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April 2011

Capacitor Musings Part 3
Article By Jon L.

See Part 1 By Clicking Here

See Part 2 By Clicking Here

Difficulty Level


Bypassing With VCap Teflons
After being charmed by the K75-10 capacitor, I did try replacing them with several others but ended up missing what K75-10 does best, i.e. rich, colorful, center-of-earth midrange, with gobs of texture, which some may interpret as extra grain. Putting the K75-10 back in, I then missed the finely-delineated upper frequencies with smooth extension other caps are blessed with. In the past, whenever I was faced with this type of situation, bypassing often saved the day, so I tried bypassing K75-10 with VCap Teflons. With many caps, bypassing with Teflons often sound terribly disjointed and incoherent, but K75-10 sang beautifully with VCap Teflons. This combination retained all the warmth, richness, and texture of K75-10 but imbued the upper and lower frequencies with extra clarity and definition that was sorely needed. As often is the case when high frequency harmonics are improved, the bass frequencies subjectively tightened up as well. This pair is so attractive-sounding that I believe the combo belongs in the league of the best of the breed. Of course, there is no guarantee this combo will work as well in one's particular gear/system, but if you find Teflons too "clinical" and oilers not neutral enough, one can certainly do a lot worse.


AmpOhm Polyester Film Aluminum Capacitor
Many people believe polyester capacitors are cheap and bad-sounding and tend to avoid anything that says "polyester"; however, most of this belief stems from bad experience with cheap polyester capacitors, not serious polyester film capacitors like the AmpOhm pictured above. True film polypropylene capacitors (i.e. ERO KP1832) tend to sound better than metalized polypropylene caps, and so do film polyester cap like AmpOhm compared to MKT caps. In my experience, cheap, small MKT caps tend to sound rough, bright, and forward, lacking true extension and refinement. Some of them do sound decent and maybe even "good", but they are not going to be mistaken for good Teflons or PIOís anytime soon. So when I first inserted the AmpOhm polyester film cap after the burn-in apparatus and heard a brightish, thin sound, I said to myself, "Yup, that sounds like polyester." But following my usual protocol, I let the caps burn in more in the actual amp position for a long additional period.

When I came back to the rig, I could hardly believe whatís happened to the sound. The sound gained an intense, clear, "juicy" quality that was irresistible, especially for female voices. Upper-midrange to midrange was translucent and illuminated with glowing floodlight with every detail present yet with no grit or grain. The tangible palpability was off the charts and perhaps one of the most "fun" times Iíve had with the human voice. The degree of presence was akin to the proverbial female singer closely singing into your ears.

This is very different from the polypropylene presentation, which does not highlight the midrange presence as much. The treble and bass of the AmpOhm polyester cap is probably in the same ballpark as good polypropylene film caps, but the midrange is definitely something special and unique. In addition, this is not a cap to be used lightly if you have weaknesses in digital front-end, interconnects, power conditioning, etc. The sheer amount of detail and presence in the midrange will not be kind to hard, forward source or components, which is very different from AmpOhm PIO caps, which tend to be more forgiving of such things while remaining musically revealing. At any rate, this capacitor has opened my eyes to polyester film capacitors, and I hope to try some others built to the same high standard in the future.


AmpOhm Polyester In Oil Aluminum Foil Capacitor 
It is always very interesting to compare two essentially identical capacitors that have but one difference. In this case, one is comparing oil-impregnated polyester vs. dry polyester used as dielectric. The dry polyester film AmpOhm, as noted previously, is a very clear, detailed, and "present" capacitor, especially in the midrange; it will light a fire under dull, grey harmonics and shine a floodlight on lifeless contrasts. While quite appealing for good recordings played through meticulate systems, poor digital recordings tend to fare much worse.

The oil-impregnated version does some interesting things. It shaves off just a hair of gruff hardness to turn poor recordings just a bit more palatable while pushing out an ounce more girth and roundness. Recordings and passages that have that "ringing" or resonant quality are turned a little gentler and calmer. Normally, such changes would mean a warmer yet lower-resolution and slower sound signature; however, since the dry polyester capacitor has so much resolution and speed to burn, the oil version still sounds plenty detailed and fast despite a little enriching of the sonic tapestry. Thereís no clear "better" or "worse" here, as I can imagine different people preferring one or the other depending on oneís tastes and how the system is voiced. At any rate, polyester film and polyester-in-oil capacitors represent a fascinating genre of capacitors, one that has the potential to offer superior sound quality to garden-variety polypropylene capacitors out there at comparable prices.


V-Cap CuTF (Copper Foil Teflon Film) Capacitor
This is the new "reference" capacitor from VH Audio, utilizing cryoíd oxygen-Free high conductivity copper foil in Teflon film, finished with 18 AWG solid core high purity OCC (Ohno Continuous Cast) copper with VH Audioís AirLok insulation. The description spells "expensive," and indeed the new CuTF capacitor is about 50% more expensive than the V-Cap TFTF (tin foil Teflon).

Obviously, people would like to know if the CuTF is worth the surcharge over TFTF, and the short answer would be a resounding "it depends."

First of all, these new V Caps sound nothing like any other capacitors I have tested so far, and I spent a lot of time comparing them to some of the best of the crop, including Aura-T Teflons and V-Cap TFTF.

There are two things that strike me the most about the new caps.

Their sound has significantly more robust body compared to Aura-T or VCap TFT, giving you a more of an anchor around the mid-midrange, as opposed to more of upper-midrange/treble anchoring of Aura-T or TFT. I know there are some people who feel Teflon caps are "lean" in low-midrange/upper-bass area, which I don't really agree with. However, with the new caps, one tends to realize how much more music resides in this area. However, this does not mean this area is exaggerated or bloated like overcompensated bass-reflex two-way bookshelf speakers because linearity and transparency are excellent throughout all the ranges.

The other thing that makes an impression is just how detailed these capacitors are. Once again, combined with robust density, detail resolution is unparalleled, especially in the mid-midrange region. Other capacitors that I love, including Mundorf silver-in-oil and AmpOhm PIO, just cannot compete with the amount of detail in these areas. The good oils types tend to "massage" out recordings' rough edges slightly for beauty, but bad recordings have nowhere to hide with the new caps. This also means top-notch recordings with top-notch equipment WILL show you things you've never heard before, so be careful with where you use these new caps. With power comes responsibility, as they say.

There's no need to mention other usual parameters such as bass, dynamics, imaging, soundstaging, etc because these aspects are in line with what's best out there. It's just that the special combination of extraordinary body and resolution just does not exist anywhere else. Another quality to note is that unlike certain Teflons and "audiophile" caps, there does not seem to be any *extra* sheen or highlighting of the uppermost frequencies to flatter dull recording/systems. If your system has been tuned to sound just right around these more "flashy" caps, you may need to re-tune your system with the new VCaps in place, but the effort would be worth it.

So should you rush out and throw out your previously favorite caps, perhaps even V-Cap TFTF to use the CuTF? Well, if you donít mind the expenditure and are curious, by all means try them. However, all the caps discussed before, including TFTF, are still just as good and rewarding today as they were before, and the availability of CuTF does not diminish those other great caps. As with all things in audio, just realize that everything depends on overall system/room synergy and personal tastes.


AmpOhm Aluminum Foil Paper In Wax Capacitor
Jupiter beewax capacitors have impressed me positively in the past, leading the way for the comeback of beewax capacitors in modern times. However, Jupiters were notoriously susceptible to heat, and if they were installed near hot resistors or tubes, they were prone to failures. As I have written before, they have recently come out with a "High Temperature" (HT) version, and they are designed to be much more resistant to heat. I was somewhat surprised to see that AmpOhm also made paper-in-wax capacitors, and at $12.75, they were much cheaper than Jupiters, which are around $35. I was hoping to find another great budget capacitor, so in they went after the usual burn-in.

The overall sound of AmpOhm paper-in-wax was even and pleasant, with no part of the spectrum jumping out and biting off your ears. This is a great capacitor for tweaking an overly-bright or analytical system to more forgiving side, allowing one to enjoy a larger portion of poorly-recorded albums. The flipside was that great recordings could not reach the heights that tweaked Teflon caps can achieve; there just seemed to be a finite limit on how much resolution and transparency was available. Itís not really fair to compare any capís resolution to Teflons, but thatís how it goes around here.

Just to make sure my ears had not gone sour, I popped in my old Jupiter beewax caps, and yes, I still liked them very much. At almost triple the AmpOhmís price, Jupiters had a more forward, detailed stance with more "obvious" high treble twinkle and midbass energy. Still not in Teflon territory in resolution, but this didnít detract me from enjoying the music. For headphone fans, Jupiters really reminded me of Grado headphones, especially the new PS1000, in presentation while AmpOhm reminded me somewhat of Sennheiser HD6xx series powered by a polite headamp. Still, if you want a forgiving paper-in-wax cap that costs much less than Jupiter, AmpOhm is the only game in town, and itís built like a tank just like the paper-in-oil caps, not feeling like a soft candlestick like Jupiter caps, the older version anyway.


ClarityCap MR Polypropylene Capacitor
Claritycap line of capacitors has a large following and has a reputation for great sound at bargain prices, with the SA, PX, and ESA lines selling in $3-8 range at the popular 0.22 uF range, for example. My previous impression of ClarityCap SA, at a few dollars, was that of a pleasant, rounded sound lacking in ultimate resolution. The MR series costs 10 times as much as the SA yet still comes in at a low price compared to the exotic competition.

According to the website, the ClairyCap MR "is manufactured in such a way to substantially reduce the negative effects of resonance on sonic quality which is inherent in a wound component. This results in a sonic characteristic which is difficult to equal. Manufactured from metalized polypropylene film the component is housed in a colored acrylic tube and encapsulated in an epoxy resin to assist in the overall sonic performance."

Whatever they did performed some major transformation to the sound, as the MR sounds nothing like SA, sounding far more extended, neutral, dynamic, and yes, resolved. As far as frequency extension, there is nothing to fault here, as both top and bottom go as high and low as can be desired; however, whatís even more impressive is how all the ranges in between seem coherent, finely-textured, and natural, with nothing sticking out like a sore thumb. I kept thinking how smooth everything sounds while presenting a high degree of detail resolution across the frequency range, as good as a polypropylene cap gets including the exotic ones from Mundorf, etc.

Another benefit of this smooth precision seems to be outstanding imaging and separation within the soundstage, which is filled with air and "space". No smudging and blending together of instruments into blobs, which can happen with less precise caps. These characteristics enable the MR to sound like the proverbial "no cap" better than most, if not all, polypropylene caps I have tested. In fact, the MR sounds less colored than quite a few exotics, including some Teflons, PIOís, polystyrene, etc. There is a downside to this neutrality, however, as the MR may not be the cap to shave off some rough edges from a bright source, plump up the low-midrange of that lean amp, or add extra "wetness" to that dry solid-state system. But if your system is reasonably neutral and resolute and if you donít want to "hear the cap" at a reasonable price, then the ClarityCap MR just may be the cap you have been waiting for.




















































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