Components are as humans: their look and reputation are superimposed on reality.
When I started in electronics, there were hardy components that were not afraid to show their machining traces. Then I saw industrial series colored like pop art paintings, pretty miniature pearls but of poor sounding, or conversely cheap looking stuff sought for their performances, and military components with an astounding sound sensitivity under their shielded shell .
I would like to tell you two adventures that catched my eyes or my ears, or both.
In the mid 60s, C280 capacitors
had a scent of modernity
This industrial label designates a kind of pop art gems marketed by Philips around 1965, which are now known under the sympathetic name of Tropical Fish capacitors.
These are polyesther capacitors (Mylar), common quality but quite good and stable for most LF circuits. Their bright colored stripes and their rounded shapes, both just enough standardized and just enough changing, made them look as typical components of the sixties : smart, sexy and nonetheless industrial. They brought their colored rhythms on printed cards with the same insolence than swimsuit ads in our streets.
Now their manufacturing is stopped, they look still witty and already nostalgic. They are much sought and often rated beyond their real quality. They are so cute and so close to Pop Music’s spirit ! There is no risk to use them in guitars and accessories: they are far from bad in the BF domain. I even admit that I put some of them in my products just for the pleasure of seeing them enlighten the circuit board. Look at the “Products” menu: there is always a 56n on buffer input, and the SweetGerm preamp has three others for its part : 6n8, 10n and 180n … No kidding, It would less sound in mind if there were in their place the sad and unreadable dark green mylars that were infesting Japanese circuits in the same period. But when I see Orange Drops Caps who are US monochrome cousins of the Tropical fishes, I say « Respect ! » : These beasties have quality, brightness and a plain présence: they got everything for them.
Yet a little blasé, I was amazed
by Russian paper-oil capacitors
When the first package arrived from Moscow I was surprised by the weight of these components.
I understood why once the beasts unpacked. Big beasts in fact, that could withstand tank caterpillars !
Russian Paper in oil capacitors
They are the super reliable development of an old technology: Two aluminum sheets separated by a sheet of oiled paper are wound and sealed in a metal tube. The dark gray tube that exhibits a rounded thickness like muscles, the black sealing hard like enamel, strong terminals, all that weighs Stalinism, but I must admit that I found in them sensitive qualities of quite a different kind.
The oiled paper capacitors are known for their fidelity in transmission, particularly transients and harmonics. I experienced it when I used them for the first time : when changing the coupling capacitors in a small 10W tube amplifier from 1967. The sound took on a both dense and clear definition that made me forget that some 12AX7As in the preamp were 40 years old ! I confess that I almost throwed the Mustard capacitors that russian had just disqualified. I can hear you say that I exaggerate and that I made myself intimidated by the gray coat of those Russian capacitors. Maybe, but at least it is not subject to get cracked. There still is a limit to my praise: I can’t use such awesome 400V or 600V capacitors in my stompboxes : they are much too huge!