anyone tossed their silver micas for ceramic?

fender4life

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Been reading a lot about this recently after discovering how some caps can sound quite different and I've been swapping them around and some getting good results with orange drops in places and mallories in other areas. The one thing i have only just recently tried is replacing the silver mica treble cap in my tonestack with ceramic and i like the result. Some say they sound smoother and that was very apparent. But i don't have any more in pf values and i've been wondering how they would sound in other areas in place of the silver micas in my amp. The preamp is a marshall sort of affair so it has a few of those treble peakers (470k/500pf) in it plus a treble bleed on the gain pot and i'm wondering if they may sound smoother with ceramics like they did in the tone stack. But mainly i have found people talking about using them in the tone stack and not anything about using them elsewhere. So i'm wondering....anyone swappped ceramics in their build for ceramics other then the treble cap in the tone stack, and if so did it offer the same sort of improvement?
 

ahiddentableau

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I wouldn't worry about this, but if you want to try it, try it. Treat it as a learning experience and see if you can hear a difference. Just make sure they measure the same before you jump to conclusions. It's pretty common for caps to be 10-20% out.
 

Jon Snell

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Capacitors do not make the overall sound, the designer of the amplifier does. Changing the value will change the frequency response and in turn change the over all sound. Not the actual capacitor,
however;
Silver Mica were predominantly used for low noise high frequency circuits, RF, UHF tuners etc, whilst ceramic were a cheaper version to produce.

Take the humble condensor microphone ... it has a ceramic element and works well as a microphone, a piezo HF element found in many cheap PA speaker boxes, are good radiators at specific frequencies and work both ways; speaker and microphone.

This is why pre amp stages try not to use ceramic components in sensitive places; input and high gain stages etc.
Tap on a ceramic capacitor, that has a few milivolts of grid leak on it and it will sing to you! Silver Mica or poly capacitors are much more stable, under those situations.
 

Dan_Pomykalski

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I wouldn't worry about this, but if you want to try it, try it. Treat it as a learning experience and see if you can hear a difference. Just make sure they measure the same before you jump to conclusions. It's pretty common for caps to be 10-20% out.
In my experience, ceramic caps are especially prone to being pretty far off.
 

ahiddentableau

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In my experience, ceramic caps are especially prone to being pretty far off.

My opinion is that a substantial portion of this mojo stuff (the part that isn't straight up delusion) comes from people who install an old component and think they hear a difference, but it was really the fact that the old cap was/had become a different value than the component they replaced because of drift or poor manufacturing tolerances from back in the day. So there was a difference, it just wasn't because there was anything special about the type of make/material. Any properly manufactured component of the correct value would sound like that.
 

fender4life

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Please please please, i didn't want this to become a thread about whether you hear it ir not. I do hear cap differences and some have been very notible, some not. So let me re phrase the quation....to those who also hear cap differences, especially ceramic vs mica, have you tried them in areas other then the tone stack and hear differences god OR bad especially as bleed caps and treble peakers. And yes, i realize caps vary in value even of the same marked value and i DO check them.
 

moonlighter

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I'll bite. In a perfect linear world, cap type doesn't matter. But we don't live in a linear world. It's a known fact that electrolytic caps when used for coupling increase the THD of a sine. No capacitor is a *perfect* textbook capacitor.
On the topic of silver micas, they're one of the only caps I've had consistently fail on me, and I avoid them except for in places where their failure won't lead to down time (i.e. for treble peaking over a grid stopping resistor).
John has made a great point about ceramic caps being microphonic when passing current. Good to avoid them in areas of high gain.
I personally stick to metal film caps. Between their self-healing properties, availability in a wide span of values, and typically very high voltage ratings, they're really the best we have right now. If you need even lower values, I'd then use Styrene type caps, as they share many properties with the metal film.

Part of the capacitor type "mojo" falls into noise floor and THD, the same as for carbon comp resistors. It's said that these components have been used for so long that we come to expect the high noise level and small distortions, and when they're not there people begin to feel things are too hifi.
Take all of this information however you like, but I'll say, if you look inside some of the greatest amps made (HAD, early Boogie, Jim Kelley), the component choices weren't made for tone, they were made for stability and availability.
 

fender4life

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I'll bite. In a perfect linear world, cap type doesn't matter. But we don't live in a linear world. It's a known fact that electrolytic caps when used for coupling increase the THD of a sine. No capacitor is a *perfect* textbook capacitor.
On the topic of silver micas, they're one of the only caps I've had consistently fail on me, and I avoid them except for in places where their failure won't lead to down time (i.e. for treble peaking over a grid stopping resistor).
John has made a great point about ceramic caps being microphonic when passing current. Good to avoid them in areas of high gain.
I personally stick to metal film caps. Between their self-healing properties, availability in a wide span of values, and typically very high voltage ratings, they're really the best we have right now. If you need even lower values, I'd then use Styrene type caps, as they share many properties with the metal film.

Part of the capacitor type "mojo" falls into noise floor and THD, the same as for carbon comp resistors. It's said that these components have been used for so long that we come to expect the high noise level and small distortions, and when they're not there people begin to feel things are too hifi.
I never had a mica fail that i know of at least unless failure includes tonal degradation which I can't say whether i have had happen or not. Being microphonic is a concern and i have read about that but i don't generally use real hi gain so i don't think i;d have issues with that.
 

fender4life

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Here's the difference in cap sound:lol:
Testing starts about 2:00:

I don't even have to or want to watch that because it's meaningless. There are things that have dead obvious tonal differences like saddles for example that i couldn't hear in a video with a gun to my head. But in MY guitar with ME playing it the differences are with some saddles so much it can make or break a tele's tone for me. Videos ONLY display huge differences because of not only the obvious reasons, but also because probably the most important factor when it comes to tone is the way a sound feels and responds. Thats detectable in a video at ZERO percent. Lastly, we don't all hear with the same sensitivity. To me the biggest tonal difference in any boltn on fender type guitar is rosewood board vs all maple. It's NITE AND DAY different sounding. Yet some hear no difference ! This is why i don't want this to turn into a thread about whether theres a difference or not. If YOU don't hear it then your reply is as meaningless to me as that video and doesn't contribute to helping. I reply to threads when i have something to contribute, not to tease or insult. Others should consider that option, as it makes a forum a far better and useful resource.
 

moonlighter

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I never had a mica fail that i know of at least unless failure includes tonal degradation which I can't say whether i have had happen or not. Being microphonic is a concern and i have read about that but i don't generally use real hi gain so i don't think i;d have issues with that.
Mr. CLF himself used ceramic caps liberally, don't be shy to, like I said, that noise floor and distortion albeit small are considered integral by some folks.
My silver mica failures have happened in tone stacks and as snubber caps on preamp plates. My theory from this outside of CDE having low tier QC, is that micas do not like having DC on them. I have nothing more than anecdotal evidence for this, however styrene types in these positions have not failed me.
 

David Barnett

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Here's the difference in cap sound:lol:
Testing starts about 2:00:


Passive tone cap (shunt to ground) in a guitar circuit is not the same application as a coupling, peaking, or tone control cap inside an amplifier circuit with DC present. Using this video to support an "all caps sound the same except for value" viewpoint is apples and oranges.
 

King Fan

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This is a cap thread, so full of arguments; I'm not making any.

If you want to try a different cap, try it. Be aware though: the only valid comparisons come from double-blind, real-time A:B switching, and you likely won't be able to do that.

Even if they don't sound different when new, caps age differently. Ceramic are notorious for absorbing moisture over time. This may even differ if you live in the desert (cof cof) or a swamp. OTOH, silver mica are prone to heat damage when soldering, are *said* to have a high failure rate. I don't know how well the failure thing is *documented.*

It's good to measure caps to make sure they're the same. But my meter, for one, is dang imprecise (or biased? or inaccurate? hard to say) under ~ 500pF. How's yours?

On the up side, we build amps for fun, not to land men on the moon. If you like a different cap type, you're allowed to use it. Just don't turn into an opinionated flamer about it. Me? I built a few amps with styrene caps in place of silver micas for treble ("much less grainy" was the fun mojo theory) and with *NOS* ceramics (oh, horrors, get the children in the house) in a couple *highly selected* spots ("noted to have nice comb filter side effects" -- whatever that means). It was fun, easy, and makes the amp 'more mine.' The amp sounds superb -- is it the caps? Heh, I strongly doubt it, but we'll never know. :):):)
 

TequilaCaster

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I hear a difference. I prefer the way that a Fender tone stack TREBLE ceramic cap smooths (or slightly smears) the higher frequencies as opposed to the clinically clean (sort of ice-pick) mica cap sound.

I use mica on the VOLUME bypass that hangs off the tonestack. I figure the TREBLE ceramic cap has already modified the tone enough. But I will A-B a ceramic and mica on my next build, so I can know for sure.

I don't use peaking caps across grid resistors, so I can't comment on it. But i will investigate also... next build.
 

schmee

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I don't even have to or want to watch that because it's meaningless. There are things that have dead obvious tonal differences like saddles for example that i couldn't hear in a video with a gun to my head. But in MY guitar with ME playing it the differences are with some saddles so much it can make or break a tele's tone for me. Videos ONLY display huge differences because of not only the obvious reasons, but also because probably the most important factor when it comes to tone is the way a sound feels and responds. Thats detectable in a video at ZERO percent. Lastly, we don't all hear with the same sensitivity. To me the biggest tonal difference in any boltn on fender type guitar is rosewood board vs all maple. It's NITE AND DAY different sounding. Yet some hear no difference ! This is why i don't want this to turn into a thread about whether theres a difference or not. If YOU don't hear it then your reply is as meaningless to me as that video and doesn't contribute to helping. I reply to threads when i have something to contribute, not to tease or insult. Others should consider that option, as it makes a forum a far better and useful resource.

Passive tone cap (shunt to ground) in a guitar circuit is not the same application as a coupling, peaking, or tone control cap inside an amplifier circuit with DC present. Using this video to support an "all caps sound the same except for value" viewpoint is apples and oranges.
Well, I probably agree with you guys more than you think!
-I agree Videos are difficult to ascertain anything from, whether it's speakers, pickups or small components. Especially since many of them try to show you something at high gain instead of clean like that video. IMO The only way to truly tell these things is to play a gig, in a band mix and room for hours with different songs that bring up different things. That's my true test. I have loved some amp builds or experiments in the music room at home and found them unuseable at a gig for sure.
-BUT, ....having said that, I have never been able to tell a difference doing that with caps in guitars. OTOH, in AMPS, I THINK I have heard a difference, but frankly... if there really is... boy oh boy it ain't much. A degree of rotation on the tone pot may be more. So I come away wondering; "Did I really hear something?" I think I hear Mallory 150's in an amp tone stack being 'smoother' than some other caps... I think... maybe... what IS smoother? :lol:
 

Powdog

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1666890461661.jpeg

When I build my knock-off 60s Supros I use ceramic caps throughout. Just like Valco did. Adjectives rarely express what my ears are experiencing, so I’ll just say that anything else doesn’t sound like a 60s Valco. I’ve tried Mallory’s, ODs, expensive Jupiters and even PIOs. Pulled them right out and soldered in ceramics. Don’t know if I would hear a difference in just the treble cap, but an amp full sounds grittier. Like a good Supro should.
 

Phrygian77

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On the topic of silver micas, they're one of the only caps I've had consistently fail on me, and I avoid them except for in places where their failure won't lead to down time (i.e. for treble peaking over a grid stopping resistor).

I've yet to see a CDE silver mica leaking current. You're not going to get those from AES/Amplified Parts or TubeDepot. You have to order them Mouser or Digikey.
 

fender4life

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This is a cap thread, so full of arguments; I'm not making any.

If you want to try a different cap, try it. Be aware though: the only valid comparisons come from double-blind, real-time A:B switching, and you likely won't be able to do that.

Even if they don't sound different when new, caps age differently. Ceramic are notorious for absorbing moisture over time. This may even differ if you live in the desert (cof cof) or a swamp. OTOH, silver mica are prone to heat damage when soldering, are *said* to have a high failure rate. I don't know how well the failure thing is *documented.*

It's good to measure caps to make sure they're the same. But my meter, for one, is dang imprecise (or biased? or inaccurate? hard to say) under ~ 500pF. How's yours?

On the up side, we build amps for fun, not to land men on the moon. If you like a different cap type, you're allowed to use it. Just don't turn into an opinionated flamer about it. Me? I built a few amps with styrene caps in place of silver micas for treble ("much less grainy" was the fun mojo theory) and with *NOS* ceramics (oh, horrors, get the children in the house) in a couple *highly selected* spots ("noted to have nice comb filter side effects" -- whatever that means). It was fun, easy, and makes the amp 'more mine.' The amp sounds superb -- is it the caps? Heh, I strongly doubt it, but we'll never know. :):):)
Actually i CAN and do get almost real time comparisons because as i just did a few minutes ago. i will tack a cap in with long leads and leave the old cap in on one end and i can tack either cap's one lead within seconds. Switch amp off, 5 seconds to tack, amp back on so fast it fires right up w/o wait because the tubes are still hot. Literally 10 seconds and i'm playing again. Do that a number of taimes back and fourth and the difference becomes more and more apparent. Anyways, just tacked in a ceramic in a treble peaker location and i will be going back and fourth with that once i have had a break to give my ears and brain a rest. Thats another thing to consider....burn out will cloud your results big timer. In any case, while the initial try is not enough to come to a definite conclusion, i WILL say it seemed like in a treble peaker it seemed to really smooth out the treble when rolling down the guitar to clean up. Often there will be a slight staticy top end when using enough top end but with the ceramic that seemed to be gone. But like i said thats not a result i can be 100% sure of till i start doing more A/B on that. Sounded promising tho, and there are 2 more places i will try and the additive effect may be great. Or maybe not, we shall see. But It's small things like this that can add up and make an amp sound magic. Top builders know this and i you look especially at dumble, he was obsessive about things like cap type and i don't need to tell anyone how prized his amps are by some serious players or how much they go for. By the way, orange drops made a huge change in mine over mallory in *some* positions. particularly in the tone stack and the cap master>PI. Mallory sounds better in the gain stages.
 




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