What's so great about those orange capacitors?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by CROZ, Nov 26, 2005.

  1. Just got a new jazz, been doing some research on shielding, series/parallel switching, and stuff.

    (Some of these posts, especially Lyle Caldwell's, are awesome)

    I keep seeing these orange caps pictured and mentioned but after extensive use of search function I only found one post pertaining to different types of capacitors.

    This is the Post:

    Seems too voodoo of an explanation. Do the orange ones have vintage mojo or something? (They do look alot cooler than those olive drab chickpea/lentil looking ones, I'll admit.)
  2. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    Sprague Orange Drops. They're a common upgrade, and lots of boutique amp and pedal manufacturers use them as much as they can. That's about all I know about 'em, though, since I haven't bothered to order any when I'm building something. DIY effect guys debate this sort of thing (which cap/resistor/coil/transistor has the mojo) endlessly, usually with language that would have them permanently banned on a respectable site such as TB :D
  3. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    They're pretty?
  4. jwymore


    Jul 26, 2001
    Portland, OR
    My experience in a bass application is that the orange drops provide a more linear and controlled rolloff thus making the tone control more useable throughout it's rotation. The rolloff also seems a bit more subtle to my ears than a ceramic capacitor.
  5. Capacitors have capacitance. No mojo. If they're made to a tighter tolerance, they are more likely to be exactly the value you asked for, with less variation. The good ones may vary from 95 to 105 when they're rated at 100. The bad ones may vary more, 80 to 120 when they're rated at 100.

    But there's no sonic difference between them. The advantage to using the good ones is that you get the circuit built with the caps closer to the value they're supposed to be, so the quality is more consistent.

    If someone sees that an orange drop cap sounds better than a cheaper alternative, they happened to get the cheap one farther off its intended value due to the wider tolerance, and that has sonic qualities. If you could dig through the cheap caps, and find one that measures the correct identical value to the orange drop, it would sound the same.

  6. fookgub


    Jun 5, 2005
    Houston, TX
    There's more to it than just the tolerance. You have to look at the voltage rating, leakage current, ESR, temperature coefficient, and degradation of the dielectric material over time. Some dielectrics exhibit hysteresis and other non-linearities, too.

    But are these effects noticeable in something like a passive treble cut circuit? IMO, no, not even close.
  7. True, I was thinking of the freq dependent qualities of the cap that might make for "sonic" differences. Most of those wouldn't matter to a low voltage, (presumably) stable temperature operation involved in a passive bass.

    Its like resistors have other qualities besides resistance, but barring too much power so they burn up, the essential quality that matters is the resistance.

  8. jwymore


    Jul 26, 2001
    Portland, OR
    Try doing a back to back test sometime with an Orange drop and a cheap ceramic capacitor. I have done this with an A/B switch and I can tell you there is a difference!! The capacitors are made of totally different materials and therfore react differently within the tone circuit. I'm not saying it alters the tone of the bass per se, but the tone control in general is a lot more linear and therefore more useful. This doesn't help you if you never use the tone control or use like an on/off switch, but if you need linear treble cut between 0 and 10 a quality capacitor like the Orange Drop, Mallory or Hovland is an improvement.
  9. exactly...the components are higher quality, the tolerances are tighter, hence the controls are better...

    with that said, in a passive roll-off type circuit where matching of components is not at all critical, it really doesn't matter much at all. On more-complex active and and 2nd-order filters, this can be quite a different story, however.
  10. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    Thanks for the kind words.

    Do caps make a difference? Yes. Do they always make a noticeable difference? Depends.

    IME, two caps of the same value but of different construction will sound about the same when the tone pot is on 0 (full roll off). But how they sound at 7, 5, and 3 may be totally different. Or they may sound the same - it depends on the pickups. I notice a lot more variation throughout the sweep with a guitar with humbuckers than with a guitar with single coils, and even less of a difference with a bass.

    On a Les Paul, for instance, there is a range of the sweep where it sounds like some mid frequencies are being boosted - it's a trick, but a useful trick.

    On a Jazz Bass, this is greatly lessened or not apparent, depending on the pickups.

    All that said, I still like using 716Ps because they are consistent, they always sound predictable at specified values, and they are high enough voltage to have tough leads that don't snap off or overheat when soldering. Note: voltage is unimportant, but 400V to 600v caps have larger diameter leads, which are nice.
  11. Browsed that a little bit, most of that was over my head but there was this one section where he had an example of an audiophile putting in a more expensive capacitor was actually counterproductive since the larger size and unshielded leads added more noise.

    I found that amusing.

    Anyway, I have decided to try out an orange cap if I can find one local. If It's only 50 cents more than the cheapy ones why not?

    We'll see though. I don't even know if I can find the shielding foil around here. I went to an electronics supply store they only had linear pots, unmarked bins of bumblebees and super huge coke can size capacitors.
    (I was thinking to myself one of those huge caps could prolly store alot of bass mojo, though.)

    Guitar center had nothing, of course, and the local store with the big repair department is closed on sundays.

    If that store doesn't have my stuff gonna have to go online, bleh. Flourescent lighting is killing me...
  12. fretlessrock

    fretlessrock Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2002
    I dealt with both Angela's and Guitarpartsresource and they have both suppliued good parts at fair prices. One place to look for shielding foil is a hobby shop. Adhesive backed copper foil is used by folks who make stained glass projects and you can get it much cheaper (usually) there than from an electronics shop.
  13. jwymore


    Jul 26, 2001
    Portland, OR
    Sorry for the shameless plug but if you can't find what you need locally I can hook you up with everything you need, just check out our website. I even have the shielding copper, I just need to add it to my catalogs.
  14. I went to that guitar store today, they had an Vinyl LP sized square of foil for 16 bucks. I told the guy about my project and he seemed to think it wouldn't make much of a difference. Then he suggested active pickups to cut the noise, I think he was trying to sell me some bartolinis. I decided to pass.

    Tried Micheal's, nothing there, and it reeked of pine scented candles.

    I guess now it's time to wait for brown truck with small box.
  15. Update, finished shielding and star grounding my bass and replaced stock .05 ceramic with a .047 orange thingy.

    Honestly I didn't think I was gonna be able to tell the difference since it was such a small change in value but it made a pretty large difference.

    Not sure if I like it yet.
  16. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    Sinny, Oztraya
    I'm not going to 'argue' much about caps as I've done enough testing, measuring and listening now to have some fairly strong opinions on the subject. Here is the online version of the original article that sparked off the cap debate when it was first published in Audio (hardly a 'subjectivist' magazine) way back in 1980. Also, look at the credentials of the authors. There have been lots of other articles on the same subject published in magazines and journals since then, the most recent iirc was Brennemans' in E&WW about a year back with a lot of measurements to back it up. Most of these are from the audiophile perspective, ie looking for an accurate reproduction of the recording, however, as muso's we are looking for a particular sound or tone, so there is no good or bad, merely the components preferred to make the sort of sound we like.
    IME the 716P are an excellent cap for the money.

    FTR, I'm an EE and have spent most of my working life in and around RF and audio and I have spent a lot of time trying to correlate the differences between what I measure and what I hear. No agendas, just my experience as I've had audio as a hobby since a teen, I've had good measuring gear and I like to understand things.
  17. Capacitor Quality is most noticable when signal is sent through it such as in a coupling cap in an amp or a crossover network for a speaker system. In this case, the Orange drop seems more hi fi'ish while say a Mallory 150 is warmer and smoother to my ears.

    As for guitar tone caps, they send a portion of the signal to ground, however I have noticed some sonic difference among caps.
  18. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    There is no difference between a ".05" and a .047. Exactly the same value - the .047 is just the more accurate label.

    That said, caps vary between one another. Some have tighter tolerances than others. You'll see them rated at 20%, 5%, etc. That's the percentage of variation from the marked capacitance.

    So one .047uf cap may measure .052uf and another may measure .04675uf. But for bass tone pots you won't hear any difference with such small changes.

    Like the other poster said, these little differences can be very audible in other circuits. In my mixer circuit, I want my coupling caps to be very tight in tolerance. Sometimes "close enough" isn't.

    But for basses, like I said, the 716Ps are predictable, sound good, and have sturdy leads. No magic other than that.