# Tone Capacitors - The Final Word

Discussion in 'Amp Tech Center' started by Doctor Detroit, May 7, 2016.

1. ### Mr Green GenesTele-Afflicted

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...but isn't one of the stripes a multiplier?

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2. ### Mr Green GenesTele-Afflicted

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I think you might be surprised at how well some of the forum members here do understand the electronics involved.

"Fact" and "Truth" are not the same thing.

You're quoting facts and claiming truth.

If you'd just stop letting the facts get in the way, you might just be able to hear the truth.

There are many to be heard in this thread and others, if you're willing to listen with a relaxed and open mind.

3. ### elpicoTele-Afflicted

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Your original post imagines a world where only linear distortion exists. You talk only about frequency response and how if two caps have the same frequency response they must sound the same... I don't know if "opinion" is the right word for this, but it's a mistaken conclusion you've come to because you're lacking some additional information needed to understand the topic.

Frequency response is how we measure linear distortion. There's a whole other domain of NON-linear distortions as well and your post fails to recognize these exist. Two circuits that produce the same plot when you do a simple frequency response sweep will sound very different if they have different non-linear distortion. The simplistic equivalent circuit you're believing to be an accurate model of a capacitor... isn't. It's only a model of the LINEAR distortions, not the non-linear ones.

There are some capacitors that have measurable, provable, non-linear distortion - ceramic caps being one of the most obvious cases. It's undeniable that there can be audible differences between a cap that has a lot of non-linear distortion and one that doesn't. Now that doesn't mean all caps must sound audibly different though. Most modern, high quality film caps are so darn high performance that their non-linear effects are remarkably tiny. They should be very hard to tell apart if their frequency response is the same. Some people still feel these sound different enough to be worth spending extra money on certain types though and more power to them. The world would be very boring if everybody was doing the same thing.

So do all caps with the same frequency response sound the same? No.

Does that mean all caps sound different? No.

Both things are true at the same time, some caps sound different, some caps sound the same.

I'm going to link to a guy who's done a far more scientific treatment of the issue than anyone in a random forum argument is ever going to do. I think you should have a look at the equivalent circuits of a capacitor he's got there since he's largely coming from your "caps sound the same" side of the argument, but he's approaching it with a more complete model of a capacitor than yours that shows some types of caps DO have measurable distortions and sound differences:

Capacitor Characteristics - Rod Elliot

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4. ### boredguy6060Poster Extraordinaire

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I've reread this whole thread and tried to understand each posters points.

The quoted post above, I believe cuts to the heart of the matter.
It may help to explain the schism between the two sides.

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doctor Detroit, those are a couple of nice looking pieces of gear.

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6. ### Doctor DetroitTDPRI Member

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If you really believe what you are saying, and expect anybody else to believe it, then please give a specific example of a capacitor that produces a SIGNIFICANT amount of distortion, when voltages and frequencies in ranges typical ranges are applied to it. By typical, I mean within guitars and their amplifiers.

It may surprise you to know that in the world of modern electronics an overwhelming majority of the sub-mfd. capacitors are ceramic. If they are so horrible, wouldn't we be overwhelmed with distorted sound?

On a more practical level, I don't think (yes, that's an opinion) that distortion is the real issue here because: even if a capacitor in an amplifier is producing distortion, it will be a very small amount. But the amplifier already produces a significant amount of distortion in its gain stages - especially the final PA. Small amounts of distortion do not produce the types of gross tone coloring that have been described in many of the postings on this subject. They are subtle, especially when the signal has a very complex spectrum like an electric guitar, and don't even become noticeable to most people until the distortion level gets up into tens of percents.

BTW: It is just this kind of reasoning that made me feel confident enough to use a first-order model of a capacitor in my posting. If anybody has any evidence that this model is inappropriate, do us all a favor and bring it forward.

BTW#2: Here is a related fact from a different field. Ceramic capacitors are used ubiquitously in all kinds of RF (i.e. radio) equipment. Any non-linearity in those capacitors would produce a type of distortion known as "spurious signals". That kind of behavior is generally not tolerable at all, especially in equipment that radiates signals into the airwaves, where the FCC has very strict regulations against spurious emissions. It's a different field, but the basic principles are still the same.

7. ### Doctor DetroitTDPRI Member

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Thanks - and they sound really nice too. You will have a chance to hear it on YouTube sometime later this summer.

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8. ### SilverfacePoster ExtraordinairePlatinum Supporter

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Those look nice. Which proves exactly zero. I've seen hundreds of pretty guitars that played like crap, and serviced "pretty" amps that were built "to spec" and sounded horrible.

Because the builder did not take into account the variables you continue to ignore - or maybe those are what you are claiming are "not proof"? It's impossible to tell with the mountain of irrelevant drawings and "amps on paper" material you've posted.

And you still are ducking the question - you claimed to have designed a fairly large amount of products, the implication being you were either an independent amp builder or worked for a builder.

We still don't know who you are, and a picture of a pretty guitar and amp can be obtained anywhere. Your credibility is still zero, and your obvious ducking of the question is moving it into negative numbers pal. So tell us exactly who you are and wheat products you have developed. Prove you have some qualifications besides saying "I'm qualified". You're new here arguing with folks that have established credentials.

You DO have to establish some sort of verifiable qualifications instead of just being stubborn.

You've been given several examples of actual proof. Not opinions - test data. You are choosing to ignore them.

That won't work. Neither will repeating your same posts over and over.

9. ### Doctor DetroitTDPRI Member

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What exactly do you mean by linear distortion? In over 50yrs in the electronic engineering business, I have never seen or heard that term, nor has any other engineer that I know. So, please enlighten us...........

10. ### Doctor DetroitTDPRI Member

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What exactly do you mean by linear distortion? In over 50yrs in the electronic engineering business, I have never seen or heard that term, nor has any other engineer that I know. So, please enlighten us...........
Unfortunately, it doesn't. The hundreds of volts across the capacitor is a DC bias and does not contribute to distortion. Only the AC (i.e. signal) component matters ( easily proven with a little circuit analysis). Most designers actually attempt to minimize the AC voltage across capacitors by making them as large as practically possible.

11. ### elpicoTele-Afflicted

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Language use varies by region so it may well be that you and your circle of friends are unaware of these terms, but they are engineering terms, not whatever it is you're trying to imply. They refer to linear systems and non-linear systems. Linear distortions are the set of distortions that a linear system is capable of producing. That would include things like amplitude distortion and phase distortion. A defining characteristic of linear distortions is while they do cause the output waveform to deviate from the input, they do not generate new frequencies that weren't present in the input signal. Non-linear distortions are the set of distortions that can only be generated by non-linear systems. This includes harmonic distortion and intermodulation distortion. This group of distortions does add new frequencies to the output that weren't present at the input. I think we both know a simple google search could have told you this, as well as turned up obvious engineering usage of the terms in both the audio field and other engineering...disciplines and pure sciences, so I'm not sure why you're making me explain it to you.

It's not a good sign that your only response to my post was to make a meaningless quibble about well accepted terms while you completely ignored the technical content. All the pieces you need to complete your picture of capacitor behaviour have been handed to you. If you're unwilling to learn anything new (or unable to even imagine you might need to) then I don't understand what the point of entering into this discussion was. Actually, it's not even a discussion at all then. That reduces it to you crowing about how great you think you are to a bunch a people who already know you're wrong.

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12. ### dsutton24Doctor of TeleocityAd Free Member

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I've read your original post, as well as your premiere post on passive tone caps. I understand the electronics, far better than you do, apparently. This statement is essentially the same as your assertion that yours is, and ever shall be, the final word on anything. In short, nuh uh. Your ideas are not defensible in the least. And, they really are just ideas. You claim great expertise and superior knowledge, but these ideas haven't been backed up by anything other than verbiage.

The meat of my reply, however, seems to have gone right over your head. I don't know what your motives are for fighting this battle. It has been insulting and exhausting all at once. Why not just relax and participate here, rather than trying to change the world? Believe it or not you could learn a few things, and maybe have some fun.

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13. ### Mr Green GenesTele-Afflicted

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That about sums it up. Considering that the title claims to be the final word (his), I don't really think he was looking for (or is open to) discussion.

dsutton24 is right.

14. ### whiteopTele-Afflicted

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Irregardless of all the formulas and electronics schematics presented you can hook up 3 different types of capacitor. and I can tell you which is which - ceramic, (generic sounding with no special qualities), orange drops (Sprague; brings out the treble), and PIO (paper in oil; smoother tone). I have also used Sozo caps and can tell the difference with them too.

Last edited: May 21, 2016
15. ### clintjFriend of Leo's

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This whole thread is summed up most succinctly by The Dude.

"Yeah, well, that's just like your opinion, man."

This has gone on too long, and neither side will ever accede to the other. Been interesting at times, though. I'm out.

16. ### corn husk bagTDPRI Member

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I'm going to go watch Uncle Doug videos!

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17. ### SilverfacePoster ExtraordinairePlatinum Supporter

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Well, I'm not quite sure what "frequencies in ranges in ranges typical ranges are applied to it. By typical, I mean within guitars and their amplifiers" means other than some gobbledegook from the department of redundancy department, but ask and thou shalt receive:

http://www.renardson-audio.com/capdist.html:

“Real capacitors are more complex, but extracting and amplifying the small difference between two capacitors seems unhelpful as a method of choosing audio frequency coupling capacitors, where linear effects such as DA generally do no harm. Using a higher value coupling capacitor can be expected to reduce errors, while choosing one with low DA is not necessarily of any benefit, and may even increase errors slightly. There may be real causes of audible differences, one I have observed is the increased pickup of interference by a capacitor with large physical size, which is why I recommend small polyester input capacitors for my amplifier designs rather than big polypropylene types.

There is some evidence that capacitor types with high dielectric absorption also tend to have relatively high distortion, possibly because both effects can be worse with materials having polar molecules. The distortion is usually nothing much worse than low levels of third harmonic, and is only at a serious level in a few types, such as high-k ceramics, which should certainly be avoided in some applications.”

A VERY long technical article wherein the author, an expert in the field, confesses HE can't hear differences but they certainly may exist - and that specific capacitors should not be used for some applications.

There are repeated articles commenting that ceramics should not be used in certain audio applications, and that tantalums are essentially not to be used at voltage levels found in audio amplifiers.

But all of this is meaningless, because YOUR data is backed up only by you - someone who claims to be an expert, has been asked several times for SPECIFICS - and only posts a picture of a pretty amp and guitar he claimed to make...with no tech information regarding either - to back himself up. YOU ask others for proof, who post clips from articles and specific links, yet you won't answer simple questions regarding your specific qualifications and identity.

Sir - "Mr Detroit" - (you don't deserve to even borrow the title "Doctor" at this point) are a sham and a fake. You have proven nothing except that you can spout off slide-rule data, but no specifics about the many products you have supposedly "engineered". I don't think you have ANY on your resume, bud. You came here and started this thread just to cause trouble.

You're not worth bothering with any longer unless you unmask yourself. Until that time, I think if any "Doctor" name is appropriate, it's "Doctor Troll".

For those in the bleachers who haven't been here for the last 15 years or so, this about the 50th guy who's done the same thing. Being of some reason unwilling to admit who he really is, I expect he will shortly go away because his credibility is self-eroding.

Just wave buh-bye.

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18. ### elpicoTele-Afflicted

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Oh you replied to me three times somehow. It only linked me to your last post so I didn't see this before writing my last reply.

If you read my post or the link I shared you'd know I largely agree and don't think there are major differences between high quality caps used in the common circuits we see in this hobby. That's not at all the same thing as saying there can never be any audible difference between capacitors however. And it's certainly not the same claim as the main one I disagreed with: that your obviously simplistic and incomplete first post could somehow be claimed to be some flawless "last word" that adequately proves all capacitors must sound the same. That claim is what people seem to be reacting to. You also seem to be ticking them off by acting like you're the only person on earth who understands the topic and should be condescending to everyone else here. Approaching things that way is obviously not going to make their day better, so does it make you feel better to make them feel worse? If not then I'd suggest a different approach. I think if you try actually discussing things with people with kindness and respect then maybe there might be a point to being here for both parties.

For example I just finished a decade long job testing RF circuits for exactly the things you're trying to tell me about so we maybe have some common ground there, but instead of having a discussion about a shared interest I get a post full of you being condescending and treating me like I don't know a thing about audio or rf electronics. I've tested tens of thousands of transmitters for exactly the kind of problems you're talking about. The connection to distortion or audio is not what you make it out to be though. You can get away with things in RF circuits that would never work in audio. The narrow bandpass nature of the circuits means the remote frequencies harmonics occur at get heavily attenuated. In cases where they remain too high for certification you know exactly what frequency they'll be at so a simple fixed frequency harmonic trap can be used to knock them down. It's generally the spurious emissions within the passband that are an issue and those are created by your modulation scheme (or quite often these days by digital issues from elsewhere on the board) not harmonic distortion.

Yes these circuits do use ceramic caps, but no that doesn't "prove" all caps are the same or that "ceramic caps are good enough for any job because they're used in rf electronics" or any other illogical conclusion. The guys certainly rejected plenty of capacitor series over the years that weren't up to various jobs.

Last edited: May 21, 2016
19. ### dsutton24Doctor of TeleocityAd Free Member

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Yeah, my first real job out of school was repairing broadband RF amps, I've also done a lot of broadcast engineering. The op is sort of right, there are a lot of disc ceramics in RF gear, but they're bypass caps and other non-critical applications. Anything that was critical in determining response and the like were silvered mica or certain types of ceramics and film capacitors. Certainly not run of the mill disc ceramics, and they certainly weren't 'ubiquitous'.

Another example of latching on to a small truth and conflating it into a universal truth. It'd be like me saying that my Kawasaki Vulcan will outrun a 125 Enduro. This means the Vulcan is clearly the fastest bike on the road, and I can speak authoritatively on the matter. I consider this to be the final word on the subject.

20. ### john_cribbinTele-Afflicted

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If Leo Fender had this debate, there would be no Telecaster. He Would have self harmed decades ago.

FFS, no voltage, bleed to earth, no possible variation to tone.

The final F***ing word. Or not .............

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