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Discussion Starter #1
Has anyone hear changed the caps on their tone pots? If so, what did you change to. What different caps are available? I know there are made differently - oil & paper, ceramic, etc. I know about RS Guitarworks Hovlands, Bumblebee, Orange Drop, but I don't really understand how they work. There are also ratings such as: uf .047, .022 .015, .0100 etc.

This is what it says on cap that is in my Hamer USA P90 Special:

WMF 1F1K
01 MFD +/- 10%
100VDC CDET

:confused-smiley-010 :confused-smiley-010 :confused-smiley-010

Thanks for helping a confused mind
 

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MFD typically means microfarad, which is the unit of measure for capacitors. From what's on your cap, I assume it's a .01 microfarad capacitor. Higher numbers generally will roll off more highs (i.e. the frequency where highs start to roll off is lower), and lower numbers (as you seem to have) will pass more highs (the frequency where highs start to roll off is higher).

Having said that, I've never been clear as to exactly what the function of a tone cap is, so perhaps someone with more / better info will chime in?

I have a couple of guitars where I'd like to see how changing tone cap values might change the overall character. One has an RS/Fralin Superkit with .047 mfd tone cap (RS/Fralin humbuckers), the other is a MusicMan Asis SS with MM90's, but I don't know what the stock values are in that guitar.

Brian
 

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Generally .047mfd for single coils and .022 for humbuckers, although .015 is becoming popular in the neck position for humbuckers.

I don't think you will hear a difference in tone between caps of the same value if they are not in the circuit. By this I mean the difference between ceramic, PIO etc. You can tell if they are in the circuit or not by where they go. If they go to ground, they aren't, if they go to the input or output lug of the volume pot they are. Either way you will definitely hear a difference between values.

I personally prefer Gibson modern or 50's wiring where the cap is in the circuit. The 50's wiring doesn't roll off highs as you turn down the volume.

With a .01 cap it sounds like you might have some high output pickups in that guitar. That cap .01 microfarad with a 10% tolerance either way ( +/- 10%) so it is any where from .009 to .011, and it is rated for 100 volts direct current which is largely irrelevant. The pickups in a guitar put out microvolts. It's an interesting choice of cap for P-90's. Is it very bright?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
J S Moore said:
With a .01 cap it sounds like you might have some high output pickups in that guitar. That cap .01 microfarad with a 10% tolerance either way ( +/- 10%) so it is any where from .009 to .011, and it is rated for 100 volts direct current which is largely irrelevant. The pickups in a guitar put out microvolts. It's an interesting choice of cap for P-90's. Is it very bright?
The Hamer P90 Special comes with an SD SP90-2 in the neck and an SP90-3 in the bridge. Yes, very bright, very hot. I generally keep the tone pot at 1.5. Above 6 the treble maxes out. The treble can be screaming, but not ear piercing. A low basementvolumes, these pups are very clean - a full clean, but I have to use TS-9 to get the nasty P90 sound out them.
 

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"Beware the sales hype!"

There's a lot of mojo talk about different types of capacitors in audio circuits. We techies often stand aside and listen to the crap streaming by in utter bewilderment. Funny how the technical justifications can sound kinda weak to the educated ear but it always seems to boil down to getting you to give someone more money...:mad:

Tone caps work very, very simply. A cap looks like a resistor to an AC signal. An audio signal is AC. The catch is that higher frequencies get through a cap of a particular value with lower resistance than low frequencies.

The technical term is "reactance" but all you really need to know is that bigger values of capacitance "leak" more highs than smaller ones. They are not a razor sharp filter like a graphic eq slider. They have a long shallow slope when used in used in a simple guitar tone circuit.

So you can pick a value that starts off with a reasonable amount of leakage at some mid frequency and a lot more in the treble range. You can plot it as a curve of reactance ("resistance") versus frequency and if the action is too much in the top end then you make the value of the cap bigger. Or smaller, if you want to go the other way.

A guitar cap is a simple treble cut circuit, with a cap in series with a pot. The value of the cap determines the range of the cut and the pot lets you dial in the depth of the action.

Now caps are made of all kinds of different materials. There are sonic differences but they tend to be more subtle than the mojo gurus would tell you. What's more, while it may be worth the money to go upscale in an expensive audiophile hifi tube amp for most ears this is just overkill. Also, the simpler the circuit the less it matters.

I use Sprague Orange Drop coupling caps inside most amps between tube stages. They are less than a buck or two and more than good enough quality for even many hifi circuits.

With a simple circuit like a guitar tone control everyone has always used a cheap ceramic cap that costs only a few pennies. I'm not saying that someone would not be able to hear a difference if he used some $15 paper in oil aurophile cap that would be too damn big to ever fit under the pickguard anyway. I'm just saying that I'd want to blind fold him and then test him, preferably after he's shot his mouth off and has ponied up some bucks as a bet! :food-smiley-015:

My advice is just buy the cheapie cap. It's more than good enough. And don't get too anal about different values. If you're honest you'll find that doubling a value like .047 mfd instead of .022 won't make much difference. You usually have to make a change of 5-10 times to make the difference noticeable and then you probably won't like it! The guy who designed your guitar would have spend some time choosing the stock value and likely already has it pegged in the "sweet spot".

Just my .02
 

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Never...ever used a tone knob for .....30 years....then someone advised me to experiment with caps (not the frat drinking game:tongue: ) and I'm having a blast and use the tone knobs all the time.....my 80's hockey sticks seem weird to me now (no tone controls). I just put some crazy audiophile caps in a bari jaguar and ....i really like it......+ it cost less then a movie for 2 + popcorn with "topping":confused-smiley-010

I really didn't bond with the tonestyler btw.....might sell 'em or build them into a pedal

BTW, if your P-90's are too shrill, either they are set too high, 500k/IM pots (try 250k or 330k) or not the right PU for you or your guitar.....something Lollar/Suhr/Fralin etc. may be just the thing.

Andy
 

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I'm a fan of vintage caps. Or reasonable (ie new, cheaper) facsimiles.
The difference in tone is subtle, but there can be a difference. IMO ceramic caps don't have a place in a guitar.

The Les Paul control cavity is great for testing caps, just stick a couple of test leads in there and try various caps until you find the tone you like.

I managed to score a few old Bumblebees awhile ago at a reasonable price, .015s. Way cheaper than guys hit you for .022s. I like .015s in the neck position on all my humbucker guitars, you can roll right off into that 'woman tone' without getting muddy.

And I like the old Bees cause they can give you a bit of that cracked wah (hollow) tone you can hear on some of the old recordings.

On the bridge position, I pretty well stick with .022s, either old Black Beauties (as they are cheaper to come by than Bees) or Sangamos.
You can hear a slight change in tone with the tone pot full on (10), but it is very slight. ie, probably no one but you will hear it :)

Caps and pots are a very inexpensive way to tailor your tone. I think too many guys think they need new pickups, when they can probably get close to the sound they want with pots and caps.

Oh, and if you ever get a chance to score an old organ that is going to the garbage, you can score a huge number of caps for a little bit of your time. I parted out a '66 Baldwin awhile ago. I pulled dozens of Sangamos, Tropicaps and Goodalls, sadly, only one or two Bees in it. But it did give me a large stash for testing and playing.
 

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I have a pair of RS Jensen PIO's that are waiting to go in. I am going to rewind my BB's and I'll put them both in at the same time.

The RS kit with the Hovlands made a huge difference in my Studio but I wasn't taken with them in my R8.
 

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Bumble bees?

I found it interesting that someone mentioned the old "Bumble Bee" caps. They were called such because they were tubular with the values coded as a series of colour bands, like resistors.

I know that the audiophile world pays big bucks for these on Ebay. I guess it's a "sympathetic magic" thing. You know, if I stick a pin in a doll that has some of my victim's hair or fingernail clippings...or if I use an old style part from the old days then I'll have some of the same magic in the sound.

What no one seems to know, talk about or remember is that Bumble Bees were popular because they were CHEAP! Like most cheap caps, they had a very high failure rate. They were prone to leaking like a sieve!:eek:

Granted, there's no voltage to speak of when used as a tone cap in a guitar so if Bumble Bees blow your skirt up then what the heck - it's your guitar!

I've still got electronic magazines from the late 50's where you'll read in a serviceman's column how the first thing you should do is rip out all the Bumble Bees and replace them with some GOOD caps!

If you do a search on Ebay you'll always come up with some guy selling a handful of Bumble Bees pulled out of some old piece of tube gear. They always seem to go for a fair buck, too.

I toss mine in the garbage! I couldn't sleep at nights if I took advantage of the uneducated in such a manner...
 

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no, it's not just 'mojo' Bill. Granted old Bees may not be something you'd put in a circuit, I don't know about that.

But in a guitar, maybe because they were cheap and leak like a sieve, whatever the cause, I've found no other cap that will give me the 'hollow' tone that an old Bee will. I've got some old Black Beauties, but they are the 2nd gen without the solder drop on the oil filler, they don't sound the same.

And btw the new 'Gibson Bumblebees' are simply another cap wrapped in a bumblebee jacket, a marketing gimmick.

Granted not everyone wants that tone. But there ARE tonal differences between caps, otherwise I guess you'd just use whatever the cheapest caps are you could get for your amp circuits, right?

The more I think about it, you're probably right. They probably DO sound like that because they were made cheap and leak, etc. And later generations 'fixed' those defects. But those defects deliver the tone I want.

And before you throw those old bees in the garbage can, could you send them to me please? :)
 

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Feel the buzzz...

dwagar said:
no, it's not just 'mojo' Bill. Granted old Bees may not be something you'd put in a circuit, I don't know about that.

But in a guitar, maybe because they were cheap and leak like a sieve, whatever the cause, I've found no other cap that will give me the 'hollow' tone that an old Bee will. I've got some old Black Beauties, but they are the 2nd gen without the solder drop on the oil filler, they don't sound the same.

And btw the new 'Gibson Bumblebees' are simply another cap wrapped in a bumblebee jacket, a marketing gimmick.

Granted not everyone wants that tone. But there ARE tonal differences between caps, otherwise I guess you'd just use whatever the cheapest caps are you could get for your amp circuits, right?

The more I think about it, you're probably right. They probably DO sound like that because they were made cheap and leak, etc. And later generations 'fixed' those defects. But those defects deliver the tone I want.

And before you throw those old bees in the garbage can, could you send them to me please? :)
Sure! When I get a handful or so I'll post you a PM!

Don't get me wrong, I agree that there can be tonal differences. And I tend to agree that it's possible the flaws in the BB's give you a pleasing tone. Different types of caps have different ESR values, or Equivalent Series Resistance. It's like the cap has an internal resistor in series. Oil-filled caps have a very low ESR. Ceramics are much higher and the ESR acts like more resistance in series with the tone pot.

Most vintage caps were paper/foil and seem to sound better for audio. Then again, when you're using tubes EVERYTHING sounds better!:banana:

When you're coupling between stages with high voltages that need to be blocked leakage and reliability trumps everything else. If the amp blows up then how does it sound? Despite some ridiculously high gain active pickup circuits a leaky cap sees only a trivial voltage as a guitar tone cap so there's no harm done.

As I had said, I use Orange Drops as a good bang for the buck, even in higher end audiophile amps. The newer metal poly tubulars aren't bad either and cheaper. The 15-20 dollar audiophile couplers seem a rip to me and I'd love to try the blindfold test on someone selling them! :sport-smiley-002:

In the final analysis, you just crank the amp and "Set the controls for the heart of the sun...":rockon2:
 

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Wild Bill said:
In the final analysis, you just crank the amp and "Set the controls for the heart of the sun...":rockon2:
I seem to be saying "Hear Hear" a lot today.

Not to disparage those who have ears capable of distinguishing minute tonal nuances...especially after using them to play amplified music.......
 

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Wild Bill said:
Sure! When I get a handful or so I'll post you a PM!
Awesome, that'd be great!
 

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mandocaster said:
I seem to be saying "Hear Hear" a lot today.

Not to disparage those who have ears capable of distinguishing minute tonal nuances...especially after using them to play amplified music.......
I was just thinking the same thing, I think I may have lost the minute tonal detail ability about 1984, give or take a couple of years.

I've played around alot with tone caps and I am not sold on the fact that they make as much difference as the person playing the guitar does.
 

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Ripper said:
I was just thinking the same thing, I think I may have lost the minute tonal detail ability about 1984, give or take a couple of years.

I've played around alot with tone caps and I am not sold on the fact that they make as much difference as the person playing the guitar does.
Who's got a good ear anymore? MP3's are kinda low-fi, after all and that's what everybody listens to these days. They were designed as a stripped and compressed file to save time when the state of the art was dialup modems!

Anyhow, I agree that while there are bad choices for caps that obviously sound poor if you use reasonably good ones the differences become much more subtle, if not trivial.

That's why I champion true blindfold testing, with the same amp and speakers and the same guitar and player. The guy making the claim about great ears should NOT be the player! He should sit blind in a corner or better yet, feed the sound in from another room.

If it can't be measured it's NOT real! :confused-smiley-010
 

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The nice thing about a Les Paul is it is really easy to test different caps.

Other than the glaringly obvious different tone of something like a cheap ceramic or the hollow tone of a Bee (if anyone doesn't understand what I mean by this, it sounds like I kicked in a wah), though, I do have to agree that just give me a decent .015 in the neck and a decent .022 in the bridge and I'm a happy guy.

Maybe I can hear a slight difference (excluding Bees) sitting in my living room switching back and forth (as I mentioned above I have a pretty good stash of old caps), but when the tubes get heated up, will it make any difference? Probably not enough to bother.

If you've got ceramics, at least pick up a couple of 715 Orange Drops, they're only a couple of bucks. Or try to score some others dirt cheap to play with. Real easy to install and remove if they don't work.
 

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dwagar said:
when the tubes get heated up, will it make any difference? Probably not enough to bother.QUOTE]

Well, that's why I love my Super Reverb. When it gets heated up, it makes a difference...

...I notice far more differences diddling bias current than I do chasing caps. I agree, the blindfold is a good way to temper subjectivity, a sonogram is probably the most empirical, i.e. you can measure the nuances, but I keep forgetting my dang sonograph.....

...none of which matters a damn when it's music-ness you are after.
 

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mandocaster said:
dwagar said:
when the tubes get heated up, will it make any difference? Probably not enough to bother.QUOTE]

Well, that's why I love my Super Reverb. When it gets heated up, it makes a difference...
?
I think you misunderstood. What I meant was, when you get the amp cranked, will you hear much, if any, difference between good caps. And will it make any difference at all to the people listening to you.
 
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