Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Capacitor shoot out

UPDATE, November 2019  - Time really flies. It's been 9 years since this article was first published and it is about time to add a few more capacitors to the list. This time, I will also have comments from the very trusty TC who will be volunteering both his equipment and time. A list of the new capacitors that will be tested :-

(i) Audyn MKP Plus
(ii) Clarity Cap CMR
(iii) GAD-viva 
(iv) Miflex KPCU
(v) Modwright MOIP (discontinued) 
(vi) Mundorf Silver / Gold / Oil
(vii) Panasonic box caps
(viii) Panasonic ECWFD film caps 
(xi) Jantzen Audio Silver Z
(x) Rike Audio S-Cap 2
(xi) Russian K42Y-2
(xii) V-Cap TFTF (discontinued) 
(xiii) V-Cap ODAM
(xiv) Vishay MKP1839HQ

Special Appearance

(i) Audio Note (UK) Kaisei bi-polar capacitor 
(ii) Jensen Pure Copper Foil Paper-in-oil type (Aluminium can)

Do check in from time to time as we will post updates periodically.

Part II


Regrettably, Part II of this capacitor shoot-out took a lot longer than planned. The test platform had to be abandoned due to a failed power transformer, with no repair timeline in sight. A new candidate was interviewed and gallantly volunteered for the arduous mission ahead.




Our very brave soldier is a tube preamp with only a single coupling capacitor in the signal path. I measured a peak of about 150 VDC before the capacitor. The stock capacitor installed was a 1uF / 250 VDC plastic film capacitor. The partnering power amplifier has an input impedance of 200 KOhms which means that a minimum capacitor size of 0.47 uF would be required to avoid bass roll-off.

I installed screw terminals to allow easy installation and removal of the capacitor on test. All capacitors used in this test received a minimum of 100 hours of burn-in on my Audiodharma Cable Cooker, with the exception of Teflon film capacitors that received double the burn-in time.

When the capacitor is marked to indicate the outer foil, that is oriented towards the source. Otherwise, I oriented the capacitors in the direction of the writing on the label. Two commonly methods of determining the outer foil of a capacitor are described online - one using an oscilloscope, and the other using a guitar amp. I tried the latter, but found that it only worked for certain small value capacitors.

Audyn MKP Plus


The Audyn MKP Plus utilises a series connected bi-filar wound polypropylene film. The inductance-free design is also claimed to be ultra low-loss and designed for extreme impulse / power handling.

This capacitor put up a really good showing despite its very affordable price tag. It is quite linear and neutral sounding, except for the midrange which is slightly warm and laidback. The staging is a bit more forward than the rest of the capacitors here, but otherwise there is plenty of width although depth could be better. Imaging is tight, with good resolution. 

Like the Gad-Viva, this is a really compact capacitor. Considering that this is a bi-filar design, this is really impressive ! 

This is my top pick among the budget capacitors.  

Clarity Cap CMR


Clarity Caps have always impressed me with good value for money offerings. The CMR is not cheap though, and they are far larger in size compared to their budget offerings.

The CMR is described as using CopperConnect technology, a new method of connecting the lead to the capacitor electrodes. Traditionally, the lead is connected via a thermal arc spray of tin-zin. CopperConnect introduces an embedded copper lattice instead, to dramatically reduce grain boundary crossings and signal path resistance.

This is a high performance capacitor with a neutral tone and high levels of resolution. It has very good staging and plenty of power in the bass. There is also good tonal density throughout that gives this capacitor a very "firm" sound. Compared to the Jantzen Silver Z, this capacitor has more balls and less high frequency emphasis. 

GAD-viva Audio Cap



GAD-viva capacitors are produced by Selectronic Kondensatoren in Germany. The MKP model on test here is their entry-level capacitor. They also have silver-gold and Teflon film models. I picked this up from my local electronics surplus store for a modest sum.

This capacitor is very compact and with a working voltage of up to 630 VDC, it will be a suitable candidate for installation in tight spaces.

If you can obtain them at a good price, this is an excellent value for money capacitor and a significant upgrade over no-name capacitors. It is dynamic and open sounding, with an engaging sound. There is also good detail throughout the frequency range and precise staging. It has a drier sound compared to the Rike Audio S-Cap 2, and a slight roughness in the midrange and high frequencies is my only criticism against this capacitor.

Jantzen Audio Silver Z





Jantzen Audio describes this capacitor as offering extremely high performance, at a reasonable price point. The design uses a "Super MKP double foil design" where four times as much foil is used compared to a single foil capacitor. I am guessing that this is a series connected double capacitor like some Mundorf models.


The capacitor is Nitrogen filled and the lead wires are made of pure silver - not bad at all for a capacitor that does not cost the earth.

This is a neutral capacitor with very high resolving power. There is a subtle projection of the midrange and high frequencies, which puts the soundstage slightly forward. High frequencies have a crisp and firm tonality, while bass is tight and powerful. The lack of bloom in the midbass may make this capacitor sound too bright in the wrong system.

I would put this capacitor in between the Jantzen Superior Z and the Rike Audio S-Cap 2 in terms of tone. The Superior Z has a more dry and flat sound compared to the Silver Z. Don't let the price tag fool you, this capacitor plays at a totally different level compared to your typical entry level boutique capacitor.

Modwright MOIP


Modwright was well known for their modification work before they launched their own line of electronics. The MOIP is an oil-impregnated metallized polypropylene film capacitor and is the more affordable model in their line-up - their premium offering is a Teflon film and tin foil model.

This has the classic paper-in-oil midrange with a luscious and creamy sound. However, you get a dynamic, tight and punch low-end and an extended top-end. The vocal warmth is slightly behind the Miflex KPCU, which also manages to retain more expressiveness and detail compared to the MOIP. The rest of the frequency range is highly detailed though, and this is a very likeable capacitor. It is also one of the most compact of the boutique capacitors on test here, which makes it a prime candidate when you have challenging installations and your budget cannot accommodate the V-Cap ODAM.     

Miflex KPCU



This is a physically very large capacitor and requires a lot of space for installation as well as very secure fastening (they are really heavy !). Miflex hails from Poland and while their capacitors are not cheap, they have been touted by some as being serious contenders.


The KPCU is a copper foil, paper, polypropylene, and oil-impregnated capacitor. That's a mouthful and you could either end up with a capacitor that has it all, or a jumbled sonic mess. Thankfully, it turned out to be the former.

Not surprisingly, this capacitor has a warmish glow to it, similar to many of the other oil capacitors here. Its glow factor is in-between the K42Y-2 and the Jensen Pure Copper Foil. The organic flow and musicality reminds me of the Jensen - you just want to listen to hours on end. However, this capacitor has plenty of speed when required and an even higher level of resolution. Bass is tight, packs a wallop and has plenty of articulation too. For some reason, plucked instruments come out with more force and projection compared to the other capacitors here. 

Make no mistake, this capacitor is not in the "neutral" camp. However, if you want an organic sound that is also highly detailed and holographic, this is the capacitor for you.

Mundorf Silver / Gold / Oil



These capacitors are on loan from TC, and are larger in value compared to the rest of the capacitors tested, at 4.7 uF. Some people believe that the extra amount of foil may be a handicap as the signal has to travel through more material.

Sonically, these capacitors are towards the warm and rich side. While there is plenty of high-frequency extension, this is firmly anchored with solid bass, and a full and luscious mid-bass. The glow factor on this capacitor is in-between the Rike Audio and the Miflex. Images had a solidity and density akin to increasing the colour saturation on your digital photos. 

Music has a very nice flow although I find that the Miflex is better in terms of sheer musicality.   

Panasonic ECWFD 



According to Panasonic's catalogue, the ECWFD series is made using using metallized polypropylene film with flame retardant epoxy resin coating. The design is also non-inductive. You should be able to obtain this from any large online electronics component supplier. It is also affordable and very compact. The close lead spacing makes this an ideal substitute for a small value electrolytic capacitor


This poor capacitor had to compete with a handicap though - the leads could not reach the terminals on the test-rig, and had to be extended using some wire. Despite the 100 hours plus run-in, the first few hours in the test rig were a bit disappointing, with anaemic bass and a very narrow soundstage.

By the second day, things had improved significantly. Most of the Panasonic's sins were that of omission. This is a very pleasant sounding capacitor with a very natural midrange and decent high-frequency extension. However, this capacitor is noticeably less resolving compared to the boutique capacitors here, although you don't really notice the missing detail until you compare both. Presentation is also quite polite, with restrained dynamics and a laidback presentation. In a pinch, these are perfectly usable and offer very competent performance, although if I was counting my pennies, I would go for the K42-Y2 instead.

Rike Audio S-Cap 2 

Rike Audio of Germany produces relatively affordable capacitors. The S-Cap 2 on test is described as Paper-PP-Aluminium-Oil cap, with non-inductive wiring.

The capacitor leads are tinned copper, and the outer-foil on the capacitor is marked. You will need plenty of space to install this capacitor, it is quite large at 32 mm diameter and 56 mm length.



I liked the S-Cap 2 very much. It is well-balanced with a punchy and tight bass, and extended high frequencies. The tonal balance is somewhere in between a modern plastic film capacitor and a vintage paper-in-oil model. If you are looking for very obvious warmth and glow, you will not find this here. Instead, there is a very subtle glow to vocals with slight warmth. Resolution is good and staging is natural with no exaggeration to either width or depth.

Russian K42Y-2 Vintage Capacitors



Russian vintage capacitors are actually pretty good for audio purposes. Despite legends of these being military surplus (likely) or pulls from missile launchers or the like, every single capacitor I've received over the last few years appear to be new old stock. You can still try telling your kids or grand-kids tall tales, they probably would be none the wiser.

The K42Y-2 is a paper-in-oil capacitor and is available only in small capacitance values. It has a sturdy case and looks like it will outlive it's owner.

If you disregard the relatively expensive shipping from Russia or the Ukraine (where most of the sellers are based), these capacitors are an absolute bargain.

Tonally, the K42Y-2 would best be described as having an inverted-U shape, with a more prominent midrange. I hesitate to describe these as rolled-off at both ends of the frequency spectrum, but both the bass and treble are not as pushed out, and sound relatively recessed.

These capacitors are not as heavy-handed as some other paper-in-oil models on the market. Vocals have a creamy and velvety smooth texture to them, and you lose some articulation in favour of a pleasing liquidity and some warmth. I did not find this capacitor to be syrupy or slow - it has decent pacing and good amounts of detail. 

That famous phrase comes to mind - good, cheap and fast, you can only choose two. In this case, shipping takes a long time. Otherwise, this is an excellent capacitor for the money.

V-Cap TFTF




I've had this capacitor for a while, but never got around to installing it. This is the older version which is physically smaller than the revised version that has now been discontinued. Introduced in 2004, the V-Cap TFTF was VH Audio's premium capacitor until the CuTF series was launched. The TFTF uses teflon and tin foil film. V-Caps are considered some of the finest products on the market, and unfortunately they carry a commensurate price tag.

This capacitor requires lengthy burn-in to get best results. Even after 200 hours of burn-in, they still sounded a touch light-weight and overly smooth. 2 days of use in the actual circuit helped tremendously. 


Some of the best capacitors on test here are like a photographer looking at the world through top-notch optics. The TFTF is akin to putting your camera down and observing the world through the naked eye. It has neutrality and resolution that is unparalleled, coupled with a naturalness that is free from harshness and grain of any sort. This leaves the components to do the talking, and this is truly a capacitor that does not give away any clue that it is there, whether through a distinct sonic footprint, or sonic aberrations of any sort. This is a double-edged sword. If you are a chef with the finest and freshest ingredients, you would do just fine. But if you have lesser ingredients, seasoning goes a long way.

You get tight and powerful bass true to the recording, no more or less. The same goes for the rest of the frequency range. The naturalness of transients means that you may want to look elsewhere if you like a very precise leading edge or other demonstrations of sonic fireworks.

V-Cap ODAM



This is a new product from VH Audio. ODAM stands for "Oil Damped Advanced Metalized". This capacitor uses metallized film that is oil impregnated and hermetically sealed. This capacitor is said to be leak friendly and suitable for vacuum tube circuit use, with a maximum heat rating of 105 degrees C. Unlike the the TFTF I have, the ODAM is compact and should fit nicely in most installations.

These capacitors sound similar to the TFTF in that they do the audiophile equivalent of the Cheshire Cat - they disappear, leaving a wide silly grin (instead) on your face. They have a shade less transparency compared to the TFTF, and a slightly warmer and juicier sound that is more forgiving. I found it easier to be emotionally engaged with this capacitor, especially with less than stellar recordings. Apart from that, you get the extreme resolution, separation and staging of the TFTF.

Despite their lower price tag compared to the V-Cap Teflon film models, I think this would be the better choice for most audiophiles. This capacitor is guaranteed to give you many "Oh Damn !" moments as you savour all the sonic goodies that this has to offer.

Vishay MKP 1839HQ


TC calls this the hulk capacitor, thanks to its dark green jacket. This capacitor will not fly into an uncontrollable rage and smash things, although it does have a certain muscularity to it. Vishay lists this as an AC and pulse metallized polypropylene film capacitor in an epoxy sealed and flame retardant casing. The normal series MKP 1839 is available in a wide range of values up to 22 uF and DC voltage rating of 630 VDC, while the HQ series is available in values from 0.1 uF to 3.3 uF and DC voltage rating of 630 VDC to 1600 VDC !

Sonically, this capacitor is quite neutral with good amounts of detail. Spatially, it does not render space in the way that the boutique capacitors can. While lateral width and depth are fine, the acoustic space around instruments are not apparent - this results in a very precise but somewhat flat soundstage. There is a certain edge and punch to this capacitor that gives it an exciting and muscular sound (this is the Dr. Bruce Banner moment you were waiting for !). Rock music will have that extra punch and violin, that searing edge. It can sound a little bit tiring, so this is not the capacitor for you to relax to at the end of a stressful day. These capacitors are cheap and cheerful, and they are highly recommended if you are on a very tight budget.    
  
Special Appearance

Audio Note (UK) Kaisei Bi-Polar Capacitor




Audiophiles eschew electrolytic capacitors in the signal path. Sometimes, this may be the only feasible option if you require a large amount of capacitance but have limited space.

My prior experience with bi-polar electrolytic capacitors were confined to the Nichicon Muse and the Rubycon Blackgate NX Hi-Q (long discontinued). The Kaisei was an impulse buy - I was surprised to see that they had high voltage versions that could be used in the test rig. A wide range of capacitance values are available with voltage ratings up to 500 VDC.

These capacitors are produced by Rubycon and Audio Note claims that the Kaisei is identical to the famous Black Gate capacitors save that the paper is not graphite impregnated. Hoarders of Black Gate capacitors worldwide should be relieved that the value of their precious hoard is safe - for now.

These capacitors actually sound more than decent, and I would daringly suggest that they are able to outperform generic film capacitors. Neutral they aren't, and the Kaisei would be best described as musical, with a fair dose of showmanship. There is a wet tone, with deep, powerful and chunky bass. Couple this with shimmering highs that seem to have endless decay, and you have a highly entertaining and enjoyable performer. The midrange has a warm and velvety quality that makes vocals pleasing and inviting. While the low and high frequencies are highly detailed, the midrange gives up some expressiveness and inner detail in exchange for smoothness. Relatively speaking, this capacitor lacks the ability to see in to the recording compared to the better performing film capacitors here. Don't get me wrong - you don't feel that this capacitor is a compromise when listening to it and it is highly enjoyable. However, it is not the last word in resolution, precision or neutrality.

If your needs leave you no choice but to use an electrolytic capacitor, you can safely choose this without the guilt or anxiety that you have made an unnecessary compromise.

Jensen Pure Copper Foil Paper-in-oil type (Aluminium can)




I found this in my parts box, a left-over from some project quite some years ago. The value happened to be 0.22 uF, which would roll-off at 36 Hz in the test-rig. That's about the -6 db point of my speaker, and I didn't detect any loss of bass.

Listening to this capacitor is like enjoying good Affogato. It's as simple as can be, but if you have  a high quality espresso shot and vanilla ice-cream, it can be absolutely sublime. With the Jensen, you have inner glow that lights up the soundstage with plenty of shading and detail. There is plenty of air in recordings, and the sense of space in the recording is reproduced with spooky realism. This character is stamped on anything that passes through it, so too bad if you don't like Affogato ! The sweet, rich quality of the Jensen takes the edge off sibilance and harshness. Tempo wise, the Jensen takes it time, and may make faster recordings sound a bit ponderous.

Part I 

Oh No ! Not another capacitor comparison test !

Actually, no one likes comparing capacitors. Do we really have nothing better to do in life but to swap capacitors in and out of circuit, burning in numerous capacitors just to find out how they sound ?

Right now, the stock Wima MKP10 output coupling caps in my Diva Audio M7 have been taken out and the wires soldered to alligator clips instead, to facilitate ease of swapping the caps in and out.

Unlike some testers than undergo thorough and scientific methodology, there was no blind testing, or gruelling 500 hours burn in test. Neither are all caps of identical value because many of these caps just happen to be lying around for trial. But according to my calculations, all of the capacitors tested are large enough in value to not cause any audible degradation to the bass response in my system.

I also happened to need to conduct some tests on the power supply, so some of these caps were used as a bypass cap in the last stage of the C-L-C power supply of my M7. The values used weren't consistent, and the listening notes there are included just for interest and completeness sake. I've included some of my personal experiences of these caps for crossover use too.

Please do not use any of these capacitors in AC mains filters - they are not properly rated for such applications !

The line-up (in no particular order) :-

1. Clarity Cap ESA
2. Solen Fast Cap
3. Auricap
4. Obbligato Gold Premium Cap
5. Jantzen Superior Z Cap
6. Mundorf M-Cap
7. Mundorf Supreme
8. Mundorf Supreme Silver in Oil
9. Mundorf Supreme Silver / Gold
10. Ampohm Paper-in-oil Tin Foil



(Top Row, Left - Right, Solen, Obbligato, Clarity Cap, Auricap, Mundorf M-Cap)
(Bottom Row - Left - Right, Jantzen, Wima, Mundorf Supreme, Mundorf Silver / Gold, Mundorf Silver in Oil)

For a value reference, here are the online prices of the above caps for 1.0 uF in USD arranged in order from the cheapest to the most expensive.

Solen                                               $1.76
Mundorf M-Cap                              $3.54
Wima MKP10                                 $4.00
Clarify Cap ESA                              $8.90
Obbligato Gold Premium                $10.50
Jantzen Superior Z Cap                  $12.00
Mundorf Supreme                          $20.00
Auricap                                          $21.50
Ampohm Paper-in-oil Tin Foil        $29.95
Mundorf Supreme Silver / Oil         $48.00
Mundorf Supreme Silver / Gold      $68.00

Stock Cap - Wima MKP10

Absolutely nothing wrong with the Wima. The MKP10 is a common sight in quite a lot of expensive equipment and instantly recognisable by its red rectangular box appearance. I know that T.S. Lim of Diva Audio favours this cap for its neutrality and dynamics.

It is a neutral cap and in the wrong systems can sound a bit lean. It is quite open and gives the impression of an overall lack of euphony or bloom. Although it has a relatively smooth midrange, when things get busy, the midrange can take on a bit of glare and hardness. In such situations, the treble becomes a bit tizzy and messy. This was made very obvious when going back to the Wima from the Mundorf Silver / Gold.

In terms of soundstage depth and presentation, the Wima is like sitting close to front row. Mundorf capacitors in comparison are more like sitting in the middle row.

Clarity Cap ESA


A very pretty cap and its metal foil body looks impressive. Initial impressions are that of a very dark capacitor with recessed midrange and not much treble extension. Thankfully, after a few hours of burn in, things improve  quite  lot.

This is an interesting capacitor. It has a weighty mid-bass that gives lower piano notes good solidity and feel. Vocals sound inviting and smooth, with almost no trace of sibilance on the usual problem tracks. Further listening reveals that the midrange is recessed and slightly less resolving as the Wima MKP10. Unlike the Wima MKP10 that has a dry and honest treble, the ESA has an airy treble and high frequency sparkle that highlights the decay of cymbals and high hats, and "enhances" the sense of acoustic space in recordings.

This could be an ideal cap to tame overly bright and lighweight sounding systems without making the overall presentation too dark. Given its relatively modest price by high end cap prices, this cap has plenty going for it.

Auricap

Auricaps come is a nice bright yellow wrapper and have insulated multi-stranded leads, one of which is black and the other red, presumably to differentiate the outer foil of the windings from the inner foil.

Audience, the manufacturer of Auricap, recommends that the signal enter through the black lead and exit through the red lead for signal coupling purposes, which is the way I installed them.

Moving from the Clarity Cap ESA to the Auricap restored my system back to the same tonal balance as the stock caps - neutral. Don't make hasty conclusions about this cap. For the first two hours, although it sounded neutral, high frequencies had a strange wobbly quality, a bit like tape speed variation. After about five hours, this more or less disappeared.

Compared to the Wima, the Auricap has a smoother midrange but a neutral balance through the whole audio frequency spectrum. The ESA has more air and high frequency sparkle than the Auricap. You can say that the Auricap does nothing wrong, but look elsewhere if you are looking for a cap to colour the tonal balance of your system.

Used in the power supply, this falls somewhat between the Solen and Mundorf Supreme. Definitely more open sounding that the Solen, but it doesn't quite have the musicality or openness of the Mundorf.

Mundorf Supreme

The Mundorf Supreme is the bottom of the Supreme range and is physically huge for its rated value. This is probably some part due to its induction free design which effectively uses two capacitors in series within the same casing. Do check the space available in your casing before you buy !

The Supreme ended up with a little more burn in than usual due to a strange phenomenon. The first few hours were fantastic ! Smooth, liquid and the most beautiful and lingering decay from notes. Things then took a turn for the worse, with the caps entering into a decisively unhappy state - the midrange in particular was hashy and grainy.

Way past the 10 hours mark, things began to settle down and serious listening could commence.

Coming from the Auricap, the Supreme was on the other side of the fence, highly musical, entertaining and perhaps not the most accurate sounding of capacitors. Although the tonal balance is quite neutral, the Supreme has a very polished and refined midrange with the right amount of meat throughout the frequency range. Musical notes are presented with texture and fine nuances, making the Auricap sound dry in comparison.

Easily the most pleasing of the caps tested this far, the Supreme combines the weight and treble extension of the Claritycap ESA with the speed of the Wima MKP10. Coupled to its highly resolving and musical nature and affordable price, do consider the Supreme for your next purchase. To nitpick, the only criticism against the Supreme against its competitors so far would be a slight loss of resolution in extreme high frequencies, and its artistic rather than honest approach towards music. The latter point is subjective anyway and you may personally have a preference for this.

This cap is also very good in power supplies. Apart from weight, it has speed and bloom.

This is also my favourite capacitor for crossover use.

Mundorf Silver/Gold


The Mundorf Silver/Gold sounds remarkably like the Supreme. What does spending 3 x more get you ? Highs are more extended with a better sense of air and resolution. Midrange has a warmer glow to it. Overall this cap sounds slightly more liquid, a bit like how the Supreme sounds initially (the subject cap here is very well run in since it is on loan from a friend who has put considerable hours on it) However, despite the subjective improvements, the value proposition is hard to argue. If funds are unlimited, this is a moot point. But if you have a choice between choosing the Supreme for 3 critical locations, compared to using the Silver/Gold for just one critical location, I would choose the former without hesitation.

Mundorf M-Cap

Compared to the Wima, the M-Cap sounds softer and more rounded. As a result, dynamics suffer a bit, with bass notes lacking in impact and extension. The Wima sounds a lot more open in comparison although the M-Cap does have a pleasingly smooth midrange. Unfortunately, the M-Cap sounds smooth yet has a sibilance problem in the midrange. In the upper frequencies, this cap sounds dry and restricted. The treble also has a tendency to get splashy when things get busy. The only conclusion I have is that this cap is probably more suited for some other application and is not suited for high voltage coupling use. This is the only cap so far in listening tests that make you want to reach for the power switch !

Mundorf Supreme Silver / Oil

What a breath of fresh air ! Coming from the M-Cap, the Mundorf Supreme Silver in Oil is a treat for the ears. The Mundorf Supreme family of capacitors have a distinct family sound. The Silver in Oil is much more liquid and open compared to the Supreme. I actually prefer this to the Silver / Gold. The Silver in Oil is very extended at both ends with excellent microdetails in the midrange and high frequencies. It is also exquisitely refined with an excellent balance struck between being analytical and musical. It lacks the midrange glow of the Silver / Gold but is more even throughout the entire frequency band. At all times, it sounds effortless and natural. Strongly recommended !

Obbligato Gold Premium Cap

Initial impressions during burn in time were quite promising. A very even handed performer with a neutral balance and good detail throughout. Balance wise, this reminds me of the Auricap the most except that the Obbligato has more extended and wetter highs. Midrange is pleasingly smooth without being muffled and there is plenty of information being conveyed in a tidy and controlled fashion. The Achilles' heel of this cap is its bass which is slightly rounded and not particularly deep, especially compared to the Mundorf Supreme series. This results in a somewhat lighweight sounding presentation. That being said, this is a very good cap, especially considering its competitive price. Subjectively, I feel that except for the bass issue, the Obbligato is more pleasing than the Auricap at a much cheaper price.

Jantzen Superior Z-Cap

The Jantzen Superior Z-Cap struck me as being remarkably similar to the Obbligato except for two material differences. Firstly, the Jantzen has a more extended and prominent bass, and high frequencies are fractionally more open and extended. With outstanding neutrality from top to bottom at a modest price, this is a very good cap with excellent price to performance ratio. From a subjective point of view, I prefer this slightly over the Obbligato. If the Obbligato could be said to be a wee bit off neutral towards the warm side, the Jantzen is a wee bit off neutral towards the cool side. My usual comment on neutrality applies, the Jantzen communicates the signal with an even hand - look elsewhere if you are looking for added “spice”.

Solen Fast Cap

According to common Audiophile wisdom, using a cap like Solen in signal carrying duties earns you a one way ticket to the Audiophile Hall-of-Shame. Well, surprise, surprise. Maybe using Solen caps is not the Audiophile faux-pas it is made out to be. The Solen can best be described as inoffensive but not particularly inspiring. On the plus side, it is smooth and pleasant. You can listen to it and fall asleep. Comparisons to the other caps  show that the Solen loses some low level information, with high frequency air and information being most obviously affected. The overall outcome is not life threatening and Solen would probably do fine for limited budget projects. In the test set-up, it fared better than the Mundorf M-Cap. Sonically, its second from the bottom of all the caps here on test. To put things in perspective, given its almost giveaway cost, you could do a lot worse.

This is quite decent in power supply use, with a big and chunky sound.

Ampohm Paper-in-Oil Tin Foil


Words cannot describe how big this capacitor is. I was filled with pride when my package arrived from the distributor of Ampohm, www.audiocap.co.uk (great buying experience - try them !). I excitedly  showed my partner the oil filled capacitors that looked more like a smoke grenade. Don't even think of using them in tight spaces.




 Ampohm capacitor with a Solen cap of the same value for comparison.
You didn't think I was joking about the size did you ?

The Ampohm sounds quite good. Good enough to fall nearly at the top of the heap. Taking into account its relatively affordable price, this is quite an achievement. Unlike vintage paper-in-oil caps or some other current production brands, the Ampohm manages to sound rich, liquid and extended at the same time. Its tonal balance is similar to the Mundorf Silver / Oil or Mundorf Silver / Gold. If compared side-by-side, the Ampohm sounds "blacker" with very silent quiet passages. Initially, there is an impression that instruments like cymbals and high-hats have less detail and decay. However, after extended evaluation comes the realisation that such instruments are equally detailed and extended but put in less stark contrast compared to the Mundorf Silver / Oil. Value for money wise, the Ampohm definitely beats the Mundorf hands down. Although I still prefer the Silver / Oil, I can imagine that the Ampohm could suit other systems better. Highly recommended !

This capacitor also works quite well in speaker crossovers, especially in the tweeter circuit.

Conclusions

Despite having personal preferences, it is worth stating that most of these capacitors would do perfectly well in all but the most critical applications. My favourites at the end of this test are :-

Cost-no-object - Mundorf Supreme Silver / Oil. Close runner-up, Ampohm Paper-in-oil Tin Foil.
Best of the rest - Jantzen Superior Z-Cap, Mundorf Supreme, Obbligato Premium Gold

For the selection of the best of the rest, it is a bit like baby bear's porridge - the choice of "just right" depends on your system. Jantzen if your system needs a wee bit opening up. Obbligato if your system is just right. Between these 3 caps, the Mundorf is for the heart (emotionally expressive) while the Obbligato and Jantzen are for the mind (neutral and truer to source).

70 comments:

horchai said...

thank in advance for your hard work. I shall sit back, drink coffee and wait eagerly for your updates :)

Eric Teh said...

Thanks for your support and for contributing some of the caps of test. Looking forward to also trying out your Mundorf Supreme Silver / Gold.

horchai said...

U r most welcome. Testing caps is hard work. Need a pair of observant ears, well treated room and lots of patience + dedication!

horchai said...

Excellent! SG's version of humble hifi on caps. Well Done. No cap is good or bad just need to match properly with the rest of the circuit.

Jimmy said...

Thanks for your excellent review. I just want to hear your specific review when Auricap compared to Jantzen Superior Z. Thanks.

Eric Teh said...

Hi Jimmy, although both the Auricap and Jantzen are quite neutral, I find that the Auricap has a meatier and smoother midrange, compared to the Jantzen that is comparatively drier. The Jantzen has the edge over the Auricap in terms of high frequency detail, extension and air.

jazzwallah said...

Thanks for the capacitor shoot out. I am in the process of replacing Wondercap TRT .01 bypass caps from my Audio Research Classic 60. I wonder if moving to Multicaps is worth trying. Any suggestions?

Eric Teh said...

I've never liked bypassing caps for signal purposes. You may want to consider replacing both the main and bypass cap with just a single high quality cap

Pedro said...

Hi! Great post!

About the Mundorf MKP, did you have the burn in period?

Also, have you ever tried the Jantzen Standard?

I am looking to replace the electrolytics in the preamp section of my amp with some film caps. They are 4x4,7uF and 2x10uF. I want to spend as little as possible, so they must be under $8 each. Which ones should I try, besides the Wima?

I wanted to try the Mundorf MKP first but after your review, I am getting a bit worried. Maybe should go for ClarityCap ESA (using them in my DAC) or Auricaps or try the Jantzen Standard?

Thanks!

Pedro said...

Sorry, the Auricaps are too expensive for me. I meant the Audyn Cap Plus (MKP+).

I just read somewhere that the Jantzen Standard are really terrible, so I will see if I can find any opinions on the Ampohm FP-CA-AU, though they seem a little too large for my amp...

Eric Teh said...

Hi Pedro,

The Mundorf MKP was burned in for a minimum of 10 hours, just like the rest of the caps in this test.

I have not tried the Jantzen Standard.

Are the electrolytics in your preamp in the signal path or path of the power supply ?

The tests which I conducted are at high voltage. My experience is that the same caps can sound very different when used in low voltage applications, speaker crossover use, or power supply applications.

In signal path applications for solid state preamps (i.e. low voltage), I would prefer to use Wima MKP or MKS.

In power supply applications for solid state preamps and CD players, I have had good results with Panasonic FC and Rubycon ZL (use sparingly - it can sound quite thin and fast).

Pedro said...

Thank you Eric for your reply!

I haven't taken a deep look into the schematics, not sure, but think they are in the signal path, though next to a few 2x0.033, 2x0.047 and 2x0.47 MMK polyester caps. These are really in the signal path and will be replaced with polypropylene caps. WIMA MKP10 won't fit, so it's either MKP1387 or XICON MPP or even Orange Drop.

The electrolytics will later be replace with film caps, not sure which, but I guess the cheapest Mundorf or Solen should be better than the best Silmics or Muse, right?

The schematics is kind of a mess because they have the pre-amp section mixed with tone control section, I'm still trying to figure out which is which.

But thank you for your help and sorry for taking over your post.!

KJ Tan said...

Hi Eric, Thanks for your review. I noticed (in your picture) you are using the wima mkp10 with a value for 4,7uf. My diva preamp's wima coupling value is 3,3uf. At times I feel my preamp sounds a few octave higher and is curious to know if your 4,7uf sounds 'more correct' hope for your comments. Thanks-Tom

Eric Teh said...

Tom, there is no "correct" value for the output coupling cap so long as the value is high enough to prevent bass roll-off. This depends on the input impedance of your power amp.

My power amps generally have high input impedances (60 kOhm or 100 kOhm), so even a 3.3 uF coupling cap suffices.

If you are using your M7 to drive a low impedance load, then perhaps you need larger value coupling caps

Anonymous said...

Eric,

I need a 10 mF / 600 V coupling cap for a 2A3 SET (it's a parafeed front end). The Mundorf Supreme is too big. My two best options are the Obbligato Gold and the Clarity Cap ESA. Overall which would you choose and why? My email address is: johnson.greg924@gmail.com ... shoot me an email

Eric Teh said...

Johnson,

I feel that I could live better with the Clarity Cap ESA. Although it is not as neutral as the Obbligato, it has a pleasing smoothness, and sparkle in the highs.

The Obbligato is too bass light for me to live with on a long term basis.

My tests and experiences are not in parafeed type amps, so there is no guarantee that my observations would apply in your circuit.

fpsj said...

Marvelous review! Sir, thank you and is very very informative. The only downside is the missing of exotic capacitor like Duelund VSF.

Eric Teh said...

fpsj, I too would like to try the Duelund. The only real problem is cost ! Probably, the Duelund would be suitable only for the finest equipment out there.

Terry said...

Thank you Eric, I do not know where you live it would be cool to meet up and compare notes. So far my favorite coupling cap is the teflon V-cap, the most neutral can I have heard, similar to direct coupling. But I do like other capacitors as well, and your review has me wanting to try the Ampohm caps.

Terry

Terry said...

Thank you Eric, I do not know where you live it would be cool to meet up and compare notes. So far my favorite coupling cap is the teflon V-cap, the most neutral can I have heard, similar to direct coupling. But I do like other capacitors as well, and your review has me wanting to try the Ampohm caps.

Terry

Eric Teh said...

Terry, its funny that you mention the V-Cap. I actually have a few pieces lying around for a project I never got up and running.

I didn't use them for the test as the values I had were too small to be used in an output coupling position.

Terry said...

Eric, one thing I have noticed is that different brand of capacitors sound differently in different applications. The V-caps I use as coupling caps between driver and power tubes in my amplifiers, but they may sound different as an output cap of a preamp. A different sort of coupling, yours might work depending on the input impedance of the amp your driving. Impedance determines coupling capacitor value, often manufactures choose an excessively large cap for a preamp output because they do not know the impedance of the power amplifier and it could be as low as 10K.

Anonymous said...

Hi Eric,

Just read your article on capacitors. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I’m new to hi-fi. So need yr advice pls. I’m thinking of upgrading my old speaker crossover. Can I use different brand caps i.e. the high one brand, mid another brand caps and the bass stays with the original rev. electrolytic caps? Also appreciate yr advice for good caps for the high. Tks. Frank

Eric Teh said...

Hi Frank,

It depends on your budget and the cost of the speaker you are dealing with.

Generally, it is fine to use different brands of caps in the same circuit. I usually reserve the best cap for the capacitor in series with the tweeter. In comparison, caps in parallel with the driver can be of slightly lower quality.

If your speaker is more than 10 years old, I would also advise you to change the electrolytic caps.

Note also, that my observations on caps in my shootout may not necessarily apply in speaker crossover applications.

In crossover use, I highly recommend Mundorf Supreme caps for critical use. For less critical use, Sonic Caps are excellent value.

Terry said...

There are many good capacitors for speaker cross overs that I have used. Mundorf Silver Supreme capacitors I have found are nice, but others are good too, like Jupiter caps. When it comes to film capacitors and speaker xovers, it really is more a matter of taste rather than which one is better, I have had good success with Solen Fast caps in speaker crossovers, and they are inexpensive.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much Eric & Terry.

The speaker is a KEF DIY CS9, which I brought home when I returned from London. Currently the mid and high caps are Solen, used to be Alcap rev. electrolytic. The Solen caps are about 16 years old. Bass still has the 450uf Alcap 50V DC rev. elect.

Problem: Low vol (can have a normal conversation in the room) the speakers sound good, warm and relaxing, though not very transparent and not engaging. Good for background music, like the singer has left the room. But with increase volume the high sounds edgy and thin. Obbligato are cheaper and easier to get. Are they good choice for the high? Understand that Mundorf is very expensive. Will two 2 series caps, 7uf and 5uf and a parallel 2.2uf per speaker. However, from Terry, the problem might not be the Solen caps (black with red ends).

Is it possible to replace the 450uf with better caps? I know that the CS9 is not a high-end speaker. I just want to get the best possible sound from them without spending too much and also to have some fun. Thanks for yr help. Rgds Frank.

Terry said...

Frank,

This looks like this might start to get involved. Go to this forum.

http://www.hawthorneaudio.us/forums/viewforum.php?f=2

Register and post your questions there. I will be there to help as well as many others. This sounds like a lot to discuss here on this blog.

Eric Teh said...

Frank,

Terry makes a good suggestion to seek help on a specialised forum.

Out of interest, I did a search on your speaker. The crossover schematic is still available in KEF's archives.

The large values that sit in series with the woofer and midrange driver like C1 (450 uF), C3 (20 uF) and C5 (120 uF) would only have suitable electrolytic substitutes. I would suggest that due to the speakers age, that you replace all electrolytic capacitors.

I would not replace the Solen capacitors. They are plastic film caps and do not degrade with age.

If you want to have some fun, you can try bypassing all the Solen caps with a small high quality 0.1 uF or 0.01 uF cap. Vishay MKP1837 is an often recommended and excellent cap for this purpose. This is cheap as chips, so you have no excuse not to try !

Anonymous said...

Greetings Eric & Terry,

Thank you once again for the super fast response.

The mid caps C3 (20uf) and the C5 (120uf) are Solen caps (coke can size).

The bass C1 (450uf) still Alcap rev. electrolytic. Any replacement suggestions pls.

Okay, will bypass all series Solen caps with 0.1uf Vishay MKP1837. (Is it okay to ask where to buy them – do not want to violate any rules). Eric, tks for the encouragement. Will be glad to let you and Terry know the results.

Terry, tks for the invite.

Rgds,
Frank

Eric Teh said...

Hi Frank,

No specific recommendation for the electrolytic C1, but go for any modern bipolar electrolytic capacitor.

You can get Vishay MKP1837s from the online supplier, element14 (formerly Farnell components). Do also try bypassing C1 with the MKP1837.

Good luck on the mod and do report back on how things go.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

Quick update.

A packet of 10 caps (made in Portugal) has arrived. They are tiny, with the number “1837” marked on them. Smaller than a 5cents coin, with very short leads.

Unable to find the 450uf rev electrolytic caps.
Purchased 4 Nichicon electrolytic caps. Connect the –ve to –ve. One pair measured 473.3 uf, the other 473.4 uf.

Also some Obbligato Premium caps to compare against the Solens in the HF network.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

Completed my left speaker crossover mod.

Bass – pair of Nichicon Muse, connected -ve to –ve and bypass with MKP 1837

Mid – Bypass the series Solen caps with MKP 1837

High – Replaced the Solens with Obbligatos and bypass the series caps with MKP 1837

First impression:
The first 2 hrs, the sound was much better than the right (not mod) speaker. I could hear the guitarist plucking the strings. The singer had more presence. Clear articulation though not as sweet, but still enjoyable. The bass however was disappointing. Not as low as before, but stronger mid bass. I could hear the individual mid bass note.

Overall: Clearer, livelier, able to hear a lot of instruments which were missing before. I like what I heard and was very pleased with the mod. Clearly better than the right ‘original/not mod’ speaker. A non-hifi friend happened to drop-in. Preferred the mod speaker too. Switched off the set. Then something strange happened.

Second impression:
The next day, Sunday evening, the mod speaker sounded different. The mid sounded thin, lack the air or volume of yesterday. The high was scratchy. Could it be psychological? So, I asked the same friend to come over to have a listen. Comment: “What did you do? Doesn’t sound like yesterday?”

What did I do between the 1st and the 2nd hearing? Well I re-soldered all the speaker wire connections (on the xover board), but since I ran out of silver alloy solder, I used tin alloy instead. However I think the soldering was fine. Then could it be that the caps including the MKP 1837 need more time to burn-in. After about 12 hrs of non-continuous play, the mod speaker is still not as good sounding as the original first 2 hours. Compared to the right speaker, the sound is more forward, brighter but ‘thinner’ and not as warm.

If it doesn’t improve by this weekend, will re-solder the speaker connections with silver alloy and wait for the next 30 to 40 hrs. The search and fun continue…..

Ciao,
Frank

Terry said...

Frank,

Well since you left the other speaker unmodified you have your point of reference. I have been in the position many many times of wanting to modify something, but didn't want to lose what I had. Therefore I build something in addition to what I had and then compared it. So much of this audio stuff is so delicate, it is hard to say what happened.

Terry

Anonymous said...

Hi,

Final update….

Re-soldered all the speaker wire connections with Mundorf silver alloy and after about 50 hrs of burn-in:

High: The Obbligatos with MKP 1837 as bypass – the high sounded thin. Remove one MKP 1837 from one of the series caps. Now the high is more pleasant; fuller and more enjoyable.

Mid: Solens with MKP 1837. Clear and slightly more open sounding. However when I added a 0.1uf Mundorf sio to one of the series Solen caps, the sound is so much better. Warmer more valve like.

Bass: Nichicon Muse KZ (2 x 1000uf), connected –ve to -ve with Mundorf sio as bypass (replace the mkp 1837). The bass is louder compared to before, though I would prefer a tighter bass. It sounds fine though.

In closing I would like to thank Eric, Terry and the dozens of people from all over the world for so generously sharing their findings and knowledge.

Frank

Eric Teh said...

Hi Frank,

Glad to be of help and thank you for sharing the final results of your modification.

Terry said...

Yeah, glad to be of some help, this is all so subjective that it is not easy to convey what things do in any specific way. Likewise I have a very specific sort of taste with what I want, I like the treble to be very extended and clean and clear, the bass is not as important to me.

Terry

Pipe said...

I would like to comment on the Mundorf Supreme Silver/Oil caps. I replaced the signal caps on the boards in my Luxman 3045 tube amps with the Mundorf Silver/Oil caps, and the highs did disappear, nothing there. I just read another Capacitor Shootout that described that happening also. I guess I was warned, that when I was considering the purchase, the break-in time to get them to sound good would be many many hours (500-1000?). So that may be what it takes. I am going to remove them, and replace them with Audiocaps, or Jantzen Superior Z caps. The reviews are positive on those and not alot of break-in time needed.The Wima MKP 10 that was in the amps when I got them sounded neutral.Thanks for the review!

Eric Teh said...

Pipe, the other users I've talked who have used the Mundorf Supreme Silver in Oil think that they sound very bright, due to a lot of high frequency information, and lightweight bass.

Terry said...

I have used the Mundorf Silver Supremes in several amps as coupling caps (input, and between stages), and I get the same thing every time. Suppressed high range. Although the highs still sounds good just not as loud as before, and a pronounced midrange with more bloom.

As coupling caps this seems to be a consistent finding of mine. Now in other positions like power supplies, feedback loops, speaker crossovers, and some others I have not noticed this same sort of suppressed high frequencies.

Terry

Sting - not an english man in New York! said...

Eric, where can i buy clarity caps mr in singapore. Thanks

Eric Teh said...

Sting,

I don't think Clarity Caps are carried officially by anyone in Singapore. You can try Liveacoustics at Chinatown. They stock a small range of Clarity Cap, but primarily the ESA range. You can ask them to indent order the MR for you.

Anonymous said...

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Terry said...

Well I looked at your site, your capacitors don't seem to apply to this application. I mean who needs a 400KV cap for audio applications. I am looking though for a good 10KV cap for a tube amplifier application though that doesn't break the bank.

Rick Vansloneker said...

This topic has inspired me for caps on my Apogee Centaur crossover. I now have Clarity Cap PX's as basic caps. The ESA's are a bit to aggressive for me, but maybe that's just me. Then I have Mundorf Supreme's as bypass. And finally the Ampohm Paper-in-oil Tin Foil as super-bypass.

The Supreme's are great and give the best separation and placement of instruments and voices. The AmpOhms add the sweet sound. They need a lot of break in time. If it wasn't for this blog I never would have known about them and tried them. The Mundorf Silver caps maybe similar but I can't afford them, and I am very, very happy with the AmpOhms.

Thanks Eric!

Eric Teh said...

Thanks Rick and Merry Christmas. I really think the Ampohm is great for the money.

Terry said...

I would like to mention for the benefit of those reading and keeping up with this blog. The last six months I have been trying in many applications Russian teflon capacitors, and they are equal in my opinion to the V-caps (which I would rate above all the caps in this comparison), at a fraction of the price.

Also we should start developing a plan to do another shootout with a completely different set of caps, like various audio grade electrolytics that are obtainable.

I have had this idea of making an amplifier with five different coupling caps that are switchable with a rotary switch. Then sending it out to for or five of my audio friends and have them rate them not knowing which caps were which. This way a blind test could be done completely without bias as to type, price, or brand. Then compare the findings of the five people to see how similar or dissimilar they are.

Eric Teh said...

Hi Terry,

I've heard great things about Russian caps (both PIO and Teflon). Problem with the Teflon caps are that they are usually rated for quite low voltage, and/or small values only.

I actually have the V-Cap lying around, but the values are too small to be used in my test.

Rick Vansloneker said...

Considering the size of the Ampohm caps and of the Mundorf Supreme caps I am thinking that the size is an important factor in the quality of the caps.

By the way: Narendra Kumar's post on September 23, 2013 at 11:02 PM only serves the purpose of advertizing (spam).

Eric Teh said...

Rick, it seems to be the case (no pun intended). Perhaps the large size and bulk helps reduce microphony in the foil of the capacitor ?

Terry said...

Thought I would add some information again. Currently I am making my own Polypropylene film caps. Because of this I can definitely say what adds to the size of the caps. Thicker dialectic material allows for greater voltage before failure which adds to the size. Thicker cathode and anode sections of the cap doesn't seem to do much, but larger area does increase capacitance.

Since I am not using the metalized method my caps are quite large, but I have full control over every aspect of them. I am silver and gold plating my copper plates for my caps currently to find what sonic differences this makes.

Also with these Russian Teflon caps I have here they are rated at 1600VDC so low voltage values don't seem to be an issue. But capacitance values have all been below 1uF that I have seen. For coupling capacitors I have not found better at any price.

Neverland said...

Hello Eric
I like reading your blog very much. I also like the Obbligato, and Ive mixed them with Jantzen Superior Z with great results. I used Vishay MKP1837, and wonder if I could use Mundorf MCap Supreme Silver/Gold/Oil Capacitors 0.1uf instead? maybe it is not possible

Thanks
Regards
Sam

Eric Teh said...

Hi Sam,

Seems a bit of a waste using the Mundorf SGO as a bypass cap. Are you referring to bypassing a coupling cap, another plastic cap in a power supply, or an electrolytic cap ?

For electrolytic caps in the power supply, I got excellent results bypassing them with very small values (e.g. 1/100) of Mundorf Supreme.

Unknown said...

Hi Eric

As my Klipsch Promedia Satellite comes with 4.0uF crossover. But usually alternate crossover does not have 4.0uF value. If I want to try new cap, should I get cap based on
a) nearest value to 4.0uF?
b) choose based on crossover frequency chart?
http://www.your-record-studio.com/images/chart.gif

Please advise
Thank You
Peter

Eric Teh said...

Hi Peter,

You can parallel two or more caps to get the right value.

However, I wouldn't sweat it and just get the nearest right value. Most caps are manufactured only to 10 % or 20 % accuracy anyway. So, your original 4 uF cap would be unlikely to spot on in value.

Regards

Eric

Unknown said...

Hi,
Thank you for the cap test,
my only problem in your test is that you used caps with different values therefore different "sound" may appear because of the difference in the caps values.

Unknown said...

Just built a VTA board for a Dynaco, kit came with Audyn Q4s that are 0.33uf rated but I am thinking about using Jantzen Superior Zs with same rating of 0.33uf, thoughts anyone, thanks all, when I have questions this is the first knowledge base I go to.

Geek said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
slmnklyc said...

Hi.
What is your amplifier and its input coupling caps if it has any?
Thanks.

Unknown said...

Great article, thank you. Have tried Clarity ESA and CSAs and agree with your verdict. I hear good things about Auricap XO Capacitors. Have you tried them?

Eric Teh said...

I've only tried the Auricap XO in crossover applications. Auricaps are quite close to neutral and good performance capacitors in my view.

Ram said...

Hi Eric

Thank you for this excellent review of caps. Its highly educational and impressive.With your vast experience, I hope to seek your advise.

I am on the verge of purchasing a Musical Paradise Mark II preamp. The stock coupling caps come with 2 x Obbligato Gold 2.2UF. The upgraded version comes with 2 x Mundorf MCAP Superme Gold Silver Oil 2.2UF.

The upgraded version costs $300 more. May i ask what would be the sonic signature of the upgraded version. Do you think its worth the investment in your opinion?

As I would be making my purchase soon, I would very much appreciate your thoughts.

Thank you

Ram

Eric Teh said...

Hi Ram,

How coincidental. I happen to have a Musical Paradise MP-710 II on hand at the moment. It's a really great preamp for the money. The sonic signature of both the capacitors are listed on this post, have a read and see which one you prefer.

Whether it is worth it depends on how good your upstream equipment is. If the rest of the partnering equipment is modest, I think the Mundorf is overkill. Personally I would just go with the stock capacitors (which are already quite good), and get used to the sound first before deciding which direction you want to tweak the sound.

Also, if your power amp has a high enough input impedance, you can save a bit of money and go for a smaller sized coupling capacitor. Since fitting in new capacitors on the Musical Paradise is so easy, there is no real downside to taking this approach.

Ram said...

Hi Eric

What a coincidence! I finally found someone local who has this amp. This is a rare coincidence. I was looking for reviews for this preamp but it was hard to come by. How do you find the sonic signature of the amp? Heard some rare good reviews from other sites. Great if you could share your impressions. I hope its not too warm till it supresses details. I like it neutral, some sense of warmth is fine but overly warm can be too much especially me being used to solid state kind of neutral detailed music. Was initially considering the Schiit Freya + but eventually shortlisted the MP 701 Mk II. Guess it comes at a better price point.

I am actually going to use my node 2i amd Marantz CD/SACD player to connect to the MP 701 Mark II. And the MP preamp will be connected to my XTZ A 2 300 poweramp with an impedence of 38kOhms. My speakers are Klipsch 6000f RP which are pretty easy to drive at 96db.

This is the first time I am actually venturing into a preamp and that too tubes. Never used tubes before. Right now with my solid state i enjoy the clarity, details and tight bass. My system has decent soundstage. Am hoping with the MP 701 Mark II preamp with tubes, I am able to get a holographic feel; kind of enveloping sound with a wider soundstage without losing the clarity, details and bass reproduction which I currently enjoy. Guess the sound am hoping for is better musicality.

My system upstream is certainly not high end. Its mid or reasonable range. I have read your cap reviews. Very informational. While the Mundorf MCap Supreme Silver Gold Oil is tempting, the Obligatto may make more sense considering my system as you have shared. I guess I wont be losing much as your review finds the Obligatto musical as well.

I really dont have much experience changing caps myself so will just go with their stock Obligatto Gold caps 2.2 UF. Thanks for your advise. Really helped clear things up for me and save 300 bucks. I am likely going to use the stock tubes before I learn to tube roll.

I would love to hear your impressions of the Mark II preamp though.

Thanks once again for your great work and reaching out to me. Really appreciate your views.

Best regards

Ram

Eric Teh said...

Hi Ram,

The 701 is quite open and transparent, you won't find it mushy or rolled off at all. As your power amp has high power and you are using very sensitive speakers, try out the preamp on it's lowest gain settings.

The 701 is designed to allow easy tube rolling. No soldering is required as the capacitors are connected using binding posts. I'll post a full review when I have some time. My stock tubes were a bit noisy, but I have plenty of tubes on hand and a new set fixed that.

To sum it up, the 701 is a great preamp and a bargain at the price.

Regards

Eric

Ram said...

Hi Eric

Thank your for your insightful views. Glad to hear the 701 Mark II is a quality preamp and is open and transparent. Coming from a seasoned audiophile like you, it really means something. Its reassuring that I made the right choice. Will be purchasing the amp today. I will take your advice and stick with the stock caps and upgrade if need be in due time. What you have said makes a lot of sense to me. Looking forward to your review of the amp, and hopefully some tube recommendations when you have the time. Thank you for the very helpful advise. Keep up the great work!

Best regards

Ram

Ram said...

Hi Eric

As my MP amp.is due to arrive wish to seek your opinion about tubes as I am new to this. You mentioned your stock tubes were noisy. May I know what you replaced these with. Can the MP take in tubes other than 12AU7. I read your other blog on tubes and you reviewed the Tung Sol reissued GTBs favourably. Would this be a good set to get? Others with some good reviews seem to be Sylvania, Mullord Nos and the 83C replicate types. Is it also better to change the rectifier tube too. Amywhere in sg where I can go tube shopping? Appreciate your advise.

Eric Teh said...

Hi Ram,

It may be more helpful to open a new thread on this. I will put up a post as a placeholder for the MP preamp, and if you could re-post your comment, we will discuss that there. Thanks in advance.

Terry said...

Hello,

For some reason I was CC'd on this discussion, which I don't mind I like any conversation about audio. I just thought I would weigh in on a couple of things about tubes, since I am an amplifier builder. But I do have one question first: Is the MP amp in this discussion a Music Paradise amp your talking about?? If so there is a list of tubes that can be used in the amp on their website.

Regarding tubes there are a few factors that determine how noisy a tube can be. Obviously the more it amplifies the more noise it can have, but also the types of resistors used can create more noise then others. For example carbon composition resistors are known to be very noisy. Buy specifically dealing with tubes, tubes with less transconductance and higher Gm are the least noisy.

From manufacture to manufacture there is some variance. As far as specific manufactures to some degree that depends on the tube. Generally Svetlana are generally fairly low noise but some tubes they have made are more noisey then other brands. Mullards have always been good tubes in my experience. Also for some reason cryo treating tubes seems to lower their noise so the JJ brand from Cryoset are very nice tubes, but JJ in general makes good tubes. I haven't had a poor quality tube from them yet.

All this may or may not help, I know as a builder I deal with noise differently as I just start changing the circuit in some fashion, but all most folks can do is change the tubes. Not to mention there are different types of noise, power supply noise, device noise, circuit noise, and they are all different and manifest differently.

Terry

Ram said...

Hi Terry

Thanks for you detailed views. Yes the MP refers to Musical Paradise and specifically the 701 Mark II preamp for which Eric has kindly started a new thread and shared his initial impressions here: http://singaporehifi.blogspot.com/2020/07/musical-paradise-mp-701-mk-ii-tube.html?m=1
The MP website does list the tubes appropriate for the amp, but I was wanting to know which model/ brand may best fit being new to the tube scene.

Thanks for highlighting the point about resistors and their impact on noise. Not being as technically competent or experienced as you, I belong to the category of people just changing tubes to manage sonic quality. Good
to hear the JJs are a good option. Mullards are well known as you have shared. Appreciate your thoughts.

Best regards

Ram

Victor54 said...

Hi, I am recapping my Accuphase tuner T 100 and I have to cause some bipolar's for the small places on the audio board. There is a 4,7 uF/63V which I have to replace (axial type) shall I use a Mundorf bipolar or forget about axial and buy Muse ore Kaisey?

Victor