Real difference in capacitors?

Discussion in 'Technical Side of Things' started by peterjcb, Jun 29, 2020.

  1. peterjcb

    peterjcb Gretschie

    Nov 28, 2017
    I recently finished putting together a relic telecaster and was looking for a real vintage tone. I picked up Fender CS Nocaster PUPS and decided to use a .050 Fender original capacitor with these PUPS. I was totally blown away by the tone of this build.
    I have a MIM telecaster with Original vintage PUPSs and just the standard cap that came with the guitar......while it really sounds good with the PUP change it doesn't really blow me away as my new build does.
    Does that Fender vintage spec capacitor make a noticeable difference?
  2. swivel

    swivel Country Gent

    May 13, 2018
    The value of uf might. The age or type not so much.. JMHO.
    Very early Teles had .1 uf right?
    RomanS and wabash slim like this.
  3. loudnlousy

    loudnlousy Friend of Fred

    Oct 18, 2015
    We used to experiment for months with the treble-bleed capacitors on my stage instruments.
    It was an absolute rewarding work. Now I am totally happy because I get so much more cool sounds out of my single-humbucker guitars just by working the guitar`s volume.
    You will have to use different values for different pickups, though.
    Medium John likes this.
  4. wildeman

    wildeman Gretschified

    May 10, 2015
    I got some PIO black beauties from Philly Luthier's and they sound better to me than the standard chicklets. Only 5 bux so.....
  5. Hammerhands

    Hammerhands Country Gent

    Aug 26, 2011
    If you can measure the capacitors, you may find the values are not always close. Try to find one with a similar value to the one in the other guitar.

    There are a lot of other things you can try.

    Do they have the same value pots?

    I was reading somewhere about loosening a couple of the neck pocket screws with the strings on.
    pmac11 likes this.
  6. Medium John

    Medium John Electromatic

  7. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Admin Post
    The only thing that can make a difference in the tone stack on a guitar is the capacitance itself. A better cap will probably be closer to stated value. Because the resistor is a direct multiplier in the cutoff frequency calculation (f=1/2pi R C), the taper of the potentiometer will have an effect on the perceived sound. Inside an amp, voltage-handling capability might come into play, as plate voltages coming off of various preamp stages can be quite high, but once again, quality and accuracy of rating are all that can matter.

    Circuit design plays a huge role, but as far as any individual cap is concerned, adequate voltage handling and being close to rated capacitance are all that can matter. There’s no magic in a capacitor, just capacitance. Leo Fender used cheap ceramic caps in many places, and they worked.

    When I buy caps, I shoot for accuracy and that’s about it. AC doesn’t know, or care, about the capacitor’s brand, it only cares about the capacitor’s capacitance. The minuscule trickle of current coming out of your guitar, usually at less than one volt, will not be much challenge to any capacitor in encounters along the way.

    The 0.050 MF cap is huge. That was all the rage back in the ‘50s.
  8. Gretschtim1

    Gretschtim1 Country Gent

    Dec 4, 2012
    Dundalk, Md
    Synchro is dead on! People waste so much money on so called tone caps when the capacitance rating is all that matters. The problem is your average cap is rarely ever on target. If you have 20 caps that are really .1 chances are in the circuit they are going to sound the same. I can see spending a bit more for more accurate parts but beyond that it doesn't really matter. It's the combination of all parts - pickups, pots, caps, switches and wire that creates the final tone. I personally think the value and taper of the pots is the most important and noticeable difference.
  9. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Admin Post
    Absolutely. Pot taper is massive. If the cap value is correct, and not out of tolerance, you can use cheap ceramic caps all day and they will sound fine. Caps are dreadfully simple and as long as they can handle the voltage (never a problem in a passive guitar tone circuit), the only thing that matters it the actual capacitance of that particular cap, plus the resistor (in this case, the Pot taper). That’s it. There’s no room for mojo, magic, enchanted cap elements that only pass toneful electrons, etc. etc.
    new6659 and tartanphantom like this.
  10. tartanphantom

    tartanphantom Friend of Fred

    Jul 30, 2008
    Murfreesboro, TN
    Exactly. The biggest difference in capacitors, especially in a passive circuit, is their value tolerance. Nothing more. Ceramic, PIO, Tantalum, or even just air as the dielectric element makes no difference. What does make a difference is how the quality and use of certain dielectric elements affects the tolerance rating of the cap. A circuit doesn't "see" PIO or ceramic, it just "sees" the actual capacitance level provided by the component itself. And since the actual true cap value "seen" by the circuit makes a difference in the frequency roll-off point, the tighter the tolerance is to the stated cap value, the more specific the roll-off frequency point.
  11. sgarnett

    sgarnett Gretschie

    Apr 14, 2020
    Inductance can vary significantly between capacitors. Some can even be microphonic. Some require DC bias to maintain the dialectic layer.
  12. mister rain

    mister rain Gretschie

    Apr 23, 2020
    new orleans
    bless us set neck folks.
  13. wabash slim

    wabash slim Gretschified

    Feb 10, 2010
    lafayette in
    In electronics class, we made our own resistors and capacitors. Resistors were made my darkening a page of paper with a lead (carbon) pencil and using alligator clamps to connect it to a circuit. It actually worked.

    Caps were made using aluminum foil and waxed paper rolled up with a pair of wires for a connection. As long as they're within spec, they're fine. There is no magic to the jacket color of a cap.

    Now, batteries---that's another story.
    RomanS likes this.
  14. Henry

    Henry I Bleed Orange

    Apr 9, 2014
    So, given that the main differences are tolerances, are there brands that have superior, tighter tolerances, and therefore make a superior cap? To me accuracy is quality.
  15. sgarnett

    sgarnett Gretschie

    Apr 14, 2020
    In other words, you made a highly inductive, temperature sensitive, and possibly microphonic capacitor. Simple construction does not in any way imply simple properties.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2020
  16. sgarnett

    sgarnett Gretschie

    Apr 14, 2020
    Btw, some of the ways that capacitor types vary is in how much their capacitance changes as a result of soldering and/or aging.
  17. wabash slim

    wabash slim Gretschified

    Feb 10, 2010
    lafayette in
    We made what was the earliest incarnation of resistors and capacitors. Archaic at best, primitive by even 1930s standards, but, made to show us how basically simple the devices really were.
  18. Randy99CL

    Randy99CL Gretschie

    Feb 17, 2020
    I was selected to be an aviation electronics technician in the Navy (my first choice) and got some great schooling out of it.
    One of my instructors was explaining how a capacitor can be formed with just two wires and the air between them. He said that Muntz TVs (an amazingly cheap brand in the '50s) were cheap because they eliminated as many components as possible, partly by replacing caps with wires and then the assembly line techs would adjust those wires to change the values until the TV worked!
    The only problem was that if the TV was bumped or dropped or banged around in shipping it never worked again and no one on earth could fix it!
  19. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Admin Post
    Indeed. One of the most amazing things about electrical theory is how the simple shape of something can have such a profound effect on its behavior. Lay two wires side by side and they become capacitive. Wrap a wire into a spiral, and it becomes an inductor, the capacitor’s natural enemy. Spiral two wires around one another and the become resistant to electromagnetic inference.

    Was that the MacGyver approach? :)

    I know that paper & oil caps are revered, in some circles, but they are similarly easy to make with things you probably have around the house.

    I would agree, however, in certain applications, tolerances could be off by 10% and have no audible effect. The behavior of low pass and high pass filters is sensible and linear, with regard to cutoff frequencies, but a 3dB drop in a frequency band is barely perceptible. That isn’t to suggest that close tolerances aren’t a worthy pursuit, but the values of caps tend to be somewhat widely spaced and this doesn’t really cause any problems.

    Acoustics, which are how we perceive sound, tend to operate logarithmically, so big changes in the values of a circuit may not amount to much when we hear it.
    Henry likes this.
  20. sgarnett

    sgarnett Gretschie

    Apr 14, 2020
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2020
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