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Thread: VITAMIN Q Caps?

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    Mojo's Minions papersoul's Avatar
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    Default VITAMIN Q Caps?

    Hey guys,

    Does anyone really hear much difference with these caps? I tried Hovlands, Vitaminn Qs, Mallory and ended up back with cheap Orange Drops because I can't hear a difference on 10 where I tend to keep the tone knob and little difference rolling off the tone.

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    Senior Member gmacdonnell's Avatar
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    Default Re: VITAMIN Q Caps?

    I do hear a big difference between those caps, but both have their purposes. The Q's, (or any good quality PIO) are a bit woodier, warmer and fatter sounding that other kinds of caps. They almost have a little sag to the sound, and seem to round off the trebles in a pleasing way, (to my ear.)

    Orange Drops, and other foil caps, (I really like the RS Guitar Caps, which are the best foil caps I've ever heard,) tend to have more snap, and a more transparent, direct sound.

    The differences are mainly when you start rolling things down. Personally, I use the tone controls a lot, and found out long ago I can't stand ceramic caps. They're way too harsh to me, and seem to thin the tone out. I used to use Orange Drops in my Fenders, but I've switched recently to some PIO's of a lower value, (gives more usable range.)

    It's all about what you prefer, and how much you use your controls, and how you use them. Danny Gatton, for example, mainly used his tone knob as an effect, almost like a wah wah. He swore by Orange Drop caps, (or at least that's what he always had his tech put in the guitar.)

    The Q's seem to vary quite a bit. Some are perfect, others seem a bit fuzzy around the edges.
    I've had a lot of luck with the Russian military-spec PIO's. They're inexpensive and actually I prefer the sound over many much pricier caps. They're also the basis for the Luxe repro caps.

    If you prefer the Orange Drops, and tried those others, you're probably just an Orange Drop kinda guy. Nothing wrong with that! They've got their own sound and feel and lots of guys won't use anything else!

    Not too many guys ever bother to experiment with caps. And fewer still find the one that sounds best to them. You have, so some congratulations are in order. Now stock up on those Orange Drops! (And while you're at it, try an RS Guitar Cap. If you like Orange Drops, you'll love it.)
    Last edited by gmacdonnell; 03-13-2009 at 11:11 PM.
    "In our culture we have such respect for musical instruments, they are like part of God." - Ravi Shankar

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    Skaforlifeologist super rad stuff's Avatar
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    Default Re: VITAMIN Q Caps?

    ^ cool explanation, though i'm probably one of those guys that'll stick to orange drops just because they're much more affordable
    Yo, i'm Ryan™.

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    Mojo's Minions papersoul's Avatar
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    Default Re: VITAMIN Q Caps?

    Thanks for the explanation. RS is a great company. I had tried their Hovland caps years ago but found everything way too hi-fi sounding. I know they sell RS pots but again I just use CTS pots and actually I prefer 300k CTS pots for the bridge volume. I play a lot of heavy styles of music and prefer 300k for the bridge volume, much warmer to my ear and rolling back a 500k volume does not do the same.

    I do have Vitamin Qs that cost me $20 a piece but in a band situation, I'll be ****ed if I hear any difference....just sounds like the tone is getting darker as with any cap. I only use ODs because they are cheap. I even tried the more expensive polypropylene ODs and didn't hear a difference over the standard polyester ODs. I also can't detect any difference while the volume is on ten although some say they do.

    Where do you get the Russian Vitamin Qs you speak of?

    My typical set up is Standard CTS vol. - tone 300K/500K, .022 OD for bridge
    and vol. - tone 500k/500k, .015 OD for neck.

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    Mojo's Minions papersoul's Avatar
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    Default Re: VITAMIN Q Caps?

    Gmac,

    In addition to my last post.....I wanted to ask if you know much about the yellow Mallory caps? I have about 3-4 of those to try. Are they close to the Vit. Qs? When I initially tested a bunch of caps people were telling me they heard a difference with all controls on ten, but I didn't. Now, with a different value, maybe - but I could get the same by rolling back the tone anyway. I prefer the .022 in case I need the additional bite.

    So, now I am starting to do more solos with this new band where I roll back the tone to 5-6! So, now I am thinking maybe I would like these other caps. I heard some caps give a warm, wah type sound? Can the mallory do this? Guess I'll try.

    Oh, and let me know which Vit Qs you like and where to buy.

    I read a great article on the Harmonic Design website that states, in theory - a ceramic disk cap should be the best for a guitar circuit. Physicis tell you the cap should make no difference.

    Another thing is when I hear people say they use ODs. What ODs? There are different types of ODs. Cheaper and more expensive ODs. I never use the tone pot in the neck so that part is not even an issue with me.

    Thanks.
    Last edited by papersoul; 03-14-2009 at 08:45 AM.

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    Ultimate Tone Slacker ganzosrevenge's Avatar
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    Default Re: VITAMIN Q Caps?

    i had in my american deluxe the stock chiclet-style (ok, more like mini-chiclet) style caps in my american deluxe strat, and for the better part of 15 months I dealt with complete loss of tone-control below about 8.5. From 8.5 to 10, you'd have control, but everything from 1 to 8.5 sounded about the same. When I got the new pickguard for my strat with the SD pickups and no S-1 switch, I started researching my cap options, and went with Luxe's PIO 1951-1958 Reissue for the 2 SSL-1s, and a 1961 to 1968 Ceramic disk (that's the size of the entire pot!) for the brobucker. What I got was a much wider tonal range, from nice and bright to mooshy (mooshy seems to work for single coil-based blues). The bridge luxe cap, while large, having an extremely wide range of tone, leaves me wondering if I should have gone for a bumblebee for that cap (as it's hooked up to a PAF). For me at least, I find that the ceramics work best in a chunky pickup with a 250k pot, this way you get a nice, thick sound, but the larger ceramics do allow a wider range of "control".

    Caps are a more important tone tool than a lot of us let on, and I'd be willing to bet that if people did something as simple as change out the capacitors, a lot more people would enjoy the pickups that come in their mid and higher-end guitars more. A cap, a pot, a pickup, they all contibute to the sound, and just because the caps are smaller than the other 2, does not mean that changing one will not change the sound. They will change the sound, as well as the sonic spectrum of that pickup, the only way to find out if it's better or worse is to experiment with yourself. (And yes, this is one mod that is more objective in the "i can hear the mod difference!" than the infamous "i can tell what battery is in your stompbox / active preamp!" controversy

    PS: Gmac, what do you think of the alessandro caps / pots?
    <--- these guys fight, so we can enjoy large tracts of land

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    Default Re: VITAMIN Q Caps?

    Quote Originally Posted by papersoul View Post
    Hey guys,

    Does anyone really hear much difference with these caps? I tried Hovlands, Vitaminn Qs, Mallory and ended up back with cheap Orange Drops because I can't hear a difference on 10 where I tend to keep the tone knob and little difference rolling off the tone.
    At 10 they are all the same to me. The tone rolled off alot, I like Hovlands the best. Yes, my ears do tell me there is a difference but, only when the tone is really rolled off.

    I dont know, I think I like the Orange drops better than the Vitamin Q's. The Q's didnt do it for me. Hovlands are by far my favorite.

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    Mojo's Minions papersoul's Avatar
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    Default Re: VITAMIN Q Caps?

    I just did some lengthy comparisons, Vitamin Qs, Polyprop ODs and Polyester OD, Hovland, and I'll be darned if I hear any difference 0-10 on my tone dial. Not worth it to me, I'll stick to the cheapy ODs. The expensive ODs were no better.

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    Senior Member gmacdonnell's Avatar
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    Default Re: VITAMIN Q Caps?

    Quote Originally Posted by super rad ska View Post
    ^ cool explanation, though i'm probably one of those guys that'll stick to orange drops just because they're much more affordable
    Actually, if you know where to look, you can get PIO Russian caps for about .25-1.00 depending on the value and voltage rating.

    I actually prefer them to many expensive types, and they're cheap enough you can buy a bunch of values. I've got a lot of .01's, .015's, 0.022's, and .033's just to keep on hand.

    I'm on a quick break before going on, I'll write more tonight from the fancy Motel 6.
    "In our culture we have such respect for musical instruments, they are like part of God." - Ravi Shankar

    • Recent Gibson ES-335 & FrakenTele
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    • Lot's of Duncan pickups, plus some Lollar, Fralin, + Bill Lawrence. Joe Bardens, Kinmans for Teles

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    Skaforlifeologist super rad stuff's Avatar
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    Default Re: VITAMIN Q Caps?

    Quote Originally Posted by gmacdonnell View Post
    Actually, if you know where to look, you can get PIO Russian caps for about .25-1.00 depending on the value and voltage rating.

    I actually prefer them to many expensive types, and they're cheap enough you can buy a bunch of values. I've got a lot of .01's, .015's, 0.022's, and .033's just to keep on hand.

    I'm on a quick break before going on, I'll write more tonight from the fancy Motel 6.

    really...
    where can i get some russian PIO caps then and what voltage is reccomended for guitar? on the other hand i can figure out the values easily enough

    edit: i like having extra caps around too, i've got some orange drops and ceramics(they came with my wiring packages so i guess they don't count..) sitting around in my parts drawer
    Yo, i'm Ryan™.

    https://www.facebook.com/patchworklv
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    Default Re: VITAMIN Q Caps?

    Okay, first a disclaimer. I don't use tone controls. I have actually taken them out of my main guitar.

    My main experience with different caps is from learining to build my own tube amp. I have found the following:

    Orange drops are transparent.

    Mallory caps add a coloration to the tone that I much prefer to the orange drops.

    Sozos f'in rock! Better than the mallory caps, but that is just my opinion. However you have to break them in, kind of like a speaker. They don't sound good until they are used for 30, 40, 50 hours.

    I understand my experience is in amps and not guitars. For what it is worth, one of the guys that has given me much help in my adventures with building a tube amp swears by sozos in guitars. I have not heard of many people using them in guitars. He says the key is to let them burn in and then you will be in heaven. You can buy a few different value sozos for 10 bucks. Hell, I am getting a shipment in sometime soon. If someone wants to install one AND GIVE A REVIEW, I will send them one. This is assuming I have an extra cap for the desired value.

    If anyone is interested, send me a PM.

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    Mojo's Minions papersoul's Avatar
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    Default Re: VITAMIN Q Caps?

    Yes, true - in an amp a cap makes a huge difference. In a guitar, I hear little to no difference. I even tried out the stock ceramic in my SG against all my others and could hear no difference. I won't spend any more time going forward on caps.

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    Senior Member gmacdonnell's Avatar
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    Default Re: VITAMIN Q Caps?

    Caps in guitar circuits are a strange thing. The differences in tone depend a lot on the pickups, pots, and wiring you've got in your guitar, and how you use your tone controls.

    For guys that don't ride the tone control all the time, it's probably not worth trying out other caps. Then again, maybe with a different cap, they would be riding the tone control all the time.

    Papersoul, I've only heard the Mallory caps in a friends guitar, I haven't owned any myself. They seem like a great PIO cap, a bit less transparent than, say, Hovlands, (which is a good thing for many people.) Just going by memory, it seems like they maybe had more treble than Q's, but then again, they were in a Strat, and I'm pretty used to ES-335's... What value are they?

    You can indeed get a nice wah-wah sound from caps, esp. PIO caps, but it's equally important to have the right taper on your pot.

    I've been using RS Super Pots for volume, and their custom CTS pots for tone. I used to use Centralabs, but they're almost impossible to find now, and really pricey. RS duplicated the old Centralab pots, but improved the quality. And their Super Pots have the most perfect taper for volume I've ever used. I'll never go back... http://www.rsguitarworks.net/cms2/

    I'd definitely suggest trying one of those Mallory caps out, cause if you don't like them, you could sell them for a good amount of money. If you like them, that's great too.

    The Russian PIO's are military surplus, and are very well made, great-sounding caps. Compared with a Q, I think they have a better bass response, (not as compressed,) and a smoother high-end. But this is really splitting hairs, and as you've said, these differences disappear in a band setting.

    But in a band setting, you definitely can still hear, and feel the differences between foil, ceramic and PIO caps if you use the controls a lot, and don't use a ton of distortion.

    As far as getting the Russian caps, there are quite a few Russian online shops that sell them, but shipping is obviously high, and some of them seem a little sketchy.

    Radio-Spares runs an ebay store, (uralspirit is the seller name,) and they've got a huge selection of PIO caps. You usually have to buy in some bulk to get the best prices, but you could get 10 of those caps for the price of 1 Q.

    Also, check out Tone Mojo, http://tonemojo.com//. Jonesy has a huge selection of caps, and he has great service and prices.

    Oh, and Super Rad Ska, guitar's circuits really don't deal with much voltage, so you can pretty much use any rated cap you want. Most guys use 200-600 volts, simply because that's the best size, (usually) for guitars. You can get a 1200 volt cap that will sound pretty much identical, but it'll be huge, and might not even fit in some guitars cavities.


    Caps are definitely worth exploring if you're on a quest for the perfect tone. But, as always, it's best to let your ears be the judge, rather than what you think you should like. Like I said, I know lots of guys who love OD's, even the cheaper ones, and they get great tone. There's nothing wrong with that, and if they're happy, no reason to change!
    "In our culture we have such respect for musical instruments, they are like part of God." - Ravi Shankar

    • Recent Gibson ES-335 & FrakenTele
    • '65 Deluxe Reverb RI
    • Electronics by RS Guitar Works w/ PIO Caps
    • Lot's of Duncan pickups, plus some Lollar, Fralin, + Bill Lawrence. Joe Bardens, Kinmans for Teles

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    Mojo's Minions papersoul's Avatar
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    Default Re: VITAMIN Q Caps?

    I don't know man, I tried a slew of caps, Mallory, Hovland, ODs, cermaics, you name it using an alligater clip to hear the changes in real time. I hear no difference at all. If there is a difference, it is so subtle you can't pick it up. Knowledge of electronics would tell us that there is no way a cap in a guitar circuit will alter the tone, other than the value. Just like with a pot, the differences are taper and value. I didn't notice much with the RS pots.

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    Default Re: VITAMIN Q Caps?

    i looked at the RS pots, and they have what appears to be standard alpha pots for their push pulls. what justifies the fact that they're nearly $17(!) when i can get alpha push pulls from wymore for $8? are they blueprinted or anything special like that?
    Yo, i'm Ryan™.

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    Ultimate Tone Slacker
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    Default Re: VITAMIN Q Caps?

    Ya know, even with that scramblehead Sozo website, I gotta admit that those caps sound good in a amp circuit. I have them in a couple BF tonestacks and they warmed them up nicely. I kinda like Sprague Black Cats, Grey Tigers, and a few other assorted pulls (Astrons, etc). Vitamin Q's are OK, but they didn't do much for me. The polyester OD's are fine, but I stay away from the polypropelene stuff. And yeah, there is a difference between caps although whether it's audible depends on the guitar and the kind of tone you use.

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    Mojo's Minions papersoul's Avatar
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    Default Re: VITAMIN Q Caps?

    Quote Originally Posted by super rad ska View Post
    i looked at the RS pots, and they have what appears to be standard alpha pots for their push pulls. what justifies the fact that they're nearly $17(!) when i can get alpha push pulls from wymore for $8? are they blueprinted or anything special like that?
    Hype.

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    Something Cool uOpt's Avatar
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    Default Re: VITAMIN Q Caps?

    In a blind test I can hear the musicap, cheap ceramics and those PIO that are sold on TPG. With a 500 Kohm tone pot on 10.

    However, several conditions need to be met:
    • Guitar I am familiar with, my Burny works.
    • Boutique PAF of similar pickup. Haven't been able to hear it with Strat pickups. This condition might or might have to do with me being pretty Strat-ignorant in general.
    • Can't hear when playing. I need to record it and then listen to the recording.


    I have 7 caps on a turn switch in my pickup test harness and I can ask my wife to flip switches behind my back.

    I recommend that you repeat your experimentation by first narrowing done some things. You are very unlikely to be able to hear something by just soldering in a bunch of new capacitors, losing your reference.

    I would expect that doing this repeatedly will train the ears to be more sensitive so that I can lift some of these restrictions.

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    Senior Member gmacdonnell's Avatar
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    Default Re: VITAMIN Q Caps?

    Quote Originally Posted by super rad ska View Post
    i looked at the RS pots, and they have what appears to be standard alpha pots for their push pulls. what justifies the fact that they're nearly $17(!) when i can get alpha push pulls from wymore for $8? are they blueprinted or anything special like that?
    I don't know about the push/pull, (i never use them.) But the pots I was referring to are the Super Pots and the (custom) CTS pots.

    The pots they sell are different from what you get anywhere else. They have carbon paths, brass shafts, tighter tolerances, and custom tapers. I'd guess if the pot costs more, it's because it's also custom ordered from the maker.


    As far as hearing the differences between caps, uOpt is spot-on.

    I'd add, that the amp has a huge amount to do with it. I don't use very much overdrive, and I ether use Deluxe Reverbs, Vox, or 65 Amps most of the time.

    All of them set for moderate drive when you really hit the strings, but clean when you back off. I use a fair amount of treble and no effects.

    In those conditions, the caps make a very audible difference, but also a difference in feel. Some PIO's almost have a sag to them, like an overworked tube rectifier. They compress the notes ever so slightly. That can be a great, or terrible thing, depending on your playing style.


    There are a lot of things that, electronically, shouldn't matter when it comes to tone. But any luthier, amp or effects designer, or esp. hi-fi audiophile can tell you, sometimes its the little things that make a big difference.
    Electronically, the insulation of a wire shouldn't matter, but tonally it makes a huge difference.

    I'll be the first to admit that for many players, it'd be a waste of time and money trying lots of different caps. But for some players, esp. those who rely on their guitar controls for a lot of shaping of their tone, it'd make a huge difference.
    "In our culture we have such respect for musical instruments, they are like part of God." - Ravi Shankar

    • Recent Gibson ES-335 & FrakenTele
    • '65 Deluxe Reverb RI
    • Electronics by RS Guitar Works w/ PIO Caps
    • Lot's of Duncan pickups, plus some Lollar, Fralin, + Bill Lawrence. Joe Bardens, Kinmans for Teles

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    Senior Member gmacdonnell's Avatar
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    Default Re: VITAMIN Q Caps?

    BTW, Segua caps have a good reputation, and are pretty inexpensive. About $5 each.http://angela.com/sequacapacitors.aspx
    "In our culture we have such respect for musical instruments, they are like part of God." - Ravi Shankar

    • Recent Gibson ES-335 & FrakenTele
    • '65 Deluxe Reverb RI
    • Electronics by RS Guitar Works w/ PIO Caps
    • Lot's of Duncan pickups, plus some Lollar, Fralin, + Bill Lawrence. Joe Bardens, Kinmans for Teles

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