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Old 24th May 2004, 02:02 PM   #1
Sherman is offline Sherman  United States
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Default "Sound" of Capacitors

I built a stereo amp using Brian's boards and the basic kit using Panasonic capacitors. It sounds great and I've tried it on three different sets of speakers, two which I've built and one set of Advent/1. I've been able to compare it to a couple of mid-level solid state amps and find it definitely holds its own.

Now a friend of mine has built an amp basically following Brian's schematic but using perf-board and hardwiring the "traces" using 18AWG solid core wire. Since he used what he had in his parts bin the caps he used were cheap Xicons. They are 1000uF, 50V. He used Dale 1% resistors (about 3 times as large as the Phoenix resistors in Brian's kit).

My friend brought the amp over and we sat down and listened to it using the same sources and speakers that I tested mine with. I think his sounds just as good (though it doesn't look as nice and the boards are bigger ).

We tried his amp with his power supply and with mine. We also used his ps on my amp. The main difference we heard was when changing power supplies. His is bigger (200VA vs. ~100-120 for mine) and has higher voltage (+-31 VDC vs. +-27VDC for mine). His ps sounded a better on both amps with the Advents, the sound was closer with my higher efficiency home-built speakers.

So... I don't claim to have either a golden ear or high-end sources (a Pioneer turntable with ADC cartridge, an Aiwa DVD player for CDs, and a cheap DVD player for CDs but I thought my amp with the Panasonic caps should have sounded better. Then I read some things on Rod Elliot's site saying the "sound" of capacitors is grossly over-rated. Also the signal path, actually all the paths, in his amp are longer but that doesn't seem to hurt the sound. What do others think?
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Old 24th May 2004, 02:49 PM   #2
Jay is offline Jay  Indonesia
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Off course Rod was right when he said that the “sound” of capacitors is grossly over-rated. In fact, it is not only relevant to that peticular saying. The reason is that too many people do not do the work, but reading and hearing And also caps do not sound, not even do amplifiers.

We don’t know what exactly happened when you said a sound is “better” than the other. Sometimes people have similar impression due to merely an increase in SPL.

Bigger transformer rating tends to sound better, when it is able to deliver current easily. For a good sound, you need transient or dynamics, so you often need an overated power supply. And so is voltage rating. And EI tends to sound “better” than toroid.

The next part in your chain is the rectifier. You need a fast diodes for good dynamics. Almost any rectifier constructed from axial diodes sound better than any bridge rectifier.

The capacitor, when it is only 1000uF, is unpredictable IMO. But I’m sure that your system won’t sound better if you replace the Panasonic with the Xicons.

Now, why not changing caps?

About the longer path, it was made from solid (copper) wire, wasn’t it?

The more complicated thing in audio is to know if
what sounds good is really good!
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Old 24th May 2004, 03:21 PM   #3
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Default I'm not sure what to make of all that....

But........

If anyone thinks that any filter cap/transformer combination will "sound" just as good.....or as bad.....as any other, hasn't built enough amplifiers yet.


An amplifier is just a modulated power supply. And the power supply is ........?

Yeah, that's right.

Jocko
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Old 24th May 2004, 05:01 PM   #4
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Default Look, Sherman:

With those sources (as you recognize yourself), you're not going to get reliable conclusions.
Where's the dynamics?
Where's the detail?

Ahhh... forget it.

Trash-in-trash-out, the source is the most important component of any system.
IMHO and whatever.

Note: I'm still waiting for the miracle (some people believe this! ) of a good amp and speakers making a bad source sound good.
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Old 24th May 2004, 06:45 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jay
Off course Rod was right when he said that the “sound” of capacitors is grossly over-rated. In fact, it is not only relevant to that peticular saying. The reason is that too many people do not do the work, but reading and hearing And also caps do not sound, not even do amplifiers.

We don’t know what exactly happened when you said a sound is “better” than the other. Sometimes people have similar impression due to merely an increase in SPL.

Bigger transformer rating tends to sound better, when it is able to deliver current easily. For a good sound, you need transient or dynamics, so you often need an overated power supply. And so is voltage rating. And EI tends to sound “better” than toroid.

The next part in your chain is the rectifier. You need a fast diodes for good dynamics. Almost any rectifier constructed from axial diodes sound better than any bridge rectifier.

The capacitor, when it is only 1000uF, is unpredictable IMO. But I’m sure that your system won’t sound better if you replace the Panasonic with the Xicons.

Now, why not changing caps?

About the longer path, it was made from solid (copper) wire, wasn’t it?

The more complicated thing in audio is to know if
what sounds good is really good!
You know what bothers me? In a power supply, the diodes conduct say 10% of the time (only when the sec voltage is above the cap voltage). That means that 90% of the time the transformer is effectively disconnected fom the amp.
How the hell does the transformer manage to sneak in in those 10% and make up for the sound when it wasn't there in the other 90%?

Jan Didden
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Old 24th May 2004, 06:53 PM   #6
SY is offline SY  United States
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How the hell does the transformer manage to sneak in in those 10% and make up for the sound when it wasn't there in the other 90%?
Perhaps it's a matter of the degree of coupling between primary and secondary (passing noise)? John Curl was big on that, and it's certainly made me hesitate before using a toroid. Another possibility (and I haven't thought this one through, just shooting from the hip) is what happens near current peaks with the core; could that pass on garbage as it goes near (or past) saturation?
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Old 24th May 2004, 07:27 PM   #7
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Originally posted by SY


Perhaps it's a matter of the degree of coupling between primary and secondary (passing noise)? John Curl was big on that, and it's certainly made me hesitate before using a toroid. Another possibility (and I haven't thought this one through, just shooting from the hip) is what happens near current peaks with the core; could that pass on garbage as it goes near (or past) saturation?

SY,

There is indeed coupling from primary to secondary through a toroid. Toroids are wideband transformers. Am I to understand that this somehow radiates or conducts into the amp to change the sound? Why are we still using toriods then in the first place?

I don't really believe in radiation from a toroid; the tight coupling that promotes the widebanded-ness also prevents it from radiating outwards. Conduction would be a possibility, but that would mean that whatever enters has to take the diodes, reservoir caps, local decoupling etc.

As for saturation effects, yes, that would lower the transformer induction temporarily. What would that do? If anything, the coupling would become less, so junk from outside would be more blocked.

I don't say that different transformers etc cannot influence the sound, but the cases where I have heard it myself are in some tests I've done many years ago with deliberately undersized transformers. I though, hey, the average power of an amp is only 5 watt or so, so I can get away with a tiny transformer. It did change the sound in the sense that the amp sounded much less powerfull and more distorting. At the time I concluded that the severe supply modulation in the peaks caused it, but I didn't proof it to my own satisfaction.

I suspect that here also, as everywhere in audio, psychological effects play a large role if not a dominating one.

Jan Didden
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Old 24th May 2004, 07:47 PM   #8
SY is offline SY  United States
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I suspect that here also, as everywhere in audio, psychological effects play a large role if not a dominating one.
Let me start with saying that I'm in 100% agreement with this, which should come as no surprise to you.

But claims about changing sound with transformers at least aren't beyond the realm of physics (though there's zero actual evidence that the claim is true). People use toroids because they're compact, low profile, and don't radiate much. But the tradeoff is that they'll transmit garbage from the primary just as efficiently as they'll transmit 60 Hz (ok, 50 Hz for you cycle-deficient Euro-types).
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Old 24th May 2004, 08:36 PM   #9
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Originally posted by SY


Let me start with saying that I'm in 100% agreement with this, which should come as no surprise to you.

But claims about changing sound with transformers at least aren't beyond the realm of physics (though there's zero actual evidence that the claim is true). People use toroids because they're compact, low profile, and don't radiate much. But the tradeoff is that they'll transmit garbage from the primary just as efficiently as they'll transmit 60 Hz (ok, 50 Hz for you cycle-deficient Euro-types).
Cycle-deficient?? Well, I'll be...! You got nothing to brag about, you 110V-potential-challenged lot! Jeez! 110V, in Holland we have bike dynamo's that do better than that.

Seriously, if it is transmitted junk, which only increases for bigger transformers, why is it that 99.99% of the posters report BETTER sound with bigger transformers?

Jan Didden
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Old 24th May 2004, 09:41 PM   #10
SY is offline SY  United States
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which only increases for bigger transformers
Is that true? I thought that bigger transformers, in general, had looser coupling at high frequencies.

If the hypothesis that this is all psychological is correct, it's not unexpected that Bigger = Better.
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