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What Are Tone Caps....

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Robert Spencer, Jun 1, 2012.

  1. Low capacitance non-polarized capacitors block low frequencies. They can be used in various arrangements in resonant circuits to cut bass or treble, or midrange, in combination with inductors.

    If your bass already has a tone control, swapping capacitors won't do you any good unless you intend to change the capacitance to get a different frequency cutoff point.

    Orange Drops are decent film capacitors that used to be fairly inexpensive. Many people prefer them, but any other film capacitor works just as well in this particular application.
  2. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    A capacitor in series with a resistor forms a passive filter. It rolls off the highs, mainly--and the amount that it does so depends on the values of the cap and the pot (variable resistor). So that's what the cap "is", is a key part of the tone knob on a passive Fender-style bass.

    However the part that confuses people is all the fancy caps for sale on Ebay etc. with names like orange drop, paper in oil, tropical fish, etc. In reality the expensive ones are a waste of money, almost a scam. People insist they hear big differences between caps, but it's placebo effect and expectation bias--if you pay a lot for a new part, it will sound very different to you! Also most of the time people swap in a different value with their new cap, and clearly that makes a difference in sound.

    There could potentially be some real audible differences between caps, so I'm not calling "every" description a lie... But a lot of them are imaginary.
  3. One factor is that people often replace their poorly-spec'd ceramic caps with anything else of the same rated value, with a tighter tolerance, and find that indeed it does sound different, but the difference is incorrectly attributed to the composition of the capacitor. Tolerances on ceramics can be as poor as -20%/+80%.
  4. Thanks guys. I guess I know now. Take care. Bob
  5. Jeremy5000


    Feb 25, 2008
    So to create a passive cut, (sort of like a high pass filter), what's the wireing like?
    For hard wired is it just hot > capacitor > jack?:meh:
  6. Run the capacitor in series with the signal path.
  7. Jeremy5000


    Feb 25, 2008
    Sounds like what I just tried.
    I just used what I had on hand. A .47uf jazz bass cap. Didn't notice any difference. Not sure if it's not wired the way you mean, (just went hot wire after bridge pickup pot to hot connector on tone pot), or if this cap is not going to do anything to the low end.
  8. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    +1 I learned this the hard way