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Caps and Resistors, snake oil or the way to audio nirvana
Caps and Resistors, snake oil or the way to audio nirvana
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Old 12th February 2010, 10:41 AM   #1
markusA is offline markusA  Sweden
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Default Caps and Resistors, snake oil or the way to audio nirvana

Capasitors and resistors, how important are they really, the quality that is?
The way some of these components are priced you'd think they were made of gold.

Why not just go with the plain 1% metal film resistor, whats so special about shinko's tantalum resistors?

And what's wrong with a $1-2 MKP metallized polypropylene? Why pay +$60 for a tiny little cap?

When do you actually need these awsome supercomponents?
When they are in the direct signal path? Is there a difference between what component you use depending on if its in series or shunted?

We've all heard the claims but what's actually tru when it comes to these things?
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Old 12th February 2010, 11:08 PM   #2
Damon Hill is offline Damon Hill  United States
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There's been a lot of discussion on this topic, to say the least.

On one hand, modern electronic design has forced distortion down so low that the passive components themselves begin to contribute a significant amount of nonlinearity in whatever's left. Older equipment typically used cheaper components with lower quality, but premium components won't improve a mediocre design very much if at all.

On the other hand, not a little of the 'boutique' components are outrageously priced for the diminishing returns they can provide. How deep are your pockets?

My pockets are very shallow, so I have chose carefully. I do think there are better quality metal film--especially metal foil--resistors that don't cost too much. I put those into the input and feedback stages of amplifiers and use more generic metal films elsewhere when restoring an older amplifier that used carbon resistors, for example. And I used Black Gate electrolytics where I could afford them; I guess I will have to use Nichicon or similar from now on.

Silver foil/Teflon caps? Not me; I have to go with generic metalized polypropylene in speaker crossovers; like I say, you get into diminishing returns very quickly and the difference in the premium parts may be discernible in only the very best systems. Frankly, components are sometimes chosen for a particular "sound" that I suspect is just euphonious distortion; this is why oil/paper and carbon composition resistor remain popular in some circles.

Much of the fun for me has been studying the available technology and learning what to select, and what to search for on Ebay and elsewhere. In the end, you have to learn what's "good enough" and when to apply the gold-plated stuff, and that's a topic for much discussion and disagreement.

Last edited by Damon Hill; 12th February 2010 at 11:14 PM.
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Old 13th February 2010, 10:33 AM   #3
markusA is offline markusA  Sweden
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I don't mind spending money on parts that improve the sound but I don't like spending money on hype.

But money aside, is there really any difference between good quality components and these super deluxe variants?
Is there really any audiable difference between let's say a Mcap Rtx vs a Mundorf Zn or even a silver/gold? Why not go with a Solen PPE cap?
Somewhere there must be a line where you can't hear a difference?

It's like the cable discussion. Some people claim to hear differences but no-one seams to be able to prove it in a double-blind test?
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Old 13th February 2010, 10:54 AM   #4
Magura is offline Magura  Denmark
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If you take a closer look at especially caps, you'll find that the build quality of the boutique caps, aimed for the audio market, are usually pretty low quality. They sell on buzzwords like "silver", "gold", "audio", "non-magnetic", and so forth.

The above mentioned buzzwords, are somewhat hard to find in the industrial sector, as they have to sell their caps on actual quality, and price/quality/performance.

A good example is the electrolytic caps, where you can see brands like black gate and the like. People pay through their nose for especially black gate caps, but since the production ceased quite a few years ago, what they actually get, is an old, semi-dried out cap, with a fancy label.
Now who in their right mind, would build anything, of sub-standard components, like old electrolytic caps?
Not me for sure, and in particular not when you can get premium quality caps, for a fraction of the cost......if you can live without the fancy labels, and the lack of audiophile marketing that is

A good example of what I'm trying to say, you can see here:

I bought a few Vishay PP film caps, without housing

diyAudio

And made a nice hard and dead housing to cast them into, using a type of compound also picked from the industrial segment.

diyAudio

Result: A cap that does not suffer from microphonics, and can take a lot of abuse, due to the thermal transfer of the compound.
All at a reasonable cost.


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Old 13th February 2010, 11:01 AM   #5
Mooly is offline Mooly  United Kingdom
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Caps and Resistors, snake oil or the way to audio nirvana
Quote:
Originally Posted by markusG View Post
I
It's like the cable discussion. Some people claim to hear differences but no-one seams to be able to prove it in a double-blind test?
I think you have partly answered your own question
Can you tell a difference ? particularly if someone else swaps the part for you so you don't know which is which.
IMO much of this comes down to "belief" and "expectation"
Just remember this... "everybody is after your money"
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Old 13th February 2010, 11:08 AM   #6
Bas Horneman is offline Bas Horneman  Netherlands
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Quote:
Why not just go with the plain 1% metal film resistor, whats so special about shinko's tantalum resistors?
Depends on where you use them. If you have them in some high feedback amplifier with low efficiency loudspeakers I doubt you'll hear anything. But if you have them in some single ended amplifier with say 2 simple gain stages chances are much bigger of there being an audible difference. I my subjective opinion.
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Old 13th February 2010, 11:24 AM   #7
pdul is offline pdul  Denmark
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My experience comes down to replacing a standard pp cap. in my crossover in series
with the treble unit, with a tinfoil, and that gave a big audible difference/improvement.
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Old 13th February 2010, 11:30 AM   #8
SY is offline SY  United States
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Caps and Resistors, snake oil or the way to audio nirvana
Quote:
Silver foil/Teflon caps? Not me; I have to go with generic metalized polypropylene in speaker crossovers; like I say, you get into diminishing returns very quickly and the difference in the premium parts may be discernible in only the very best systems.
It's not much of a step up in price to go to foil instead of metallized. For a high current application like a crossover, you may find that to be worthwhile. I would avoid any foil cap that is sold by an "audiophile" company- industrial caps, wound in large quantities on modern machinery are much less likely to have a "sound."
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Old 13th February 2010, 06:30 PM   #9
markusA is offline markusA  Sweden
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Ok, tinfoil beats metallized pp. Check...
At least that's something tangible. Going for foil cap's in the mos critical places probably won't break the bank.
I'll never claim to have "golden ears" although I do enjoy music when it's playing from a really good hifi-system.
Sure I can hear differences but I feel even double blind tests comparing amplifiers can be difficult. It's hard to be true every time and it's hard to quantify feelings. (How you percieve music)

My immediate concern is building an in-line bsc integrated with my interconnects.
Yes... cables with a small "filter". The caps are going to be small 0.1, 0.15 or 0.22uF. (I'm not a 100% sure on the value yet, it depends on what resistors I choose as well.

Later on it becomes more serious when I start building a preamp but the cables are my first priority.

I couldn't find any suitable "industrial" axial tin foil caps with my regular suppliers. I guess it'll have to be "audiofile" components.
Multicap RTX and Mundof ZN seam to be roughly in the same price range. Expensive but not totally outrageous.
What do you think? Good choices, not enough esoteria or already too much?
If you have some better choices I'm all ears.

As for the resistors...
Vishay are kind of pricey, even the regular VTA series.
Audio note tantalum are almost half the cost, a good sign in my book.
Shinkoh tantalum are even better priced although still expensive?
I don't know who are supposed to be the best but I recognize the Shinkoh name and I could live with the price as long it's small quantities.
What do you think? A fair choice? Am I beeing a tool?
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Old 13th February 2010, 09:56 PM   #10
Damon Hill is offline Damon Hill  United States
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My opinion on resistors is that Vishay's bulk metal foils, within their power and voltage ratings, are the best. Period. I know how they're built and why they're better because Vishay documents the benefits with numbers, and they're a clear cut above metal films. Possibly you can even hear the difference.

I have yet to find >any< specifications for tantalum resistors; I assume they're made like metal films and probably they're decent quality. They have a good reputation and have been around for some years; bulk metal foil resistors are relatively new to the audio market and are still being 'discovered' even though the technology has been around since the 60's. The tantalums look identical to metal film resistors while the metal foil types are built very differently, for a good reason. So they're not quite as easy to use, as well as being rather expensive, especially for the newest Z-foil types.

There's still a need for a good 'generic' metal film for general use and there are some good and relatively inexpensive types on the market; I consider 1% 100ppm parts to be the minimum I'd want to use in audio circuits and .1% 25ppm to be 'better'. Metal foil can be routinely had to .01% (or even .001%) and well under 5ppm (down to .5ppm). Carbon resistors go in exactly the opposite direction, in every way, and I wouldn't use them in audio circuits at all, but some people like the apparently mellow sound they can impart due to their well-documented non-linearities.

Let your budget be your guide. Most resistors aren't really 'boutique' parts (I know of a couple of exceptions, which I don't consider good quality parts), so the engineering is solid and the hype is minimal.

As for cables, well...that part of the market is clearly out of control. My worst excess in that area was to use Kimber 4TC for my speakers and roll some of my own interconnect from surplus teflon insulated silver plated wire with decent quality gold plated RCA connectors, and called it good without having spent many hundreds--or thousands!--of dollars on esoterica.

In general, my guide for selecting and using parts is based mostly on objective engineering practice with an excursion or two, heavily ruled by my limited budget. I don't take as many chances on perceived sound quality as other DIYers may do because I'm more engineering oriented to begin with (I used to be an electronics technician).
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