Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Auditioning Tone caps...a MUST...

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by bossaholic, Jan 19, 2010.

  1. fezz parka

    fezz parka ---------------------------

    TG, do you have a DVM? If so, remove your control plate and hook it up to the outside(coming from the vol pot) and middle lug where the cap is. Set it for continuity, and set your tone control full CCW. You should hear the continuity "beep" and it should be steady. Now rotate the tone knob CW until the beep stops. Note where you are on the rotation. This is where the cap is out of the picture.

    There is no "as far as we can tell". On every guitar I've done this test to, continuity is disrupted long before the pot is full CW. The cap cannot physically affect the taper. This is solely the function of the pot.

  2. David Collins

    David Collins Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 28, 2009
    Ann Arbor, MI

    The point many here are trying to make is that if you indeed hear a difference tone with a different cap, it is more likely caused by the cap's value, and not it's type. If you switched from a .047㎌ ceramic cap to a .047㎌ orange drop and heard a difference, it is most likely due to them being of different values. They may both say .047㎌ on the face, but that's no guarantee that they were actually anywhere close to each other. Many ceramic caps especially can have some pretty wide tolerances.

  3. fezz parka

    fezz parka ---------------------------

    In this case...Yes, they are. It's the difference between science and voodoo. Or Faith and fact. One can be proven through analysis. One can't. The other you have to take someone's word for it.:)

    I don't doubt that people hear a difference. Why they hear a difference is another story. I think it has more to do with this than the type of cap.

  4. kp8

    kp8 Friend of Leo's

    Aug 22, 2004
    Seoul, Korea
    oh gosh. I don't, really. Though that brings up some interesting questions though. Is there a difference between verifiable cognitive processing of musical signals (such as the missing fundamental, binaural beats, etc.) and other purely psychological phenomena such as the power of suggestion. I am not a psychologist (i just play one here on the internet), but gut tells me that these are two different things.

    I think it is more due to something this:

    Worth the whole read, but here is a taste:

    You say a person is warm and likable, as opposed to cold and standoffish? In one recent study at Yale, researchers divided 41 college students into two groups and casually asked the members of Group A to hold a cup of hot coffee, those in Group B to hold iced coffee. The students were then ushered into a testing room and asked to evaluate the personality of an imaginary individual based on a packet of information.

    Students who had recently been cradling the warm beverage were far likelier to judge the fictitious character as warm and friendly than were those who had held the iced coffee.

    Or maybe you are feeling the chill wind of social opprobrium. When researchers at the University of Toronto instructed a group of 65 students to remember a time when they had felt either socially accepted or socially snubbed, those who conjured up memories of a rejection judged the temperature of the room to be an average of five degrees colder than those who had been wrapped in warm and fuzzy thoughts of peer approval.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2010

  5. David Collins

    David Collins Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 28, 2009
    Ann Arbor, MI

    What you link to is not at at odds with the argument of psychoacoustics at all. To the contrary, it is more a reinforcement of that argument, and simply a similar phenomenon transposed to other senses and perceptions.

    The argument of psychoacoustic influence is more complicated than simply crying "placebo effect" (though "placebo effect" may actually be applicable, it often carries the connotation of one simply imagining things). When our senses receive a signal, whether it be touch, taste, smell, sight, or sound, there are a lot of complex triggers and filtering that information goes through before it reaches the cognitive mind. Even if the tested factor remains unchanged, other elements that do not affect a real change to that factor will inevitably play a role in way our minds process what information our ears, eyes, tongue, nose, or skin receives. Even though nothing may have really changed, by the time the data actually reaches our cognitive brain, it can be received as having had a very real change.

    Since the term "cork-sniffer" seems often used in this field, it seems only appropriate to make comparisons to wine taste tests.

    Here's one related to price.

    And here is another related to lighting.

    There's another good one in Fast Food Nation, where a test in the 70's is mentioned in which subjects were fed tinted steak and french fries. Under special lighting during the dining, the food appeared as a natural color, and all was well received. When the lighting was switched however, the Steak was revealed to be blue, and the fries green, at which point some subjects actually became ill.

    I'm not claiming at this point that every change perceived by anyone changing caps is purely due to psychoacoustics (the way the mind can alter a how a sensory signal is received based on predisposition or influence from other senses). I am trying to emphasize that this phenomenon is very real in all our senses, and it is foolish to think that our ears are any less subject to this than our eyes or nose. This is a very real factor that cannot be ruled out in what changes we hear.

    This debate is never going to be resolved by any discussion or testing however, no matter how well reasoned or carried out. Look at all the testing done in the medical field on claims of holistic medicines. Sure, there are indeed many natural and herbal remedies which may have once been disbelieved and have since proven to have at least some genuine effect. For every case like that however, there are scores of others which are quite firmly proven to do nothing of benefit, ranging from benign to harmful, yet no amount of scientific testing or reasoning is ever going to convince the true believers that they do not work.

    I'm sure there are plenty of men out there who insist that the little herbal pill they got from the TV commercial really does make a man larger. I'm not quite prepared to write off different capacitor types as at that level of snake oil, but at least consider the possible comparison. I'm simply trying to emphasize the point that as humans, we are not immune to the power of suggestion or the desire to believe in something we really want to be true, and this factor cannot be ruled out in subjective comparisons.

  6. fezz parka

    fezz parka ---------------------------

    Excellent post!

  7. kp8

    kp8 Friend of Leo's

    Aug 22, 2004
    Seoul, Korea
    Yeah. I tend to disagree. I think there is overlap as both are psychological phenomena, but the way "psychoacoustics" is being used here is a bit different than how it is usually encountered in the field.

    I think that there is a distinction to be made between cognitive or psychological phenomena that is nearly universally experienced (illusions, binaural beats, the missing fundamental, masking, Shepard tones, etc. & co.) and something like this, which frankly is closer to plain old placebo effect as I see it. Maybe i am putting too fine a point on it. In this case some folks may convince themselves they hear a change with a different cap, but seems that just as many don't. However, if i play 200, 300, 400, and 500 Hz likely EVERYONE here hears the fundamental as 100Hz even though 100Hz is not actually present. It is a small difference but I think a meaningful one.


  8. David Collins

    David Collins Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 28, 2009
    Ann Arbor, MI
    When you put it that way, I fully agree with you. That's a very good distinction that I failed to make clear, even in my own thoughts. Thanks!

  9. TG

    TG Doctor of Teleocity

    Here is an interesting GearPage thread on the subject (including contributions from our own David Collins, btw) and post 18 in particular is interesting. I don't claim to totally understand it, but it seems to imply what I've been trying to say...'there may be something going on we aren't taking into account.'
    That statement applies to all 'scientific conclusions'. This is why I take offence to being lectured that something definitely is or isn't based on 'science' and that anybody who believes or has experienced it is therefore imagining it.
    Maybe you are right...but there's always the possibility, however small, that you aren't. I think it's important not to dismiss that possibility.

    I personally have no 'belief' one way or the other. I just found...UNEXPECTEDLY...that an Orange Drop cap allowed me to roll the tone control off halfway and still play. I had no preconceived notion to convince myself of. And I've have plenty of experience with different ceramic caps and the difference had dick all to do with tolerances and values. It wasn't like a smaller value cap...and the same thing happened when I put them in my other guitars. I don't know why...and I don't know what, if anything, would happen if I tried some other fancy capacitors. Maybe nothing.

    Here's another post cut from a thread on the topic on the MyLesPaul forum. I don't understand it very well either...but it also seems to suggest the possibility of 'more going on'.


  10. fezz parka

    fezz parka ---------------------------

    Don't take offense TG. I don't doubt that you hear a difference. But the reason you hear a difference, well that's another thing.:D

    The cap does not enter the picture until the pot is almost at full CCW. Period. Not halfway. The cap isn't "there". If you ground the unused lug on the pot, this will change things. You will experience the cap being slowly added to the signal until the pot is almost at full CCW. Then you won't have any signal at all. Why? Because it's grounded. Think of the pot as resistive switch, with the middle lug being the common.

    It's like there's eight ounces of liquid in a cup. There isn't nine, or seven. It's measurable. Same thing with caps and pots. It's as simple as a cup of water.

    I also wonder why no one has hooked up a DVM and seen for themselves?

    As Terry says (albeit with more syllables) You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.

    I challenge anyone to try the DVM test.:twisted:

  11. TG

    TG Doctor of Teleocity

    I don't know an awful lot about electronics so to agree with you I'd have to 'take your word for it'. Which you earlier implied we shouldn't do if we are to be rational and scientific.
    There are other people who also seem knowledgeable who think that possibly there may a logical reason for a cap to have an influence on an electric guitar's signal. To 'believe' them I'd also have to take their word for it. The reason I lean more towards them than you is because they seem open to the notion that there might be something we're missing...and they don't automatically assume that everybody who thinks they hear something is imagining it. I also think that there is more to a guitar's sound quality than voltages and EQ levels (otherwise strats and teles would sound the same). I don't know what 'phase' (that the fellow in my link mentions) means, but at least he's trying to find out what might be going on instead of assuming 'voodoo' and dismissing it completely.
    As well as the amplifier valve example I mentioned earlier, I'm also recalling old discussions about overall string length, saddle material, body material, shielding, etc where there were also those who used 'scientific reasoning' to prove that something was baseless and that everybody was 'imagining it'.

    Your statement that you accept I hear a difference but that you assume it's some psychological effect irritates me for a couple of reasons.

    One, because it involves you making an assumption, ie, a guess. However 'educated' it's still a guess. That is a no-no if you are also trying to champion rationality and reliance upon facts. You can't have it both ways.

    Two, I've told you that I had no idea of what was 'supposed' to happen when I changed to Sprague caps. I just bought 'a pack of capacitors' for an Esquire project and installed one in my tele after a solder break (I'd cut the old cap's wire a bit short and decided to change since I had a new cap handy). Then I noticed a different quality to the tone control roll off than before. So I can't see how or why would I be psychologically influenced to 'hear' something? Ignoring this 'detail' because it interferes with your chosen conclusion is in itself unscientific.

    And I've experimented with different value ceramic caps in the past...and installed quite a few in various guitars over the if it were to do with a random value variation I think I'd have found a similar thing happen before.

    So maybe you are right. But maybe you aren't.

  12. redstringuitar

    redstringuitar Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 6, 2009
    Life was soooooo much simpler when I only used these caps:



  13. TG

    TG Doctor of Teleocity

    Ya. They were fun.

  14. PaddyWagon

    PaddyWagon Tele-Meister

    Nov 2, 2009
    Huntington Beach, CA
    [removed bad link]
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2010

  15. fezz parka

    fezz parka ---------------------------

    No, you don't have to take my word for it. Do the test with a voltmeter set to continuity. Then you'll see for yourself when and where your cap comes into the picture. It's a simple, easy to do test. Give it a go!

    Look, I'm not a guy in a lab coat. I'm a guitar player, have been for 40+ years. I wind my own pickups, build my own guitars and amps. I sculpt my sound from the bottom to the top, using my ears more than my calculator, and the last thing I worry about is what kind of tone cap I have in the guitar. My guitar cable is more important than the tone cap is.

    I know we all hear things differently. Yes, caps make a big difference in amplifiers, because of the voltages present and what they're designed to do. No, Strats and Teles don't sound alike. There are big differences between the two. They're not just wood and steel.

    I don't think you're imagining things, I believe you when you say you hear a difference. I never once said that it's related to "placebo effect" (mostly because it's kind of carries a negative connotation to it). And if you bother to read the stuff on psychoacoustics, and has more to do with the physiological reasons you hear it than you think:

    From David's post above:

    Each of us is an individual complex set of filters. We hear the same things differently.:D

    Anyway, the bottom line is if you're happy with your setup, your playing will show that. If a certain type of cap helps you get there, then it's all good.

  16. David Collins

    David Collins Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 28, 2009
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Here's all the proof you need right here.


    Of course it requires a 1.21 gigawatt power supply, and I can't seem to find them in the .022㎌ I prefer. Still looking though... :D

  17. fezz parka

    fezz parka ---------------------------

    Gotta wait for a good lightening storm to get that rocking!

  18. TG

    TG Doctor of Teleocity

    I did. Did some Googling and reading as well. But it didn't seem to say anything anywhere about randomly altering the way you hear something for no apparent reason...and certainly not co-incidental to when you happen to change a component of your musical instrument with no expectation of change whatsoever.
    If I accidentally change bronze acoustic guitar strings to phosphor bronze (ie, without looking at the packet) and hear a difference is that psychoacoustics as well?
    I don't think so.

    Sorry, but the psychoacoustic thing doesn't wash, regardless of the impressive jargon.

  19. tdowns

    tdowns Former Member

    Nov 8, 2003
    Mr. Collins, that's one of the more profound and eloquent statements I have read on this subject.

  20. fezz parka

    fezz parka ---------------------------

    If you don't see it, you don't see it. And FWIW, your above statement shows that you didn't read it (or even understand it) otherwise your answer would have been different. Whatever. Again, you can lead a horse to water...

    I think I'll move along with this one last statement:

    In my opinion and experience, the only thing that makes a difference in the way capacitors sound in a guitar tone circuit is the value of the cap. YMMV.

IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.