Please read response here from
people up-grading from standard PP caps to super-caps:
First of all this is not
an attempt to evaluate the sonic differences between super caps,
merely to find out what super caps are and why we pay an indecent
amount of money for them. I use the term "super cap" for
caps costing in the range of 5-10 times the cost of a standard
polypropylene capacitor. We're used to paying in the range of 4-6 USD
for a 4.7 uF standard PP, where a similar super cap is around 20-40
USD. Quite a difference.
Caps, like coils and resistors, are necessary evils in making our
speaker crossovers work in dividing the frequency band into the
sections meant for our drivers. Capacitors in series with our drivers
will prevent low frequences from reaching our drivers and form a
high-pass filter. Good coils and resistors can be made for very little
money, but capacitors are another story. Depending on materials used
and winding technique they will pass the signal with more or less
fidelity and the quest for better sound transmission really started
already in the Sixties and in the Seventies where we saw speaker
crossovers fitted with film capacitors, usually made from metallized
polyester in replacement of the common bi-polar electrolytic
capacitors. Metallised polyester was certainly not the final word in
this quest and metallised polypropylene became standard if we
wanted something better. Solen polypropylene soon became standard for
many speaker manufacturers launching high-end speakers.
Now, there are people who question the sonic value of super caps claim
them to be all hype and woodoo. To my experience the sonic benefits of
good caps can be heard from even modest equipment; the question is at
what time point we may start investing in good crossover components
compared to up-grading other parts of our system. Maybe money would be
better spent on a new phono cartridge or a better amplifier.
Identifying bottlenecks in out system is a never ending journey - and
part of our hobby.
In most marketing
material we will read that super caps are made from two
series-coupled, inter-wound capacitors, thus four times the normal
size of a capacitor of same value as two e.g. 10 uF in series will
measure only 5 uF. A standard cap looks like this (illustration from
To find out what we're
buying there's really no alternative to simply un-wind the caps and
see how they are made.
I've taken apart two well-known brands of super caps and this is what
Un-winding a super cap takes time! Usually super caps are sealed in a
metal tube made from aluminum or brass, both non-magnetic materials.
Next we find various layers of extremely had ceramic-like material and
plastic fillings. I never thought plastic could be this hard.
Maybe 30-50 meters of foil can be unwound from this 4.7 uF super cap! I
only made a rough estimate.
Please view image above.
This is where things become interesting as we at the end of the foil
can identify two foils, one foil consisting of a fully metallised
polypropylene with plastic foil edges, thus does not connect to anything. Laminated with this
foil is another foil having two lanes of metallised foil. What
we have is this:
As a matter of category,
super caps are "standard" high-voltage capacitors and well,
can be characterised as two series connected capacitors, in patent
terms "metalised film series section capacitors", and there
are quite a few patents in this field.
But there are more to
good caps than two-lane foils providing high voltage capability:
Quality of the foil, tightness with which it is wound and not least
the "wrapping", being molded into rigid materials and
finally sealed in tubes to prevent any vibration from distorting the
signal passing the capacitor. This is where things get tough. The
actual conducting foil
can be metalised polypropylene, usually aluminum, but also pure silver
or silver mixed with e.g. 1% gold. On top of this pure foil (no
plastic) can be
used with insulation made from oiled or waxed paper. The insulation
(yellow colour above = dielectric material) can also be teflon, which is particularly
troublesome in winding (soft and has holes. I've seen vintage Russian
teflon caps wound on two layers of teflon to overcome the problem of
holes in the foil as it is highly unlikely two holes would be at the
And we shouldn't forget tin-foil. Tin has the advantage of
weight and by sheer weight reduce vibration. To my ears the most
cost-efficient caps for audio are tin-foil caps, but they rarely
deliver the ultimate resolution of super caps. Tin foil caps are
usually "standard" caps in terms of winding technique, but
are serious competitors to super caps, in particular as coupling caps
in amplifiers. I never tried tin-foil caps for speaker, but would like
day. I guess
TFTF, are not double lane super caps, but made from tin-foil and Teflon, hence
the astronomical price tag, but I'm not sure and haven't taken one
Some super caps are also wound in a non-oxygen atmosphere, e.g. nitrogen. This prevents the extremely thin metallised foil from
being oxidised with possibly subsequent sonic degradation. Production
obviously becomes more expensive from these precautions, but whether
this really is and issue, we don't know. People come up with
a lot of stuff meant to make us believe their product is better than
Obbligato is an example of a "standard" cap where special
precautions in foil quality, winding technique and wrapping has been
taken and they offer very good sound for the money - but ultimately do
not deliver the micro-detail of the best super caps. If we need a
trunk-load of mikro-farads for a midrange driver in a 3-way system,
Obbliogato is indeed a good choice. I've tried and have made two banks
of 99 uF (3 x 33 uF) for crossover development purposes.
addition to the range of super-caps I've tested is the Jantzen Audio
Alumen-Z, being on par with double-lane super-caps, despite being a
single lane foil, rather than metallised polypropylene. Next
the polypropylene foil separating the aluminium foil is very thin,
thus 100 volt max can be applied. This is by far good enough for
speaker crossovers. Reduced thickness of foil means less storage of
electrons = reduced memory = less smear of details. Whatever is going
on, these foil caps provide qualities on par with the double-lane caps
and the thing is that even double-lane caps can add a certain
colouration to the sound - although miniscule. Super-caps can almost
make music sound just a little bit better than life by adding a
certain sheen/glair/brightness/radiance to particularly high frequency
content. There may be psychoacoustics involved here leaving us to
believe one cap delivers more transparency than another. English is
not my native tongue and different words that may be used to describe
the issue, so take your pick. I wouldn't use the word lush.
Lush is more related to 2nd harmonic distortion to my thinking.
Single lane foil, high-res,
thin insulator capacitors for crossovers
Comments are welcome if
you have corrections to my findings or additional valuable information
to better understand this interesting topic.
You may wonder why e.g.
Duelund VSF caps are not amount the intro images. The VSP are
"standard" caps wound from e.g. copper foil on oiled paper - and then
squeezed flat to make "virtual stack foil". These caps are smooth on
the ear but do not deliver the resolution of high-res caps - and they're wildly overpriced. Sonically similar to good
tin-foil caps and Obbligato Gold. "Smooth", so much used in any hifi
gear review, most often cover "not up to ultimate resolution". We may
choose "smooth" sounding components to cover deficiencies elsewhere in
the system, but in reality we should start looking for the bottlenecks
in our system. Poor playback systems is to my experience among the
"usual suspects". CD-players sounding harsh, worn LPs, etc. Less often
amplifiers and cables.