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Can a recap (electrolytics) ruin the sound of a good console?
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17th July 2013
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Can a recap (electrolytics) ruin the sound of a good console?

I'm looking to have my (very cool-sounding and unique vintage) desk recapped. I've heard some concern from a few folks around town that doing so could basically ruin the desk's kick-ass tone. What's the general consensus here? Any pitfalls to avoid? Guidelines to follow? Thanks in advance!
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17th July 2013
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In my experience, when using high quality capacitors, or ones of specific composition, there's been equal or better output. However this only counts for electrolytics, as I tend to not mess with foil capacitors unless there is a boni fide issue with them.
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In my experience, when using high quality capacitors, or ones of specific composition, there's been equal or better output. However this only counts for electrolytics, as I tend to not mess with foil capacitors unless there is a boni fide issue with them.
Thanks for the reply

We're only looking at recapping the electrolytics (which haven't seen an update ever in their 30+ year lifespan). I think we'll end up doing a stereo pair of channels for listening test purposes, then proceed with the whole desk if everything is groovy.
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17th July 2013
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No problem. I have had great results with ELNA Silmic II type, and Nichicon MUSE types.
I have had some very good results with spec matched/bumped organic polymer capacitors, but those should be considered highly experimental.

Mouser Electronics is an excellent source for all of the above.
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I have recapped pieces for clients and had them be unhappy with the results. To me the sound became much better, and the significant sonic fingerprint was maintained/improved, but they were accustomed to the 'broken' sound. In several cases the items were truly broken, but functioning. No easy answer.
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17th July 2013
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You will do the first two, then you will do the rest. Get a good desoldering iron. I use the Denon sz7000 as recommended by Ike Zimbel. Or, it sounds like you might have a tech to do it. I used panasonic fm in a Trident 24. It's a wonderful thing to hear a nice old desk come back. Also look at the power supply as a lot of old desks could use help there as well.

Consider naming the vintage desk in question as these techs may have model specific tips for you.
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There are good brands for electrolytic caps and bad ones. Bad ones will ruin your sound. IC caps (Illinois Capacitors, made in Asia NOT in Illinois) are one of the bad ones.
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17th July 2013
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You will do the first two, then you will do the rest. Get a good desoldering iron. I use the Denon sz7000 as recommended by Ike Zimbel. Or, it sounds like you might have a tech to do it. I used panasonic fm in a Trident 24. It's a wonderful thing to hear a nice old desk come back. Also look at the power supply as a lot of old desks could use help there as well.

Consider naming the vintage desk in question as these techs may have model specific tips for you.
The vintage desk in question is a '78 Tweed m3024. It's a really rare console; I haven't met a lot of techs who even know the brand name, let alone the desk itself.

We are indeed having a tech do the work, and he's pretty much The Man, so I'm totally confident there.

We'll stick with the two-channel recap and see how it sounds.

Thanks again for the replies, everyone. Your expertise is much appreciated
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An intact Tweed console is rare indeed! I understand your concerns about originality, sonics, etc. but I think you will find that the improvement in *reliability* will be the biggest change.
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Hi
'Originality' (like virginity) is something that is only transient in that you can NEVER get back there as over the years capacitors have changed, your ears have changed and practically everything else.
Replacing nominally 'like for like' values should get you very close to how it was when new, certainly if it was designed 'correctly' in the first place.
I happen to be recapping a Soundcraft at the moment and measuring some caps removed they are about 80 percent of stated value but measuring them individually comparing direct to new caps of the same (original) value, the distortion is in some cases 10 to 50 times what 'new' caps achieve at LF (15Hz).
If auditioning a pair of channels, use the 'direct out' rather than the desk mix and monitor sections as you may never hear the difference.
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18th July 2013
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If you change it, it will be different.
If you like it and you change it, you probably won't like it so much any more.

I am, sadly, not making this up.
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18th July 2013
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If you don't recap the monitor section, how will you know what it really sounds like?
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18th July 2013
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Hi room!
The two Neve techs in LA use EVOX and Panasonic for Neve recaps. Nobody is complaining.
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I recently recapped the electrolytics in the preamps in an Otari desk, testing combinations of different brands at the advise of a tech. The differences were, for the most part, negligible. But, ALL of the recapped preamps sounded considerably better than those with the original electrolytics.
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Thanks again for all the input, everyone
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18th July 2013
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Where you recap may effect things in different ways.

Recapping the power supply typically reduces hum and maybe improve transient response. Maybe you like subtle hum and having your transients compressed.

Recapping much of the signal path will change, typically flatten, frequency response. Maybe you like the tone as it is. It will reduce the very mild distortion electrolytics give. Maybe this distortion sounds good to you.

This is a very rough and ready guide, and YMMV.
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19th July 2013
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One man's ruined audio is another man's bliss. What you are asking is subjective. But here's a few things to consider...

(1) New caps tend to brighten the sound.

(2) New caps tend to uncover underlying anomalies in the circuit if they exist, because new caps are more accurate then old caps. One recap job I did using excellent caps unexpectedly sounded less then perfect because the underlying transistors in the circuit sounded grainy, and the recap accentuated this deficiency. Most high end equipment will not suffer this way from a recap, but you should be aware of the potential.

(3) New electrolytic caps tend to have less leakage meaning they can reduce noise and biasing problems that have crept into the circuit. A leaky cap is one that is turning into a resistor. And resistors are a primary source for noise in circuits. Also, unwanted leakage can introduce small voltages at points in the circuit that conflict with normalcy.

(4) Electrolytic caps have greatly improved in sound quality over the past 20 years due to improvement in ESRs. The best modern electrolytics will sound similar with some minor differences.

(5) Reliability is more important than minor sound differences between quality caps. To ensure reliability, use a temp rated cap of at least 105C. Also, pay attention to the Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) metric published by the manufacturer. The best have MTBFs in the range of 5000 hours (example Panasonic FR series). At minimum, IMHO use a cap rated at 2000 MTBF.

(6) My favorite inexpensive low-ESR long-life caps are the Panasonic FC/FM/FR series with the later FR series being the most reliable. They have a crisp clear slightly hard-edged sound that is very pleasing. Black Gate electrolytic caps also sound very good, being slightly softer sounding then the Panasonic caps.

(7) The transient and high frequency response of electrolytic caps can sometimes be improved by adding small polypropylene bypass caps across each electrolytic. You may like the effect. You may not. In some rare cases I have found bypassing to increase sibilance.

As someone already suggested, recap a channel or two and see if you dig it. Same with bypassing.
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19th July 2013
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This is all very awesome information, you guys. Very much appreciated!!
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19th July 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank_Case View Post
One man's ruined audio is another man's bliss. What you are asking is subjective. But here's a few things to consider...

(1) New caps tend to brighten the sound.

(2) New caps tend to uncover underlying anomalies in the circuit if they exist, because new caps are more accurate then old caps. One recap job I did using excellent caps unexpectedly sounded less then perfect because the underlying transistors in the circuit sounded grainy, and the recap accentuated this deficiency. Most high end equipment will not suffer this way from a recap, but you should be aware of the potential.

(3) New electrolytic caps tend to have less leakage meaning they can reduce noise and biasing problems that have crept into the circuit. A leaky cap is one that is turning into a resistor. And resistors are a primary source for noise in circuits. Also, unwanted leakage can introduce small voltages at points in the circuit that conflict with normalcy.

(4) Electrolytic caps have greatly improved in sound quality over the past 20 years due to improvement in ESRs. The best modern electrolytics will sound similar with some minor differences.

(5) Reliability is more important than minor sound differences between quality caps. To ensure reliability, use a temp rated cap of at least 105C. Also, pay attention to the Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) metric published by the manufacturer. The best have MTBFs in the range of 5000 hours (example Panasonic FR series). At minimum, IMHO use a cap rated at 2000 MTBF.

(6) My favorite inexpensive low-ESR long-life caps are the Panasonic FC/FM/FR series with the later FR series being the most reliable. They have a crisp clear slightly hard-edged sound that is very pleasing. Black Gate electrolytic caps also sound very good, being slightly softer sounding then the Panasonic caps.

(7) The transient and high frequency response of electrolytic caps can sometimes be improved by adding small polypropylene bypass caps across each electrolytic. You may like the effect. You may not. In some rare cases I have found bypassing to increase sibilance.

As someone already suggested, recap a channel or two and see if you dig it. Same with bypassing.


Regarding #1+2
Yes and no. It really depends on the type of capacitor being chosen. Some types are very unsuitable for audio applications. I've see these in everything from guitar amplifiers to pro audio gear being manufactured today. Another issue has to do with the resistors being used along with them...
All of the electronics in a circuit work together as a whole.
Sometimes new tubes make an audio device bright and capacitors get the blame...
The tube pro audio gear I manufacture gets nothing but NOS capacitors for coupling. There are a few brands that are exceptional and very easy to find online. One being EVOX. I use these and Panasonic for solid state.
For tubes (PCB), there's RIFA, Wima, Siemens, and others.
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19th July 2013
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I have been recapping my Tac magnum console with caps supplied by audio maintenance. They also have mic pre upgrades. I definitely hear a difference The pres are better and the sound coming off each channel recapped is Clearer, tighter , and way better lower end.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MYTUBEDESIGNS View Post
Regarding #1+2
Yes and no. It really depends on the type of capacitor being chosen. Some types are very unsuitable for audio applications. I've see these in everything from guitar amplifiers to pro audio gear being manufactured today. Another issue has to do with the resistors being used along with them...
All of the electronics in a circuit work together as a whole.
Sometimes new tubes make an audio device bright and capacitors get the blame...
The tube pro audio gear I manufacture gets nothing but NOS capacitors for coupling. There are a few brands that are exceptional and very easy to find online. One being EVOX. I use these and Panasonic for solid state.
For tubes (PCB), there's RIFA, Wima, Siemens, and others.
I specifically recommended top quality electrolytic caps since the OP is recapping a high end solid state console. I agree 100% to stay away from trashy caps.

If you change out 30 year old electrolytic caps in a console and the new caps sound duller and muddier, then something is definitely wrong. I always use top quality caps. A good recap extends both the highs and lows.

Which specific top quality electrolytic caps made your console recaps duller? Muddier? Let me know.
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19th July 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank_Case View Post
If you change out 30 year old electrolytic caps in a console and the new caps sound duller and muddier, then something is definitely wrong.
Tone can change from bright to less bright on recap because an old coupling electro that had lost a lot of its value was acting as a high pass into the audio range. Replacement means the bass comes back, which might be perceived as a loss of treble.
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interesting thread!

thanks for all the info.
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19th July 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kesh View Post
Tone can change from bright to less bright on recap because an old coupling electro that had lost a lot of its value was acting as a high pass into the audio range. Replacement means the bass comes back, which might be perceived as a loss of treble.
An experienced professional engineer would perceive added bass as added bass, and extended treble as extended treble. Those with less experience might be more apt to perceive the way you describe. There is something to be said for having trained ears that can recognize differences in frequency without being confused by what is heard.

There is a big difference between sound becoming bassier vs muddier and duller. The later usually is associated with a lack of highs. Well defined bass on the other hand contains a surprising amount of mids and highs.
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19th July 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank_Case View Post
An experienced professional engineer would perceive added bass as added bass, and extended treble as extended treble. Those with little professional audio experience would be more apt to be fooled the way you describe. There is something to be said for having trained ears that can recognize differences in frequency without being confused by what is heard.
Well obviously, but we were talking about "brightness", which is an ill defined notion. But given that, I doubt any "experienced professional engineer" or indeed anyone else would describe a signal path with its bass response restored from a roll-off to flat as "brighter".
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Quote:
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I doubt any "experienced professional engineer" or indeed anyone else would describe a signal path with its bass response restored from a roll-off to flat as "brighter".
I agree with you 100%. But for that scenario to be true, you are implying that new electrolytic caps do not restore treble in addition to restoring bass. So which top electrolytic brands are poor at restoring or enhancing treble when replacing 30 year old worn out caps in your experience? Let me know specifically.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank_Case View Post

If you change out 30 year old electrolytic caps in a console and the new caps sound duller and muddier, then something is definitely wrong. I always use top quality caps. A good recap extends both the highs and lows.

Which specific top quality electrolytic caps made your console recaps duller? Muddier? Let me know.
Well, MUSE caps might do that. I did a job with MUSE caps and the front edges of the music were so soft that I couldn't play in time with them.

What I had to do was bypass them with polypropylenes, with values chosen so that if the poly were the only cap there, the response would reach down to 250Hz. That brought back the front edges.

Now we all know that this is impossible, and electrolytics pass the entire signal. But it happened, and it something happens, it happened.
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Is there any particular reason you want to recap it? From your post I get the impression that it's more of a want than a need. If it functions perfectly and sounds great, I'd leave it alone. Heat is what kills caps, if the mixer doesn't get hot inside and/or if it sat unused for long periods of time the caps are probably OK.

You could check the frequency response from the inputs to outputs by injecting a frequency sweep and monitoring the output with an oscilloscope.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto View Post
The vintage desk in question is a '78 Tweed m3024. It's a really rare console; I haven't met a lot of techs who even know the brand name, let alone the desk itself.

We are indeed having a tech do the work, and he's pretty much The Man, so I'm totally confident there.

We'll stick with the two-channel recap and see how it sounds.

Thanks again for the replies, everyone. Your expertise is much appreciated
I have 6 Tweed C507a pre eq channels which i recently recapped with great results. i think i used elna silmics in the end which worked fine. You could always try and track down some original blue panasonic ones but there is no guarantee they will be ok. I see them ocassionally on ebay but i couldn't find the values i needed for the tweeds and just went with new hifi ones. I think it's mainly the transformers and inductors and the other tantalum and polystyrene caps which give them the sound more than the electrolytics.
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electrolytics are not the culprit.

People replacing the caps with Wima.

Every console I've refixed this way brought back its sound.

Don't use wima caps unless they were in there originally.

Use only the same part type when replacing passive componates (caps/resistors/inducors) in any audio device.

Failure to do so might result in a change of tone and performance.
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