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Upgrade caps in Les Paul, SG, Tele..worth it?
Old 31st August 2007
  #1
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manthe's Avatar
 

Upgrade caps in Les Paul, SG, Tele..worth it?

I have very little knowledge or education on the subject of the merits of higher-quality and/or esoteric capacitors for guitars.

I've read a little here and there, I also spoken briefly with my luthier about it. I've started researching (today) the different caps available. It *seems* like there can be an improvement in tone and performance for a relatively small outlay of cash.

My luthier said he could purchase and install upgraded caps for My Les Paul, SG, Epiphone Jorma Kaukonen and Telecaster all 4 for under $125 (including labor). Seems worthit , to me, IF there is a noticeable improvement

I'd love to hear from any guitar slutz here, about how/why/what capacitor upgrades can do for a guitar AND some recommendations on good ones for particular guitars. Seems like people like Bumblebees quite a bit...but I am a complete noob on this subject.

Thanks in advance!
Old 31st August 2007
  #2
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You can get Mallory 150 series caps for a few pennies.
Old 31st August 2007
  #3
First off, those caps are used in the tone cut controls, a classic low pass filter. Better caps won't do anything there but empty your wallet. Better yet, get some no load tone pots from Fender and hear the extra clarity of switching out that tone control. Next, replace those carbon volume pots with the new conductive plastic Bourns guitar pots from Mouser. They are around $20 each but worth it more than any tone pot cap.

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
Old 31st August 2007
  #4
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manthe's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
First off, those caps are used in the tone cut controls, a classic low pass filter. Better caps won't do anything there but empty your wallet. Better yet, get some no load tone pots from Fender and hear the extra clarity of switching out that tone control. Next, replace those carbon volume pots with the new conductive plastic Bourns guitar pots from Mouser. They are around $20 each but worth it more than any tone pot cap.

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
This is GREAT info...THANKS!

I will talk to my luthier about this today. Sounds like this will run me closer to ~$250 or $300 for 4 guitars...but that is NOTHING if there is a noticeable improvement in what is already 4, great sounding guitars!
Old 1st September 2007
  #5
Lives for gear
 

You might have a problem fitting the no-load pots into your Gibson's. You might not like the result anyway. You can remove one end of the tone cap to hear the difference before you buy anything. If it's too bright w/o the cap, try raising the pot value to 1 or 2 meg. There's no secret formula, just some trial & error and educated guessing. Personally, I like having tone caps in most of my guitars. My strat is the exception since it has dark pickups. For the rest, the values of the parts differ per guitar. I suggested the 150 caps eariler because they're good, cheap and well suited to this application (shunted). Anything esoteric is a waste of $, imo.

Nice spot on those Bourns pots, Jim. I hadn't seen them before.
Old 5th September 2007
  #6
Gear Nut
 
gtichy's Avatar
 

well, I installed a vintage cap in my tele, and it did make a difference, but not huge. It also didn't cost me anything.

There is a much smoother roll off when I turn the tone pot down. Plenty of great tones added to the guitar. Better wah wah tricks too, if you're into that.

Try getting rid of the smaller cap designed to keep the highs when you turn the volume down. I always thought that the guitar sounds better without it, and that the cap makes it sound worse with the volume down.

I've heard before and after installing bumble bee's in a les paul. This makes more of a difference, but I always play my les paul wide open, so I didn't bother.

Lots of people say that its voodoo, and that it won't make any difference, but I've heard before and after, and have spent long hours with different ears goofing around on this stuff. I know of several other notable guitarists doing this as well.

But, we're all vintage guitar/amp guys. If you have a huge signal chain, this all might get lost.

That said, I'd put it at the bottom of my list of gear choices for $150.
Old 5th September 2007
  #7
I did replace the tone network in my 50's Tele with some Wima MKP-2 polypropylene caps. This tone network consists of a .1 uf cap with another small value loaded with a 22k resistor. It rolls off 3 k when turned 1/4 turn down, then behaves like a standard high cut after that. In this case it does make a difference as the network does it's mid cut thing first, that you can hear.

The rest of the Tele's have no tone controls, I don't use them. I did pick up 4~5 db extra top end as a result so it's spanking sounding. They are all active anyway, most with hum cancelling circuits in them that eliminates the need for hum cancelling pickups. They use a Bourns model 50 10k audio conductive plastic volume control that works like a quality fader, there are no tone changes when they are turned down, unlike passive rigs.

Plus they are very loud!

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
Old 6th September 2007
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
I did replace the tone network in my 50's Tele with some Wima MKP-2 polypropylene caps. This tone network consists of a .1 uf cap with another small value loaded with a 22k resistor. It rolls off 3 k when turned 1/4 turn down, then behaves like a standard high cut after that. In this case it does make a difference as the network does it's mid cut thing first, that you can hear.
Clever. thumbsup

FWIW, Fender got the treble bleed cap value all wrong. When done right, it can work pretty well. Of course, some guitars don't really need them anyway.
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