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Who Knows Their Caps?


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Here are three capacitors that are different but the same ; ie. all the same values (.022uf). The one on the right (bumblebee?) came out of a '74 SG I just bought but I can tell its not from the factory by the solder job. The others came out of other guitars I do not remember. So whats the difference otherwise? Is one better than the others for use in a guitar with humbuckers?? HPIM2567.JPG

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Capacitors are notorious for having terrible tolerances! If you measure the three you will most likely find at least 10% or even as much as 20% differences although they are all marked 0.022uF. Caps manufactured back in the early days were very variable but modern manufacturing has tightened things up a bit.

I am pretty convinced the tone voodoo thing is a direct result of the different values, which you will hear, as various types have vastly different tolerances.

Edited by KeithHowell
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The greenies (two on the left, same construction type, probably just different manufacturers or model lines) are very popular, followed by ceramic disc. I personally am not a huge fan of ceramic because they are more susceptible to heat damage. The bumblebees and PIO caps are tops when it comes to mojo. The greenies are cheap and work well, so they are typically seen as "standard". Me, I like to use all different kinds of things. I have a couple vintage PIO that I want to try out at some point. I also want to use a Sallen-Key gyrator topology to simulate an inductance to do a varitone instead of using an actual inductor. I put weird electronics in some of my builds, but that is part of the fun!

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Agreed with the greenies. Mylar film caps are stable and relatively noise-free in comparison to ceramics and stone-age tech like PIO, etc. Given the choice I would use a Sprague "orange drop". Not for the apparent mojo, but for the modern production quality and consistency.

Whilst I am ranting, the central cap is rating at a large voltage. Some say that large voltage caps sound worse. All we know is, they call him the St....nowait....it's a lie anyway. Don't read into that 630v bit.

I would say that they are all suitable if they are close to the supposed value and haven't degraded with time. The bumblebee just looks the part in a Gibby cavity.

Hey Ripthorn - your gyrator idea sounds like fun as a continuously variable varitone. I guess you'll be a fan of Silver Mica caps in close tolerance circuits then....! Shame they don't come in values large enough for most guitar circuits. What's your opinion on polycarb/polyester/polystyrene/polyprop?

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its easy to rig up a switch to change caps and decide for yourself. There are some good videos on the internet, but the guy who does then does not compare actual values.

I did this a little while a go, comparing ceramic disc, orange drops, and various vintage caps. The biggest problem with the ceramic discs was that they were consistently at least 10% under valued and a few over 20% below. the orange drops were much closer to the mark and just as often above as below. obviously the vintage ones were all over the place.

but once i had 3 different .02 caps i wired them up to a switch to do direct comparisons.

tone on 10 = exactly the same.

tone on 1 = exactly the same.

this makes perfect sense, they were wired to the same pot and have the same rating so electrically nothing different is happening in these positions. the tone pot is either seeing .02uf in the circuit or its not

I did find the sweeps were different though (not going to say better or worse). So I assume the different materials are doing the same thing in slightly different ways

my view. try different pots and caps to find what you like, but if in doubt go for orange drops, they are reliable and consistently close to stated value, and i like the sweep

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  • 1 month later...

we used to hook up a six way switch to a single cap and one bypass section and let the customer try it out. we labeled each one something different. in the end we gave the customer exactly what he wanted. but we always got a customer profile before we started.a jazzy player had one set of option and the guitar and pickups played a huge part as well. in the end we did more math and then handed the customer what we thought he would like. however if he didn't like any of them we would try something else. but we only had that happen once in five years. oh and btw i had a guy come in with a 10,000 dollar guitar from prs that he had to have paper and oil caps in he just had to have them.. so i had rolled him a set for 50 bucks. he said they were the best he had ever heard. i smiled said thank you and showed my business partner the sweep on the scope and we had a good laugh and i bought him a steak with that money.

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