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  • Getting objective about capacitors


    I feel like I've been holding this in for too long, and I know it's probably fuel for a war, but I honestly want to get this stuff out in the open. I know I'm far from the first one to bring this subject up, either... but here goes:

    What kind of OBJECTIVE evidence is there for using certain types of capacitors in a crossover? I've heard it enough times to choke a horse, "NEVER use Non-Polar Electrolytics unless ABSOLUTELY necessary," or even more extreme that some people wouldn't use NPE if you paid them. Then it ramps up. People start dissing Mylar, then Poly caps. Believe it or not, I'm okay with the fact that your ears hear a difference. I'm not here to judge. I just want to know what scientific, ABX-style tests exist to test the viability (or lack thereof) for various types of capacitors. All I've ever come across are commandments: "ONLY use _______ capacitors when doing ________. NEVER use _______ caps for _______." Well, why not? Will my stereo blow up? Will my ears be cheated out of a life-changing experience?
    Isn't it about time we started answering rhetorical questions?

    Paul Carmody's DIY Audio Projects
    Twitter: @undefinition1

  • #2
    Try them yourself


    > I feel like I've been holding this in for
    > too long, and I know it's probably fuel for
    > a war, but I honestly want to get this stuff
    > out in the open. I know I'm far from the
    > first one to bring this subject up,
    > either... but here goes:

    > What kind of OBJECTIVE evidence is there for
    > using certain types of capacitors in a
    > crossover? I've heard it enough times to
    > choke a horse, "NEVER use Non-Polar
    > Electrolytics unless ABSOLUTELY
    > necessary," or even more extreme that
    > some people wouldn't use NPE if you paid
    > them. Then it ramps up. People start dissing
    > Mylar, then Poly caps. Believe it or not,
    > I'm okay with the fact that your ears hear a
    > difference. I'm not here to judge. I just
    > want to know what scientific, ABX-style
    > tests exist to test the viability (or lack
    > thereof) for various types of capacitors.
    > All I've ever come across are commandments:
    > "ONLY use _______ capacitors when doing
    > ________. NEVER use _______ caps for
    > _______." Well, why not? Will my stereo
    > blow up? Will my ears be cheated out of a
    > life-changing experience?

    There's certainly measurable differences between the various types. NPEs introduce more non-linearity than metal film types, but when you consider that the amount of nonlinearity introduced is far less than the nonlinearity of the driver, you have to wonder how audible it would be.

    NPEs are usually of looser tolerances as well, but that is easily taken care of.

    I seriously doubt that anyone would be able to tell you what type you have in your XO just by listening.
    R = h/(2*pi*m*c) and don't you forget it! || Periodic Table as redrawn by Marshall Freerks and Ignatius Schumacher || King Crimson Radio
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    95% of Climate Models Agree: The Observations Must be Wrong
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    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Getting objective about capacitors


      > I feel like I've been holding this in for
      > too long, and I know it's probably fuel for
      > a war, but I honestly want to get this stuff
      > out in the open. I know I'm far from the
      > first one to bring this subject up,
      > either... but here goes:

      > What kind of OBJECTIVE evidence is there for
      > using certain types of capacitors in a
      > crossover? I've heard it enough times to
      > choke a horse, "NEVER use Non-Polar
      > Electrolytics unless ABSOLUTELY
      > necessary," or even more extreme that
      > some people wouldn't use NPE if you paid
      > them. Then it ramps up. People start dissing
      > Mylar, then Poly caps. Believe it or not,
      > I'm okay with the fact that your ears hear a
      > difference. I'm not here to judge. I just
      > want to know what scientific, ABX-style
      > tests exist to test the viability (or lack
      > thereof) for various types of capacitors.
      > All I've ever come across are commandments:
      > "ONLY use _______ capacitors when doing
      > ________. NEVER use _______ caps for
      > _______." Well, why not? Will my stereo
      > blow up? Will my ears be cheated out of a
      > life-changing experience?
      safety wise if you use a 200volt cap of any kind you need more than 300 watts to blow it up. every test i read was based on the testers ears. By my ears some caps make ssssssss worse . Slibant sound such as ssssss or cymbals. Sound more hissy , with some caps. For crossovers dayton or solen are fine npe's for 100uf to save money. I just sold a pair of sole 200uf caps on ebay. The reason my ears didn't think the sound was special compared to the npe's sold here on partsexpress. I would spend money on quality drivers first. not caps. same for high priced digital coax cable buy a less pricey one and get a quality driver instead.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: I have


        And my LC meter says they all measure the correct capacitance!

        As far as listening goes, I'm keeping my opinion out of this.

        As I said, I'm on a quest for OBJECTIVE results.
        Isn't it about time we started answering rhetorical questions?

        Paul Carmody's DIY Audio Projects
        Twitter: @undefinition1

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Getting objective about capacitors


          > I feel like I've been holding this in for
          > too long, and I know it's probably fuel for
          > a war, but I honestly want to get this stuff
          > out in the open. I know I'm far from the
          > first one to bring this subject up,
          > either... but here goes:

          > What kind of OBJECTIVE evidence is there for
          > using certain types of capacitors in a
          > crossover? I've heard it enough times to
          > choke a horse, "NEVER use Non-Polar
          > Electrolytics unless ABSOLUTELY
          > necessary," or even more extreme that
          > some people wouldn't use NPE if you paid
          > them. Then it ramps up. People start dissing
          > Mylar, then Poly caps. Believe it or not,
          > I'm okay with the fact that your ears hear a
          > difference. I'm not here to judge. I just
          > want to know what scientific, ABX-style
          > tests exist to test the viability (or lack
          > thereof) for various types of capacitors.
          > All I've ever come across are commandments:
          > "ONLY use _______ capacitors when doing
          > ________. NEVER use _______ caps for
          > _______." Well, why not? Will my stereo
          > blow up? Will my ears be cheated out of a
          > life-changing experience?
          Well , a coil is just a long wire , a resistor is a spiral cut in a film or a wire , so not much coloration . A capacitor , however , is alternating layers of conducting and insulating material . MANY variables ! They do all have their own " sound personality " if you will ; some stronger or more noticeabe than others .
          Some can deven be paired with " non - linear "
          drivers to make the end - product " better " !
          Such as a cap which washes out the briliance of a cymbal , might be paired with a Tweeter that is to
          " harsh " ,etc.
          <A HREF="http://www.humblehomemadehifi.com/cap.html">http://www.humblehomemadehifi.com/cap.html</A>

          should be an 18 page listening test of the more popular caps . DVW

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Getting objective about capacitors


            > Well , a coil is just a long wire , a
            > resistor is a spiral cut in a film or a wire
            > , so not much coloration . A capacitor ,
            > however , is alternating layers of
            > conducting and insulating material . MANY
            > variables ! They do all have their own
            > " sound personality " if you will
            > ; some stronger or more noticeabe than
            > others .
            > Some can deven be paired with " non -
            > linear "
            > drivers to make the end - product "
            > better " !
            > Such as a cap which washes out the briliance
            > of a cymbal , might be paired with a Tweeter
            > that is to
            > " harsh " ,etc.
            > <A HREF="http://www.humblehomemadehifi.com/cap.html">http://www.humblehomemadehifi.com/cap.html</A>
            > should be an 18 page listening test of the
            > more popular caps . DVW
            Perhaps thjis link will work :

            <A HREF="http://www.humblehomemadehifi.com/Cap.html">http://www.humblehomemadehifi.com/Cap.html</A>

            Comment


            • #7
              Flawed testing


              > Perhaps thjis link will work :

              > <A HREF="http://www.humblehomemadehifi.com/Cap.html">http://www.humblehomemadehifi.com/Cap.html</A>

              Sorry but his whole process of testing is flawed and useless. I bet he couldn't pick out which cap was which in a double blind ABX test setup. Just knowing which cap is in the circuit will influence his opinion.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Getting objective about capacitors

                Provided Link: Google Search: DCDIY2004


                > What kind of OBJECTIVE evidence is there for
                > using certain types of capacitors in a
                > crossover?

                Follow the link for one participant's posting on the tests done at DCDIY2004. We actually had two separate tests with two different methodologies set up. So yes, there have been some fairly ambitious tests done to objectively assess the effect of capacitors in a crossover.

                Many of people taking the test couldn't tell any difference at all between the caps. Several people were actually able to reliably discern differences but if I remember right there wasn't agreement as to which sounded better. My personal conclusion from this event: there are better ways to spend your speaker-building dollars than on capacitors.
                Free Passive Speaker Designer Lite (PSD-Lite) -- http://www.audiodevelopers.com/Softw...Lite/setup.exe

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Yeah, Tony's a great guy, but...


                  I've read that page. Very exhaustive. But the whole thing seems sort of invalid if someone else wasn't switching out the caps for him as he wrote the descriptions. You can't take the Pepsi Challenge if you know which one is Pepsi.

                  Still, Tony's designs rock. I'll give him that. ;-)

                  > Sorry but his whole process of testing is
                  > flawed and useless. I bet he couldn't pick
                  > out which cap was which in a double blind
                  > ABX test setup. Just knowing which cap is in
                  > the circuit will influence his opinion.

                  Isn't it about time we started answering rhetorical questions?

                  Paul Carmody's DIY Audio Projects
                  Twitter: @undefinition1

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Getting objective about capacitors


                    I participated in the event mentioned. Bob and I both built a pair of speakers with external crossovers. There were two sets of caps on each crossover and we could change which set was being used with a remote switch. Both speakers featured set of caps from the same high price name brand. For the cheaper capacitors, I used PE's polys and Bob used mylars. We started with the expensive caps and measured them, then piggy backed the cheaper caps with smaller caps to bring them to the same value.

                    The key points of the comparison were:

                    NO ONE consistently distinguished a difference to a 95% probability, but it would not be practical to conclude that no one could hear a difference.

                    Out of about 40 people who participated in listening trials (some more than others), there were two in DC who claimed that they could hear a difference and demonstrated it over 75% of the time. Of those two, neither could say that one was better than the other. Interestingly they compared how they did it and both focussed on specific subtle difference which both acknowledged were irrelavent to the enjoyment of listening.

                    Bob and I spent a couple of weekends fine tuning our crossovers and getting the speakers ready for the comparison. We found that if there was a difference in caps, it wasn't in even in the same universe of being obvious as was the difference that we could hear by changing the position of our speakers 10" to the left or right. Or the difference that could be heard between listening in the morning when our ears were fresh or in the evening after they had been fatigued all day. We could hear these differences (yeah, we were pretty focussed).., but hear a difference in caps? Not a chance!

                    This point is big to me, Dennis Murphy couldn't tell a difference! I'll never come close to the abilities he has to critically listen and distinguish. People can post on this board and talk like a seasoned expert and claim they can distinguish the threads of the King's new cloths.., but they need to convince me they've got better ears than Dennis before I'll get excited about what they have to say.

                    Getting the picture? If there are any differences, you need a pretty big magnifying glass to find them.., but you don't need to look hard to see this difference. The expensive caps in my speakers cost around $115 compared to the PE Polys which cost around $20. So my conclusion was.., Who cares if with great, abnormally intense concentration you are able to discover the most obscure, insignificant, subtle difference? Do you really want to spend $100 more per pair of speakers to satisfy some superstitious fear that if you don't, your speakers will measure up microscopically less? If this fear really won't let you sleep at night, put that $100 into better drivers that really will make an audible difference.

                    > Follow the link for one participant's
                    > posting on the tests done at DCDIY2004. We
                    > actually had two separate tests with two
                    > different methodologies set up. So yes,
                    > there have been some fairly ambitious tests
                    > done to objectively assess the effect of
                    > capacitors in a crossover.

                    > Many of people taking the test couldn't tell
                    > any difference at all between the caps.
                    > Several people were actually able to
                    > reliably discern differences but if I
                    > remember right there wasn't agreement as to
                    > which sounded better. My personal conclusion
                    > from this event: there are better ways to
                    > spend your speaker-building dollars than on
                    > capacitors.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      better capacitors? better drivers yesssss!!


                      > I participated in the event mentioned. Bob
                      > and I both built a pair of speakers with
                      > external crossovers. There were two sets of
                      > caps on each crossover and we could change
                      > which set was being used with a remote
                      > switch. Both speakers featured set of caps
                      > from the same high price name brand. For the
                      > cheaper capacitors, I used PE's polys and
                      > Bob used mylars. We started with the
                      > expensive caps and measured them, then piggy
                      > backed the cheaper caps with smaller caps to
                      > bring them to the same value.

                      > The key points of the comparison were:

                      > NO ONE consistently distinguished a
                      > difference to a 95% probability, but it
                      > would not be practical to conclude that no
                      > one could hear a difference.

                      > Out of about 40 people who participated in
                      > listening trials (some more than others),
                      > there were two in DC who claimed that they
                      > could hear a difference and demonstrated it
                      > over 75% of the time. Of those two, neither
                      > could say that one was better than the
                      > other. Interestingly they compared how they
                      > did it and both focussed on specific subtle
                      > difference which both acknowledged were
                      > irrelavent to the enjoyment of listening.

                      > Bob and I spent a couple of weekends fine
                      > tuning our crossovers and getting the
                      > speakers ready for the comparison. We found
                      > that if there was a difference in caps, it
                      > wasn't in even in the same universe of being
                      > obvious as was the difference that we could
                      > hear by changing the position of our
                      > speakers 10" to the left or right. Or
                      > the difference that could be heard between
                      > listening in the morning when our ears were
                      > fresh or in the evening after they had been
                      > fatigued all day. We could hear these
                      > differences (yeah, we were pretty
                      > focussed).., but hear a difference in caps?
                      > Not a chance!

                      > This point is big to me, Dennis Murphy
                      > couldn't tell a difference! I'll never come
                      > close to the abilities he has to critically
                      > listen and distinguish. People can post on
                      > this board and talk like a seasoned expert
                      > and claim they can distinguish the threads
                      > of the King's new cloths.., but they need to
                      > convince me they've got better ears than
                      > Dennis before I'll get excited about what
                      > they have to say.

                      > Getting the picture? If there are any
                      > differences, you need a pretty big
                      > magnifying glass to find them.., but you
                      > don't need to look hard to see this
                      > difference. The expensive caps in my
                      > speakers cost around $115 compared to the PE
                      > Polys which cost around $20. So my
                      > conclusion was.., Who cares if with great,
                      > abnormally intense concentration you are
                      > able to discover the most obscure,
                      > insignificant, subtle difference? Do you
                      > really want to spend $100 more per pair of
                      > speakers to satisfy some superstitious fear
                      > that if you don't, your speakers will
                      > measure up microscopically less? If this
                      > fear really won't let you sleep at night,
                      > put that $100 into better drivers that
                      > really will make an audible difference.
                      I would always want the best drivers. My ears tell me I can hear a better driver not a better better cap.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Getting objective about capacitors


                        > I feel like I've been holding this in for
                        > too long, and I know it's probably fuel for
                        > a war, but I honestly want to get this stuff
                        > out in the open. I know I'm far from the
                        > first one to bring this subject up,
                        > either... but here goes:

                        > What kind of OBJECTIVE evidence is there for
                        > using certain types of capacitors in a
                        > crossover? I've heard it enough times to
                        > choke a horse, "NEVER use Non-Polar
                        > Electrolytics unless ABSOLUTELY
                        > necessary," or even more extreme that
                        > some people wouldn't use NPE if you paid
                        > them. Then it ramps up. People start dissing
                        > Mylar, then Poly caps. Believe it or not,
                        > I'm okay with the fact that your ears hear a
                        > difference. I'm not here to judge. I just
                        > want to know what scientific, ABX-style
                        > tests exist to test the viability (or lack
                        > thereof) for various types of capacitors.
                        > All I've ever come across are commandments:
                        > "ONLY use _______ capacitors when doing
                        > ________. NEVER use _______ caps for
                        > _______." Well, why not? Will my stereo
                        > blow up? Will my ears be cheated out of a
                        > life-changing experience?

                        I agree with what Pete and David have said. Specifically, for me, it is about construction and what that means in the long-run, and not so much about ABX testing. I can hear a difference in caps, sometimes a significant difference, sometimes little to none at all, but I couldn't necessarily tell you which was "better" in a blind test, only different. I think the differences in sound tend to be small enough to make buying really expensive capacitors a waste of money to me; money that I would rather spend somewhere else.

                        I have already said though, that I do try to avoid using NPE's and try to stick with poly films. I will also use mylar caps too. The reason I avoid NPE's is not because I can swear that I can hear the difference (now), but because I don't trust the cap for later.

                        NPE's are made of some pretty shady construction of using two polarized caps inverted and soldered together. They tend to have much larger variances in value, they have higher Equivalent Series Resistance, and they have worse Dielectric Absorption, and greater leakeage through the dielectric film. But, the biggest problem is that their values can drift over time, and this is certainly audible, especially since I can easily hear a .5uf change in caps when I am voicing a crossover. Given all of this, why mess with them unless you really need a large value? Even then I parallel them to poly caps to improve some of the parameters.

                        As for poly caps I have been using the Daytons for a while and I like them. I would see no reason to move up to high-dollar caps in most instances. Film and foil offer some electrical advantages over metalized poly, but I would probably only use them on the best tweeters in a high resolution system.

                        There's a lot of technology in capacitor construction, even wire attachment inside the cap makes a difference in the electrical parameters. When choosing between two caps choose the higher voltage cap if the cost is acceptable. This gets you the heaviest construction and usually the least amount of leakage and losses. Like David said above - a cap is a lot different than a coil of wire. It has a lot more to it, and how it is constructed makes a difference in how the signal comes through it.

                        Just my thoughts.

                        Jeff B.

                        Click here for Jeff Bagby's Loudspeaker Design Software

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Getting objective about capacitors


                          > I agree with what Pete and David have said.
                          > Specifically, for me, it is about
                          > construction and what that means in the
                          > long-run, and not so much about ABX testing.
                          > I can hear a difference in caps, sometimes a
                          > significant difference, sometimes little to
                          > none at all, but I couldn't necessarily tell
                          > you which was "better" in a blind
                          > test, only different. I think the
                          > differences in sound tend to be small enough
                          > to make buying really expensive capacitors a
                          > waste of money to me; money that I would
                          > rather spend somewhere else.

                          > I have already said though, that I do try to
                          > avoid using NPE's and try to stick with poly
                          > films. I will also use mylar caps too. The
                          > reason I avoid NPE's is not because I can
                          > swear that I can hear the difference (now),
                          > but because I don't trust the cap for later.

                          > NPE's are made of some pretty shady
                          > construction of using two polarized caps
                          > inverted and soldered together. They tend to
                          > have much larger variances in value, they
                          > have higher Equivalent Series Resistance,
                          > and they have worse Dielectric Absorption,
                          > and greater leakeage through the dielectric
                          > film. But, the biggest problem is that their
                          > values can drift over time, and this is
                          > certainly audible, especially since I can
                          > easily hear a .5uf change in caps when I am
                          > voicing a crossover. Given all of this, why
                          > mess with them unless you really need a
                          > large value? Even then I parallel them to
                          > poly caps to improve some of the parameters.

                          > As for poly caps I have been using the
                          > Daytons for a while and I like them. I would
                          > see no reason to move up to high-dollar caps
                          > in most instances. Film and foil offer some
                          > electrical advantages over metalized poly,
                          > but I would probably only use them on the
                          > best tweeters in a high resolution system.

                          > There's a lot of technology in capacitor
                          > construction, even wire attachment inside
                          > the cap makes a difference in the electrical
                          > parameters. When choosing between two caps
                          > choose the higher voltage cap if the cost is
                          > acceptable. This gets you the heaviest
                          > construction and usually the least amount of
                          > leakage and losses. Like David said above -
                          > a cap is a lot different than a coil of
                          > wire. It has a lot more to it, and how it is
                          > constructed makes a difference in how the
                          > signal comes through it.

                          > Just my thoughts.

                          > Jeff B.
                          As long as the workmanship is not shoddy. it does not have to be very expensive. the daytons work well and so do the solens.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Flawed testing


                            > Sorry but his whole process of testing is
                            > flawed and useless. I bet he couldn't pick
                            > out which cap was which in a double blind
                            > ABX test setup. Just knowing which cap is in
                            > the circuit will influence his opinion.

                            I hate to get involved in these type of discussions, because I already have my mind made up. I have my own opinions and I don't really care to argue with anyone about them.
                            I think it's flawed testing too. Apparently there were some who could tell a difference. I wonder how well I would have done in this type of situation and how difficult would it be to sit down and relax and really concentrate in a busy room full of people coming and going. Too many distractions, too much commotion and background noises and listener fatigue. I've been to several DIY's and after a couple of hours of listening you begin to lose your sensitivity and maybe even your motivation.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Yeah, Tony's a great guy, but...

                              If you poured me two cups of cola and only two cups, one PEPSI and the other one COKE, I could easily tell you the difference. Both have a cola taste, but the secondary or after taste is different. COKE finishes with a vanilla taste and PEPSI finishes with something more like a lemon/lime taste.
                              Now if you poured me several different colas including COKE, PEPSI, SHASTA, RC and a store brand, I might get lost quickly.
                              Last edited by ; 03-18-2009, 04:21 PM.

                              Comment

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