Saturday, November 5, 2016

Sprague Vitamin Q capacitors. Old school paper in oil magic for your hi fi!

Hello there tube amp heads.....

This is a little post about the legendary Sprague Vitamin Q paper in oil capacitors. I used to have dozens of these and at one point used to swap caps in and out of my hi fi amps when I had that kind of time. I was never all that impressed with the Vitamin Q caps in the past myself but decided to give them a go again now that I only have one system that I know quite well.

These arrived yesterday and I threw them in to my lovely single ended 45 tube amp.

When you have such a simple circuit like this, every little change makes a difference. For instance, the 6SJ7 driver tubes pictured lived in this amp for a day. They are Sylvania. Really nice tubes. I prefer my 5693 RCA Red series tubes by far so they went back in the box! The Sylvania version I love in a guitar amp. Big, open sound but for my hi fi I found them a bit harsh.

The signal caps were Sprague polyester PS type, .1@600V. I hate the 715P series that has been so popular for the last 30 years. The 716 is better but if I gotta use Orange Drops they gotta be PS types. I find them to be smooth, detailed and musical. Plus they are warm which I need and they don't sound harsh like the beloved 715.

Now the 715 in a mushy old amp? That can work. Not saying they are trash, remember, everything is a relationship so they work for some amps just great.

So when I audition a new cap, tube or transformer, the first thing I do is pick a record I've been listening to for many years of my life, preferably something with vocals. In this case it was "Rastaman Vibration" by Bob Marley. First question is how does Bobs voice sound? Can I make out the words clearly? Second is how does Aston "Family Man" Barrett sound? Does his bass sound natural.

First listen is terrible. No definition, crap bass. But, the amp had also been on a mere 3 minutes. When auditioning a cap let it burn at least an hour. When you rebuild an amp, you must give it time!

So I went about my business and came back to it after a few hours. Liquid.... That's the word I use. Bobs voice sounds clear and natural and the bass is big and fat. The bass however, does have a bit of flab I didn't notice before. These are bigger caps than what I had in there (.15 rather than .1) and I could go down to .05 and get my bass needs met. But I will continue to listen to records and see if it works itself out. As I recall, these Vitamin Q caps got better with weeks of use.

So the jury is still out. Do I spend $30 a cap on Jensen Paper in Oil? Are those worth it? (the answer is YES in my opinion. Those sound beautiful.) Or do I keep on keeping on with these surplus store gems? Time will tell and I will tell you later. For now I dig them about 85%.

And on a final note. Are paper in oil caps worth it in your guitar for tone caps? No.... Those merely bleed a little high end to the copper pipes in your walls. You can get a 50 cent ceramic to do that job. That's all marketing ladies and gentlemen......


And instant update....That was fast!

Listening to my favorite Coltrane record, "Crescent". Side 2..... I wore out my first copy ,I love this side that much.

Jazz has a wonderful way of mixing itself. At least in a quartet fashion. The bass and low drums are the lows, the piano and sax are the mids and the ride cymbal are the highs. Coltrane sounds like he's hanging out in my little apartment playing. How the hell did he get that sound is beyond me! So warm and beautiful on this record. Jimmy Garrisons bass has authority and clarity and McCoy Tyner....crystal clear. The second song on side 2 is called "The Drum Thing". All about Elvin. Such a beautiful, dark drum sound. That piece moved me to change the way I make music. Oh yeah, this is about some caps.....they've been burning in all night. I'm in love.......

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