Tone capacitor upgrade in Vintage Bass

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by sobemtv, Jan 6, 2013.

  1. sobemtv


    Nov 1, 2012
    Toronto, Canada
    Someone traded me a 70's (I think, may be early 80's) Vantage VP710B bass. I replaced the both original tone capacitors into a pair of NOS paper in oil (PIO) tone cap. It turn out very creamy and smooth tone.

    View attachment 309485

    View attachment 309487

    But one of my friend told me that I shouldn't change the tone cap since it is consider a vintage Bass and I should keep as original as it is.

    But what my motivation to change the cap into PIO cap because it is really make the bass back into true vintage tone.

    Now I just received another trade last week, a beautiful Bass from another TB friend, a Marlin Short Scale Bass.

    Should I change the old big size ceramic tone cap into PIO again ? Did I done wrong on the tone cap change to my Vantage bass?
  2. georgestrings

    georgestrings Banned

    Nov 5, 2005
    I wouldn't sweat it - no offense, but it's not particularly valuable - and if you improved how it performs in any way, you've done something right...

    - georgestrings
  3. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    Do you still have the originals? if so then it can easily be brought back to original specs and you didn't change it into a bass with "true vintage tone" you changed it into a bass that you like the sound of because someone who owned the bass before and is looking for another one is going to be looking for that "original sound". I have one rule with vintage instruments only do things that can easily be reversed because you never know when you may need to sell them and non popular brands are valuable to people who might of had one as a kid or it was there first bass.
  4. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    You can save the original parts, but a Vantage is not a collectible bass.
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  6. sobemtv


    Nov 1, 2012
    Toronto, Canada
    I did save the original cap. Great tips. I can reverse it when next owner want.
  7. Meddle


    Jul 27, 2009
    A fool and his money... :rollno:

    If the tone is 'creamy' (lol) or 'smooth' (lololol) then it is probably because you changed the value of the capacitor, either because you swapped out the value knowingly, or because the PIO capacitors are not sitting on their intended values.

    You could actually do us all a favour and test them to see if they sit on their intented value or if they have drifted away.

    Vantage basses are not valued as such, though they have that cool '70s upgrades vibe (sizzling Dimarzios, brass hardware, hippie sandwich construction all being the standard of the hotrod basses of the day). However of all the components I would upgrade on a Vantage (OEM Dimarzios can be of questionable build quality, brass can corrode and become difficult to adjust) I would leave the caps alone. A cap is a cap is a cap. Just because you were stupid enough to pay well over the odds for one doesn't suddenly improve the tone, especially when such uselessly vague descriptions are used as 'creamy' or 'smooth'. Does the oil somehow iron out transient peaks? Do the peaks end up splashing in the oil? Again, lolololol!!!

    Caps do make a difference at higher voltages over a wider range of frequencies etc etc... but not at a bass level.
  8. Right, it makes almost no difference what composition you use for an application such as this. You're dealing with a very low voltage, very low current, lower frequencies, no extreme temperatures, etc.

    Certain capacitors are notorious for having loose tolerances. A ceramic, for instance, being common to applications in which the specific capacitance is not particularly important, may be as bad as -20/+80%. + or - 20% is not uncommon for many others. When people claim to hear a difference between capacitors, it is usually because the actual values are different enough that it changes the frequency cutoff of the filter.
  9. Cadfael


    Jan 4, 2013
    Germany, EU
    In Germany we call the capacitor discussion "a hot iron" ...
    You might burn your fingers when you speak/write about this topic ...

    In my compendium I willfully write nothing about it - I only mention the common bass capacitor values.

    I don't mind if someone has enough money or just fun to put in expensive capacitors in his bass! I know that the old original Fender capacitors were chosen because they were cheap. There was no other reason - and Leo Fender started with a radio (repair) shop ...

    I am no opponent of Orange Drops - but I use cheap capacitors ...
  10. Yes, there is a discussion once a month about capacitors, here, and it is very much a religious debate. At the end of the day, however, you can't argue with the physics of it. There is no valid reason to believe there is a tonal difference, despite the many unsupported claims to the contrary. Add to that that people will hear what they want to hear. If you expect a $50 capacitor made from a $2 part packaged to look like something it isn't (Yes, there is a company selling fake PIOs.), you will hear the difference because you are convinced there is a difference.
  11. I use whatever I have on hand. I bought a big box of someone else's left over hobby stuff a while back, and when I need a cap, I go rummaging for the value I want. But there is a huge variance is what you get. The better ones seem to still be off by +/- 10%. The cheaper ones I have can be marked 20-30% off, if marked for tolerance at all. The unmarked ones are, of course, a total crap shoot. All I can say of the one currently in my Jazz bass is that it's a .047, give or take 10%.
  12. sobemtv


    Nov 1, 2012
    Toronto, Canada
    Thanks all for the input. I did learn a lot
  13. Cadfael


    Jan 4, 2013
    Germany, EU
    The most important thing I know about capacitors:
    If a 1974-1979 Fender Jazz Bass has no "blue drop", there's something wrong ... :)

    Many 1960s Fender Jazz basses (and Precisions) have 20% capacitors - but there are also 10% and +80-20 (like in some 1964 Precisions or Jazz Basses!!!). Did Leo know? Yes ...

    It is said that there were .05 capacitors in the 1960s and .02 in the 1970s. But Fender (CBS) already mixed .02 and .05 capacitors in the 1960s! Maybe by mistake of the worker - but this shows how serious capacitors were to Fender ...
  14. Meddle


    Jul 27, 2009
    This forum at least keeps away from the worst capacitor Kool Aid.

    I'm always surprised that the opinions of wealthy old corksniffers with no real knowledge of electronics is allowed to stay because it 'feels right' to them, and therefore you have to respect their rubbish. I don't get it.

    We are at the stage where we have a 'live and let live' impasse regarding relic finishes. This means kids go and hack up poly-finish instruments with rasps. Perhaps I had too much of a protestant upbringing, but that whiney instant gratification attitude never impressed me. I'm not saying you HAVE to gig a guitar for 40 years, but you are a musician not a kid playing dressup.

    Old capacitors, PIO capacitors and all that guff comes under the same umbrella. I fear the day we have to respect capacitor nuts because they 'feel' that random capacitors are somehow better, or risk being labled a troll or a troublemaker. The problem is we are increasingly ignoring the opinions of real experts (Rick Turner's contributions on The Gear Page spring to mind) in favour of what some under talented middle-management hack who spends too much on gear decided feels correct regarding capacitors.

    The simple truth is that you never hear anything passed through the capacitor. What you hear is what is left behind.
  15. Chill out, it's a capacitor. Not sure how calling him "stupid" or a "fool" is appropriate for installing a different capacitor.
  16. Meddle


    Jul 27, 2009
    Perhaps I was too heavy on the symptoms rather than the disease.

    It worries me that Op would have made the decision to pay well over the odds for a couple of 0.047uF or 0.022uF caps just because of the fabled properties of PIO caps. It troubles me that an owner of some old Matsumoku bass would jump straight to switching out the caps rather than any other components.

    For example, if you Google "upgrades to a bass" you would expect the tuners, bridge, pickups and pots to be mentioned long before somebody says "waste 20% on a couple of unpredictable old capacitors".... just an idea.
  17. I'm upgrading a bass now. I certainly won't be paying more than $1 for a cap. That's for sure.
  18. Meddle


    Jul 27, 2009
    Well enjoy your life of 2nd rate tone! Honestly, your bass tone will not be as gritty, creamy, aromatic, silky, growly, nutty, smokey, meaty, sandy or spicey because you didn't pay $100 for an old PIO capacitor. It will forever sound like you have a 'blanket over your amp' and you will never truely play 'in the pocket' either. Sorry man.
  19. Steve Dallman

    Steve Dallman Supporting Member

    I have been an amp and guitar tech for decades, and used to be in the camp that there were no real discernable differences in the same value tone caps, until I started experimenting with a couple guitars. I tried out some different types of caps, all of the same values and doggone if I could hear differences.

    After some research, I finally read some tech info on inductance and resistance of different types, and came to the conclusion that the inductance and resistance differences of the different types made the difference in tone, with low resistance caps producing more loading of the pickups, resulting in snubbing highs in a different manner than higher resistance caps.

    Tone caps do two things as we turn the tone control down. They move the resonant peak of the pickups lower, with the resulting steep treble rolloff after the resonant peak. Changes in inductance and resistant cause differences in these sonic actions, which will change that peak and rolloff.

    With bass, for me, tone caps are irrelevant, as I have no passive basses, and haven't had since the late 70's, when I started building my own preamps. My last passive bass was my 68 Tele bass, and in that one, I changed the tone cap to a smaller .01uF cap which I found far more useful than the stock .047uF as it kept more of the sonic spectrum and the higher resulting resonant peak added punch and created a sound more like a different pickup type, rather than just woofy mud.

  20. I'm actually having a handcrafted, locally sourced, free range, albino alpaca blanket custom made to cover my amp. It will have a pocket on it that I will be able to literally play in. :D
  21. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    Many years ago I designed CB radios for a living. We used tons of 1 nF "green chicklet" mylar capacitors. Why? Because the lead and winding inductance made them series self resonant at 27 MHz and that made them excellent bypass and coupling capacitors for CB radios. So in theory the inductance of a capacitor plays a role. However the inductance of the much larger (~47 nF) capacitors found inside one is still much too small to affect the tone of a bass guitar. Ditto for the resistance.

    All capacitors have a tolerance and some are pretty wide. So unless you measured the capacitance before doing your test and unless you used a capacitance meter with enough resolution to know the capacitance to the required precision (they are not common), you really don't know that whatever you heard was not due strictly to capacitance value differences. The better a capacitor is the more perfectly its performance can be predicted entirely by its value. At audio frequencies most of the capacitors used in bass guitars are essentially perfect capacitors. Some of the ceramic capacitors that people use have significant dielectric non-linearities at bass guitar pickup output voltages and those cannot be described by capacitance alone.


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