"Audio" grade capacitors

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Unless you are a true believer yes it is marketing hype. The differences are cosmetic in most cases and questionable in others. But some will swear that they can hear a difference when changing capacitors from one brand to another. What you will soon find out is that in most instances the capacitors that are being changed are not identical values that are being swapped so the auditory comparison is not a real test. You would have to confirm that two film capacitors or electrolytic capacitors had identical electrical equivalent values to compare them for any differences. Most capacitors can have up to a 10% variation from the listed value on the device and there is the rub. Just look for a quality manufacturer of normal capacitors and use those. Film or film and foil capacitors of a polypropylene construction are great for passive crossovers. Vishay, Elma and many others make electrolytic capacitors that are at least as good as most so called audiophile capacitors. You are going to find a bunch of people after me who will swear that this is not true, they will spend inordinate amounts of money on capacitors and will miss the simplest explanations for what is happening, they are the true believers and the people who make a few very wealthy selling snake oil. Let the buyer beware is all I can say.
 
Unless you are a true believer yes it is marketing hype. The differences are cosmetic in most cases and questionable in others.

Nelson had mentioned Elna Silk a couple years ago -- they test AND sound better than a run of the mill electrolytic -- and you know that quite a few of his designs use an electrolytic as a coupling cap.

Jung and Marsh did a wonderful article 30+ years ago in the now departed magazine "Audio" -- Picking Capacitors -- http://waltjung.org/PDFs/Picking_Capacitors_1.pdf

http://waltjung.org/PDFs/Picking_Capacitors_2.pdf

Another good article was written by the late Bob Pease for National Semiconductor (now owned by TI): Remembering Bob Pease - TI.com
 
but somewhat one sided - some engineering info - but the picking caps article presumes the "subjectivist" position - that any perceived "sound" difference is easily, unambiguously attributable to the specific sighted electrical component change - using memory, without level matching...

and that such weak evidence unerringly leads to Dielectric Absorption as “the” cause of “capacitor sound”

Bob Pease "Capacitor Soakage" and Cyril Bateman's "Capacitor Sound" articles give more objective details of capacitor performance

you should really widen your reading to the psychology of perception, learn the procedures worked out over more than a century of scientific study of sound perception

real knowledge how we turn sense impressions into conscious perception, even as incomplete and limited it is suggests 90+ % of “audiophile” commentary is highly suspect
 
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Jung's articles linked should be **obligatory** reading for those afflicted by "capacitoritis".

He actually **measures** and makes very solid points about capacitors; "commercial" capacitors by the way.

He does not waste time on , not even mention, snake oil salesmen classics such as copper/silver/gold foil, "silk paper", exotic oils, bees wax, etc.
Not even still available (in his time) PIO .

And he properly dimensions the "horrible" ceramic capacitor performance: "unbearable" 0.1% distortion .

In short, he seems to be a fan of "good, commercial grade" stuff.

And he shows you can get 1% distortion in electrolytics .... if you apply AC to polarized types.

And that at F3 frequency and below, because at higher frequencies it "vanishes".
 
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What makes a capacitor HI-FI audio grade? Is it just a marketing thing? If not, how can I distinguish reals from fakes?

I disagree with most here I guess, because I definitely hear differences in cheap vs. pricey capacitors, although I've found that the differences diminish the higher in price you go. In our power supply we have tried $2.50 EPCOS polypropylene capacitors from Mouser vs. Auricaps which are more like $30, and the Auricaps are obviously better. Once the difference is heard, virtually nobody would choose to proceed with the cheaper cap. However the EPCOS still sounds good, and *in isolation* does a very fine job. Just don't compare it to an Auricap.

I am sure there are many pricey caps that do not sound good at all -- I tried Jantzen once and was disappointed. I've also been less than bowled over by Mundorfs' expensive stuff in some situations. I'm sure they are both excellent in other types of circuits.

Unfortunately I've never heard of a way to detect "fake" capacitors. Just buy from reputable outlets I guess, not Ebay.

-Hukk
 
I disagree with most here I guess, because I definitely hear differences in cheap vs. pricey capacitors...

without a Blinding protocol, measurement of levels, frequency response - especially with no reference to circuit position, listening setup - we simply have no reason to give your opinion, however validated by your experience, any weight

perceptual psychology, psychoacoustics suggests you, anyone really, will hear differences when you try to

what the standards for psychoacoustics, perceptual testing claim is that you need to listen "Blind", level matched to 0.1 dB - a level can't just be set be "by ear" - have to measure for that resolution

some swaps of caps in equipment will give > 0.1 dB frequency response change even if you leave the volume knob alone - thats 1% tolerance - unusually tight for caps

any volume difference will change perceived frequency response – at much smaller than can be perceived as “loudness” change
 
I disagree with most here I guess, because I definitely hear differences in cheap vs. pricey capacitors [...] In our power supply we have tried $2.50 EPCOS polypropylene capacitors from Mouser vs. Auricaps which are more like $30, and the Auricaps are obviously better.

You mean you heard capacitor differences in that dubious power supply from the SiC rectifier thread? The one with two rectifier diodes before and two rectifier diodes after the power supply caps? Which you did not bother to post a schematic from?

:eek:

For reference: http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/parts/232365-best-sic-rectifiers.html#post3417962

It must be a hard life, hearing caps and diodes and the grass on the front lawn growing...
 
What makes a capacitor HI-FI audio grade? Is it just a marketing thing? If not, how can I distinguish reals from fakes?

"Audio grade" labels or application specs typically refer to use in the audio "signal path".
Reputable companies like Nichicon, Elna etc. all fabricate and spec different caps for different purposes in electronics. There are thousands of designs and applications for capacitors that need to be understood before just soldering some cap in place. Just study different audio schematics and the parts list to get help with choosing the proper type. Or ask on electronic forums such as this for detailed help. Just realize that there is a lot of misunderstanding and hype about one persons theory on what caps can do.
But that's what engineers do...select the correct cap for the application. Once that's done and defined then it's the bean counter's task to find that spec cap at a reasonable price. Cheap or expensive really comes down to tolerance and quality/cost of fabrication. As a DIY'r you are the engineer and you are the bean counter...
Usually "audio grade" won't be that good for a power supply filter design for instance and a power supply spec'd cap won't be a good design for use in a tone or EQ circuit or signal path.
Reals from fakes?....my personal opinion is...if you buy them from places like Mouser or other reputable component vendors you can trust they are actual new Mfg components.
Anything purchased on Ebay from some private seller is not as trustworthy. You're in a crap shoot there...so it's pretty easy decision to ensure you're getting "real" parts.
I don't know why anyone would buy "used" caps anyway...makes no sense to me!....and that's the bean counter talking there!!...LOL
 
jcx,
I am in complete agreement with you on this one. Just substituting caps without making sure the caps are the exact same value you have taken out throws any of this subjective discourse out the window. it is useless information. Not only do you need to match the levels, you have to match the capacitors to almost exact electrical equivalency or your ears are going to fool you. In a crossover network you are not only changing the level you are most likely shifting the crossover frequency up or down around the center -3db point of the network and this is most likely what most people seem to think they hear as an improvement or worse and blame this on the particular capacitor rather than a shift in the crossover network.
 
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You mean you heard capacitor differences in that dubious power supply from the SiC rectifier thread?

Correct. I've also heard large differences in capacitors placed in the output coupling position of a tubed linestage preamplifier, a Conrad-Johnson PV-12. And in various capacitors located in a custom-designed gain stage circuit. And in the output coupling position of a CD player, a Magnavox 745.

In other cases, I've changed capacitors and heard no difference at all that I could detect - that was in the output coupling position of a Marantz SA-11S1 SACD player.
 
Correct. I've also heard large differences in capacitors placed in the output coupling position of a tubed linestage preamplifier, a Conrad-Johnson PV-12. And in various capacitors located in a custom-designed gain stage circuit. And in the output coupling position of a CD player, a Magnavox 745.

In other cases, I've changed capacitors and heard no difference at all that I could detect - that was in the output coupling position of a Marantz SA-11S1 SACD player.

The differences you heard is because of changes in ESR, ESL and cap. value tolerances. Audio grade or not is totally indifferent. I saw an ad offering "audio grade caps made of foil of gold". Only a stupid can believe the audio rig will work better with a poorer conductor in the capacitor foils.
 
The differences you heard is because of changes in ESR, ESL and cap. value tolerances. Audio grade or not is totally indifferent.


Dear Osvaldo,

you totally missed the point :rolleyes:

It is not about 'audio grade' or not, or even about measurable quantities as ESR, ESL or capacitance value tolerances.

hukkfinn said:
I definitely hear differences in cheap vs. pricey capacitors

That is the point, it seems. Making any discussion quite the opposite, called 'pointless'...

Have a beer,
Rundmaus
 
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