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Old 30th November 2007, 09:28 PM   #1
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HaflerFreak's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Westmont, IL
Default How to destroy your high-end audio equipment...

... Put new electrolytics in it!!

Ok guys, I haven't been on the board for quite awhile but I have been busy learning the hard way that you cannot 'refresh' old equipment.

I know this is a bit of a tirade, but my frustration is at red-line levels at this point, and I have wasted a considerable sum of money on apparently worthless capacitors.

My situation is this:
I am an original owner of a Hafler XL-280 amp and DH110 pre with a set of Magnepans. Over the years, I noticed the sound seemed to harshen and the deepest bass gradually disappeared.

I have never heard better sound than my old system, so, being poor, I decided to 'recap' my amp and then my preamp to return them to original spec.

Big mistake.

I would just like to say at this point that there is something seriously wrong with today's electrolytics - they sound like ****! My original caps were cheap IC (Illinois Capacitor) caps, but were apparently significantly higher quality than todays caps.

Really, I'm not kidding here, it went like this -
XL-280 replacement history:
Tried XICON, Nichicon, Panasonic, and UCC caps.

1st try: XICON HTRL (Hi-Temp) 100uF/100V for the rails
with a Nichicon 6.3V/1000uF BP cap for the LFC
This actually sounded most like the original equipment so far, with cheapo XICONS!

2nd try: XICON ESRL (Low ESR) 100uF/100V for the rails
with the Nichicon Bi-Polar.
Sounded Ok, but not as good as the original IC caps.

3rd try: Panasonic FC 100uF/100V for rails
with a Panasonic SU Bi-Polar for the 6.3/1000
This sounded BAD, really just horrible. I was worried I had fried something it sounded so bad. My imaging was all gone, no 3D spatial effects, flat high end.

4th try: UCC KZE (motherboard caps) 100uF/100V for the rails
with Nichicon BP

This is where I'm at now, and it is volumes better than the Panasonic FC/SU combo. I have learned that the Panasonic SU series are lousy Bi-Polars and it really shows!
I still don't like the sound as much as the original IC caps.

How I ruined my DH110 -
Well, at least I saved the old caps for my 110!

I changed ONLY the power supply filter caps in my 110 - and now it sounds like garbage.

Power supply caps used were brand new Panasonic FM 50V/1000uF and 50V/22uF from Digikey.
Rail caps used were
ELNA SILMIC II 25V/470uF audio caps (not cheap).

Is this because ELNAs are meant for signal use, not power supply? The bass is completely gone and the highs are flat (and this is through my headphones, not my amp/speakers). Can I get my bass back with FM caps for the 25V/470uF rail caps?

Or do I just go put my 20 year old caps back in?
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Old 30th November 2007, 09:40 PM   #2
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Location: Cascais
I've had some very similar experiences. Do you give sufficient chance for the new caps to break in? Have you tried electrolytics made by Philips, Roederstein or Rifa?
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Old 30th November 2007, 09:44 PM   #3
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Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Recife - Brasil Northeast
Default It is very possible that you are being fooled by your speakers

They suffer much more from agging effect.

Also, now a days you are older, your ears have changed a lot.... i found a ball of wax inside left ear because of my "cottonete, by Johnson and Johnson" daily use (pushing was to go inside and be transformed into a ball).

Speakers dries.... and side more than the other...contraction i mean...opposite to expansion (my english..sorry)... the coil touches the magnet frame... some harshing sound comes from there...dinamic harshing will listen during music.... pushing and pulling speaker with your hands, without magnetic force actuating there will not be the same effect to test it...try sinusoidal subsonic tones to listen the damn noises old speakers use to make.

Also, it is possible that your home changed, your carpet is other, your furniture too...and also your speaker enclosure and drivers can be others may know that....i am just thinking about and asking you to check those things.

The last and worst thing is your own position in front of that experimentation...what was you specting...your spectations will affect the result of your own are human, have a brain, decide things, and some of them in advance..... if you was almost sure it would result bad..for sure you will perceive the result as bad...if you was waiting good results, for sure you were prepared to listen good results...if your spectations result inverted...then you can believe (more) in your own evaluation...if inside your spectations...your half rigth side of the brain may be fooling your left brain side...hehehe..this happens my friend.

Have switches to clean?

Do you have oxide into the speaker terminal...the amplifier output posts...connectors?

Maybe you used to listen Vinyl..and now a day listening CDs....for sure your sound will be worst than the past .... Vinyl sound much better...that damn thing called CD, if not oversampled, if not using a better, and external, digital do analog converter, sound worst than Vinyl...with the scratches, wow and flutter, humble, sub sonics tones and so on..... even with the feel better sonics.

I am not saying that you are is possible that old condensers..... i can remember the Cherry ones...paper and oil....well....maybe..... but other things can influence too.

I told you some...other folks can complete my list with several other possibilities.

Do not be mad with me..... i have just the idea that we fool ourselves all time long... i have studied psychology and i have some idea of those things.


Sorry, Brazil only to be sold... top secret ultimate schematic, not to share...encapsulated VAS:
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Old 30th November 2007, 09:50 PM   #4
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Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Westmont, IL
Hi analog_sa!

I have considered the 'break-in' possibility, especially with the SILMIC IIs. I am listening to the 110 right now and I will post anything I hear in the future.

I have only found/used Roederstein film caps, not electros. Roederstein makes a great .01uF X2 PP cap.
With Mouser and Digi-key being my sources, I am limited to what they carry.

Anyone else care to comment on the possibly 'magic' IC caps!!

By the way, every single one of the 8 470uF IC caps in my 110 tested 480uF+ after 20 years, like I said, I may just put them back.
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Old 30th November 2007, 09:57 PM   #5
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Location: Westmont, IL
I'm not mad Destroyer X

I have to go to work at the moment, but I will give you a detailed answer later tonight as to the points you have brought up.
I have considered many of the factors that you just stated, but here are some 'key' points:

1. I have Magnepans, no cones, and there is a subtle difference between the two speakers.

2. I gave up vinyl in the 80's. The Hafler system has always had a Harman Kardon CD player, and sounded remarkable with well made recordings.

3. Regarding the preamp, it sounds awful through headphones with the new caps (FM/SILMIC II)

Talk at ya later guys, thanks for the feedback
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Old 30th November 2007, 10:00 PM   #6
tade is offline tade  United States
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Dumb question, but electrolytics are polarized correct? Are they installed correctly?

Good luck
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Old 30th November 2007, 10:12 PM   #7
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destroyer X's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Recife - Brasil Northeast
Default About madness, i cannot guarantee the same about myself.

But if you really wanna know.... we are all crazy....or mad if you prefer.

Do not bother to answer... if you took all those things into your the capacitors and condensers are probably the guilty ones.


Sorry, Brazil only to be sold... top secret ultimate schematic, not to share...encapsulated VAS:
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Old 30th November 2007, 10:44 PM   #8
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Hertfordshire
Like Carlos I would be suspicious of the loudspeakers. If they have bipolar electrolytics in the crossover these should first be suspected. Does the mylar film diaphragm stretch over time? I know owners of old Quad electrostatics have to change the films but is this to do with the conductive coating or diaphragm stretch?
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Old 30th November 2007, 11:12 PM   #9
kaos is offline kaos  United States
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A particular type of electrolytic that I’ve found to be similar to what you took out of your Haflers is the Nippon Chemicon SMG series of capacitors, available through Digi-key (they’re cheap too, and sound right). Just a thought ...
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Old 30th November 2007, 11:15 PM   #10
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it would probably be a good idea to invest in or borrow an ESR tester for caps, there's a 100khz model out there that works well. or if you have an o-scope and a function generator that goes up to 100khz, you could build an ESR tester. sometimes off the shelf caps need to be "broken in" ("formed" is the actual tech term) if they have been sitting on the shelf for more than a year or two. this is done by applying their rated voltage to them through a 100k resistor for about 24-48hrs. the leakage current shows up as a DC voltage drop across the resistor. once the leakage current gets down into the range of a microamp or less, the cap is reformed and ready to use.
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