Exotic parts, the successes and the failures.

Hi, the purpose of this topic isn't to debate whether you can hear the differences or not, the preclusion to the discussion is that you did hear it and it was good or bad. The question is whether it's good or not, and maybe how it can be used. I'll start with a few... All my opinions.


Elna Silmic II electrolytic capacitors: These sound good at first, and work better when they're used from PSU to front end because bass and such can be weird when mixed. But overall I give them a failure. They make a strange busy sound to the music that is fatiguing. This has been evident when hearing different Pass gear as well. When you try to think about the attributes you can name them, and maybe it even sounds "smooth" but ultimately you will listen to your stereo less with them IMO. They might mate well with gentle diodes like MUR860, and be less offensive. And they might be nice with older muddier sounding speakers (not JBL/Horn/etc).

Sonicap film Capacitors (all types): To me these sound dull, which might be good if you have a painfully bright scenario to insert them into. In that case they might be beneficial but... overall I don't think they have good resolution. If you're very into soundstage and hifi type sound they may work for you. The best thing I did for a pair of my speakers was swap to a different capacitor that isn't exotic.

Black Gate NP electrolytic capacitors: For providing power these sound meh to me. I used them for years because they were the "best". They might help remove some of the etched sound but overall have a bit of that busy sound to me.

Nichicon KG electrolytic capacitors snap-in
: The leakage on these can be a lot so sometimes you get louder pops from static. They can contribute to some of the busy sound as well. They do poorly with low voltage drop diodes, much better with higher voltage drop diodes.

Kiwame resistors: These aren't awful but when people say they can dull the sound they're probably right. I just don't see the point. Maybe if you need to tame something but overall I can't justify them vs Dales.

: This barely qualifies as exotic but I think at this point the can form is... The reason I'm putting this as failure is because unless you specifically design a circuit for it, it sounds fatiguing - but not dead like an OPA2134 running full frequency. Tom implemented it beautifully into his amplifier, but try dropping it randomly into a circuit and it won't be so good. (it might initially sound appealing but you won't listen as much)

Obbligato Gold film capacitors: I used these in some open baffle speakers as a replacement for cheap capacitors. No complaints, they sound more open, intriguing texture, etc. I can't judge the bass because the OB speakers only play to 150hz. They also worked fine in a phono stage I had. They're more friendly than something like Solen.

Black Gate NP electrolytic capacitors: These work well for signal input capacitors in tight spaces, and high values.

Nichicon KG electrolytic capacitors snap-in
: With the right diodes and a stereo with inefficient speakers they actually make things sound more clear. They work nicely for lower resolution components. They can be useful for helping make a "presence" to the soundstage participants. I know I put these in the bad, like the NP Back Gate's... some things are about how you use them. They work pretty well in my Antipole with TDA7297, for the type of experience it gives.

Dale resistors (RN55/60): These barely fit into exotic, but I can't fault them in anyway but size. They're a little big, but they're low noise and having a lot of them doesn't create a negative impact. They are my go-to with their low noise and non-magnetic construction.

Lynx MOX resistors: For a crossover these are smoother with less inductance than sandcast. On horn tweeters it's well appreciated.

Jantzen Z-Superior film Capacitor: If you're really into detail retrieval these are a nice bargain capacitor. Troels Graves loves them. I find that they're about introspective, if you want to hear every little thing. But I don't think of them as a natural sound, so I don't personally use them - I simply recognize that for a lot of people they're just right.

That's it for now. I can't recall all the stuff I've used (if I could I'd add a lot more to these lists). If I dig through my parts bins I'd find more. Some things I didn't use long enough to truly comment on. I'll leave it to others for now to post more.
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2004-10-04 11:59 pm
I agree regarding the Silmic II, my big complaint was how they could remove a significant amount of midrange. There were vocals that would just cut out as they rolled/changed even!

The Ero MKP1837 box caps were a miserable experience as well, sizzly and awful sounding.

About the same time, I had realized that the “for audio” opa2134 op amps were exactly as you have described.
I began to wonder if the entire hobby was a sham, was starting to question donating all of my old tube gear.

The Clarity Cap MR are very nice sounding at line levels, were justified on close out pricing.
Just my opinions.

I think you're both wrong about Sonicaps Gen I. In both coupling and xover applications, I find them to be very even-handed, a true Goldilocks, with no emphasis on any frequency. If anything, they lack the last bit of detail retrieval and are very slightly rolled off on top. They do provide a realistic sense of space.

The Silmics are indeed awful and I just don't understand how anyone can use them and not hear the way they smother high frequencies. I thought my stereo was broken when I tried them as input couplers. Gave them weeks to break in, and not much improved.

Blackgates, on the other hand, are hands down the best sounding electrolytic caps. I've also tried Kaisei as output couplers in a CD player, and they're just okay. Better than Silmic (what isn't?) but not nearly as good as Blackgates.

I like the sound of all the higher grade Nichicon caps.

Dale resistors are very accurate, if just slightly too smooth on top compared to the Vishay Z-foil.

I don't care for the sound of any monolithic opamps. I prefer Sparkos discrete.

The Jantzen Superior Z caps didn't do much for me, a little too hi-fi, but their Alumen Z are really nice if you have space and money for them. Very detailed but not bright, excellent spatial characteristics, realistic tonality. And don't forget Audyn True Copper, still the best value film/copper foil cap on the planet.

Everyone has their favorites.

Tom E


2009-01-03 8:00 pm
Are you guys claiming that you can listen to an amplifier and tell which parts are inside?

I sure wish my hearing was that good. However, over the Christmas week, I did have an aural epiphany. My 45 tube amp has become my recent favorite amplifier. I didn't think any other tube would sound better, but I had never heard a 300B based tube amplifier.

My kit arrived right before the break, so I spent a few days assembling the amp. The kit was sent without the gold, oil, fairy dust caps, so I had to install some of those cheap yellow colored caps that I have lying around.

Once the amp was assembled, I began listening to music of every genre, except falsetto opera. (I'd rather stick needles in my eyes than listen to falsetto opera). The epiphany was that now I know why audiophiles and people all over like the 300B tube. It is everything the 45 tube is and more. Better bass and loud and clear. Sounds satisfying at low and loud volume. I can't turn it off and I can't sleep, especially with the amp under my pillow. It's like a love Jones, except with my amplifier.

Last Friday, I received the oil, gold and fairy dust capacitors and switched them out. i was so hoping that I would finally be able to hear some magnificent difference, a difference that would cause me to lose sleep, call into work and take the day off. Just me and my amp, and my vinyl/digital music. Nobody else at home.

But it didn't happen. I can't hear any difference between the $1- something caps and the $25 each caps. It's almost as bad as when I couldn't go to the US Naval Academy because I have some red-green color blindness. (Never mind that I enlisted in the military one week after graduating high school and went to electronics tech school).

Destroyer OS

2005-11-14 11:09 pm
I never use Silmic's as signal couplers. If I don't have spare old stock BG's then Nichicon ES are ok. But the problem with any electrolytic is they like to become polarized and then they sound bad. I've put ES and a film in series once and it was way better than ES alone on the input of the 7297 amplifier. It was by mistake but hey, lesson learned! The thing is some designs require 10uf+ which is hard to do, even using just high grade film caps that aren't audio specific.