Audio grade cap manufacturers?

Rybow

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Hello everyone!

I am new to the whole DIY game. I just finished my first circuit. Just a tube screamer, but it works, and it sounds great! My girlfriend was surprised. She actually said "What!? It actually sounds good?". Nice.

Anyways, onto the point of the post. I am ordering parts for a new project, and I really want to get the best parts I can. The only issue is that if I were to order all the parts I wanted, I would need to get them from 4 different online stores. Thats a lot of shipping charges! So I am hoping to eliminate my mouser order, and get all my caps from Allied.

Names that keep coming up for audio grade electrolytic capacitors are Panasonic, Elna, Mundorf, black gates and others. Allied carries none of these. They carry Vishay, Illinois, Cornell Dubillier, and Sprague/Vishay radial electrolytics. Will any of these work out?

I have read a lot of info about capacitors, but I have yet to find a reference for which brands of caps are audio grade. Any suggestions?

Thanks!
 

e.oelberg

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don't bother too much about the hifi crew going crazy on caps. Good elyts are panasonic fm or fc. good films are wima.

both are pretty cheap

nicholas
 

MikoKensington

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Nichicon Muse caps are reported to be good "audio grade" caps.  I've never done any A/B testing though.  For me the "higher-end" Nichicons begin to push the limits of pricing for caps.  I mean, I'll probably never tell the difference in a rock mix.
 

okgb

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Some things can be TOO clean when it comes to gtr circuits
but Digikey has elna  electrolytics supposidly designed for audio
I redid a drawmer comp with them and they cleared up the mud
[ i didn't know it was muddy ] definitely made a difference
 

regularjohn

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Panasonic FM, Panasonic FC, Nichicon HE
It doesn't get better than these 3 electrolytic brands.
What's important is that it's rated for 105C operation and that it has a low esr rating.

Don't bother with the audiophool stuff that costs an arm and a leg - most of it's nothing more than snake oil with unverifiable claims.
 

Rybow

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I know, I don't want to pay mass amounts of cash for caps. I have an order going at mouser that contains Panasonic and Wima caps, but there is one part they don't have that I need, and I can only find it at Allied. I am hoping to buy all my caps through Allied, but they don't carry any Panasonic caps. Are any of the brands they carry (listed in my first post) ideal replacements?
 

burdij

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Don't forget about Welborne Labs http://www.welbornelabs.com. Sometimes they have pretty good deals on closeout caps. I picked up a bunch of nice 47uf Elnas Cerafine there at about half price. Its the "Dumpster Diving" department in the lower right corner.

 

Rybow

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I'll have to check out Welborne labs. I've never heard of that one before.

One other question. Is a ceramic cap just a ceramic cap? Or are there certain brands that are better than others in this department.

The main reason I ask is that I want to make absolutely sure that after I spend hours sourcing parts, testing parts, stuffing parts, and calibrating parts, I will have a kick ass audio device. I don't want snake oil for sure, I just want quality parts. The electronics stores in vancouver focus on consumer electronics and computer electronics. Not too much into specialty audio applications.
 

mitsos

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Call Laura at TAW electronics. They carry Panasonic FC and Wima and are much cheaper than mouser. Tell her you're from prodigy.
 

Rybow

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mitsos said:
Call Laura at TAW electronics. They carry Panasonic FC and Wima and are much cheaper than mouser. Tell her you're from prodigy.

Thanks Mitsos! I will look into that right now.
 

lassoharp

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That's cool if you don't want to reveal what the new project is but if it were known it could help out as far as people being able to give you sound advice on possible alternatives that could net some savings - there's usually always  more than one way to skin the cat.

Don't forget to check Newark and Digi-Key.  Sometimes they can be more economical than Mouser. I've found Allied to generally be a little higher on everything compared to the big three.
 

Rybow

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lassoharp said:
That's cool if you don't want to reveal what the new project is but if it were known it could help out as far as people being able to give you sound advice on possible alternatives that could net some savings - there's usually always  more than one way to skin the cat.

Don't forget to check Newark and Digi-Key.  Sometimes they can be more economical than Mouser. I've found Allied to generally be a little higher on everything compared to the big three.

That's a good point! I am working on the Luny Tune LA 4 at the moment. So far, I have all the resistors and jumpers on the board, and that's all. I want to keep as close to the BOM as I can. I don't feel confident enough to messing around with things too much.

A month ago, I had no idea that there was so much variation between different manufacturers, and which manufacturers make audio grade capacitors. The stores in my city focus on computer and consumer electronics, so they aren't very helpful.

Are there factors that quantify a capacitor as an audio grade capacitor? Or is it totally subjective like most things audio related.

Anyways, thanks so far for all the responses!

 

Gold

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Ceramic caps are generally used for power decoupling and for op amp compensation. You want N0G material. All the places will have them. It helps to have a paper catalog for browsing.
 

jdbakker

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Gold said:
[...]N0G material[...]

That should be C0G/NP0. Both are commonly available in lower values. You can easily find them up to 10nF, higher values are harder to get and more expensive.

See also:

http://www.groupdiy.com/index.php?topic=36431.0
http://www.groupdiy.com/index.php?topic=9710.0
http://www.groupdiy.com/index.php?topic=19995.0
http://www.groupdiy.com/index.php?topic=17441.0
http://www.groupdiy.com/index.php?topic=23778.0

JDB.
 

Rybow

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jdbakker said:
Gold said:
[...]N0G material[...]

That should be C0G/NP0. Both are commonly available in lower values. You can easily find them up to 10nF, higher values are harder to get and more expensive.

See also:

http://www.groupdiy.com/index.php?topic=36431.0
http://www.groupdiy.com/index.php?topic=9710.0
http://www.groupdiy.com/index.php?topic=19995.0
http://www.groupdiy.com/index.php?topic=17441.0
http://www.groupdiy.com/index.php?topic=23778.0

JDB.

I think any question I ever had about ceramic caps was answered with this post. Thank you very much!
 

soundguy

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unless you are willing to spend hundreds to thousands of hours and similar quantity of dollars listening to caps, you are just better off taking advice that sounds like this:

regularjohn said:
Panasonic FM, Panasonic FC, Nichicon HE
It doesn't get better than these 3 electrolytic brands.
What's important is that it's rated for 105C operation and that it has a low esr rating.

Don't bother with the audiophool stuff that costs an arm and a leg - most of it's nothing more than snake oil with unverifiable claims.

whats important is that it sounds good, not what some piece of measuring equipment gauges.  but that takes time, money and vision, and vision is the critical part.  Audiophool is putting wood blocks on top of transformers and painting IC's with resin.  Listening to caps is something else.  You should also understand the perspective from which much of the thought about capacitors comes from, if you dont put it into perspective its worthless.  Black gates have a sound.  If you are a hifi guy, and you are trying to minimize the sound of some distortion in a particular band in your amp, electing to use them can be very helpful.  On the other hand, if you want want to build something that doesnt sound like it has black gates in it, you might chose something else.  But good luck trying to find a cap that does what a black gate does.  It just might suck like hell in your circuit but your circuit might not be hifi to begin with...  Just because some cap is expensive and it doesnt work in your circuit doesnt mean it sucks in the other guy's circuit which has a totally different topology and end game.

Ultimately you can sum it all up with concluding that all the advice on the internet is shit cause you never know where its coming from or from what authority and experience it is put forth.  At the end of the day you simply need to listen to caps if you want to get anywhere and it takes a long, long, long time.
 

Rybow

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soundguy said:
unless you are willing to spend hundreds to thousands of hours and similar quantity of dollars listening to caps, you are just better off taking advice that sounds like this:

regularjohn said:
Panasonic FM, Panasonic FC, Nichicon HE
It doesn't get better than these 3 electrolytic brands.
What's important is that it's rated for 105C operation and that it has a low esr rating.

Don't bother with the audiophool stuff that costs an arm and a leg - most of it's nothing more than snake oil with unverifiable claims.

whats important is that it sounds good, not what some piece of measuring equipment gauges.  but that takes time, money and vision, and vision is the critical part.  Audiophool is putting wood blocks on top of transformers and painting IC's with resin.  Listening to caps is something else.  You should also understand the perspective from which much of the thought about capacitors comes from, if you dont put it into perspective its worthless.  Black gates have a sound.  If you are a hifi guy, and you are trying to minimize the sound of some distortion in a particular band in your amp, electing to use them can be very helpful.  On the other hand, if you want want to build something that doesnt sound like it has black gates in it, you might chose something else.  But good luck trying to find a cap that does what a black gate does.  It just might suck like hell in your circuit but your circuit might not be hifi to begin with...  Just because some cap is expensive and it doesnt work in your circuit doesnt mean it sucks in the other guy's circuit which has a totally different topology and end game.

Ultimately you can sum it all up with concluding that all the advice on the internet is shit cause you never know where its coming from or from what authority and experience it is put forth.  At the end of the day you simply need to listen to caps if you want to get anywhere and it takes a long, long, long time.

At the end of the day, I do want it to sound good. I don't want to be an audiophool, thats for sure. The first, and so far only circuit that I have built was a tube screamer. I walked into the local electronics store, handed the dude my BOM, and he gave all the parts. I didn't pay any attention to capacitor types or where they came from. I just slapped them in. My tube screamer sounds awesome. This time, I have decided to take a different approach, and actually try to be picky about what caps I put in my circuit. I have read about Dielectric loss/absorption, ESR, construction and so on, but haven't found too much about how these properties affect the sound. Which is fine due to the subjective nature of it all. "One mans pleasure is another mans pain".  Thanks for the reality check! I don't have oodles of dough to spend on capacitors, but i want the best price to performance ratio I can get.

The Panasonic FM/FC caps are what I am looking at right now (thanks to regularjohn). WIMA polypropylenes, and C0G/NP0 ceramics. Do I know what these are going to do in my circuit? No, but I will probably build a second LA 4 and go completely of the wall with it just to see what the difference is. I didn't have a clue about ceramics until jdbakker posted those links, and I still don't have a clue about silver mica caps either, but the next circuit I build will probably have them in there just to see what they do.

Its not that there is just shit information on the net, I think there is a lot of great information, but there is soooooo much information on the net. Its a wonderful resource, but it can be tough to know where to begin, and know what to take as "truth" and what is BS. The research will continue, and I plan to spend a lot more time researching over the coming weeks.

Thanks to everyone for your responses!
 

Gus

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To understand what you hear with caps you need to do testing and reading.   It seems the Cyril Bateman's PDFs have disappeared from the web one of the best if not best write-ups about distortion in caps.  Had plots of distortion with different voltages across the cap and other good things.  Certain places in circuits you might hear a change and other places you might not it depends on where it is in a circuit.

Audio grade caps is marketing talk IMO.   Short of building or buying test gear that can measure a difference that you MIGHT hear the best way might be to buy caps and try them.  This is a case of it DEPENDS, a cap I would not use in a stereo build might be perfect for a guitar effect.  

There has been lots of posts here and on the web about caps some are good.

 

CJ

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for Pultec Eq, i like an assortment, like some Wima's, old Euro caps from Germany, there is a KMP, whatever that is, there is a Valvo in there, regular ceramics for the real high stuff, no mica, they never sound good anywhere, Sprague for the typical tube bypass values, i used those yellow Musicaps in the lineamp,, they sound good, but i probably would just buy regular Spragues next time, the Bass caps are the hardest, you can search for hours before you find the right low end bass caps, i settled on an old wax Cornell Dublier, the 400 volt ratings are probably good since the old stuff probably leaks like hell at line voltages, don't worry, the IC caps are just for ext pwr supply filtering,

kbaolu.jpg
 

sws2h

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mitsos said:
Call Laura at TAW electronics. They carry Panasonic FC and Wima and are much cheaper than mouser. Tell her you're from prodigy.

I've tried contacting TAW several times but never got a response.

I use Panasonic FM and FC, and Nichicon HE series as well. I also use Multicap PPMFX series, your best bet is to order those from Reliable Capacitor directly.
 
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