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Audible difference in high-end capacitors? - ABX samples

thewas

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Yeah. And for all you guys that obsess about boutique capacitors, the best thing you can do is throw them all away and go active. I doubt even the most expensive capacitor adds a desirable sound.
Nah, active electronics are usually full of small capacitors (even worse SMD components and DSP chips) where it is hard to impossible to replace them with some nice fat "audiophile" Clarity or Mundorf foils. :p
 

changer

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(e.g. microphonics/vibration sounds like a pretty serious possibility for crossover applications)
Has been discussed and even measured in this thread and its a pretty unserious, now completely debunked concept.

At least as long a you do not mount the crossover directly besides your listening position, in free air :'D
 
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ctrl

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Not the most helpful though: multitone graphs are quite hard to (visually) read, one needs a calculator to figure out what all those distortion byproducts are. Also it is ~impossible to visually compare two multitone graphs (unless the diffs are huge).

This part of the series on " capacitor sound" is primarily about ABX Test and the music and noise samples.
How small the difference in MD is with capacitors in crossovers has already been shown in detail in the other parts. For electrolytic capacitors versus film capacitors with an low distortion midrange driver (part 2) and for another high-end film capacitor versus normal and old film capacitors (part 1):
1701275308377.png Cap_MD.gif
If you can hardly recognize a difference visually and the small differences that are really recognizable are greater than -60dB below the fundamental, this can never explain the listening impressions in the reviews of high-end capacitors. No one should be able to tell whether the MD is at -60dB or -63dB.

Erin from erinsaudiocorner regularly makes MD measurements. His personal hearing limit is around 3%. Even if an audiophile believes that one can perceive a magnitude better MD, one would only be at 0.3%, to -60dB (which means 0.1%) is still a long way off.

Don't get me wrong, for example, there are clearly measurable differences between electrolytic and film capacitors when it comes to harmonic distortion. This has been shown by @pma in this post in part2:
1701277200505.png
But you have to be aware that these measurements were carried out at a voltage of around 10V (a standard mid-range driver shows well over 100dB SPL at this voltage) and HD3 was around -70dB (0.03%) for the electrolytic capacitor, whose dielectric strength was only 63V instead of the usual 100V. This is all far below the threshold of perceptibility - masking prevents its audibility.


How about a fullspectrum HD graph? The ones provided by Archimago look pretty nice & easy to read.

As you probably know, multitone measurements contain both harmonic distortion and intermodulation distortion. So if multitone distortion is practically identical, then there is no difference in HD.

By the way, I have already answered the question regarding HD in post#628, for example - no need to explicit show HD measurements of film capacitors, it was settled decades ago.
Let me quote myself:
Distortion of film capacitors plays no role at all in crossover, as it is extremely low and magnitudes lower than the distortion caused by drivers.

For example, take a look at the measurements of film capacitors by Cyril Bateman from 2002/3 - that's how long ago the matter was settled. By the way, @pma has already confirmed these measurements several times and has measured, for example here, harmonic distortion of capacitors at 20Vrms (!!) - 100% inaudible.
1699050779353.png


But proving inaudibility in a sure/fool-proof manner is not an easy task, it might just be the hardest ever (generally, proving negatives is quite close to impossible).
If you still can't accept the facts after all the evaluations and the zero test with DeltaWave, you can easily check for hours with the music samples and an ABX test to see if there are any audible differences.
If someone is not able to hear differences in the ABX test, then you have proven that you yourself are not able to detect differences.

It's never too late to abandon old superstitions instead of repeating them again and again without proof ;)


something that should be added to your first-post: a nice intro-to-caps article.

I would recommend "Thinking Caps" and its biblio: an easy & clear read and it also contains a few thoughts on how they may sound different
There are plenty of online electronics encyclopedias that explain how a capacitor works in a compact way.

From your link, claims like "Large electrolytic capacitors typically have electrical resonance frequencies within the audio band" are really problematic. What does "large" mean and where are the measurements that show this behavior and explain why any high or low pass behavior is considered a resonance.

Theoretical behavior of a capacitor shown in your link with the "problematic, misleading statement" I quoted:
1701278875593.jpeg

What does reality show?

Impedance measurement of a typical 3.3µF standard film capacitor which could be used in a crossover part to a tweeter:
1701279016588.png
The influence of the Equivalent Series Inductivity ESL is not even dominant above 40kHz.

Impedance measurement of a 110µF electrolyte capacitor. Such high capacitance is actually only used in series with the driver in the midrange branch (high pass to separate from woofer).
1701279536017.png
Now we can just about recognize an impedance minimum around 20kHz and observe the increasing influence of ESL above 20kHz.
In addition, the quality factor Q is very small, so it is a critically damped or over-damped system and the system doesn't oscillate.
 
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j_j

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Your post/measurements are very useful and many thanks for the effort. But proving inaudibility in a sure/fool-proof manner is not an easy task, it might just be the hardest ever (generally, proving negatives is quite close to impossible).

I'm sorry, but the burden is on the people who claim something is audible in this case, outside of a few well-known cases where some very inappropriate caps have been used by various individuals for space concerns on the board.

So, how about we start with finding something that is proven to be audible that isn't a well-known issue to start with, bearing in mind that anyone can get a circuit design wrong, and many do.
 

HarmonicTHD

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Yeah. And for all you guys that obsess about boutique capacitors, the best thing you can do is throw them all away and go active. I doubt even the most expensive capacitor adds a desirable sound.
Yep. I still have a bunch of Mundorfs lying at the bottom of one of my drawers after I showed to myself some 5 years ago what BS this all is. And in the bin they go next time I need the space.
 

egellings

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Yep. I still have a bunch of Mundorfs lying at the bottom of one of my drawers after I showed to myself some 5 years ago what BS this all is. And in the bin they go next time I need the space.
Maybe you could save them and use them for some other non-audio purpose.
 

JP

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Yep. I still have a bunch of Mundorfs lying at the bottom of one of my drawers after I showed to myself some 5 years ago what BS this all is. And in the bin they go next time I need the space.
Sell ‘em on diyAudio. They’ll go fast.
 

lashto

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I'm sorry, but the burden is on the people who claim something is audible in this case, outside of a few well-known cases where some very inappropriate caps have been used by various individuals for space concerns on the board.

So, how about we start with finding something that is proven to be audible that isn't a well-known issue to start with, bearing in mind that anyone can get a circuit design wrong, and many do.
there might be a bit of confusion here: I am not saying that caps sound different. I tend to think that they don't.

I am only saying that the evidence presented in this thread/OP is not enough to conclude-beyond-doubt that all caps sound the same. It's a good study and a lot of useful measurements.
But IMO, not enough caps were tested and not enough tests were done for such a strong conclusion. Plus the proving-a-negative aspect.

It may or may not be worth doing a truly comprehensive study on caps but "if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right"..
 

DonR

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there might be a bit of confusion here: I am not saying that caps sound different. I tend to think that they don't.

I am only saying that the evidence presented in this thread/OP is not enough to conclude-beyond-doubt that all caps sound the same. It's a good study and a lot of useful measurements.
But IMO, not enough caps were tested and not enough tests were done for such a strong conclusion. Plus the proving-a-negative aspect.

It may or may not be worth doing a truly comprehensive study on caps but "if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right"..
Theory and practice say there is little basis for the assertion that capacitor construction has a great or even audible influence on sound. I think it is up to those who make the claim that it does to prove this wrong.
 

fpitas

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wwenze

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there might be a bit of confusion here: I am not saying that caps sound different. I tend to think that they don't.

I am only saying that the evidence presented in this thread/OP is not enough to conclude-beyond-doubt that all caps sound the same. It's a good study and a lot of useful measurements.
But IMO, not enough caps were tested and not enough tests were done for such a strong conclusion. Plus the proving-a-negative aspect.

It may or may not be worth doing a truly comprehensive study on caps but "if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right"..
Uh huh.
 

egellings

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Right? They're all broken-in now, too!
The only time I heard a cap make a difference in S.Q. was when a boutique one was used in a crossover and the cap conducted significant current when the system played loudly. Crossover was an experimental one and was external to the enclosure to allow for easy modification. The cap was not very tightly wound, and it vibrated with the music, much like a tiny rolled up electrostatic speaker would. It was audible, if the listener was close to it. In the normal listening position a few feet away, it was not. Not sure if it modified the sound coming out of the speaker, though.
 

fpitas

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j_j

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The only time I heard a cap make a difference in S.Q. was when a boutique one was used in a crossover and the cap conducted significant current when the system played loudly. Crossover was an experimental one and was external to the enclosure to allow for easy modification. The cap was not very tightly wound, and it vibrated with the music, much like a tiny rolled up electrostatic speaker would. It was audible, if the listener was close to it. In the normal listening position a few feet away, it was not. Not sure if it modified the sound coming out of the speaker, though.

Oh, I've heard bass distortion in really cheap bipolar electrolytics in high level crossovers. It's not too surprising that there is something audible going on, since the actual capacitance literally varies with voltage across the cap.

BUT this is a known problem, and modern crossovers know better, or at least most of them do.
 

Rewind

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Upgraded my passive XO to Alumen after trying Mundorfs cheapest M-cap Classic and also Obbligato caps. Alumen have very nice treble. Obbligato sound very uneven in comparison. Mundorf Classic is just terrible. I would like to try some high quality copper caps next to see if I can get more detailed darkness.
 

antcollinet

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Upgraded my passive XO to Alumen after trying Mundorfs cheapest M-cap Classic and also Obbligato caps. Alumen have very nice treble. Obbligato sound very uneven in comparison. Mundorf Classic is just terrible. I would like to try some high quality copper caps next to see if I can get more detailed darkness.

Let me guess - the more expensive the caps the more detailed the darnkness? :rolleyes::facepalm:

Come back when you've tested blind and accurately (with a DVM) level matched and have been able to tell which is which at least 9 out of 10 times : And we might have something to talk about. Assuming of course you've not just created a varying frequency response by putting in different values.
 
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DonR

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Upgraded my passive XO to Alumen after trying Mundorfs cheapest M-cap Classic and also Obbligato caps. Alumen have very nice treble. Obbligato sound very uneven in comparison. Mundorf Classic is just terrible. I would like to try some high quality copper caps next to see if I can get more detailed darkness.
How do you know if all these differences were not simply a product of mental biases?
 

j_j

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Upgraded my passive XO to Alumen after trying Mundorfs cheapest M-cap Classic and also Obbligato caps. Alumen have very nice treble. Obbligato sound very uneven in comparison. Mundorf Classic is just terrible. I would like to try some high quality copper caps next to see if I can get more detailed darkness.

Please explain how you established this.
 
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