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Old 8th February 2011, 10:45 PM   #1
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Default Expensive Audio Quality Components v. Standard electronics

I have built a shopping list for parts for my phono itch project. At the moment it has lots of nice parts from the HiFi Collective store. In that list there are 3300uF 10v Caps at 15.37 each (Elna Silmic II). A similar rated cap at RS Components is 36 pence. There are more examples but you get the idea. A lot of these are in the PSU. I want a good end product and am putting my time and effort in. Is it worth the extra cost? Is there a better way to ensure best results at optimum price by identifying key components and upgrading these to the more expensive audio quality items or should I just go the whole hog and keep all items audio grade? At the end of the day cost difference will probably be 2-300 which in the grand scheme of things is small compared to the hours I am taking to build this and the enjoyment I will get once finished but just how big a difference will this make? I know I could go cheap then upgrade and thereby listen to the difference but I have so many projects I would like to complete doubling the build time does not seem sensible. What's the views of the wise out there?
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Old 8th February 2011, 11:37 PM   #2
SY is offline SY  United States
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If the circuit is well designed and you don't buy counterfeit parts, you can do fine with relatively inexpensive components. Most of what you're buying with "audiophile grade" is psychological satisfaction- that's fine if that's what you want, but the sound waves hitting your ears won't know if you spent $20 or $0.50 on an electrolytic cap.

That's especially true in a PSU of an analog component with limited bandwidth.
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Old 8th February 2011, 11:39 PM   #3
nezbleu is offline nezbleu  Canada
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I don't make any claims to "wisdom", but I have been thinking about some of the same things lately while putting together a BOM for a project. It seems to me that only you can decide what grade of parts to use, as the principal reason for using expensive parts is because it makes you feel good about what you are building. Fifteen pounds for a 3300uF electrolytic cap seems ridiculously overpriced to me, but some people claim to like those Elna caps, and their specs aren't much worse than most good-quality electrolytics from Panasonic and Nichicon (except endurance, 1000hrs @85C is very poor). I'm pretty sure if I was building a phono stage I might consider some high-end parts in the signal path and closer to the front-end.

What are you building that only needs 10V filter caps in the PS?
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Old 8th February 2011, 11:41 PM   #4
nezbleu is offline nezbleu  Canada
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Oh, that reminds me... Manufacturers use the term "audio grade" to denote low-spec parts suitable for mere audio frequencies, as opposed to parts suitable to RF or lab-grade equipment. Resellers use the term "audio grade" to mean "expensive" and "magic".
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Old 8th February 2011, 11:53 PM   #5
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Put as much money in the speakers, transformers, tubes, and chassis as you can. The difference between a $3 cap and a $40 cap are pretty insignificant.

The design and circuit layout is much more important than using "the best" components. Some basic upgrades are important as well. Go with a better Op-amp, rather than let's say an LM741. Those are 40 years old with only decent results.

Check out the slew rate, bandwidth, noise, and power requirements and make a good choice depending on what you need.
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Old 9th February 2011, 06:55 AM   #6
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Good thoughts. Re psychological satisfaction - once the covers are on it's a case of out of site out of mind so having big shiny good looking caps under the bonnet becomes irrelevant to what the ears experience I guess. I have another project currently working and looking great with huge audio note cans knocked up on a piece of MDF while I await the box to be made in Italy. It seems a shame to enclose it and hide them away. Maybe I will stick them on top....

The 10v caps are for heater circuitry, the PSU is separate box so there are caps which I think give a bit of a boost at the end of the connection cable.

Regarding putting money into the case apart from aesthetics is this in terms of shielding? I want to use some wood to stop things looking too dull and boxy on this project. It would be easy and quick to stuff everything into a ready made box but I fancy a well constructed oak and aluminium box, perhaps with a lining (copper or more aluminium) for shielding. Thanks all
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Old 9th February 2011, 07:40 AM   #7
limono is offline limono  United States
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It depends on design. If you fancy Audio Note ,the about only difference between basic model and 10 times $$ is parts quality. Same with any other hobby be it hunting, fishing or collecting panama hats.
PS. In sufficient system the differences in caps, wire etc are quite audible but they may not matter much on perceived quality.
Wood is a bad idea for enlosure. Boxes should be square , black , ugly and out of sight so you can be honest in judging the result based only on sound it produces. Once you make it too pretty and spend substantial time making it, it is almost impossible to get rid of it even if it sounds atrocious
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Old 9th February 2011, 08:57 AM   #8
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I built two DAC's a year ago. All active devices were kept identical ( TI DAC's, sample rate converters and op-amps ) but one board was populated with the best passive components i could find, i even used film smd capacitors for power supply de-couplings while on the other board i used the cheapest components available. The end result ? My ears couldn't tell the difference, neither could others.
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Old 9th February 2011, 10:06 AM   #9
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I wont say that at all components need to be of some special price. but each component type has to be selected on basis of what role is it playing. like if its to be low leakage caps,low ESR, low noise resistors, drifts allowed over the time and temperature.

yes, there are lot of debates that one type of cap sounds better over the other. you can google for this.
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Old 9th February 2011, 10:59 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by revoli View Post
I have built a shopping list for parts for my phono itch project. At the moment it has lots of nice parts from the HiFi Collective store. In that list there are 3300uF 10v Caps at 15.37 each (Elna Silmic II). A similar rated cap at RS Components is 36 pence.
I think you need to find a cheaper supplier!! Still expensive (compared to the 36 pence cap) but partsconnexion do the same Elna Silmic II's for $6.95 US each. That's about 4 pounds! Elna Electrolytic Capacitors RFS Series

Something a little more middle of the road would be a panasonic FM Panasonic | Passives | Capacitors | Aluminium | Radial 105C |EEUFM1A332 sorry don't have the UK site handy $2.34 AU... or around 1 pound 40 pence.

You can't necessarily compare the 36p cap to one like the panasonic FM, you would need to carefully look at the rated ripple current of the 36p cap, it may not be anywhere near as high as the FM (it may not need to be of course), and I would bet that the 36p cap has MUCH higher ESR. In the end up to a point, you do tend to get what you pay for

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Last edited by wintermute; 9th February 2011 at 11:03 AM.
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