet where they fit even though they are clearly "bad" at being quality solid-body Fenders.

So saying that this or that that thing is "bad" is misleading. Like I often say, Tone is where you find it. But noting that two things sound different or sound the same is important.
  #55  
Old 12-14-2012, 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by FunkMetalBass View Post
I don't think people are upset there's a difference, I think people are upset that the difference is being associated with the manufacturer or style of capacitor instead of the capacitance value. .
This. If you actually understand the role a cap plays in this particular application, you understand that the only thing that matters is its value. There's nothing to argue about.
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  #56  
Old 12-14-2012, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by dmusic148 View Post
This. If you actually understand the role a cap plays in this particular application, you understand that the only thing that matters is its value. There's nothing to argue about.
Except that the old style big capacitors have other electrical properties than just capacitance. That's why they "sound" different.
  #57  
Old 12-14-2012, 02:39 PM
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ALL components, not just "the old style big ones" have properties other than their nominal function. The question is how much of a difference in this context, is it audible, is it repeatable.
  #58  
Old 12-14-2012, 02:47 PM
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I threw a cork sniffer paper in oil cap in my jazz bass just for giggles because I got one on a loaded pickguard. I can't really tell a difference from it and the 89 cent ceramic cap from Radioshack that I was using. Oh well, it's in there I guess.
  #59  
Old 12-14-2012, 02:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uOpt View Post
Except that the old style big capacitors have other electrical properties than just capacitance. That's why they "sound" different.
The same as modern caps. They are leaky, they have series resistance, etc. The difference is the old ones didn't have very tight tolerances. So it might be listed as .047F and might actually read something different.

If the old style caps were better parts, we would still be using them in all our electronic gear.
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  #60  
Old 12-14-2012, 02:59 PM
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I experimented with this a bit a few years ago with a jazz bass. Didn't notice a big difference except for maybe where I roll the tone knob to. For the record I like Mallory caps because they seem well built, consistently test well within range and aren't too big. I guess the name sounds fancy too. If people really want to buy premium priced parts thats fine but I don't need it.

I really dislike vintage wire and I have a hard time with solid core. I use twisted strand because it works better with solder for me. I have a big old roll of belden cable that I strip and it has red, black, clear and a bare wire I use. Several beasses out there have it too as I can't seem to leave my basses alone.



Now I do get my sound from vintage pickgaurds and screws. Theres tone in that rust and old dried up sweat...
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Last edited by aproud1 : 12-14-2012 at 03:21 PM.
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