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Thread: Tonepot ceramic capacitor - should I change it?

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    Default Tonepot ceramic capacitor - should I change it?

    I remember reading about this at some point long ago - and some say you should have paper in oil ones and similar.

    I just swapped pickups on LP Std and started wondering if those ceramic capacitors there really cut it.
    I suppose any plastic one will be better for audio, or?

    What is your experience?

    Pickups are DiMarzio DP103 and DP100 and was perfect upgrade from Burstbucker Pro's.

    Thanks.

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    Default Re: Tonepot ceramic capacitor - should I change it?

    If it sounds good to you, leave it the hell alone. Stop following the lemmings.

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    Default Re: Tonepot ceramic capacitor - should I change it?

    If the tone (note detail even when darkened) sounds a bit murky/indistinct when the tone control is rolled off, I would consider replacement. You have to measure them. If they are not in spec or do not read consistently I would replace them with more stable ones like Spragues. Specific material doesn’t matter so much, only the measured value of the component. One exception is paper in oil will dry out, fall out of spec and fail over a long time. The other exception is cheap ceramic discs. When I’ve tested them, they do not read a consistent value and note definition is a bit murkier when the tone is rolled off. There are better materials that last much longer available.
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    Default Re: Tonepot ceramic capacitor - should I change it?

    Thanks for response.
    It's hard to say how it should sound with turning down tone, since that by definition make it murkier.

    So thought about what I was reading, a pot that do no contact at all at 10 - so disconnected circuit, kind of.
    And gain a little highs doing that. The circuit is at some point filtering highs.

    DiMarzio sell some 1 Mohm pots also to gain some highs, they claim.

    So figured if to test with disconnect or other capacitor type - if that would change with tone at 10 as well.

    From what I found on the matter - they tested with static continuous signal, frequency sweep and if the filter changes due to type of capactor.
    But playing is not a continuous static - and that's how it is with many things - how they respond dynamically and to static conditions.

    Microphones and speakers are examples that react very differently to dynamic content and static.
    There are cheap stuff piezo mikes that specs say 20-20 000 Hz - but they don't sound like a Neumann anyway.

    Electronics that forward analog signal depend on quality of components.

    So the thinking that a capacitor in tone circuit might interfere in some regard to guitar signal, playing single notes and chords and everything in between - just being there seems not so far fetched to me.

    Curious what tests by ear made by folks here on this tone circuit often used?

    Some really subtle changes can not be decided until real experience.

    Most extensive test I found was this
    http://zerocapcable.com/?page_id=224

    but all static conditions with filter curve.

    Most profound change over time I experienced was using GeorgeL instrument cable - that was like swapping between a 59' to Jazz or something, that I used at the time.

    So a passive pickup, internal resistance and total impedance with coil and the volume pot, tone circuit, cable etc. It's all part of the ciruit.
    Last edited by Larioso; 03-31-2020 at 02:16 AM.

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    OH THE DOUBLE THICK GLAZE! Clint 55's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonepot ceramic capacitor - should I change it?

    It's up to you. I notice a difference between cap materials. My favorite are orange drop cuz it sounds fat and supple, and paper in oil cuz it sounds creamy and organic. They're cheap so no big deal to not try it.
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    Default Re: Tonepot ceramic capacitor - should I change it?

    @larioso what I mean by “murkier” is that normally even with the tone darkened, you should still be able to hear note to note definition if you play a chord, but with a cheap inconsistent ceramic cap some of the notes of chords will blend in a way you can’t distinguish individual strings/notes of the chord. That’s the best way I can describe it.
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    Default Re: Tonepot ceramic capacitor - should I change it?

    There exists no measurable difference between capacitors of the same value used in a guitar tone circuit. Ceramic, paper in oil, whatever . . . they all therefore sound exactly the same. Different values of capacitor can make a big difference though, and because of variances in manufacturing spec grabbing two '.033' caps can usually have values between .027 and .039 . . . which is definitely enough to hear.

    That said, the placebo effect is very real. There's no sound difference between playing a neon pink strat and a tobacco burst one . . . but many players will be a lot happier playing one rather than the other. If it makes you happy to change out the cap, knock yourself out.
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    Default Re: Tonepot ceramic capacitor - should I change it?

    Quote Originally Posted by beaubrummels View Post
    @larioso what I mean by “murkier” is that normally even with the tone darkened, you should still be able to hear note to note definition if you play a chord, but with a cheap inconsistent ceramic cap some of the notes of chords will blend in a way you can’t distinguish individual strings/notes of the chord. That’s the best way I can describe it.
    Ok, thanks. I always feel I loose the tone already at 8 on tonepot, but will check it out more. Some guitars have logarithmic pot and get the feeling some linear, not sure.

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    Default Re: Tonepot ceramic capacitor - should I change it?

    I generally have a bunch of different capacitors of differing values laying around, so if I open up my guitar to do work on it and see that there is a ceramic capacitor, usually I will change it out just because I'm already in there and I usually prefer to put a .018uF cap instead of .022uF. But if I know that there's a ceramic cap in there and I have no plans of changing anything else in the control cavity, I usually just let it be.
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    Default Re: Tonepot ceramic capacitor - should I change it?

    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarStv View Post
    There exists no measurable difference between capacitors of the same value used in a guitar tone circuit. Ceramic, paper in oil, whatever . . . they all therefore sound exactly the same. Different values of capacitor can make a big difference though, and because of variances in manufacturing spec grabbing two '.033' caps can usually have values between .027 and .039 . . . which is definitely enough to hear.

    That said, the placebo effect is very real. There's no sound difference between playing a neon pink strat and a tobacco burst one . . . but many players will be a lot happier playing one rather than the other. If it makes you happy to change out the cap, knock yourself out.
    I believe there is no measurable difference - but between various hifi amps there are no measurable differences either - and still some just sound better. What we can tell on instruments are much less than our fine ears+brain interpretation.

    So I'm not a stranger to the idea it matters. Caps matter in analog gear otherwise, so why not in guitars.

    I have to test, I guess, but thanks for all input.

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    Default Re: Tonepot ceramic capacitor - should I change it?

    I am one of those people who use the tone control a lot, and if the value of the cap is the same, I can't hear a difference. I am not saying there isn't, but I can't hear it, so worry about other things that I can hear.
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    Default Re: Tonepot ceramic capacitor - should I change it?

    i use my tone knob more than most people id guess. i use whatever type i have the value i want, usually orange drop but ceramic or pio or mallory 150 or whatever i have handy. does it make a difference? maybe a small one, but on stage, with a band, you will hear absolutely no difference.

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    Default Re: Tonepot ceramic capacitor - should I change it?

    Ceramic disc caps are fine, and cost nothing. Worry about the actual capacitance of each cap, not whether it costs 5 cents or 50 dollars. The cap is metaphorically nothing but a sink strainer over the garbage disposal. Arguing that cap type matters is like saying that your sink strainer being aluminum or stainless, both with the same exact measurements on the mesh, affects the flow of stuff past the mesh. You might like stainless because it theoretically lasts longer and costs more so it must be better...but the particles don't know the difference. All they see is a certain number of holes of a certain size, that they can either pass through or not.

    If your tone control is rolling off treble too quickly for you, you need to switch to a linear taper pot, not a different cap.

    If the high frequencies that are getting rolled off are too excessive, then you want a lower cap value. If not enough high frequencies are getting rolled off, then you want a higher valued cap.

    Linear tone controls with smaller valued caps (usually 1/2 to 1/4 of the stock value) are my go-to tone controls when I wire a guitar. I like a subtle tone control that "comes on" well down the range of the knob's movement, and takes out only the highest frequencies.

    Worry about the frequency of rolloff (measured cap value), and about the sensitivity of the control (pot taper), not about your cap material.

    Personally, I like any cap that has thicker leads with plenty of length, as they are much easier for me to solder and manipulate in a guitar wiring harness. That said, I don't pull stock cheap ceramic disc caps unless they need a change in value...because they are already soldered, and there is no need to create work for myself when it will have zero effect.
    Last edited by ItsaBass; 04-02-2020 at 02:14 AM.
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    Default Re: Tonepot ceramic capacitor - should I change it?

    I've said my 2 cents on these subject many times over. It hasn't changed.

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    Default Re: Tonepot ceramic capacitor - should I change it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Larioso View Post
    I believe there is no measurable difference - but between various hifi amps there are no measurable differences either - and still some just sound better. What we can tell on instruments are much less than our fine ears+brain interpretation.

    So I'm not a stranger to the idea it matters. Caps matter in analog gear otherwise, so why not in guitars.
    Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but there are massive, considerable, and measurable differences between various hifi amps. Caps matter in amps because as certain constructions of caps get older, their internal resistance increases. This happens at different rates depending on the construction of the cap and the location within the circuit, it occurs at a practically nonexistent rate in guitars, so the cap will sound the same from the day you buy it to the day you shuffle off this mortal coil. Ceramic capacitors are also avoided in amps for the microphonic properties.

    Here's a neat article about the topic:

    http://zerocapcable.com/wordpress/?page_id=224
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    Default Re: Tonepot ceramic capacitor - should I change it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chistopher View Post
    Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but there are massive, considerable, and measurable differences between various hifi amps. Caps matter in amps because as certain constructions of caps get older, their internal resistance increases.
    Thanks.

    The usuall stuff for amps are - frequency response +/- so so dB, THD and IMD apart from wattage rms and musical - that is pretty much it,
    You have amp that are really the same in this regard - and yet, one will sound better - that was my attempt with comparison.
    Measurement tell one story - not the full story.

    I think there are every other reason for different caps in hi end amps - than age endurance thingy. Maybe not by normal measures - but by ear. My guess is it is to do with dynamic characteristics.

    I made my own DAC from this project - with massive improvement just swapping caps to hi quality ones.
    http://lampizator.eu/LAMPIZATOR/LAMP...ampizator.html

    Most of these for digital purpose, delivering energy really fast when needed by circuits - filtering out any dips or flutter in power etc.
    My favourite became a combination of os-cons and tantal on top of those - suddenly a lush clean hi end to it all.
    Caps alone cost the same as the entire circuit board - so would make it manufactured like that probably 10 times the cost in retail.

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    Default Re: Tonepot ceramic capacitor - should I change it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Larioso View Post
    Thanks.

    The usuall stuff for amps are - frequency response +/- so so dB, THD and IMD apart from wattage rms and musical - that is pretty much it
    Frequency response is always given with a +/-. That plus and minus is important! It means that any given frequency will be higher or lower that the ideal perfect reproduction. Two amps with a frequency response of 20 - 20,000 Hz +/- 3 db for example can sound radically different. You need to look at the (unsmoothed) frequency graphs of each to make comparisons that are remotely valid - totally measurable.

    dB really mean nothing, as there are no agreed upon standards for measuring dB levels of speakers. That's why you can compare numbers from within the same company (usually) but never from company to company. The human ear also perceives certain frequencies as louder than others, so two speakers that have the same sensitivity but a different frequency response will sound louder/quieter than each other. All of this is measurable though.

    THD is total harmonic distortion - it's a measure of additional harmonics that an amp adds to a signal. Two amps can have the same value of THD, but have the harmonics introduced at different frequencies which will make them sound different. This is a measurable difference, but amp companies don't bother to give out this information usually.

    IMD is intermodulation distortion - this is dischordant distortion (not in tune) that an amp adds to a signal. Same thing as above. Two amps can have the same value of IMD, but have the distortion introduced at different frequencies which will make them sound different. Again, this is a measurable difference.

    RMS wattage is a root mean square measurement - the average of the power that can be produced by an amp over time. It's usually measured at the power the amp can produce before it hits 1% THD. It's possible for an amp with slow transients to have the same RMS as an amp with fast transients . . . but both amps will sound/react quite differently. You need to include peak power and response time in your comparisons if you want to be accurate. There are measurable differences here.


    So yeah . . . you can easily have two amps with the same ad-speak figures that sound quite different. That's because these figures are approximations - not accurate measurements. Just like how you can grab two .033 +/- 20% caps and hear different things. Even though they're both marked as .033, one might be .027 and one might be .039. That's a huge and audible difference. That's why doing proper measurement (rather than just grabbing a few numbers off the box) is important.


    Quote Originally Posted by Larioso View Post
    You have amp that are really the same in this regard - and yet, one will sound better - that was my attempt with comparison.
    Measurement tell one story - not the full story.
    Measurements tell the full story. Grabbing a handful of advertisement related specs (as you described) will certainly not tell you the full story though. Often times doing proper measurement is time consuming and requires expensive equipment. We're fortunate that this is not the case in very simple guitar tone circuits.
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    Default Re: Tonepot ceramic capacitor - should I change it?

    so linear is best for Tone pots?

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    Default Re: Tonepot ceramic capacitor - should I change it?

    I prefer log for tone and linear for volume.
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    Default Re: Tonepot ceramic capacitor - should I change it?

    Quote Originally Posted by grumptruck View Post
    so linear is best for Tone pots?
    That's more of a taste thing I think. Personally, I prefer log for tone and volume, but can get along just fine with a linear tone pot. Linear volume is a little too on/off for the way I like to use the knob.
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