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Fall 2008

Capacitor Musings Part 2
Article By Jon L.
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  More than six months in the making, I somehow ended up with enough capacitors and impressions to write something about it for those who might care. Initially, I set out to satisfy my curiosity regarding various caps with first-hand experience, and as such, these impressions are not meant to be the Bible or written in stone. Personal tastes, system synergy, and cycle of the Moon all apply. Don't be angry and e-mailing if my impressions don't quite match yours because well, that's why these things are very subjective.

What you see is my DIY capacitor burn-in setup w/ resistor and some of my caps. Various capacitors have spent weeks and weeks in the burner and gear before evaluation. And now I present Part 2 of Capacitor Musings.

 


Epcos (Siemens Matsushita)
MKV B25834 polypropylene in oil capacitor

Epcos was founded by Siemens Matsushita, who sold all its interests in 2006. MKV B25834 is a polypropylene in oil cap like the Siemens MKV radial capacitor talked about previously. Mundorf silver/oil also happens to be polypropylene in oil, so it was not a great surprise that Epcos sounded somewhat similar to Mundorf silver/oil when directly substituted in Mundorf's place. Not that they sounded the same, mind you, but both shared a sense of liquidity and grace, which helped music just flow effortlessly.

Compared to silver/oil, Epcos had a bit more richness to voices and even more apparent smoothness in the upper-midrange region, but it conceded some sheer resolution and attack. Silver/oil sounded more like a "modern" film capacitor while Epcos leaned more in the direction of paper-in-oil caps without overt darkness or lack of resolution. I was especially glad to observe Epcos not to possess overly rounded or slow bass like some paper-in-oils can.

The Epcos, not surprisingly, sounds VERY much like the Siemens MKV polypropylene in oil capacitor I described earlier. Both sound balanced, if not extraordinarily extended or obviously "airy" up top. Human voices have fluidity, richness, and sparkling liveliness that's so endearing. If you are a die-hard Teflon or polystyrene fan, you will likely call these poly oil caps a bit slower and not as lit-up, but the fans of the poly oils will call it the opposite.

A great strategy is to use the Epcos with something like Russian K72 Teflon cap somewhere else in the component. K72's enthusiastic, bold, slightly upper-midrange-centric sound signature complements the ease of Epcos very well while lending the whole package a dollop of Teflon resolution. This combo sounds mighty nice, and I must thank "dweekie" for pointing me to these Epcos capacitors.

 


Fluorinert-Injected Russian K72 Teflon capacitor
Fluorinert is an electrically insulating, inert perfluorocarbon fluid developed by 3M as electronics coolant that some have called "liquid Teflon."These K72 caps were injected with Fluorinert by "Serengetiplains," who was gracious enough to let me try them. Fluorinert K72 and regular K72 do sound different, but not night-and-day different. After all, K72 possesses a very unique and distinct sound one can recognize from a mile away.

What Fluorinert does seem to do is smooth out the upper ranges somewhat while subduing the vividness and spice a dash. For those who feel K72 is way too forward and brash for their tastes (I don't...much), this will bring a welcome change, especially if your system has too much sibilance with the stock K72. The changes brought on by Fluorinert remind me of the sort of changes one hears when applying damping material to equipment chassis. In fact, the changes are in the similar direction as when I applied EAR isodamp material to the outside of the K72, though Fluorinert seems to have even greater effect.

There are two issues with Fluorinert K72. One, it is not commercially available, so you have to either DIY it yourself or ask someone to make and sell it to you. Second, as one may guess from my description, Fluorinert does decrease the apparent upper-air sparkle and a certain"flair" of the stock K72 somewhat. If your personal tastes or your equipment fancies to such personality of stock K72, then Fluorinert may not necessarily sound "better" to you, proving once again YMMV, etc.

 


Penta Labs TFT Teflon Capacitor
Who is Penta Labs? I've heard the name in the past, but mostly in relation to Penta Labs tubes. According to their website, "Penta Laboratories is a Manufacturer and Distributor of vacuum tubes, capacitors and electron tubes for Broadcast, Industrial, Marine and Avionics applications worldwide." They also make a Teflon capacitor which I am including here, but this is for general interest only as the Penta cap available to me falls somewhere between my small and large reference capacitance range.

In comparison to Russian Teflon capacitors, especially the K72 and Fluorinert K72, Penta initially comes across as smoother and more forgiving but also with less obvious sparkling detail and dynamic pop. However, Penta seems to take forever to "settle into" a spot after soldering (even after long burn-in before soldering), so continue listening, and one realizes certain things just sound more "right," especially the piano and other instruments that have significant extreme high-frequency harmonic content. These seem to have finer sonic pixels compared to Russian Teflons, but each pixel is not as lit-up, if you can picture that. Yet there's no denying they have tons of resolution and purity, so the combination of supple richness and resolution forces you to keep listening to music. In fact, Penta Labs kind of reminds me of that denser, richer, more elegant school of Teflon sound possessed by Sonicap Platinum capacitors.

By the way, it appears Custom Capacitors Electronics makes Penta Teflon, then according to their website, it must use tetrafluoroethylene (TFE) film and aluminum foil, which makes perfect sense since I seem to notice a consistent sonic pattern with aluminum foil Teflon caps and tin foil Teflon caps, like VH Teflons. Based on that, Aura-T Teflons I am currently listening to probably is tin foil...

 


Audience Aura-T Teflon Capacitor
Oh, boy, does this ever stop? It was almost easier back in the day when you basically had only one Teflon capacitor to choose from, the Relcap TFT Teflon capacitor, which is a fine capacitor. Having lived with many different Teflon capacitors, I get the impression that roughly 2 general "flavors" exist among the Teflon capacitors available today. One I would call "electrostat flavor" and the other "cone flavor" because the former group reminds me of a great electrostat speaker while the latter reminds me of a great dynamic cone speaker. Formerly, only the VH Teflon belonged to the electrostat flavor while the Russian K72, FT3, Sonicap Platinum, and Penta Labs belonged to the cone flavor.

Well, now the Aura-T joins the VH Teflon in the electrostat flavor. These caps set themselves apart from the others by having an almost impossibly ethereal, pure, and extended top-end with endless decay like only a good electrostat can. Sound has a see-through transparency and zero veil, and there's not a spec of dirt, grime, grit on that window. It's possible some people's tastes may prefer a less see-through, more tactile density like a good dynamic speaker can provide, but there's no question the ‘stat camp resolves more information.

The cone flavor Teflon caps have a more forward midrange presentation compared to mid-hall perspective of VH and Aura-T. Some would call them "too forward," but this combined with less-see-through boldness can make for some *very* involving musical fun. No, these don't have as much forever-decaying, absolutely feather-sweet extension and elegance, but in the right setup and personal tastes, I can't blame you if you said you preferred this school of sound.

Now, somebody must be wondering, "so which is better, VH or Aura-T?" First of all, I am already using the most-resolving transducer I know of (HE audio ‘stat) half an inch away from my ears to get rid of any room interactions that will muddy up evaluations using speakers. Even then, I would not bet any of my hard-earned money on reliably telling them apart most of the time.

If somebody had a gun to my head, I *might* mutter Aura-T may possibly have a thin hair's worth more sparkle and VH Teflon may have gnat's fart's worth more midrange warmth. I'm sure to some people that hair and fart will be a big deal in their preferences, but please don't be using language like A "blows away" B. Really...

 

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