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  • Thoughts on different bypass caps

    This is something that I posted on the Skiing Ninja's forum. But since not a lot of people would see it there, it's worth posting here as well:


    I'd spoken with the Ninja a while back about doing bypass cap testing w/ my Ninja'ed X-Omni's. Obviously never ended up transpiring during a promotion (?demotion?) at work w/ added responsibilities. And, honestly, since getting the GR Research O-3's, I haven't touched my X-Omni's. Even w/ Sonicap Platinums as bypass caps, the Omni's aren't even close to being as good as the O-3's w/o bypasses.

    But that doesn't mean that I haven't been playing around w/ my systems and trying different things (pathologically for the most part). So, it's worth passing along my thoughts on bypass caps in case anyone is interested. Please note that in all cases, the cap that's being bypassed is a Sonicap Gen I, which is standard on Ninja XO's as well as the ones that Danny Richie uses in his GR Research speakers. The Gen I's aren't the greatest to my ear. Somewhat recessed and lacking in detail. So, bypass caps are basically a must in terms of getting the most out of your speakers. However, in comparison to the caps that AV123 uses in their speakers, the Gen I's are a blessing. So, it's somewhat relative.

    1) Sonicap Gen II's: I didn't care much for them in the tweeter circuit of the X-Omni's. They were better than nothing, but not anywhere near as obvious a difference as other caps I've tried. They seemed to be a better choice for the woofer circuit, which is where the Ninja uses them. And when I put in unburnt in Platinums to where I had the Gen II's, the difference was clear. The Platinums were better in every respect, something that became clearer as the Platinums bunt in. So, the Gen II's are useful for a woofer circuit, but not much more, IMO. About what you'd expect for the couple of bucks you're spending on them.

    2) AmpOhm Aluminum Foil PIO: I haven't compared these to any other bypass caps, but I can make some good inferences as to what they are doing. They are being used in the upgraded XO for my Hawthorne Silver Irises, and I can say that the sound of the Hawthornes is much livelier and punchier than I'd expect. Also, there is a surprisingly good level of detail. So, it seems that the combination of the AmpOhms w/ the Sonicaps is making a lively yet detailed sound. Pretty good if that's what you're looking for. The price for these is about $13 per, so pretty reasonable. I'll have to play w/ these some more in the future. The sound seems to be better than what I'd expect w/ Vitamin Q's as well.

    3) Vitamin Q's: It seems like I was one of the first to play w/ these as bypasses in a XO, and I have a lot of experience w/ them in my Ref 1.5's as well as Minis (as well as in various electronics). The Q's do make a nice difference in basically every respect when compared to no bypasses. Much bigger difference than the Gen II's and very worth the $5 or less that they cost. Pretty much a no brainer when it comes to getting them for your Ninja mods, IMO. However, as I'm now discovering, they aren't anywhere near the same level as the Sonicap Platinums.

    4) Sonicap Platinums: I hate the fact that these cost about $30 a cap. Sucks to put them in something like the Mini's, which requires 6 of them. I'm a frugal person, but after I tried them in the X-Omni's, I had to say they were worth it. Even unburnt in, they crushed the Gen II's that I was using, and the sound was much more musical than what I remembered Vitamin Q's adding.

    When I got my O-3's, the primary cap in the tweeter circuit didn't have a bypass cap. So, I scavenged one of the bunt in ones from my Omni's. Very nice difference, and a nice upgrade in every respect. Again, better than when what I remember from the Vitamin Q's. And honestly, I'm pretty convinced that the Platinums are what makes the O-3's sound so lovely. I swear I'm hearing things like the bands and the football stadiums like I'm there.

    So, today I got around to switching from Vitamin Q's to Platinums w/ my Mini's. With the Vitamin Q's, I felt that they added detail and musicality to the Mini's, though honestly not as much as I had experienced when I added them to my Refs. Planar drivers, perhaps? Either way, I had to put in 6 Platinums, only 2 of which were burnt in (put to the same value cap in each speaker). And I can honestly say that the difference is immediate and obvious. The best way of describing it is that the Mini's now sound a lot more like the O-3's, which I adore and are the best speakers I have. The musicality is dead on. There is a richness and cleanness to the sound that again makes me feel like the band is playing in front of me (e.g. Def Leppard right now). The soundstage is also bigger and deeper (more holographic). The dynamics are impressive. Cymbals (always a difficult things to get right) are sounding pretty sweat. The difference between the Vitamin Q's and the Platinums is beat-you-over-the-head obvious. It's going to be scary once the Platinums have fully burnt in. The Mini's may beat out my O-3's, which I wouldn't have thought possible before putting them in.

    So, my overall ratings are that Sonicap Gen II's << Vitamin Q's < AmpOhm Aluminum Foil PIO's (educated guess) < Sonicap Platinums. As long as you're able to afford the Platinums, they are your best bet and are very worthwhile. If you can't afford the Platinums (which also depends on how many you need for the XO), then the Vitamin Q's are a good choice as well. The AmpOhms seem like a reasonable compromise, and are about 1/2 the price of the Platinums. I need to play w/ those some more in the future.

    I'll update this post when the Platinums are more burnt in with the Mini's.
    So say we all.

  • #2
    I forget which forum it was but I was offered to get in on a Teflon group buy before...not Sonicap Platinums but probably somewhere near that territory.

    Perhaps we should look into that option, looking back, I wish I'd stockpiled some 1.0, .1 and .01 Uf values.
    "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us."

    -Bill Watterson

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    • #3
      Thanks for the post Ed. :thumbsup:
      Ouch, six caps in the Mini. :crying:

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by dvenardos
        Thanks for the post Ed. :thumbsup:
        Ouch, six caps in the Mini. :crying:
        Yep, which is why I hadn't gotten to doing it sooner. Not cheap, but worthwhile. Ever since I moved to Michigan, I felt like I couldn't get the Mini's to sound as good as they could/should. But I'm very content now.

        Another way of putting it is that the Platinums seem to make roughly the same amount of improvement that the Ninja boards do, at least in the Mini's.
        So say we all.

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        • #5
          I seem to remember that some folks switched out the caps in their LS speakers to the Sonicap Platinums. What are the sonic signatures of those caps?

          Would they be a significant upgrade to the LS series?

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          • #6
            Platinums are smooth caps for bypassing, they are one of the best available...they make the highs very detailed yet non fatiguing
            "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us."

            -Bill Watterson

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Jerrin
              I seem to remember that some folks switched out the caps in their LS speakers to the Sonicap Platinums. What are the sonic signatures of those caps?

              Would they be a significant upgrade to the LS series?
              I honestly can't say how much of an improvement adding the Platinums would be in the LS's since they don't use Sonicap Gen I's as the regular caps, but the no name type that AV123 uses. Haven't tried bypassing those caps. I'd imagine that it would still be a significant improvement, but I don't want to speak about something I haven't heard.

              As for the sonic signatures of the Platinums, cujobob is pretty much right on. I'd call them smooth, detailed, and dynamic. They tend to pull the soundstage forward somewhat but also expands it laterally. A lot of fun to listen to them in your system.
              So say we all.

              Comment


              • #8
                Still in the middle of the burn in w/ the Platinums, but the Mini's are no longer the same speakers. The Mini's are now reaching their full potential. I'll save my review until I'm done burning in the caps, but my feeling is that while the Platinums are universally a good choice for bypass caps, they help out some speakers more than others. They didn't have anywhere near this kind of impact w/ my X-Omni's. The Platinums have helped out my O-3's, but the change is also much less than w/ the Mini's. Interesting. My guess is that it depends on the type and quality of the drivers being used. I'd also figure that the LS's would really be helped out by the Platinums.

                My next project will be to upgrade the caps and add Platinums to my Paradox 1's. That should be interesting.
                So say we all.

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                • #9
                  So what are your recommendations for upgrading stock minis?

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by dvenardos
                    So what are your recommendations for upgrading stock minis?
                    Get the Ninja Master boards and have him add 6 Platinums as the bypass caps on the mid/tweeter boards (expensive though, a $600+ upgrade). From what I'm hearing, you'll end up with a speaker that is at the same level as the O-3's that I have. My wife is also in agreement. She's always been a fan of the Mini's (they are kind of her speaker), but previously she had to admit that the O-3's were sounding better than the Mini's. Now, she feels that the Mini's are at least at the same level, if not better in her mind.

                    For the inevitable question of which to do, upgrade to Neo 3's or 2x's or upgrade the Mini's in the above way, it depends on if you like the sound of the Mini's. They still have that rich and intimate sound, but these attributes are magnified by a couple of levels. Also, quite detailed and dynamic (drums have a punch that weren't there before). Never heard anything like it. Meanwhile, the Neo based line of speakers tend to be more detail and spacially driven. Very different types of sounds, and both very good. So, depends on what you're looking for.

                    I've really got to have a GTG at some point. O-3's, the fully modded Mini's, and fully modded Paradox 1's vs. Neo 2-x's.
                    So say we all.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Thanks, you know I keep going back and forth on this.
                      I really like the minis a lot, maybe I can catch one of the ninja's very rare sales.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by dvenardos
                        Thanks, you know I keep going back and forth on this.
                        I really like the minis a lot, maybe I can catch one of the ninja's very rare sales.
                        If you like the Mini's "a lot", then get the Ninja boards w/ Platinums. As long as you're not trying to use the Mini's for something they aren't capable of, e.g. playing very loudly or filling up a large room, then I think you'll be very happy.

                        And feel free to PM me if you want to chat about this over the phone about the choices.
                        So say we all.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          :bump 1:

                          I know this is an older thread, but I'd thought I weigh in. I have Strata Minis with the Ninja's first upgrade back when he still worked at AV123 and would work on speakers before they went out the door. Back then, the Ninja wasn't all about bypass caps. So, my Mini crossovers had Sonicaps with no bypasses. After dithering for a long while, I jumped on the Sonicap sale when the Platinums were 20% off and this weekend I finally got around to putting them in.

                          Must say, installing the bypasses was a real pain because my Ninja upgrade was the lower level one where Sean reused the old boards, so the tweeter and mid caps were kinda shoe-horned in as it was. Still, with much effort I got them in there. Also, while I was in the speaker anyway (and since I'm too cheap for NoRez), I went ahead and removed the wool cabinet liner, liberally applied Peel N' Seal to the cabinet, and then stapled the wool liner back on top of the Peel N' Seal layer.

                          Keeping in mind this is entirely unscientific and whatnot, at first it sounded like the Mini's got slightly louder - an effect I was not expecting. Also, after only a a day or so running non-stop, I would say I've noticed two things. First, the speakers seem to "layer" the music the better - I think I can hear individual details a little more clearly. (Not a "lift the veil" kind of difference - just that it's a little easier to pick out individual details). Also, the music seems to have a little more "body" and "weight" to it, if that makes any sense. Not sure it will make huge difference on all pop music or movies, but I'm a heavy classical and jazz fan so for critical listening it appears to be making a difference.

                          On the downside, besides the installation hassle, I can hear more tape hiss and recording artifacts on older jazz recordings, so the sound may be a little less "smooth" than I'm used to. Or, this could be the caps (or my ears) settling in.

                          So, if you're a "critical listening" kind of music guy and are into acoustical music, I think it's worth the effort if it's a speaker you plan to hold onto. For myself, I'm pretty sure my Minis will always have a place somewhere in the house, so I was willing to put in the effort.

                          Next, when I can get the funds, I want to build some of those ClassD amps the AudioCircle guys keep going on and on about.

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                          • #14
                            Glad that someone else has tried this upgrade. I agree w/ what you said about doing this upgrade if you're planning on holding onto the Mini's. Before I was somewhat unsure if I would keep the Mini's, but now there's positively no chance I'll get rid of them. I haven't heard anything that can do the inner detail of the music like the Mini's can. Would love to compare them to the Maggie 1.7's that everyone is raving about. Wasn't that taken by them when I heard them at AK Fest.

                            Also, the Platinums really do need 100+ hrs to settle in fully. So, if you haven't gotten there yet, you haven't heard the potential of the Platinums yet.

                            The one other thing I've noticed is that w/ the Platinums, the Mini's are even more dependent on proper placement. They always were one of the more finicky speakers I've encountered, but it's much easier to hear the problems.
                            So say we all.

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