Capacitor upgrade?

Discussion in 'Mods and Tech Talk' started by AlanBiker, Mar 11, 2017.

  1. AlanBiker

    AlanBiker New Member

    I took a peek at the wiring in my 2016 Traditional and saw that it uses small ceramic capacitors, I know it's only very low voltage and if you just leave the tone knobs on 10 then they don't actually do anything. But - I do use my volume and tone knobs to change the sound so I was wondering if it would be worth putting in a pair of orange drops? Bumblebees are out of the question as Gibson wants stupid money for their replicas - almost £30 each!!

  2. SAguitar

    SAguitar Active Member

    I frequently replace those little boogers with Orange Drops when I'm inside the cavity. It's an easy and relatively inexpensive change. I really don't know if I can hear any marked improvement in sound or tone, but it makes me feel better when I look in there!

    I also install a treble bleed circuit on all my volume potentiometers, that upgrade is imperative for my guitars.

    I do have some friends that feverishly believe in changing out the caps for more spendy versions. And there are guys like Eric Johnson that say they can hear the difference between different brands of batteries in their effects pedals!
  3. AlanBiker

    AlanBiker New Member

    Thanks for the quick response, I think now that I know what is in there it will bug me until I upgrade them and it's quite a cheap and easy mod. Is the treble bleed mod the one where you have a cap and a resistor in parallel? what values do you use?

  4. johnreardon

    johnreardon Active Member

    Never changed any of the electronics in my LPs and I do use all knobs to help my sound as I never use pedals just going 'bareback' into amps. OK, most of them are Custom Shop so probably have quite good components.

    I am just wary of when people talk about 'upgrading' something. Changing things in guitars do not always make them sound 'better'. Quite often people believe they hear a difference to help justify their investment.

    Nothing wrong with modding guitars for the challenge or experimentation; in fact I did it myself with a Baja Tele and a PRS SC I used to have. But to be honest, they didn't sound or play any different after the changes. As for value when I came to sell, it cost me a little bit even though I had kept the original bits.

    I prefer to think of this process as 'changing' or 'modification' rather than 'upgrading'
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2017
  5. AlanBiker

    AlanBiker New Member

    I'm not trying to make the guitar sound "better" - I know those ceramic caps are not the most reliable but are only just about good enough so I thought I might use an uprated part for reliability and longevity.

  6. Infant

    Infant Active Member

    I tend to agree with John here. I work at an electronics company and we design and build circuits for automotive, HVAC and medical customers. When it comes to automotive and medical, everything is stringently tested. Automotive is the worst as they want perfect parts at the lowest price possible. When it comes to resistors and caps, 99.9% of the time,the cheapest do the same job as the more expensive ones, and that's in a powered circuit. In a passive state, like in a guitar, it's just acting as a filter. I've changed ceramic caps to polys and found no difference in tone. Therefore, I don't bother making these kinds of changes.

    However, when it comes to pots, switches and jacks, I want good full size pots and Switchcraft jacks and switches. Full size CTS and Alphas are both good quality switches but you can still get the odd dud. They are all made in Mexico or the far East these days. Everyone swears by CTS but I've found some inconsistencies in the amount of effort required to turn them. All the Alphas that I've had have been flawless. However I've never had either actually fail. That's my 2 cents for what it's worth.

    Sent from my SM-T530NU using Tapatalk
  7. AlanBiker

    AlanBiker New Member

    Thanks Rob, I suppose in an unpowered circuit there may be no point. As I said I'm not after a change in sound - I like it just the way it is but seeing good quality pots and those tiny ceramic caps was a bit of a surprise. I'll just leave it as is - it aint broke.


  8. SAguitar

    SAguitar Active Member

    Oh no! Look at those unsexy little caps in there! How can you deal with that?
    Seriously, although I routinely replace those things with Orange Drops, they really just "look" better, and only then to someone who's peaking in the control cavity.

    As far as the treble bleed circuit thing, I really do like them. I've had a lot of guitars that get darker (lose highs) when you roll them back off of full volume, and a treble bleed can help with that. Even with great potentiometers, I've experienced that and I like my guitars to preserve the same overall tone when I turn them down. I really am not enough an electronic whiz to tell you what the values are. I generally just buy them for a couple of bucks off Ebay and solder them in.
  9. MickeyB

    MickeyB New Member

    Do expensive caps make a difference?

    Do expensive caps make a difference in guitar circuits? I think it's debatable in my experience and even the little ceramics on the all-in-one circuit boards they are putting in the latest Gibsons seem to work ok. But yes, the big ones do look better!
    Seen a couple of sensible videos on caps on YouTube. It would suggest there is no magic "tone" to capacitance, just more or less accuracy and the better known makes are closer in tolerance to their quoted value.
    Another vid shows an expensive "reissue" repro to be a small cap inside a mocked up copy of an original! For my money, more expensive caps and pots are more accurate and that's what we may be hearing.
  10. Infant

    Infant Active Member

    I don't think you will hear the difference between +/-10% and +/-5% on such a small value cap. Once you add in the capacitance of your 10', 15' or 20' cable, the tolerances of all the components in your amp etc. I'm surprised anyone ever finds something they like. As always, just my 2 cents

    Sent from my SM-T530NU using Tapatalk
  11. MikeyH

    MikeyH New Member

    He guested on a PBS Christopher Cross special the other night. He had a nice-looking (Daphne?) blue strat with a bound fingerboard. He was barely audible in the mix while comping, but played a typically inimitable E.J. solo. I suppose he may have very developed ears, but the notion that he can "hear" the difference things like batteries and finish thickness make (on solid body) guitars tests credibility.
  12. SAguitar

    SAguitar Active Member

    Eric has also said that he can hear the difference between guitar cords between his effects pedals. Maybe so, maybe not! But the guy can play!
  13. johnreardon

    johnreardon Active Member

    Yes he can play, but the sound that comes out of his amp, to me, is very much like bees buzzing.

    It's too over processed; too many effects and to be honest for my ears is dreadful. I would like to hear his talent just plugged straight into a valve amp.

    Perhaps he should change his batteries :biggrin:
  14. SAguitar

    SAguitar Active Member


    Another guy who has a great reputation that I cannot handle his tone is John McLaughlin.
  15. MickeyB

    MickeyB New Member

    Think I agree

    Yes! I think I agree with you Infant. I'm sure we "hear" what we want or believe we will hear or what magazines, gurus and so-called experts have come to believe. Different pots and their varying tapers and nominal value, leads and stray capacitances all over the place, yes it all makes a difference, especially to the highs. A damn good lead,(not too long) good jacks and connections probably make as much or more difference than a "make" of capacitor?
  16. Screaming Dave

    Screaming Dave New Member

    I may be accused of heresy and burned at the stake, but a great player will sound great and create an atmosphere and energy in the crowd irrespective of minute adjustments to their tone, whether or not it's truly audible to them. And the average audience member won't even think about the guitarist's tone and whether it is "good" or not.

    On the other hand, if it makes a guitarist feel better to have whatever taper pots he or she wants, and they want to have certain batteries in their FX, or certain leads, etc. well that's up to them. Some of this stuff is a bit ritualistic, a bit like Bjorn Borg never shaving during Wimbledon week. I remember reading how Steve Howe used to take a special big Persian carpet on tour with him to stand on on stage. I'm sure he could have played just as well on any stage in the world, but it just made him feel better and more secure.

    Whatever magic feather works for you, I guess ....
  17. AlanBiker

    AlanBiker New Member

    My doubts about those small capacitors were about their reliability and longevity. I'm not trying to change the tone or looking for a magic feather.

  18. Infant

    Infant Active Member

    there's no real voltage or current running thru them. How many old Fenders and Gibsons are out there with their original electronics? Ive got a 42yr old Tele with original electronics, well,... except for the pots.

    Sent from my SGH-T989D using Tapatalk
  19. stevo58

    stevo58 New Member

    I think it is possible to hear differences in cap types when you approach the rated limits which in the case of ceramic caps is typically 1000VDC. I build amps, and there are some positions in an amp where it is relevant.

    But when you compare two caps of the same rated value, you have to measure them first to make sure you are using the same real value, as differences in value are far more significant than differences in type or brand. And you really have to compare them blind, since we all hear with our eyes to a certain extent.

    At a few mVAC, a guitar signal is nowhere near hot enough to reveal differences in cap types. And it won't generate enough heat to damage a cap. Ceramic caps are pretty tough, and they don't disintegrate or dry out like an electrolytic will. If you really want cork sniffer caps in your guitar, buy Sozo or Jupiter, or vintage paper-in-oil. Given the same real value, it won't sound any different than the cheap ceramics but it will give you a warm fuzzy feeling and bragging rights, and at a price of a few dollars that's a good deal.

    Just my opinion. When I rewire guitars I use whatever I have, which might be Xicon, Sozo, Mallory, or the chiclets Fender uses. I actually don't like OD 715s in amps, so I never have any around to use. I have used OD 225s, but see no advantage to them over Xicons, which have become my standard cap. I use ceramics in tremolo circuits.

    Good quality pots are more important. Alpha, CTS, Bourns, Allen-Bradley. In f-hole guitars i use Bourns 82 or 95.

    When you test caps, hang the wires out of the guitar and tack-solder a half dozen types and/or values to a rotary and compare them until you decide which one you like.

  20. MickeyB

    MickeyB New Member

    Agree with Stevio

    I can't say I've heard any difference using cap brands and I have seen a video where a supposed "Bumblebee" was just a case with a smaller cap encased.
    I've played modern Gibsons where the pots etc are on a sort of circuit board and the very tiny ceramics they seem to work fine.
    What I think you could argue is that the more expensive types have a better tolerance and are closer to their rated value. Measuring caps of the same nominal value can give considerable differences.
    And then of course - there's the whole question of pot values/tolerances and taper that might have more significance.

Share This Page