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Audio Capacitors over 15 years old: the impact on sound quality Virtual Instrument Plugins
Old 15th March 2019
Gear Maniac

Audio Capacitors over 15 years old: the impact on sound quality

Hello all gearslutzs

Let's talk about what happens when audio capacitors let's say have been heavily used over 15 years.

If there are audio capacitors in the signal path let's say they been used for over 15 or 20 years heavily on a daily basis would there be a degradation in sound Quality

So let's say you've got a top and audio interface card all ever you have but they are capacitors and the signal path all the capacities changed at the audio quality over a period of time.

Let's say a piece of equipment high-end recording equipment has been used Recording and playback for over 20 years of intensive use recording playback and the device uses capacitors in the signal path what a busy audio Quality like after 15 or 20 years of use what would suffer what would be degraded what would be lacking sound quality wise.

Lets say 15 or 20 years of use Recording and let's say playback of a top end recording device and the capacitors are in the is Signal path how will sound be degraded after years of use

Thanks all of you in advance
Old 15th March 2019
Lives for gear
chrischoir's Avatar

It really depends on the circuit, type of caps, quality of the caps and the environment it was in. Age isn't necessarily bad if the unit was used in a temperature controlled environment and the caps are quality. They certainly could be out of spec too.

When you say "audio interface card" can you be more specific?
Old 15th March 2019
Lives for gear
Robo's Avatar
I think it depends on the quality and type of capacitor used. In a lot of 40-odd year old gear I've opened up, the good quality capacitors like Nichicon have measured bang on, like some 1000uF caps measured exactly 1000uF, and have super low ESR. Whereas practically all caps of a different brand/type, even in the same unit, can be more than 50% out of spec.

I can't imagine the in-spec caps having any negative effect on sound quality. But the bad ones will.
Old 15th March 2019
Lives for gear
john caldwell's Avatar
I'll be interested in what others can share, but I used to give this subject a lot of though in my prior career as a design engineer.

Electrolytic capacitors lose C value, in use or not, with age. As you know, electrolytic capacitors are employed to offer high capacitance values in a physically small package, explaining their use in power supply filtration and, less commonly, in the audio path when high C values are needed. Not only does age impact capacitance value, but electrolytic capacitors exhibit a given C value only over a range of frequencies, and C values decline as f rises. This explains why film caps are the mainstay of analog audio paths, meaning film materials like polystyrene, for example, exhibit a constant C value over a much broader and higher range of frequencies. Film capacitors are also much more immune to aging impact, in use or not, as their capacitance substrate doesn't desiccate like electrolyte materials do.

I think this explains why recapping power supplies is much more in vogue than recapping film parts in the audio path.


Johnn Caldwell

Last edited by john caldwell; 15th March 2019 at 05:30 PM..
Old 15th March 2019
I've seen older el caps that are 25 years old and work fine. I've replaced new caps from China that are leaking. Modern low impedance caps are now rated to last 40 years. Signal caps are usually bypassed with film or removed here.
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